From The Durham Times: Still Work To Do As Season Comes To A Close
Every week we have a column in The Durham Times, the cream of the North East newspapers, each and every Friday providing our thoughts on the week gone by, and of course anything else. This being my turn, and not wanting to really dwell on Steve Bruce too much (he simply doesn't deserve it), I basically just waffled about Spurs, Everton and Wolves.
So, if you'd like to read this sort of stuff more often, and indeed the much better stuff that the rest of the writer here serve up, head down to your local newsagents and get a copy each Friday for just 50p. Failing that, head to the Durham Times website - http://www.durhamtimes.co.uk/sport/rokerreport
So far, we've all been pretty quick to bestow the title of Saint or God upon Martin O'Neill due to his incredible transformation of a stuttering side, but this Easter weekend, where there it was almost written already that Sunderland would confirm the resurrection, continuing the religious parallels.
Instead in the games against Spurs and Everton, we looked like a team who had endured the real meaning of Easter, and saw languid displays more akin to a bunch of blokes who had eaten far too many chocolate eggs.
In fairness to the Spurs game, we kind of called it on our podcast that if we allowed Spurs to play in front of us as we did, they wouldn't be able to break us down. This turned out to be the case as for all their possession; rarely did they look like hurting us. The problem however was that in doing so we surrendered our own attacking intent. In the end however, a draw wasn't the worst result in the world.
Two days later though, it was about as bad as it can get. We know that Everton are always a tricky customer for us, perhaps even the trickiest of all given our recent record against them, but I don't think anyone envisaged such an abject second half performance as was witnessed. For my money, a performance even worse than the FA Cup replay defeat only weeks ago.
It should have been a shot at redemption, and with Everton resting several of their key players, they were there for the taking, so what was lacking?
Well for a start Nicklas Bendtner, who missed out with a back injury, was a huge loss. Playing Stephane Sessegnon up front on his own was one of the most maligned tactical failings of Steve Bruce, and is something that has just never worked. We badly missed the big Dane, or anyone who could have occupied Everton's pedestrian defence.
The other problem was however that most the players on show just didn't seem up for the game. It was forgivable, slightly, in the 4-0 drubbing against West Bromwich Albion earlier in the season as there was an eye on the Tyne-Wear Derby the following weekend, however the performance on Easter Monday was inexcusable.
With there being little to no chance of finishing in the European places now, those out there should have been playing for their futures at the club. Several of the mainstays of the team will have planted a seed of doubt over their ability in the mind of Martin O'Neill. Players such as Phil Bardsley, Sebastian Larsson and Craig Gardner, along with substitutes Ji Dong-Won and Connor Wickham offered very little, and all, if given the chance will have to do better this weekend against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
As a long-suffering Sunderland fan, I've known never to be too optimistic, but this weekend's game really should be a walk-over against a team all but officially relegated.
It's likely that Martin O'Neill will stick with the majority of the same side who put the club on this fantastic run, and a goal-fest should be the minimum requirement as they aim to show the fans that last weekend was just a one off, and not any indication that the club have given up on the remainder of the season.
A victory over the Midlands outfit would be the perfect tonic for the weekend, and would have been made only sweeter had Steve Bruce been given the job at Molineux when Mick McCarthy bit the bullet.
I know Steve has been running his mouth again this week, desperately pleading his innocence and even rather cheekily trying to claim that he deserves the credit for the run we're on. I'm not going to indulge Martin O'Neill's portly predecessor, and point out his true failings, again, just would rather he looked back at his won record at the club without the rose-tinted glasses. Please, for your own sanity Steve, give it a look.
That's all the comment the man really deserves, so we'll leave it there. We'll leave the past as it is (take note Steve), the bore draw with Spurs, the horror show at Everton, and get back to looking forward to a bounce-back win against the Wolves.