Friday, 22 January 2016

Rival Lines: A Love Supreme tells us why Black Cats never fly high

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Sunderland v AFCB
Blogger Interview: A Love Supreme

Twitter: @ALS_Fanzine

This week I had a chat with David Drewett who writes on the independent Sunderland website called A Love Supreme. The importance of this game is not lost o either set of supporters and it comes at a time when it can definitely be called a 'big game', but I can't help but keep asking the question how come Sunderland are yet again in this position of fighting relegation, like last season and every season I can almost remember? Let's get some answers.

CC: Sam Allardyce seems to have found a way to score goals - give the ball to Jermain Defoe - but can one man score the goals to keep you up?

ALS: In our past few relegation scraps we’ve managed to stay up without having that ‘one man’ at all; Connor Wickham was our top goal scorer last year with just five. It’s great to have a proper striker again, and his goals will inevitably be crucial were we to survive, but other players are pitching in with goals this season, too. Patrick van Aanholt has 3 in 3, Steven Fletcher has 4, and young Duncan Watmore has netted two in the league this term. This, coupled with the arrival of Senegal international Dame N’Doye, means that scoring goals isn’t the problem in this Sunderland side.

CC: Sam has been in the transfer market and has brought in Jan Kirchhoff as a centre half from Bayern Munich but what did you make of his debut at Spurs?

ALS: Kirchhoff’s debut was a disaster, there’s no shying away from that. Without wanting to sound too protective of him he was thrown into the deep end for his debut; coming on whilst our backs were against the wall against a very good Spurs side. It was frustrating to watch mind you, especially the half-hearted attempt at a block for Eriksen’s goal, but there’s been worse debuts in a Sunderland shirt from people who’ve went on to become club legends. You don’t play for a team like Bayern Munich without having some quality, so I’d like to think his debut was an unfortunate one-off and he goes on to be a decent defensive addition.

CC: Duncan Watmore has only been used as a sub in the last couple of games but should he be a starter?

ALS: Personally, I think Big Sam has it bang on with the way he’s using Watmore at this moment in time. The lad has undoubted talent, and you can clearly see his potential when he plays, but he’s still very raw and is prone to the odd error of judgment or lapse in concentration. In games where he’s started, such as the Southampton game a few months ago, he’s usually began very brightly, but faded as the game went on, becoming more and more ineffectual. The winger is at his most effective when unleashed as a substitute, coming on and providing that crucial burst of energy against tired legs, which in itself is a very good weapon to have.

CC: Has Adam Johnson done enough for your team this season or has he gone missing?

ALS: This is a question that never fails to split the fanbase; you get the ones who feel Johnson hasn’t done enough to justify his price tag and has only shown his brilliance in flashes, and then you get the ones who believe he’s one of our only ‘quality’ players and is invaluable to us on his day.

Johnson is a very frustrating player it must be said, quality, but frustrating. He began the season with a lengthy injury setback and was pretty sub-standard upon his return, but has shown flashes of growing back into that player we bought from Man City three-and-a-half years ago. He’s picked up a couple of assists in recent games against Aston Villa and Spurs without playing brilliantly in either game, which adequately sums him up. He’ll do nothing for the majority of a game before knocking an inch-perfect ball through for Defoe to score, or smashing a 90th minute winner in against Newcastle at St. James’ Park.

It’s worth mentioning too that Johnson scored a 4th goal in 6 games against Newcastle in October, a very good way to net his only goal of the season so far…

CC: Why do you think the Black Cats have found it a perennial struggle in the Premier League - who is to blame?

ALS: This is another question that our fans have debated massively over the last couple of seasons, and much like with Adam Johnson, we can’t seem to come to an agreement. In the past we’ve put it down to a simple lack of quality; with the likes of Ignacio Scocco and Jozy Altidore up front coupled with Carlos Cuellar and Santiago Vergini at the back you can’t expect much more than a relegation struggle. Fingers have been pointed at owner Ellis Short for this, he simply isn’t spending money and when he does, its on duds like Jack Rodwell or Emanuele Giaccherini.

It is however, hard to blame Short for being reluctant to part with his money when you see what it’s been spent on in the past couple of years. Now Sam Allardyce is gaffer and has complete control of transfers though, Short needs to realise money has to be spent in order to grow as a club, a line of argument he seems to be listening to with the recent bids for Swansea’s Andre Ayew.

CC: Jordan Pickford had a strong debut in the last match for you, but is it helpful for his development to be playing behind a defence that has conceded 45 goals so far this campaign?

