Lucky, lucky Man City rob Sunderland of deserved lifeline

Posted by Colin Randall

If only Sunderland could have played Manchester City every week this season. The usual 1-0 home win, comfortably the better side for half the Wembley Capital Cup One cup final and, now, desperately unlucky not to leave the Etihad with three points, just like what happened in City's Premier League-winning season.

- Report: Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland

In the obvious and important way, the difference between one point and three points may be academic. Most Sunderland supporters believe their team is already doomed to a drop into the Championship. Continue Reading...

Sunderland must look beyond immediate threat of the Etihad

Posted by Colin Randall

Paul Thomas/Getty ImagesIt remains to be seen if Wes Brown will be back with Sunderland next season.

The mathematics will not quite be done at the Etihad. Manchester City may score for fun against Sunderland on Wednesday night, or an extraordinary display by the visitors could produce a shock. But neither the title nor relegation will be decided by this single match.

- Report: Sunderland 0-1 Everton

Now back to reality. City, arguably, remain perfectly viable contenders to top the Premier League come May 11. No one any longer seriously doubts that Sunderland are heading for another spell in the Championship. Continue Reading...

Another defeat leaves Sunderland to ponder life downstairs

Posted by Colin Randall

Wes BrownPA PhotosWes Brown scores an own goal for Sunderland.

On the last day of Premier League football at Roker Park, still a proud old stadium despite having fallen into sullen disrepair, Sunderland beat Everton 3-0.

The three points prolonged the agony for Sunderland before a typical combination of results sent them down a week later on the final day of the 1996-97 season. Only in strict mathematical senses can uncertainty over the club's fate remain in much doubt this season after Everton grabbed a 1-0 win which they did not deserve but surely condemns Sunderland to another spell in the Championship. Continue Reading...

Trepidation smothers hope ahead of Everton's visit to Sunderland

Posted by Colin Randall

Ki Sung-Yeung scored the only goal of the game as Sunderland beat Everton on Boxing Day.PA PhotosKi Sung-Yeung scored the only goal of the game as Sunderland beat Everton on Boxing Day.

On Boxing Day, I drove to Liverpool with pleasant lingering thoughts of Christmas Day to block out worries about a torrid afternoon ahead at Goodison Park.

To everyone's surprise, Sunderland went ahead. Tim Howard brought down Ki Sung-Yueng and was sent off. Ki converted the penalty. He was the inspiration for much of what happened for the rest of the half as Sunderland passed the ball around and outside the Everton penalty area without quite having the finishing power to add to the lead. Continue Reading...

Poyet barely able to watch as Prem sun sets on Sunderland

Posted by Colin Randall

Ian Walton/Getty ImagesGus Poyet's Sunderland sit in last place in the Premier League following Monday's 5-1 loss at Tottenham.

As the marvellous Sunderland support kept up a wall of sound at 1-2, 1-3 and beyond, manager Gus Poyet buried his head in his hands. The singing fans, in reality, were just as embarrassed.

If Poyet looked up again when Lee Mason ended the misery of Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 Sunderland, he will have seen how the players rewarded the supporters for their solidarity: just six of them bothered to go across to acknowledge them.

- Report: Tottenham 5-1 Sunderland

The mathematics caution against surrender. Continue Reading...

Can Gus Poyet find
the Houdini touch?

Posted by Colin Randall

Gus PoyetPA PhotosGus Poyet: The only way is up.

At roughly this stage of last season, Martin O’Neill was sacked as manager after Sunderland were beaten 1-0 at home by Manchester United, the performance much more dire than the scoreline suggested.

Into the fray charged Paolo Di Canio with seven games to save the club from relegation. He tasted defeat in the first, 2-1 away to Chelsea, but saw just enough gumption to hint that an improbable cause was not an utterly lost one.

The next two games turned hope into the points that, along with Wigan’s inability to reproduce winning FA Cup form in the Premier League, ensured salvation: a 3-0 rout of Newcastle United and a nervous 1-0 home win against Everton. Continue Reading...

