Cats Quids-In as Shrimpers Sunk

The Journal (Newcastle, England), February 19, 2007 | Go to article overview

Cats Quids-In as Shrimpers Sunk


Byline: By Paul Gilder

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is the largest employer in Southend but when Sunderland's footballers met another of the Essex town's institutions, the experience was not too taxing.

The VAT man might be an accomplished collector but when it comes to levying Championship points, Steve Tilson's side are not so successful.

For under Roy Keane's shrewd guidance, the Black Cats have developed a strong sense of duty.

Yet it was their opponents who paid a high price and they left Wearside empty-handed on Saturday evening. Sunderland were a class apart in engineering their biggest win in 23 months.

The two clubs might be peers at present but the summer could find them separated by two divisions, a situation made more likely by the unforgiving manner in which Keane's team dismantled the shocking Shrimpers.

There is a margin between these clubs and it is immeasurable. The punishment could have been even greater. As well as scoring four times the Black Cats struck the woodwork on three occasions and dominated from the first whistle to the last.

Yet this comprehensive triumph was sufficient to ensure the occupation of a play-off position for the first time this season and having climbed to fifth in the Championship table, promotion prospects continue to improve.

If an illustration were needed to show how far Sunderland have come under Keane, it is this: When the Irishman agreed to take charge on Wearside, the Black Cats had just lost 3-1 at Southend to crash to the bottom of the division's table.

Of the team that started at Roots Hall on August 19, only Dean Whitehead was involved in Saturday's return fixture. The transformation is total. None represent it more than the club's supporters.

A depressed and demoralised band prior to Keane's arrival, their anticipatory enthusiasm is infectious these days.

More than 33,000 watched a fixture that does not brim with glamour and the atmosphere that was lost during the dark days of last season is back. That lost belief has been rediscovered is clear. Just twice in the club's last seven home games has the crowd dipped below 30,000.

It is a belief that has been instilled by the unshakeable strength of Keane's will. The Irishman has imposed his single-minded ambition on his players, and, from the moment referee Neil Swarbrick signalled the kick off, there was only going to be one winner.

Just four minutes had passed when Carlos Edwards demonstrated attacking talents that symbolise Wearside intent to create David Connolly's ninth goal in Sunderland colours. It looked a simple task for the 29-year-old as he tapped in from close range but he had engineered the opening by checking his run in expert fashion to ensure it was such.

The free scoring forward has emerged as a pivotal figure in the club's push for the Premiership and his contribution has become invaluable. …

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