Inconsistency. I’ve looked it up and it means “the quality or state of not being in agreement or not being regular”. Not being regular. Exactly what we are currently experiencing with our beloved little team.
That “not being regular” bit is key here: we’ve had some decent results, no doubt about that, and up until our date with the Black Cats we were beginning to call The Whitley Bowl the “fortress”. Well, I was anyway. But this game has really cemented that reality check into our hearts and minds. We could still struggle, we might not. Honestly, I don’t know.
The whole night itself was just weird. No music before, during and after the game, turnstiles being suspended for five minutes prior to kick-off, the scoreboard being etched in black and white - it all just left a very sombre atmosphere floating around like a lost cloud on a summer’s day.
The traffic leading up to the game was truly awful, probably the worst it’s been for a long while. This travel travesty was compounded by the fact that someone had parked in my favourite spot, so I angrily prowled the car park to find my next “elite” space (one where I can reverse into but also be able to join the queue to get out swiftly). This was easier said than done and in the end I just parked it over two spaces because that’s the kind of guy I am.
Once inside the Dolan, I settled for a sausage roll and a pint of Amstel. The sausage roll itself turned out to be the absolute highlight of the night to be honest: warm, meaty and covered in a decent amount of puff pastry which was neither too flaky nor too dense. A solid 7/10 - a vast improvement on the same version last season.
The stadium came across as like a noiseless vacuum. Plenty of people had yet to get to their seats before the “curfew” of 7.55 and as such, were effectively locked out until the game kicked off. Regardless of your views, the silence was impeccable and easily one of the best (if these can be called “best”) silences I’ve experienced at the Mad Stad.
Within five minutes, any optimism/expectation I had around a positive result evaporated and the growing dread of knowing that the night might not be very good crept in. We were not on it. Misplaced passes, a transparent midfield and lack of any real conviction in the final third was eventually punished with two quick-fire goals from the visitors which all but sealed our fate.
Joe Lumley punched the post a few times after the second rolled in, Ince Jnr went ballistic at someone and fans rolled down the aisles to no doubt drown their sorrows after a dismal first half and/or annoyance at a lack of half-time entertainment due to a fungal infection. (And no, I am NOT the fungal infection and no, I have NOT been “sacked” - although I’m sure it has to be paid employment for one to be sacked.)
I was hoping the second half would be better and, to back up this confidence, I opened a bag of spicy nuts. I was half expecting a steward to tell me it was a nut-free stadium, but they didn’t and that was disappointing because my comeback would have been “WELL, WHAT ABOUT ALL THESE NUTTERS?!”, whilst pointing to the fans around me in the stand…
If it was possible, the second half was worst than the first. Sunderland scored an excellently well executed goal to make it three and that was game, set and trophy. We deserved nothing and got nothing, whilst the visiting fans sang long into the night before making their long journey back to the north east (or other places).
I’m more annoyed with the lack of consistency than the result. Last season, we were consistently awful. This season, we’ve seen big fat glimpses of how good we could be, but every top performance seems to be followed by a savaging. Whilst I love the fact that this messes up the pundits’ views of us, it does nothing for confidence levels among the fans.
I’d imagine Paul Ince and co are just as frustrated, but one or two more of this type of performance and the panic button will start being slapped. It’s OK to have an off day, but we’ve been well beaten at least three times already this season and that doesn’t bode well. Let’s hope for a positive reaction when we visit Northern England on Saturday. We always do well there, so we should be fine…
Until next time.