Spyin' Kop: Sunderland away

Posted by Rushian on November 28, 2005, 12:50:15 PM

After a fourth successive win at Man City, the Reds will be looking to extend their excellent recent form away to Sunderland. The basis for the recent upturn has been our parsimonious defence which has already claimed 9 clean sheets in 12 league games. It's also a chance for us to catch up our game in hand, with the Sunderland game having been moved forward from mid-December as we're off to Japan for the FIFA World Club Cup.

Those expecting an easy game given Sunderland's league position though would do well to think back over recent seasons - the Stadium of Light has always been a difficult place to visit and the 2-1 defeat on a cold December day in the 2002/03  season lingers long in the memory.

Sunderland v Liverpool
Wednesday 28th November 2005
Stadium of Light
KO - 7.45pm
Referee: Phil Dowd

Current League Positions: Liverpool 7th Sunderland 20th

Last 4 League meetings: Liverpool W2 D1 L1

The Club

Sunderland AFC

Nickname: The Black Cats
Founded: 1879
Address: Stadium of Light, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, SR5 1SU.

Capacity: 48,300
Club Honours

League Champions: 1891/1892, 1892/1893, 1894/1895, 1901/1902, 1912/1913, 1935/1936

FA Cup Winners: 1937, 1973

Charity Shield Winners: 1901, 1936

Players To Watch: Arca, Alnwick, Elliott

Recent form: LLLLLL

Founded as the Sunderland and District Teachers' AFC in 1879, before accepting members from other professions in 1880 and forming Sunderland AFC. In the early days of league football, the Wearsiders had a reputation as the country's premier club. Recruited by the Football League in 1890, Sunderland finished three of the next five seasons as First Division champions at fortress Roker Park. The Black Cats secured three more titles and an FA Cup before the end of their impressive 68-year tenure in the top flight in 1958. Flitting between the First and Second Divisions, Sunderland still found time to famously shock Leeds United in the 1973 FA Cup final and the sight of manager Bob Stokoe racing across the Wembley turf to embrace goalkeeper Jim Montgomery remains an enduring image. Further promotion and relegation battles followed, and the club spent the 1987/1988 season in the Third Division. Peter Reid's appointment in 1995 and a move to the magnificent Stadium of Light two years later brought fresh hope to the Sunderland faithful and a place in the Premiership was soon secured. Howard Wilkinson took over from Reid in October 2002 but was replaced by Mick McCarthy with nine games of the 2002/03 season remaining. The Black Cats were relegated but made a triumphant return to the top flight for the 2005/06 season.

We've taken a trip to the venerable Sunderland fanzine A Love Supreme for their views on the match. Thanks to David Richardson for submitting himself to the Spyin' Kop interrogation.

How has the season been shaping up for Sunderland?

The season has been rubbish so far. The only positives to come out of is the win against ‘Boro and maybe the performance against the Mags even though the result wasn’t the right one.

What were your expectations for this season? How have they changed from day one?

The expectations for the season were to try and achieve safety or maybe a comfortable mid table finish. But now those aims seem a long way away.

Who do you think are your most important and your worst players?

The most important player at Sunderland is Ben Alnwick. The young goalkeeper has just claimed the no 1 spot and with Sunderland conceding a bagful of goals he will have to be alert to stop the likes of Morientes and Garcia. The worst player at Sunderland is Anthony Le Tallec. He only seems to perform when surrounded by French 21 year olds.

Do you have a particular memory of any previous meeting between our clubs?  For instance something that happened to you that day, a great goal or a decision you disagreed with?

One that springs to mind is the game between Liverpool and Sunderland in 2000/01 season when Liverpool was awarded a penalty which was clearly outside the box. It was scored and Liverpool went away with a lucky point.

Any young up and coming players in the squad that we might not know about?

The aforementioned, Ben Alnwick. The Gateshead born keeper plays for England at under 19 level and is certainly one of the hot prospects coming out of Sunderland. Another good prospect is Justin Hoyte. The Arsenal full back is on loan till the end of the season and is certainly not letting himself down.

Mick McCarthy must elicit mixed reactions: superb last season but with a poor record in the top league both before relegation and after promotion - what's the general view?

We had good times last season winning most matches easily but now the step up in class has really got to us and we struggle to perform on the big stage. Mick hasn’t spent his transfer kitty wisely I feel, with the purchase of players from the Championship. To succeed in the top flight we need experienced players and players with a touch of class. The only signing that fits the bill is Alan Stubbs who has experienced premiership life with Everton.

Has money ruined modern football or are the press merely jumping on the latest bandwagon?

The wages some players are paid in the world are ridiculous so I can see where that side of the argument is coming from. Also some of the transfer fees clubs pay for players is far too excessive.

Where do you expect Sunderland and Liverpool to finish in the Premier League?

In all honesty and I hate to say it, Sunderland will be at the bottom of the pile. As for Liverpool I predict a 4th place finish.

What's the atmosphere like at The Stadium of Light these days - surely it must be better than that large library on the Tyne?

It’s still lively even though we are in dire straights. The attendances differ each game but for Liverpool, the crowd should be higher than what it is usually what with the quality of players Liverpool possess. Away fans are seated behind the goal in the South stand.

Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

It has to be Peter Crouch, smart bets would be on him the break his duck against Sunderland. In all seriousness Steven Gerrard is the player to be most feared. His surging runs from midfield will be a huge threat to our defence.

Anthony LeTallec seems to be a mystery wrapped up in enigma to most Reds: clearly talented but never quite arsed. What's the Sunderland view on the French loanee? And how is Stephen Wright these days?

As said earlier Anthony Le Tallec is a lazy player and has scored only one goal this campaign. He certainly has the talent to succeed but lacks commitment. For Wrighty, he has been out injured for the whole of this season practically. He was due to make his comeback against Aston Villa just over a week ago, but the day before the game he picked up a slight calf strain.

What are your feelings on the 'Spanish flavour' Liverpool - has the appointment of Rafa Benitez and his dips into La Liga for players been a success?

It certainly looks like it has been a success. The signings made from Spain have all had an impact on the Liverpool side and none of them have flopped, except maybe Antonio Nunez. The most influential signing from La Liga has to Xabi Alonso. He works superbly well with Steven Gerrard and that midfield combination is one of the best in the league.

With Liverpool on the verge of a final decision about moving from Anfield, was leaving Roker Park a necessity to compete at the highest level or has it become a financial albatross around the club's neck? Any advice?

The move to the Stadium of Light has certainly benefited the team by allowing more people through the turnstile to cheer the lads on. As seen nowadays most teams in the premiership have grounds with 30,000 plus capacity so it is vital to keep up with the others.

Care to predict the score?

Heart says 2-1 to Sunderland; head says 2-1 to Liverpool.

Thanks again to David Richardson and the lads at A Love Supreme for their help.

© Rushian 2005

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