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TEA & SYMPATHY…
WE ARE CRAP

There’s not much you can say after Saturday’s pathetic display against Stoke, who we made look like Brazil. Chants of “Are you watching Ellis Short” boomed out of the South Stand and although he rarely visits the SOL these days, or comments on anything, David Moyes reckons he still does follow the games, on his PC. “Ellis does watch the games, but we’ve known the situation at the club. We want to get players back from injury and if we can make some additions to the squad, then I hope so. We want to try to get additions who can help us stay up first and foremost and also players who we think can hopefully be at the club for a while.”

Meanwhile, Jack Rodwell who has now started 35 games under four different managers since arriving at Sunderland, but never been on the winning side, had this to say: “It’s a terrible result. We have done relatively well at home before (Saturday) and we went in to this confident. Three mistakes in the first half and we were 3-0 down. The second half, we stayed in the game but didn’t do enough to win – it was a bad performance all round. I am not really sure [what went wrong]. The manager has said it is three mistakes which have killed us really. Suddenly you are three down on the scoreboard and it is hard from there, it is a battle. It must be tough being a fan at the moment, but stick in there. The lads will give it our all but it was a tough result. We all have to fight together until the end and we have been here before. We looked at the games coming up and we knew this was the one at home. We have now got a midweek game (Burnley away in the FA Cup third round replay tomorrow) and West Bromwich Albion away. This was the one at home, especially the way we have played at home. Before we knew it, though, we were 3-0 now and it is a long way back from there. Two wins and you are almost up to 14th, but we have to get them. There’s no point keep on saying it we have to do it and (Saturday) was a good chance to get the points. West Brom away next week and it’s another good chance to get them.”

David Moyes is nothing but straight talking and he gave a frank summary on Stoke and also explained why he didn’t make any substitutions. He said: “Managers always take the brunt of it. I think the supporters know what the situation is. I appreciate their support greatly. I do think the supporters here have been through it that many times they’ve seen it before and when I came I wanted to change it. I don’t want the supporters to go through this every year. Of course you’ll lose games, of course you’re not going to win every game at home and there will be times when you make mistakes and don’t play well. But it’s too much, too much. We want to try to change that. There were people I’d like to have changed in the game, but I didn’t think what we had [on the bench] would have necessarily made it any better. I thought our best options, certainly in the middle to forward areas, were on the pitch. I felt our home form had started to go for us and we’d started to pick up some good wins. I think it was at times – it was difficult to judge. You could judge we lost three goals, but we made errors which cost us. Vito will be disappointed with the goals.”

In other news, Mark Hughes reckons that our experience in always being in the relegation dogfight, but somehow managing to stay up, might be our saviour! “Looking from the outside in, Sunderland seem to have a struggle right through the Premier League season and get their act together at the end and see it through to a successful conclusion,” he said. “You have a good manager here, very experienced at this level. Sunderland have that potential with players who have been through that process. If they are involved in that at the end maybe that experience can be the difference seeing it through to a positive end in comparison to other teams and players who have not been through it. We had a bit of anxiety in our play, second half, because the Defoe goal affected our play a bit,” he added. “Apart from that, to come away from our own back yard to a place that has not been a happy hunting ground [14 games] it has been a good day. We scored top quality goals. That decorated the performance to an extent. I am very pleased with the performance, it was important we bounced back [from the FA Cup defeat to Wolves].”

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FIRST HALF CAPITULATION ENOUGH TO FINISH OFF SORRY SUNDERLAND
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

Marco Arnautovic stole the show with two well taken finishes in an impressive display as Sunderland lost 3-1 to Stoke in a match which had been dubbed as must win by many before kickoff. The Lads fell apart in the first half to find themselves 3-0 with just over half an hour on the clock.

After the lethargic 0-0 draw in the FA Cup, the focus was on getting three points which would potentially move us out of the bottom three for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime. David Moyes made one change from the Burnley match, John O’Shea replacing Javier Manquillo to make a record equalling 174th premier league appearance for Sunderland.

SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Love, Djilibodji, PVA, O’Shea, Larsson, Borini, Rodwell, Denayer, Januzaj, Defoe SUBS: Mika, Jones, Asoro, Manquillo, Maja, Honeyman, Embleton
STOKE: Grant, Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters, Whelan, Adam (Afellay 68’), Shaqiri (Ngoy 89’), Allen, Arnautovic, Crouch SUBS: Bardsley, Muniesa, Afellay, Imbula, Given, Taylor, Ngoy

The game started fairly even with both sides creating little in the way of chances, however just fifteen minute in the visitors had the lead. Arnautovic cut into the Sunderland box before firing a shot towards the bottom corner, Vito Mannone managed to get his right foot in the way however no one in red and white prevented the ball falling to the Austrian who gladly fired home, 0-1.

This was a sucker punch to the hosts and the fragility of recent performances was further being exploited, just over 5 minutes the visitors doubled their lead. Arnautovic finished off a neat one-two with Peter Crouch by smashing the ball past Mannone at the near post. Donald Love was struggling to handle the Austrian and Stoke were looking to head in for the kill, a rare Vito Mannone fumble led to the ball almost trickling over the line – luckily it the clipt the most as it went wide in what was a rare piece of luck for a Sunderland side on the brink of capitulation for the umpteenth time this season.

Stoke didn’t let up and ten minutes before the break Peter Crouch netted his 99th Premier League goal. The former England striker beat Mannone to a cross into the box and looped a header into the back of the net to compound a miserable opening period for the hosts. 0-3.

If there was any chance of making a contest out of the match it was the need for a goal before the break. Not for the first time this season, Jermaine Defoe popped up to make the score line vaguely more respectable. A long distance through ball from Donald Love fell kindly for Defoe who cut the ball across the face of goal and into the bottom corner past Lee Grant for his 12th goal of the season.

Any hopes of a second half charge by the Lads were quickly quashed by a combination of solid Stoke defending and lack of creativity on our behalf.

Jack Rodwell had perhaps the best chance of continuing the comeback when he found the ball at his feet; his effort however was sliced wide much to the frustration of an already concerned home crowd. The comeback never really got going in the second period and in the end their early onslaught had been enough to seal the points for Stoke.

Our performance left a lot of questions which needed answering, this was a game we should have won but yet again we failed to turn up to a fixture which is seen as ‘must win’. We desperately need to see the return of Anichebe and our midfield pairing of Jan and Catts but it is unlikely they’ll be fit for the trip to West Brom next weekend, a rare win at the Hawthorns looks to be a necessity after this afternoons disastrous performance.

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IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!
BY MICHAEL OATES

Luciano Narsingh is a 16 times capped Dutch International winger. He has played in over 200 matches in Holland's top flight and has just signed for Swansea City for the now mediocre sum of £4m. This transfer struck me as decent business. Who knows, in time, it might even turn into brilliant business. We'll see. The Narsingh deal got me thinking. We all talk about the massive deals in each transfer window. The big players who make a move, particularly in January. Berbatov. Suarez. Torres. Of course, that is all natural. The stars get talked about more than other players. But what of the bargains? Believe it or not they are out there, and more often than not they pass under the radar as the bigger deals grab all the press attention, fans of every club eager to lap it up every smidgen of info.

Our own club Sunderland AFC are at the moment shopping in Lidl as opposed to Harrods if you get my meaning. With an owner looking to sell, money is tight. The club's debt is now the 11th largest in Europe according to a recent UEFA study. With FFP now a big factor when dealing with transfers, Sunderland are really stretched in terms of incomings. Players need moving on and wages need freeing up (Jeremain Lens anyone) before any signings can be made. Currently David Moyes really does have a lot on his plate, and I can only imagine that he has started to realise the extent of damage caused by previous regimes and their continued systematic failure to bring in the right signings window after window. Hence why Moyes will be looking for a bargain, if he even has the maneuverability to do so. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Gus Poyet brought Jermain Defoe to Sunderland in the January window of 2014. Defoe wanted to return to England after a spell in the MLS with Toronto. Poyet somehow managed to convince Toronto to part with Defoe and take perennial Premier League flop Jozy Altidore as part of the deal. Swapping a guy who cannot score goals no matter how hard he tries, for one who is a proven goalscorer is any manager and football fan's dream. Sunderland took a punt on Defoe when no other club would and after some 33 goals in 74 matches, we can safely say that this was indeed a bargain! John Stones cost Everton £3m when they plucked him from Barnsley, and Spurs paid only £5m for Dele Alli. Both of those deals were done in January windows. 

