Soapbox: Crisis? What Crisis?


After a day of international rumour and intrigue, Pete Sixsmith travels to Lancashire, where he sacrifices his favourite lunch, and is rewarded with a convincing win at Blackburn. And what a shame the hundreds of extra readers lured here by Pete’s match verdict in The Observer were a shade too early for this outstanding account of the weekend’s events, from the eve-of-game orgy of speculation to three superbly won points…

Jim Callaghan didn’t actually say this as he returned to the UK after an IMF meeting somewhere in the Caribbean, but it has gone down in folklore as the thing not to say when under pressure.

As we gaze down from the lofty position of second (on page 2 of teletext), you would wonder what on earth all the fuss was about last week. On Friday, the North East was awash with rumours that Keane had resigned, that he wasn’t going to Blackburn and that he had sent Triggs and the other dog to the kennels in advance of him running off to Patagonia.

I got the rumour at work, via Radio Newcastle’s John Anderson (a Mag, but a nice guy), who was doing a Show Racism The Red Card workshop. In the space of half an hour, I had texts from Scotland, Dunston and Abu Dhabi wondering what was going on. As the afternoon passed, there was no confirmation and it looks like the Great North East Rumour Mill has claimed yet another triumph of conjecture over fact.

So to Saturday. I changed my habits, thinking that we need to start winning and that the best way to do that (apart from picking our best team) was to change my lunch order at The Balcony Bistro in Lancaster. Out went the Corned Beef Hash with Red Cabbage and in came the Liver, Mashed Potatoes and Peas. A rewarding lunch (£3.75) later washed down with a pint of Hobgoblin at the John o’ Gaunt and all set for a rip roaring encounter with the Boys From The Blackburn Stuff.

The first half wasn’t very rip roaring and we did well to go in only a goal down. The one that we did let in was disappointing in that we fell for a trick as old as time itself and one that Blackburn Olympic probably put over on Old Carthusians when they won the FA Cup in 1870 whatever.

Pederson deliberately put the ball outside the quadrant and was told by the ref to place it properly. He did the same again and made a real fuss of it while their players in the box ran around in a (successful) attempt to confuse our defenders. When the ball came in, the outstanding Samba was virtually unmarked and was able to power in a header.

It must have been an interesting discussion in our dressing room because we looked a changed side when we came out. Kenwyne hit the bar and then Paul Robinson showed why he should never be allowed near a Durham City squad, let alone an England one, when he palmed a Richardson corner backwards for Kenwyne to score with a balletic overhead kick.

There was only ever going to be one winner, and with the backing of a staggering 7,000 fans we played with strength and pace. Incidentally, I thought the turnout of Portsmouth fans last week was pathetic and it relegates them from the Decent Clubs With Decent Fans League, into the Bandwagon Jumping, Won’t Travel Out Of The South League, where they reside with other cartoon clubs like Fulham, Crystal Palace and Reading.

Reid coming on for Tainio opened up the midfield, allowing Whitehead to sit back, and giving much more space for Richardson. He took hold of the game and began to push Rovers further and further back. I was disappointed to see that he was not in the England squad for the Germany game. He is playing really well at the moment.

The winner was a well taken one by Cissé, whose celebrations made it appear that he was so excited that he was going off for a wee.

He surely has to be the most exotic creature ever to have played for Sunderland. Sparkly underwear, more tattoos than a Ferryhill Ladies Darts Team and a penchant for absurdly decorated motor vehicles (another rumour doing the rounds suggests that he has an ice cream machine in the back of one of them. Don’t suppose it’s his Fabia), he is as far away from the likes of Wayne Entwhistle, Tom Ritchie and David Swindlehurst as you could get. An excellent player who clearly enjoys the Premier League compared with the relative sterility of Le Championnat.

So, what happens next? Well, the other results went for us, even down to Titus Shambles screwing up the Mags. We have two very winnable home games coming up before we venture into the Prawn Sandwich capital of the North West and we could be sitting (relatively) pretty by then.

On the other hand, we could be back in the bottom three, Keane could have resigned, the dogs could be living in Battersea and Lawrie McMenemy could have been brought back from Southampton. The rumour mill grinds on!!!

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