“I Can See Us Beating Brentford” – Sunderland Fan’s Eye View

“I Can See Us Beating Brentford” – Sunderland Fan’s Eye View
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Brentford fans enjoy a good olde jolly to the North East. This time it’s a trip to Sunderland to visit the Stadium of Light for the first time for most Bees fans. Billy Grant caught up with Connor Bromley (@ConnorBromley) from The Roker Report Blog on the Beesotted Pride Of West London Podcast (below) to get the lowdown on Charismatic Chris Coleman, Sunderland’s survival chances and The Stadium of Light Roar.

It’s fair to say, Sunderland haven’t acclimatised to The Championship very well. Is this an extension of the malaise that was never fixed when you were in The Premier League?

Bah. What a question to start. Essentially yes, but the last five years have been truly dreadful.

Bad recruitment has really hampered us – we have handed out huge wages to useless players (Jack Rodwell I am looking at you). We have also suffered from a constantly changing ideology. From traditional managers like Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill, to a director of football system and then finally to a hybrid of the two.

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The owner, Ellis Short, has spent a lot of money and not seen much return. Now he seems to have given up on the club and is not really involved in any of the decision making at the top of the club. Money does not necessarily guarantee success and Sunderland is the perfect example of that.

This season was always going to be about consolidating. I did not expect us to be in the bottom three, but I did think we would struggle. Simon Grayson was not a flashy appointment and it was evident from almost day one that he was out of his depth. Chris Coleman seems to be a better fit but I fear it could be too little too late. The matter what happens this season though the clubs priority needs to be keeping him.

Saying that, that was a bit of a comeback against Bristol City on Saturday. Bristanbul as it’s been dubbed. Three nil down and coming back to three all.

Quite unbelievable really. Never in my lifetime have I seen Sunderland come from three goals down to draw. I was in shock!

The key change was the halftime switch to four at the back. We have persisted with a three at the back since Coleman took charge and while this did produce some early positive results – now seems the time to change back to a four defenders.

It was a wonderful comeback though – even if two of the goals were own goals!

Recently we have been struggling. A 1-0 win against Hull in January looked like it would be a catalyst – but we followed that with defeats away at fellow strugglers Birmingham and at home to Ipswich Town. The draw against Bristol City has reignited optimism amongst a fan base that is weary of success. This club has had an issue with building on results – we have not won more than two in a row since 2014.

I chatted to Deth Rogen on The Roker Report Xtra this week (click here). We discussed the difference between Brentford – who have defined a way they want to ply football then created a structure and system for the club that fits that playing style – and Sunderland – who haven’t. At Brentford, no person is too big for the club. The system is most important. Then we get the right people (coaches, backroom staff, players) to slot in and want to work within that system. Where do you feel the deeper problem lies at Sunderland?

For Sunderland it seems that we have struggled to stick with a plan. Managers have left or been sacked leaving their players, and the new managers want their own signings. The revolving door of Sunderland has really created a lack of unity within the club and really made it difficult for managers to succeed.

In the Premier League we created this survival at all costs mentality, but this ultimately led to changing managers at a ridiculous rate. Now we are suffering because we have a humongous amount of debt with a squad of misfits. It is not a recipe for success.

It almost feels like the football gods are punishing us for our years of escaping relegation.

Chris Coleman is undoubtedly a good manager. He got an un-fancied Wales side punching above their weight at the last European Championships. To be fair to him, he almost got Fulham relegated in 2007 but he was sacked before he could finish the job. Do you think he’s the right man for the job. Or do you think the job is too big for a nice man like him?

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Oh most certainly. The man oozes charisma. Sunderland has always responded to charismatic managers – Peter Reid, Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane are the most successful managers we have had in my life time and I see very similar traits in Coleman.

I feel sorry for Coleman in a way because this job is probably the hardest management job due to having no funds and a losing mentality that is ingrained into the clubs foundations. But it is easy to see why he took it:

Huge stadium
State of the art facilities
Massive fanbase
Potential

Chris Coleman isn’t daft and he knows that if you steer this ship the right way then you have one of the best jobs in the country.

So Division survival is the key. The belief on Wearside is that 10 points in the next five games (Brentford, Boro & Villa home. Bolton & Millwall away) is what is required to stave off relegation. That’s quite a feat. Do you think this is achievable?

Probably not. We have won five games all season and conceded the second most amount of goals. Hard to see why we should suddenly win three and draw one in our next five games.

However I could see us winning our next two. Brentford and Bolton represent an opportunity to build some momentum.

There must be some positives at Sunderland. You were premier league twelve months ago. You do have a number of fairly decent players. Who in the camp could be the shining light of the future?

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Well we have a lot of very good young players. Joel Asoro, Josh Maja, Ethan Robson, George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch have all been positives in a season full of negatives. The club’s academy is beginning to churn out players that will help the squad and I feel that as a club that is our only way of progressing.

After that I struggle to have any affection for any of our players. Our older players from the Premier League days can all leave as far as I am concerned. Cattermole in particular has been a huge disappointment this season.

We’re playing Birmingham on Tuesday. They nicked three of our more highly regarded players (Jota, Dean, Colin) on transfer window day in summer. Fair play they did give us £12m for them. We have historic beef with Birmingham going back 20 years. If you were able to, would you give us 3 points on Saturday if we were able to guarantee taking 3 points off Birmingham on Tuesday (bearing in mind you are playing Bolton)?

I always focus on our results rather than other teams – so give me three points on Saturday! I’d be foolish to turn them down. I’ve only seen two home wins since Christmas 2016!

