Date:Monday December 4 2006
Danny Collins has insisted that Sunderland's less than gorgeous football is down to the state of the pitch at the Stadium of Light, and not because the players are incapable of playing the good stuff.
Seemingly keeping their best performances for our fabulous away fans, Sunderland have turned in several iffy performances on Wearside, despite the positive results.
And John Toshack's least favourite player is certain that the sole reason for their less than convincing home displays is down to the pitch.
'It was a scrappy game and was as difficult to play in as it must have been to watch. The crowd started to get on our backs a bit and that was a bit frustrating.
'We would all love to play slick, pretty football, but that's not always possible. I have to say that the pitch isn't helping us at the moment. I don't know what's happened to it, but the pitch is very bobbly and it doesn't make things easy.'
Whilst Collins may have a point about the dodgy pitch, that does not excuse the countless wayward long balls that were played - Collins and Nyatanga amongst the worst offenders - over a 5 man midfield, and often nowhere near an isolated Daryl Murphy. For that Collins would no doubt blame the wind, and as that left play impossible on the deck and in the air, it is probably for that reason both teams decided not to bother all together, in a preposterously dire encounter
'We could still have played better and Norwich worked very hard all over the pitch to close us down. But at the end of the day we came into the game without a defeat in four and now it's five games so we're on a nice little run and we and the crowd want that to continue.'
It seems that Collins, like Lawrence and a few others before him, seems to be of the new breed of sensitive footballer who takes even the slightest criticism to heart. For all we've been through in recent times, the crowd have been incredibly patient and offered fantastic support, and complaining about their frustrations is not a road Collins should be recommended to go down.
We can appreciate a shit pitch when we see one, but we can't be expected to sit back and shut up when the 5th consecutive long ball heads aimlessly out of play, as a ridiculously deep Sunderland have 5 men running over each other in midfield.
Nonetheless, the defence has taken a lot of stick this season and it is time to give them some credit. Firstly they shouldn't be expected to be ball players and the midfield should certainly take more responsibility for the lack of fluid passing. And secondly, they must be congratulated on another clean sheet, as up against a side that includes Earnshaw, Huckerby and Dublin, this is no mean feat. Collins, bless his little heart, is eager to point this out.
'We'll play better as a team this season and lose the game, but we stuck to the task and it's very satisfying to keep that clean sheet. For a defender, that's like scoring a goal.
'We've been pretty solid but have ended up conceding poor goals, but that didn't happen in a game that we always thought was going to be tight. Robbie Earnshaw's the form striker in the division, but he didn't get a clear chance all game and that was a pleasing. We kep him pretty quiet for the 90 minutes.
'If things aren't going for us going forward then we have to dig in and make it difficult for the opposition, which was how we went against Norwich.'
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