When interviewed after Sunderland lost at Middlesbrough, Peter Reid mentioned in that a win would have seen the team rise to sixth in the Premiership, pointing out the thin line between success and failure, relatively speaking. In saying this, he overlooked the fact that at no time in the 90 minutes did we appear to look like, or indeed deserve, to win the match. Middlesbrough were poor, but the fact that Sunderland couldn’t even construct a good chance with a man advantage said it all.
For just about the first time since we got back into the Premiership, the fans turned against the team on an away ground. Some of the play, especially the set pieces and crosses, was pathetic. It was, to be frank, rubbish. But, as the manager said in the interview, the players gave their all. This only served to further heat up the simmering discontent on Wearside. Discontent not really aimed at the players, but at the manager.
There is a problem with this though. The national media cannot see what the rest of us can. But we, as Sunderland fans, cannot get the current predicament into the national spotlight at all. Any fan, and there have been many, who get onto the Radio 5 606 Phone-in, You’re On Sky Sports or wherever, and tries to express dissatisfaction at the manager is without fail told to stop moaning and look at what Peter Reid has done for the club. This excuse has worn thin. We are definitely going backwards.
In the last two seasons Sunderland have finished 7th in the league and we should (not could) have finished higher on both occasions. Are we going to finish seventh or higher this season? No way, we’re getting worse, and anyone who needs further evidence needs only to look at this: Man Utd, Arsenal, Leeds, Liverpool, Chelsea, Villa, Spurs. They’ll all finish above Sunderland. Whisper it quietly, but you can probably add Newcastle to that list as well.
Where the manager has got it way wrong is in midfield. That is where the quality is in the other teams, and it is where Sunderland have zero productivity at the moment. Selling Hutchison was always going to be a hard decision, but replacing him has proved beyond the manager’s capabilities. Reid sold Alex Rae at around the same time, a time when he was most people’s idea of the short-term deputy for Hutchison’s position.
Arca is playing poorly at the moment, possibly brought on by the discontent at seeing his Argentine U20 team mate, Nic Medina, banished to the reserves when the midfield needs all the creative input it can get. The form of Gavin McCann, the same lad who pulled on an England shirt not eight months ago, is alarmingly poor too. Schwarz is too slow and doesn’t contribute enough, whilst the contributions of Kilbane and Thirlwell are laughable, if laudable.
Does Reid strengthen this weak midfield? No. Whilst he has the brass neck to warn off West Brom for undercutting the Danny Dichio transfer fee by a couple of hundred thousand, Reid continues to offer peanuts for quality players such as Trevor Sinclair. Jason McAteer has made a fair start as a much needed right-winger, two months after we could of easily signed him in the first place. This situation reminds me very much of the ’96-97 season when Chris Waddle nearly kept us up on his own after signing in March. The fact Reid could of signed him for £75,000 (large price for Premier League survival eh?) at the start of the season appeared to be missed.
Peter Reid is doing a grand job if you believe the national media, but I for one feel he is in grave danger of undoing what he has done for us.