ALS: It’s obviously not going to do wonders for his confidence if we are to continue conceding like we are, but we can’t really afford not to play him. Vito Mannone simply isn’t good enough in my opinion, and big Costel Pantilimon looks like he’s off this month [Ed- Indeed since writing this Pontilimon has transferred to Watford]. Pickford’s a very good keeper, and having a very good keeper in nets may give our defenders a slight confidence boost they need to pick up their performances.

Without wanting to sound too clichéd, Pickford is also a massive Sunderland fan, and has stated himself it’s a dream come true to play for his boyhood club. Having passion like this in the starting 11 can surely only be a benefit, showing some of the lads in the dressing room exactly what it’s all about.

CC: Dame N'Doye is a new loan signing from Trabzonspor but do you think he will have the quality to get you many goals?

ALS: As Allardyce has said, N’Doye gives us another option up front besides Defoe, halving the latter’s goalscoring burden and hopefully taking some pressure off. He had a goal ratio of 1 in 3 for relegated Hull City last season, and it’s this knack for scoring in average-to-poor squads that could really benefit us in these next few months. Don’t get me wrong, the signing hasn’t got anyone off their seats, but he was brought in as a replacement for Danny Graham, so that’s got to be seen as an improvement?

CC: Sunderland have played well against other bottom six sides beating Swansea, Villa and Newcastle so do the players perform better in these pressurised so-called six pointers?

ALS: We have done this season, which is surprising as it’s never been something we normally do. Sunderland normally do things the opposite way, with 2013/14 being a prime example. We lost to the likes of Norwich and QPR whilst getting wins away against Chelsea and Man Utd, so to actually beat the beatable teams is a breath of fresh air. This is what Allardyce brings to the club, he’s made a living out of scrappy wins against teams of similar quality, and this makes the game between our sides on Saturday massively important.

CC: Which three teams do you expect to be relegated this season?

ALS: Being optimistic? Aston Villa, Swansea and Newcastle. Villa are as good as down already, Swansea are losing all their best players and something seems wrong within the club, and Newcastle, because they’re Newcastle.

But it’s a toss up between yous, us, Swansea, Newcastle and Norwich for those last two relegation spots. Any two of those could drop, and with the way this season’s panning out, I’d be brave to make a proper prediction.

CC: How do you expect Sunderland to line up for the game against AFC Bournemouth?

ALS: As you are one of the more beatable sides in the league, and because we’re at home, I expect Sam to have us set up to attack right from the get go. His philosophy in the past few weeks seems to amount to ‘score more than the opposition’ and this will probably be no different against yous. I’d expect us to have a 4-2-3-1 set up, with Defoe up top and Johnson, Lens and Borini rotating around behind him. I’d expect N’Doye to feature off the bench to give us another dimension to our attack, and hopefully prove a lot of his doubters wrong. Cattermole’s suspended so unfortunately it’ll probably be Jack Rodwell alongside M’Vila, with a back four + keeper unchanged from the Spurs defeat.

All the best for the rest of the season and I hope you stay up, so long as it isn’t at the expense of Sunderland!

CC: Some great comments from David there and I thank him for his time and for giving such detailed answers from A Love Supreme. I think there are quite a few fans of other clubs who have AFCB down as their next favourite club to stay up, but there will be no friendliness on the pitch come Saturday and a draw won't do either side a lot of good. With some 82 goals being scored against these two sides so far this season there is a better than fair chance that it won't be a nil-nil encounter.

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1 comment:

  1. I think David is right in that we Sunderland fans can't complain about the owner putting his hand in his pocket but where I think he is at fault is in the structure he imposed upon the club and off the field appointments he made. This has resulted in a massive wastage in salaries and transfer fees on players who have hardly even played for the club. The blame for this must go to a) those who identified flops and b) those who negotiated contracts for them. The list is enormous but to name a few - Ricky Alvarez, Valentine Roberge, Adam Matthews, Danny Graham, Liam Bridcutt, Will Buckley, Mobido Diakite, Cabral, Alfred N'Diaye, Santiago Vergini. I could go on. Take the case of Alvarez and Vergini. Here are two players we had on loan and both had permanent deals written into their contracts. We had to honour that aspect of Vergini's contract and he was signed in the summer, only to be told he wasn't part of Advocaat's plans and shipped off out to Spain on loan. Alvarez the same, except the club argued that Inter Milan had prevented him getting treatment and refused to sign him. That has led to no end of bother with FIFA and UEFA being dragged into it and Alvarez left in limbo unable to play until this week when it is reported Sampdoria has acquired his services. With the "fair play" regulations in place this has restricted dealings in this transfer window and in my view this is down to the owner. Malcolm the Mackem