Sterile, listless, insipid, clueless.
Looking like they haven’t played together for months, their lack of fitness testament to mis-spent weeks away from the training ground.
Many make little effort to hide that they would rather be somewhere – anywhere – else than here.
Going nowhere, lacking direction, pitch-side microphones picking up the dull thud of each poorly delivered pass, the frustration of team-mates, coaches, managers and substitutes.
Ninety minutes of tedium played out in front of banks of empty plastic seats for the benefit of TV cameras and at-home gamblers.
There’s no doubt about it – binge-watching series two of Sunderland ‘Til I Die was the perfect preparation for the return of sport to the TV screens last weekend.
Bundesliga football’s Operation Restart was underwhelming to say the least, UFC looks even more like a chucking out time street brawl without spectator noise, golf – even involving Rory McIlroy and played for charridee is weirdly pointless without a gallery bellowing Inthahowel or Yooesshay and horse racing is one of the few sports – along with basketball and bowls – which fails to raise my pulse rate in any circumstances.
Having spent two months confined to barracks the great gambling public can once again squander its dosh by punting on the next throw-in, hole-in-one or KO.
We breathe a huge sigh of relief that the financial pressure on Fred Done, Lenny Ladbroke, William Hill and pals has finally eased.
Friends tell me that when Sunderland finally return to action their fans can once again punt a whole poond on the Black Cats Triella.
Apparently it involves identifying a five minute period of a game in which Sunderland string together three or more completed passes, don’t have a player booked and have a shot on target.
After 20 years the pot remains unclaimed – most failing at the first hurdle. With rollover the pots stands close to a cool million.
Anyway the important thing is that sport is back. Sports channels – in particular, BT which has most of the live stuff at the moment – and bookies can return to their favourite sport … scalping customers.
Snooker plans to restart in a fortnight, Polish speedway is on the radar. British speedway is tentatively mumbling about August – as is rugby. Fingers are tightly crossed.
Elsewhere the world begins to emerge from its Covid cocoon – although having scared people into lockdown the government, bless it’s monogrammed silk boxers, is now struggling to persuade many that it is safe to put their heads above the parapet and return to work or school.
Inevitably there was friction between London and the rest of the UK as Boris’ told us to stop staying at home and become Lerts.
Scots took their traditional stance to anything emanating from the Palace of Westminster. They were suitably outraged and not a little up in arms.
Fortunately, it all turned out to be a terrible misunderstanding.
Once the Bravehearts had been reassured that returning to work and taking exercise only applied to those who had indulged in it before the pandemic and wasn’t being made compulsory they got back to staying at home while the English began Lert training.
I have always been proud to be A Lert, being told to stay one is no hardship.
Once restrictions are eased enough to holiday I will head to the Pot a Doodle at Scremerston and spend a weekend in one of their innovative holiday abodes.
You may wish to join me and become A Lert in A Yurt. We could have team colours. A Lert in A Yurt, wearing a T-shirt if you will.
Perhaps Buddy the Bandit can get involved and we bear witness to the birth of a new superhero. Lert in A Yurt in A T-Shirt – surely the natural successor to Bananas in their Pyjamas.
Differing lockdown restrictions north and south of the Tweed have led to social friction.
Cornhill, so often the source of the sort of weird goings-on that used to keep Mulder and Scully gainfully employed, is reported to have been the scene of the full and frank cross-border exchanges once so beloved in these parts.
Rather than Reivers facing off against the King’s men the 2020 skirmishes involved anglers on the English bank taking advantage of their, government approved, opportunity to try some socially distanced hook dipping and those on the opposite side of the river who had chosen to ignore the Sainted Nicola and very definitely not stayed at home.
Elsewhere there were tales of round trips of hundreds of miles to play golf at Goswick, clump through Kielder Forest or buy fish and chips in Whitby.
Participation sport is now allowed in England … but only involving members of the same family.
That means the odd rubber of tennis doubles and golf but in my mind we are being narrow-minded as the criteria surely opens the door a smidgen for professional Rugby League – Dewsbury v Castleford – and at all levels of rugby union between Kelso and Melrose.
While British speedway remains in a state of limbo as the ACU continues to suspend all forms of competition, there is some green shoots of motorsport activity.
Moto-x – scrambling to those of my age – is licensed and insured outside the ACU and tracks have been able to stage practice sessions – albeit with strictly limited, socially distanced and heavily sanitised numbers.
Finding a way to safely accommodate the attendance levels seen every day on the shop floors or Asda, Tesco and Morrisons over the past two months in support of professional sportsmen and women and, indeed, tempt them off the sofa in the first place, remains a work in progress.
Some of the country’s best minds are working on it as we speak. Unfortunately, the decision will ultimately be made by politicians.
As Private Fraser used to say: “We’re doomed.”