I’ve been to Roker Park. It was a while back. I actually used my first pay check of my first job to get up there. It was the end of my first week a work and I was on a training course in Cardiff and I remember getting a train from Cardiff to London then heading to Kings Cross get up to Sunderland. The Roker Roar was some thing. Is there such a things as a Stadium Of Light Roar?

The Stadium of Light is one of the loudest sporting arenas in the world when it is full and things are going well. Unfortunately we are rarely in that position.

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Our recent derby victories over Newcastle (six in a row) have given a glimpse of what the stadium can be like when it is full and rocking. I am actually too young to have ever experienced the Roker Roar so I can’t comment. But my Dad always says that it was breathtaking.

This weekend I would not expect an electric atmosphere. Our stadium is running at about 60% of its capacity. With you guys sitting in the top tier you will see more empty seats than filled ones. It’s quite depressing really.

Brentford are moving from an olde skool stadium very similar to Roker Park to a new stadium – sort of similar to The Stadium of Light – in two years time. Looking back on your move, is this a painless process or was there discontent in the fanbase?

The initial move to the Stadium of Light was magnificent. Our crowds skyrocketed and the team went from strength to strength. We missed promotion in our first season courtesy of a play off final defeat to Charlton. But we coasted it the next season finished with 105 points.

We moved into the ground with a superb strike partnership in Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn – they just made those early years at the new ground magnificent.

I would say the stadium move is a positive. Brentford are totally different to Sunderland in that they are in a football market heavily dominated by other teams. Surely moving into a beautiful new stadium could help attract new fans?

The stadium move could be a trigger for Brentford to get into the Premier League. Certainly as a fan it is hard not to dream big – a new stadium could well be your platform to get to the big time.

Bees fans are excited about coming up to the North East again as we like that trip. We have sold over 1,000 tickets – which doesn’t quite match the 3,500 we sold for Newcastle last season but means we will have probably as many Bees fans at the match at Sunderland had at Ashton Gate at the weekend. Many Bees fans will be staying over in Newcastle for the weekend (being the same day as the FA Cup 5th round means that fans weren’t able to snap up the cheap train tickets however Beesotted have a cheap spare train ticket back to London on the 5.29pm after the game if anyone is interested email beesotted1992[at]gmail.com).

The North East teams have always been an enjoyable away day for me personally. I absolutely LOVE going to Boro. Newcastle was a crack last season. And excited about the trip to Sunderland. Saying that, being a black supporter who has been around the houses, I was a bit disappointed to hear there were racist abuse at Bristol City by a Sunderland fan toward one of your own players – Ashley Fletcher. I’m not naive enough to think this type of stuff has been airbrushed from football because I know it’s not. More swept under the carpet a lot of the time and fair play for Sunderland fans for flagging it up. But please tell me this isn’t the norm.

100% not the norm. Sunderland though, like any other place, has its fair share of idiots. However 99.99% of Sunderland fans are great friendly people. It is very sad when you see things like this happening but it is important that we all work together to eradicate racism from football.

It hasn’t put us off though. Can you recommend any decent places for people to drink pre-match which won’t be populated by characters like the one you called out in Bristol?

Try the Wheatsheaf or the Colliery Tavern by the stadium. I have seen away fans in there and they seem to enjoy themselves! Drinks are gonna be much cheaper than you are used too in London!

Looking forward to the match on Saturday, Sunderland defensively seem pretty rocky. Your goalkeeper was responsible for one if not two of the goals at Griffin Park earlier this season. Brentford seem to have sorted their defensive problems as of late but we’re not sure if we are firing on all cylinders after sending Lasse Vive to China. How do you think this game will pan out?

Often I find myself with my head in my hands watching this team. Fortunately that goalie in question, Robbin Ruiter has been dropped as keeper and we now have the experienced Lee Camp.

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Defensively we are generally atrocious but we have had random games where we seem to play well. Set pieces are terrible, we can neither defend or score from them – mind we did score one last weekend so hopefully that is the start of a new positive trend.

Fortunately for Sunderland, Brentford play a possession style of play which we generally seem to play well against. I don’t really know why that is, but I have came to the conclusion that it makes sense for a team who is terrible to have the ball for as little amount of time as possible.

I really like Brentford’s style of play though. They are one of the few teams in this division who seem to have a game plan that extends beyond running around a lot. In the Championship I have realised that most teams value grit, passion and hard work over technical ability and quality.

So how will it pan out? Brentford will have 70% possession and we will counter attack.

Do you think Sunderland will stay up this season? Who will be the bottom three do you think and why?

Honestly? I reckon we have about a 30% chance of survival. We have been a bottom three team all season, we have won the least amount of games in the division and we have conceded the second most in the division. Is it reasonable to expect a team to stay up who possesses those stats?

Burton Albion are gone. Barnsley are going to plummet without their manager. We are playing for the final place. Are we good enough to pick up more points than Birmingham, Hull, Bolton and Reading? Probably not. So my gut reaction is that we will probably end up going down.

Score prediction
Sunderland 1-1 Brentford

 

Billy Grant
@BillyTheBee99

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About The Author

BillytheBee Grant

Following Brentford for 30 years plus now.. write .. blog .. videoblog .. podcast ... photograph ...eat .. sleep .. Brentford.. am known to attend the occasional England match too (12 tournaments now) so am hardened to failure ...On the board and national council of the Football Supporters Federation.... organised husky dog racing for a living back in the day ... as you do ..You don't wanna go up!!

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