YOU can see it quite clearly in an instant.
Sunderland fans hurrying out of the Stadium of Light after Saturday’s lunchtime game with Southampton so that they can crowd the city’s pubs to cheer Newcastle United to victory against relegation rivals West Ham United.
It won’t happen, of course.
Not the cheering – which could get louder on Wearside if Newcastle have to beat Cardiff City in their penultimate of the season to keep Sunderland up – more the chances of a Magpies win this Saturday.
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has masterminded a number of black and white defeats in his managerial career.
Unfortunately most of them were during his ill-fated spell in charge at St James’s Park.
Another one alas seems imminent.
You can just see his smug face filling our television screens this weekend after Toon old boy Andy Carroll rises from his substitute’s wheelchair to deflect a last-minute winner in with his Alice band.
Allardyce, whose team were in trouble before they were hit by injuries, will no doubt remind us all how he was right all along and that his squad would be above eighth-place Newcastle if they had remained fit.
Forgetting that some of his selection problems were self-inflicted – Kevin Nolan’s seven-game absence through suspension, anyone? – a home victory would still leave West Ham 12 points behind their opponents.
Why do I keep predicting a home win? Because the Christmas period has exposed Newcastle United for what they are.
A decent first XI who can beat anyone on their day.
But a decent first XI with precious little to call upon in reserve.
When that first XI doesn’t play or play well – is striker Loic Remy suffering a temporary loss of form or have defences permanently found him out? – then anyone, as Cardiff, West Brom and Sunderland have proved, can beat them on their own day.
With 10 days until their next game following their early FA Cup exit, you fear Alan Pardew’s side may well be thinking too much about whatever time they may be getting off come 5pm Saturday.
New blood is needed urgently to gee the first team up so that the remaining four months of the season do not descend into a tepid anti-climax.
- GAVIN LEDWITH