Top clubs are looking for the finished article, we understand that. Manchester United wouldn't necessarily look into the Football League for a rough diamond to polish and I suppose, why should they? They have the pull and the muscle to go out and buy the very best and that is what they tend to do. City and Chelsea do the same, blocking youngsters' routes into the first team in the process as well. It is only a matter of time before we see a £100m player and dare I say it the way China are going, the first player to earn £1m a week. But I think that this window could be the start of something else. Another different type of change, but I of course could be wrong. I think the bottom tier of clubs are becoming a little more savvy with their money. That might sound ridiculous to some when we see the likes of West Ham trying to buy half the league in the first week of the window, but I'll go back to the Narsingh deal as a point of reference. Rather than chucking money at the situation and realising six months later that actually, that player was the wrong signing, a more measured approach would be a welcome sight to see in the money-saturated Barclays Premier League. Burnley gained promotion under Sean Dyche, went back down but came back stronger without breaking the bank, securing the club's long term future, all with the same manager too I might add. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were the masters at polishing diamonds or rejuvenating a player who was out of sorts or had lost his way. I rejoiced when I saw that Arsenal had signed Cohen Bramall from Hednesford Town. Obviously there were plenty who showed their displeasure but I think it is refreshing to see. Despite the megabucks on offer now, that can and should still happen. It has to happen, otherwise the game will implode. Teams in the league cannot continue to risk financial ruin in pursuit of living the dream for a season or two. Leicester City are testament to the fact that you don't need to spend hundreds of millions on players to create history. You just need to sign the right players, for the right amount money. Who knows, in a year or so, we might even be talking about the next January Jamie Vardy rather than the next January Fernando Torres. Here's hoping!

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post STOKE craic…
REACTION

A shocking display from David Moyes’ depleted Sunderland side saw Stoke City run out comfortable 3-1 winners at the SOL on Saturday. All of the action came in the first half with a brace from Marko Arnautovic and a Peter Crouch header compounding a miserable opening thirty five minutes for the lads who nabbed a consolation from Jermain Defoe. The pathetic performance and results elsewhere sees Sunderland slip further down the table to nineteenth in the table and staring relegation in the face.

David Moyes had this to say afterwards: “It was a poor opening part of the game from us, not necessarily that we played badly, but three mistakes have cost us,” he said. “We made it really difficult for ourselves and we were punished, but we got a goal back and in the second half we were better. We knew if we got a second goal we’d have the crowd behind us, but we created a couple of chances and unfortunately we couldn’t score. It would have been easy for the boys to hide and not try and take the ball, but Jack [Rodwell] had a chance, Fabio[ Borini] had a chance and Jermain [Defoe] got himself in positions, we just didn’t get anything from them. We have been losing too many games this season but we’ve been using our home form as a positive and a confidence booster; if you take away the first 20 minutes of today’s game we did as much as Stoke today, but obviously it’s a 90 minute game and you have to be ready from minute one. Everyone knows we have injuries and players that are away, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. The players that are out there have to perform.”

Seb Larsson was also pretty pissed off. “I understand if people don’t have a lot of belief in us at the moment, but that’s all we can do. We’re going to keep working hard and keep making sure that we give ourselves every chance of getting out of trouble. We were not good enough, it’s as simple as that. We lost a home game when we thought we had a good chance of getting three points. We spoke again about the opportunity to get out of the bottom three, but today we really slammed the door in our own faces early on and handed Stoke the game. It was not good enough. Disappointed is the least thing we should be. It’s hard to take when you just give a game away like that. Stoke are a good side, and we know that. But at least you want to make them do something good to break us down or to score goals. Collectively, in the first 20 or 25 minutes, we just handed them the game. When JD [Defoe] scored that goal it gives you that opportunity, and obviously we had a few half-chances and a couple of decent chances in the second half. We were desperate to get back in the game but, when you are 3-0 down like we were in the first half, it is difficult against any side in the Premier League.”

ALS’ ITV SPORT BLOG, BY SOBS
Despite it being officially transfer madness time, nowt much has happened – at Sunderland or anywhere. We’ve had the Defoe situation rumbling on, but the reality of it is that West Ham made an offer and we said no. Elsewhere, Lens wants to stay at his new club permanently and would rather we went down to make that happen as we don’t want the dead wood plus the few euros they’ve offered us, Allardyce likes PVA so Palace must want to buy him, and some French team may or may not want Januzaj. Apart from wondering if our branch was putting on a bus to Burnley (it is, thankfully), that was about it, really.

