Stoking Some Memories
It wasn`t so strange seeing Deano, Danny, Higgs, Tommy and Liam (never did have a nickname for him) on (or around) the pitch today as much as it was seeing a slightly aged Peter Reid. I don`t think I`ve seen him on the telly since he was our manager. And since the telly is the extent of my Sunderland experience (barring seeing the lads in North Carolina on their preseason tour under Mick McCarthy), it`s been awhile. But it brought back a lot of memories, mostly good, of a Sunderland team that seemed pretty electric for an inconsistently-short bit back in the early part of the last decade. Unfortunately so many other things seem to have remained exceedingly consistent, hovering just above relegation territory being one of them.
We Yanks don`t understand relegation. Well, I do. But most of us don`t. For whatever reason, Major League Soccer has not adopted it. And I`ve always thought that to be odd. After all, we`re a very punitive culture where success and failure are concerned. And yet, certain teams in certain markets go for years languishing in the lower reaches of their divisions, making no headway, eternally disappointing their fans. But in the league they remain. Just ask the Cleveland Browns.
Try to explain relegation to a Yank and you`ll get that blank stare. It doesn`t compute. Try to explain to your Yank wife that the reason you`re tense has to do with Sunderland being in relegation territory again and you`ll get a worried stare. It does compute, but she thinks it`s silly. And I see her point.
Why should I be worried? I can walk away at any time, no questions asked, no love lost. I`ve no father or father-in-law to report to as to why I`ve abandoned the family team. I`m not a season ticket holder whose absence would be noted by his fellow season ticket holders in the adjacent seats. I can disappear from the message boards at any time. (Believe me, I`ve tried cold-turkey and it doesn`t stick.)
So what`s keeping me here, again, in the mire, with the Same Old Sunderland? I don`t know. Maybe I`m a masochist. (Possible.) Maybe I have an inferiority complex. (Without question.) Maybe I just love the underdog. (Reflexively, all my life.) Either way, there`s no getting out now. I`m on record. I love Sunderland like it was my home team and I can`t/won`t do anything about it now.
Regardless, despite the pain of dropping down a division, it certainly keeps things interesting. In the way a car crash can be interesting. Or a major disaster. It`s not fun. People cry. But it`s certainly not boring. And 'boring` is certainly not how I`d describe being a Sunderland supporter. (That`s how I`d describe being a supporter of Tottenham or Everton, however.) I would like, though, for the excitement to once again be tinged with a shot of happiness, rather than dread.
And it is with that feeling of dread that I write that Sunderland find themselves once again a couple points off the drop zone in a worryingly familiar position. This despite playing what I thought was a much better game today against Stoke. And by 'better` I certainly don`t mean it was good. Or exciting. Or creative. We just didn`t get battered by a Stoke squad that is looking more and more like the Sunderland Reserves and that`s a slight plus, if you`re looking for plusses. And I am. Because I`m not happy anxious. I`m worried anxious.
Our defense looked better and calmer, despite a couple of scary moments courtesy of Turner and Mensah. Gordon kept us in it, saving early on from Whitehead`s free run at goal (finishing like that was just one reason Bruce sold you, lad!) and generally looked more composed. Cattermole completed a full 90 and looked much better. (Sending Deano arse over tip was THE match highlight.) And Jones seemed more interested now that the transfer window is shut and he knows he`s staying at least until May.
So you know things are a little dire when those were the positives. Truthfully, I cannot be - as you lot would say - 'arsed` to run down the negatives. I was expecting a loss today and was also expecting to write about how I thought it was time for Bruce to go. Today`s draw, as boring as it was, threw Stevie B. a lifeline. So did having Cattermole back from injury. (Might be time to give him the armband, Steve.)
I sincerely hope we can build on this and snatch three from Wigan. But our service to Bent and Jones needs to improve. I`m also looking forward to Alan Hutton`s debut and seeing if a deal for Benjani is actually going to happen. Neither is going to propel us back up the table or anything, but just not losing for a couple games might do enough to keep this big boat from sinking. It`s certainly keeping my spirits (slightly) up.
Can I have a Ha`way? Thanks.