The dust is settling and everything just feels horrible.
My breakfast tasted horrible, the drive home was horrible and I just feel horrible. What can you say except that Sunderland have done it again?
I can sit here put my fan hat on and call for heads to roll. I’ve seen enough fans do it on social media with many calling for the head of Jack Ross, but it’s not him I’m angry at. It’s players like Chris Maguire, Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke. I don’t even know if they were at Wembley because in all their supposed talent and ability, we saw absolutely none of it. Wyke please, for all our sakes, win a header. One in every ten is not good enough. The height and build he has means he should be dominating defenders but that seldom happens.
The injury to Max Power early in the match meant our game plan became obvious. Grigg and McGeady were always going to come on. I don’t blame Ross for that because 99.9% of people would have done the same. He tried to mix it up by going 4-4-2 then back to 4-5-1 then 4-3-3. The players didn’t react at all.
Our midfield three were so compact it killed our wingers. Instead of giving the attacking players a couple of yards further forward in case of counter-attacking opportunities, they had to cover the space left behind by the midfield. It became so frustrating to watch because Charlton also had one game plan. Lure us in and launch it to Lyle Taylor.
Seeing Honeyman, Cattermole and Leadbitter especially collapse to the floor at full time spoke volumes. They felt what every single one of us felt.
Honeyman had a frustrating game. He huffed and puffed but everything lead to nothing. His end product must improve if he wants to carry this team forward as captain. He's shown he is more than capable at times but needs more consistency.
Cattermole has often added the aggression we needed in games this season but it wasn’t enough. He became a passenger due to Charlton’s game plan. They knew they wouldn’t beat our midfield so took them out of the equation.
The referee was very inconsistent as well. So many tackles from behind went unpunished and yet Charlton were given free kicks and Sunderland players booked for a gentle tug of the shirt. Silly fouls yet again from the Black Cats, but not as bad as the referee made them out to be.
Another thing I will mention is, like a lot of games this season, the ball just refuses to bounce our way. Every ball bounced against us. Going out for a corner instead of a thrown in, deflecting straight to Charlton’s feet. Unbelievable at times how lucky Charlton were.
Sunderland have not won at Wembley since 1973 and be it due to dumb luck, world class opponents or the lottery of a penalty shoot out Sunderland cannot blame anyone or anything else but themselves. I think the message going into next season when signing players, and the current crop that remain, is simply “put up or shut up”. The bar has to be raised for every player and they need to understand that Ross has essentially a blank canvas. He knows what to expect and what’s needed for next year. His next job is now to find who can hack it.
We need bigger and better centre backs. People who aren’t afraid to bully strikers. O’Nien is still a mystery, this whole romantic story of is he or isn’t he a right back needs to be sorted. Upfront we need Niall Quinn back or at least someone like him who can help Grigg. Wyke isn’t the answer for me. We also need wingers who can cross a ball better. Gooch is another who must improve his end product if he wants to stay long term. We have a few loans out so we need to sort out who can do it at this level and higher and who can’t.
I said a while ago that not going up wouldn’t be the worst thing and I still stand by that, but questions have to asked. This squad needed vast improvement for the Championship. The positive thing is we can improve this summer without the fear of a relegation in which I think this squad will have been fighting against in the Championship.