It was very sad to hear of Graham Taylor’s passing, as it always is when we lose a proper football person. His England tenure might have attracted puerile media attention (that’s you, The Sun) and he might have given debuts to some players who should never have been near the national squad – which manager hasn’t? – but his win % for the Three Lions is virtually identical to that of Bobby Robson and Terry Venables at around 48%. Anyone who was at Sunderland v Watford at the end of the ’82-’83 season, when they effectively fielded four wingers in a 100mph game that ended 2-2 (Atkins, James, Blissett 2) will remember the sort of football his sides were capable of, and anybody who says that he wanted to remain in football simply to hear the sound of a ball being kicked was in the game for the right reasons.

More locally, and as we try to follow our old boys, last weekend’s game between Shields and Morpeth in the FA Vase was abandoned with eight minutes remaining and Morpeth 4-2 up. Hooolio was playing for Shields, but he’d been uncharacteristically sent off – was it he who, not fancying a bath, had pulled the fuse out and thus blown the floodlights? To add insult to injury, he was available for the replayed game (at Morpeth) which Shields won 4-0. As SAFC supporters outnumber mags in Shields and more vice versa in Morpeth, we’ll claim that one as a moral victory over the barcodes.

As for today's game? Probably amongst the worst opening half hours in our history saw us dead and buried. The first chance we created saw Defoe pull one back late in the half, but despite showing a bit (just a bit, mind) more life early in the second, we were never at the races. The reluctance of Moyes to give any of the youngsters a few minutes, despite Larsson and Borini having possibly their worst afternoons in the stripes, is very worrying. At least they might have cheered us up on a day when we could have got out of the bottom three but blew it. Typical of us to collapse, again, against a side we were probably favourites to beat. Great escape? I wouldn't bet on it.

Meanwhile, in transfer window news, the main rumours still surround other teams trying to steal our best players, which is annoying. With this in mind, David Moyes confirmed we have rejected Crystal Palace’s bid for Patrick Van Aanholt. "At the moment, I need him, he’s one of my better players. He’s won us games, so I have to keep using him. I think people can make offers, but we’re the club who hold the contracts of the players and we’re the ones who say yes or no. All we’ve said is no for numerous reasons. He is more attacking, which I like, I like my full-backs attacking, I had Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman who were terrific for me, I like my full-backs to make goals and score goals, Pat does that. Obviously we’re asked to defend a lot with not having the ball, we need a left-back who can fulfil their defensive duties as well. But Patrick can improve. We’ve worked a lot on him since we came in, getting him correctly positioned defensively. Attacking wise, he’s got his own bit of freedom in how he goes and develops and sometimes you see him and wonder how he’s got there, but many times, like the Watford goal, to get in the six-yard box as a left-back was terrific. But then there’s quite a lot of occasions where we’re saying, ‘Why are you not defending the back post?’ ‘What’s your positioning like, you’re not getting out to stop crosses quick enough’. So there is another side to it as well. We’ve had offers for a few players and we’ve listened to them. Some we have had to reply to, and others we have not bothered with, but we want to keep our squad and add to it. Every player has a price somewhere down the line, but we need to add to our squad rather than let people go.”

Moyes also branded Jeremain Lens a 'disgrace' after the player suggested he’s prefer if Sunderland were relegated. “You would hate to think that anyone connected to the club would say that. If he said that it’s a disgrace to say that about your parent club. A lot of team-mates here who he played with are fighting every week with a small squad to try and keep us in the Premier League. I don’t know if anybody would want him back at the club now. If the quotes are correct then I think it would be very hard for that to happen. We paid £13m for him and I knew his reputation as a player. I thought, “We’re short and we haven’t got a great deal of quality - is it right to move him on?” But there were just some things I saw which I wasn’t sure about. In the end, these are the decisions the managers have to make. Maybe when he left people thought, “What you doing get rid of him?”. I made the decision that I thought he wanted to go and that we could get through without him. I only had a few weeks with him as well, so I was going more on what I’d been told by other people. He didn’t play much last season either. I had to take advice off the likes of Paul Bracewell and Robbie Stockdale, and Sam (Allardyce) as well. I wanted to give him an opportunity but didn’t feel as if I saw enough. When the offer came from Fenerbahce he wanted to go back to working with Dick (Advocaat) as well.

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