Au revoir to the Prem as Sunderland flop again

Posted by Colin Randall

This was the day I hoped to admit I had been wrong all along to worry about Sunderland's ability to stay in the Premier League. Instead, and with heavy heart, I recognise that the game is up, even if the mathematical evidence is still weeks away from being conclusive.

- Sunderland 1-2 West Ham

And disheartened as I am after such a limp defeat, it is also difficult to argue that relegation, once those mathematics finally confirm it, is other than fully merited. Continue Reading...

Relegation countdown begins as Sunderland face West Ham

Posted by Colin Randall

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesGus Poyet's Sunderland will stay in the drop zone even with a win over West Ham on Monday night.

In a perfect world, it would not matter to Sunderland that Chelsea acted on Saturday as if the travel budget depended on Crystal Palace staying in the Premier League. Dropping yet another place -- to second bottom -- after Cardiff's dramatic last-gasp equaliser at West Brom would be of no more than passing concern.

Sunderland would simply go out and win their own games, without worrying too much about Palace's remarkable win or the fluctuating fortunes of other relegation strugglers. Continue Reading...

Losing by a single goal warms the heart, but only a little for Sunderland

Posted by Colin Randall

Ki Sung-Yeung Sunderland celeb vs Liverpool GettyImagesKi Sung-Yeung gave Sunderland hope late on but Liverpool hung on.

Gallows humour was much in evidence as Sunderland prepared for the trip to free-scoring, born-again Liverpool. "Never mind two up front," said one supporter, "I'd try putting two in goal."

Gus Poyet was not listening. Connor Wickham, recalled from his loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday to help address Sunderland's paucity of attacking punch, accompanied Jozy Altidore up front; Vito Mannone stood alone in goal. And yet the match finished with a highly creditable scoreline, Liverpool 2-1 Sunderland, with at least some of the Anfield faithful relieved to hear Kevin Friend's final whistle. Continue Reading...

Heavy clouds gather after yet another Sunderland surrender

Posted by Colin Randall

 	Alex Tettey goal Norwich City vs SunderlandGettyImagesAlex Tettey scored Norwich's opener with a thunderous strike.

After each game, the e-mails flow thick and fast.

There is always one from Gus Poyet -- or whoever else happens currently to be managing the crisis that is Sunderland AFC. And there is a flurry of messages from people belonging to the Blackcats e-mail loop, an electronic gathering of supporters in the North East and the substantial diaspora scattered around the world.

Powers of imagination do not need to be especially strong to work out the likely tone after Norwich City 2-0 Sunderland. Continue Reading...

Strikers' goal drought hampers desperate search for win

Posted by Colin Randall

Ian Horrocks/Getty ImagesJozy Altidore's search for a second Premier League goal continues this weekend at Carrow Road against Norwich.

There is goodwill in abundance between Sunderland and Norwich City, who play out a bottom-of-the-table six-pointer at Carrow Road on Saturday. It goes back at least to the 1985 league cup final, when the two sets of fans got along so well the match is remembered as the Friendly Final.

Before and since then, I have seen the two sides play each other of several occasions. With the exception of an FA Cup semifinal at Hillsborough in 1992, I have rarely been in a stadium to see the teams play unless relegation has been an issue for at least one of them. Continue Reading...

Relegation fears mount as two priceless points squandered

Posted by Colin Randall

Steven FletcherGettyImagesSteven Fletcher (third right) of Sunderland appeals for a penalty after being brought down

The euphoria of Wembley has cleared. The elation from completing the double over Newcastle United is already a fading memory.

The stark truth after Saturday's crucial six-pointer ended Sunderland 0-0 Crystal Palace is that it is no longer possible to argue that Gus Poyet's players are too good to go down.

The Uruguayan head coach started with what he must consider close to his best line-up, Liam Bridcutt and Seb Larsson edging out Jack Colback and Lee Cattermole in midfield. Continue Reading...