50p a minute? No thanks!!!

Picture: Free-ers

Week after week, good news or bad, Pete Sixsmith faithfully texts scores, results and verdicts to Salut! Sunderland. Saturday was Chelsea avoidance day, and he got his updates from Abu Dhabi

Saturday found me absent from Stamford Bridge, so my observations are for once based on Match of the Day and what I have read in the various newspaper reports.

Colin, thousands of miles away in the UAE, saw it on TV and he was in the interesting position of texting the scores to me. I was dreading the sound of the mobile buzzing, so low were my expectations.

For once I was not disappointed. The reporter on Five Live dismissed us in four words – “hard working but limited” – and then spent the rest of his piece discussing whether Mourinho should manage England.

Sunday’s Observer wasn’t much better and suggested that a return to the Championship was in the offing if we did not sign the right players in January, while this morning’s Guardian focuses on Terry’s attitude and Miller’s foolishness at walking straight into a red card.

Read more50p a minute? No thanks!!!

We don’t know what we’re doing, but nor did the ref

Leave aside the alarming gulf in class between Chelsea and Sunderland and the worst aspect of today’s events was obviously Liam Miller’s stupid piece of retaliation, which rightly got him sent off.

That’s him gone for three games and patchy as his form has been, he is one of the few players in our squad capable of looking Premiership standard. We can ill afford to be without him.

But is it not utterly typical of this sort of match – slick brand (Chelsea) up against hard-working, low skill battlers (SAFC) – that the referee, Peter Walton, had no difficulty in spotting and punishing Miller’s shove but completely missed the assault that preceded it?

Claudio Pizarro could clearly be seen on the replays thumping his knee into Miller as they passed, a straight red card offence if the laws of the game are to be applied with the remotest consistency. When Miller reacted, Pizarro then jerked theatrically backwards as is the way with most players of today. Incidentally, the Sunderland Echo apparently has Miller’s foot being trodden on before his petulant gesture.

Sky’s cameras – I see more English football in Abu Dhabi than ever I managed when living in London – did spot it, so presumably the FA will have to take notice and punish Pizarro. Walton presumably saw nothing of his part in the altercation, and this should make the incident reviewable on video evidence.

It hardly matters, of course. Chelsea just wheel on any one of a bunch of other millionaire prima donnas. Pizarro won’t even be missed. Meanwhile, we muddle through with another reshuffle of the thin, Championship quality pack.

Watching Aston Villa’s game, screened before ours, I was raising my hopes that even we could beat such a woefully bad side. Watching ours, I remembered just how bad we are.

Yes, I know we might have been happy to settle before today’s game for 2-0 as the least we were likely to get away with. But that overlooks the fact that we are beating so few of the lesser teams either.

It is probably unreleastic to expect battling but limited players, as most of ours are, to be able to raise their individual and collective games any higher than they already have. It is not unrealistic to point out that three points against a feeble Villa is no less a MUST HAVE outcome than against Derby.

The weaker the position we find ourselves in come the January transfer window, the tougher it will be for Roy Keane to attract men of a calibre adequate to ensure the season does not end with another calamitous relegation.

Glam nights out (1): Hetton

Guided by a refined sartorial sense, Pete Sixsmith has been writing his socks off on Salut! Sunderland in recent weeks. But would a trip to Hetton to see the reserves in action punch a hole in those socks? Decision is yours…..

In between visiting my tailor and popping in and out of work, I have been known to take in the odd reserve game.

I really enjoyed the Monday nights at Ferens Park under Reidy and Ricky Sbragia, but a combination of Mick Mac, who in common with Bob Geldorf didn’t like Mondays, the FA, which wouldn’t sanction the use of a plastic surface, and the Premier League, which kicked us out of their Reserve League after relegation, meant that my reserve watching was curtailed for a couple of years.

So, when I saw that we were at home to Middlesbrough on Wednesday and the only other option was watching Bishop Auckland, I made my way to Hetton to see how the second string would fare.

Read moreGlam nights out (1): Hetton

Looking for a new England

If you have read anything I have ever written, here or elsewhere, on Club versus Country, you will know how little pain I have been feeling about England’s exit from the European Championships.

The Everton debacle hurt a million times more, as did Reading away in 1997, the Gillingham and Charlton relegation and promotion playoffs and meaningless end-of-season capitulations to Spurs and Tranmere Rovers. For that matter, England 2 Croatia 3 bothered me less than the Sudoku puzzles I occasionally mess up.

But many of you will disagree. Cherrie Daley, a sports researcher, is conducting a survey on fans’ attitudes to England managers. I took part only because the questions also invite supporters to make comparisons with, and offer analysis of, the managers of their own clubs.

There is a prize draw for which all entrants qualify. Go to this link if you’d like to chip in.

