We survived the week since Liverpool in a general air of unwarranted optimism amongst the followers of our team – one born of several years of suffering while holding the division up. That optimism was epitomised around ten pm on Thursday as we made our way to our hotel during a couple of days in York. An indistinct murmuring gradually became more distinct as the words “..and we are mental, and we are mad… we are the loyalest football supporters, the world has ever had..” It raised a smile, anyway. Personally, I survived York as well as the Bay Horse Great Big Christmas Night Out in enemy territory, where the absence of Villa Dave due to Bangkok flu at least meant there was one less football-related argument to avoid…and what a joy it was, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, as the unwashed but fantastically loyal mags (“it’s Frida, man, Bigg Market or nowt”) watched Dumb and Dummet get sent off and Bendtner score before the Forest Old Boy lost it. Obsessed, that’s me! Mind, it meant a great big lie-in this morning was necessary.
There has also been the revelation that Sunderland AFC is up for sale – which is probably runs “Pickford is a good goal-keeper” pretty close for one of the least revealing revelations of the season to date. Virtually every club is for sale should a suitable offer be forthcoming, but the news that
Inner Circle Sports, a New York based investment bank – which sounds entirely unsuitable for handling anything to do with an English Football Club, but we’ll see – have been given the task of producing what is basically a brochure to be perused by interested parties as and when they fancy chucking a few hundred million in Ellis’s general direction.
I probably wasn’t the only Sunderland fan who had no idea that PVA played a dozen games for Leicester five years ago, but at least it gave us the “former player situation” that normally works against us. Add that to the fact that two wins in November warranted Mr Moyes being shortlisted for the Manager of the Month award, so vote if you can, please. It’s a funny old game, football.
Jones Kone Papy PVA
Pienaar Denayer Ndong
Watmore Defoe Anichebe
Unusually for us, we started like a runaway train and threatened to blow Leicester off the park. None of the usual tentative feeling our way into the match, we were at it from the start and had we gone a couple of goals ahead in the opening fifteen minutes, Leicester could hardly have complained – but we didn’t get our shots on target and the visitors thus had time to take a deep breath now and then and thank their lucky stars that we were just that little bit off the mark. Mind, it was a canny first half. Whenever they had the chance to play the Vardy ball over our defence’s shoulder, Papy was up for it, and whenever he wasn’t quite there, then Kone was.
Papy, returning at the heart of the defence at the expense of the slightly unlucky O’Shea, kept Vardy under control and Pienaar pulled the strings, allowing Anichebe and Watmore to shoot – and also saw Morgan wrestle Vic to the ground, only to be allowed to get away with it – not the first or the last of a string of awful refereeing decisions. Penalty? I thought so. Defoe got in a shot but not with much conviction, and Pienaar banged his head near half time, meaning an added two minutes, in which Vardy managed to get a shot away, but it was wide of the mark. Big Vic was doing what we’ve now become used to him doing, with a mixture of hold-up play and good defensive work in front of PVA.
Slightly unfortunate not to be ahead at the break, we were surprised to see Denayer as well as our favourite South African fail to emerge for the second half. Nice to see Kirchhoff and Seb back in the fray, though, and they were instrumental in the way the game went. We carried on where we’d left off, with the champions looking fairly game but anything like what they were last season. They did manage to get an attack or two away as the second half started, but with Seb doing that sensible stuff and Kirchhoff doing the stuff that us mere mortals only dream of – how long are his legs, and how can he make so much time for himself? – We began to seriously ask the question. How long can Leicester hold out? I know I’m just a little bit biased, but the visitors’ best defender seemed to be the ref. I did decide about a decade since that I’d stop wailing about refs in these reports, but Andrex Marriner was particularly poor today.
When Kirchhoff got in a header that looked dangerous, it hit Huth in his rather large chest and went in – nowt more than we deserved, and nowt more than necessary to send the home supporters into a frenzy of delight. Magic. Leicester had a bit of a moment, but Papy got in a vital block, we got the ball up the field, and Watmore crossed to Big Vic - but he just couldn’t reach it with enough precision, and the ball went behind.
It looked like we’d double our advantage when PVA drove into to box from the left, shimmied past the defender (who may or not have been Danny Simpson, once right- back of this parish, but more recently a silly black and white) and Dutch Paddy’s legs were quite clearly removed from beneath his body.
Play on. Aw, give awwa man ref, there was never a more blatant penner. There was even time for Mr Marriner to book PVA for what he believed to be a dive, by which time we’d all lost faith in the ref’s ocular capacity. No to worry, Watmore, a constant threat to Leicester with his simple heads-down running, got in a shot that was blocked and it fell perfectly – perfectly if you’re called Jermain Defoe. Boom. 2-0, and we had the lead we deserved with twelve minutes left. As we’re Sunderland, we let Leicester back into the game during the last ten minutes, Okazaki fired one in to put us on our toes, then there was a naughty challenge that saw Watmore off on a stretcher and Manquillo (remember him?) on, the subsequent added six minutes were no surprise. We had to deal with it though, and there was now obligatory stupendous save by Pickford. Tell you what, that Lad should be England’s number one now.
Deal with it we did, and there were no whines from the Foxes when the whistle eventually went after those six added minute to signal another three points for me bonny Lads in Red and White as we’d simply outclassed them in a proper game of football. That they are the current league champions matters not a jot, because we were quite simply better than them by more than 2-1 suggests. Even without a “sorted-out” midfield, we were much the better side and looked like we might be able to replicate today’s result a few times this season.
Man of the Match?
Pickford – he’s a genius.
Jones – nee frills, does his job
Kone – a decent showing
Papy –tremendous in not allowing Vardy any space to run into
PVA – an attacking threat all afternoon, and should have won a penalty.
Pienaar – basically ran the show until he nutted somebody with a harder head
Denayer – another assured display by someone who looks like a proper footballer.
Ndong – been the subject of a fair amount of criticism, but probably had his best game for us today. Always finds space to receive the ball and turns well.
Watmore – also the subject of a bit of criticism lately, but he’s been involved in the majority of our goals this season. Just a pest.
Anichebe – an absolute battering ram. An Everton fan of my acquaintance reckons Vic was crap in his decade at Goodison. I disagreed. I was right.
Defoe – boom boom, out go the lights. He’s a just a delight to watch, even if he spent a good deal of this afternoon waiting for the perfect ball. Give him a chance, and he’ll score.
Kirchhoff - how he make so much time for himself is a mystery, but he does and as such remains one of the bargains of the Prem
Seb – does what he does, and has grown from the dicey wide man to the clever central midfielder.
Papy for me – stopped their obvious threat and didn’t waste many forward passes either.
Keep the Faith
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