Hailing Glass Spider’s finest

At least Anthony Stokes has a sense of humour, with wise cracks about celebrating his long overdue Premiership scoring debut with “a quiet night in”. More of the same – goals, not jokes – and Pete Sixsmith will forgive him all his Glass Spider excesses

Fair play to you, Stokesey

For the last few years I have worn a white shirt and SAFC tie to work after a win. Two years age, the shirt gathered cobwebs in my “wardrobe” while last year the collar and cuffs were frayed as it was worn nearly every Monday from January to April.

So, being the Bertie Wooster of South West Durham I popped along to my tailor (George at Asda) and purchased a new one after the Reading game. Since when it has remained redundant on the clothes rack despite my desperate desire to wear a £6.99 cotton shirt lovingly hand stitched by smiling urchins in Bangladesh.

Read moreHailing Glass Spider’s finest

The Not So Magnificent Seven

Pete Sixsmith goes on the road in search of goals. Unfortunately he finds them in the wrong end.

Colin is wrong. I could think of seven words to describe this shambles but none of them would get past the service provider.

The best way to approach this is to look at the positives of the day. The Globe and The Caernarvon Castle still sell excellent Cains beer, Merseyside taxi drivers still dispense wit and wisdom in equal parts, Goodison Park is still a proper football stadium and Southport is still a most welcoming bolt hole after witnessing a debacle like this.

Had I been a neutral, it would have been a pleasure to watch Everton go about their perfectly legitimate business of taking apart a team so wretched that the Blues fans sat around me were open-mouthed and slack-jawed in disbelief, as they turned it on and we failed to turn up. One guy said: “They’re worse than Tranmere Rovers,” to which his mate replied “Reserves”. An insult to the Prenton Park second team.

Read moreThe Not So Magnificent Seven

Gloom on the Ganges

Always look on the bright side of life? Where is the bright side to being hammered 7-1 at Goodison?

Salut! Sunderland was drifting on the peaceful waters of the Ganges until just before the goals started going in. The texts from home weren’t exactly what I’d hoped for when I came ashore.

Pete Sixsmith will perhaps be amplifying his Sixer’s Seven with a Soapbox column in due course. Viewed from Varanasi, however, the first thought after getting over the initial shock of a wretched result and resigning myself to probable relegation was to wonder whether he’d consider the performance worth seven words at all.

SAFC, celeb supporters and Wikipedia

How dependable is Wikipedia? One answer specific to the nature of the site is that it can only be as reliable as the quality of the information internet users supply.

I turn to it occasionally and am not ashamed, as a professional journalist, to acknowledge that it is often a useful tool. And if I use it, I credit it. But as with all information found on the web, indeed information from any source about which you are not 100 per cent sure, it is best to proceed with caution when making use of what the tool yields.

In the case of the Sunderland AFC page, there are glaring errors and omissions in the list of well known supporters, mistakes that seem all the more bizarre given how much Wikipedia has occasionally dipped into the Celebrity Supporters archives of Salut! Sunderland for its own source material (usually without crediting it to me beyond links from text, plus what I have added myself).

This, then, is the Wikipedia list** of celebrities who support SAFC:

Read moreSAFC, celeb supporters and Wikipedia

Salut! Sunderland supersubs

The great thing about Salut! Sunderland is that I can head off on holiday in the knowledge that my friends Pete Sixsmith and Joan Dawson will leap from the bench – sorry, lumber from it in Pete’s case – to ensure business more or less as usual.

No football this weekend, of course, save for some inconsequential internationals (though it will be interesting to see if Craig Gordon can produce a confidence-boosting display for Scotland).

But items will continue to be posted, and Joan will turn her IT skills to good use when proper football returns and Pete comes up with what we hope will be the first winning Sixer’s Seven in far too long.

I have written a piece about the way Wikipedia deals with Sunderland’s celebrity supporters, and that should appear on Friday. There may be a couple of Pete’s Soapboxes later, and even a guest column from a fellow fan. If you are crelatively new to Salut! Sunderland, you can also trawl back through the archives for a look at the mass of material posted here since the launch 10 months ago).

And I have a spare copy of the new A Love Supreme book, More 24 Hour SAFC People, to give away. It includes a chapter by yours truly, with a self-explanatory title along the lines of Club versus Country: easy home win, but skip that if you wish – it’s a much expanded version of a theme I have addressed here and on the Guardian‘s Comment is Free pages – and enjoy the contributions from a lively line-up of SAFC fans with great stories to tell.

The competition? Just write in here to post a comment on any SAFC related topic you want. Why are we not winning? Was £9m on Craig Gordon a failed gamble? Will we stay up? Is Salut! Sunderland worth reading? How long will we keep Kenwyne before he is lured by one of the “big” clubs, or rather brands? Or just tell me why you should win the book.

Simple as that; I will one way or the other add two more books just out from ALS to the prize pot if there are some good entries. And my decision (which may be no more than a decision to bury the competition altogether if no one bothers to write in!) will as ever be final.