This time last season more or less, we went to Bolton safe from the drop and with every incentive to get out there and express ourselves after a long, hard-fought battle to avoid relegation. Er, we all know what happened next. Bolton needed a win, and they got it. We didn’t turn up. This season, we could quite do with one. Will we get it? Will we ever get it? Welcome Danny Warbrick,* Wanderers through and through (and came to us courtesy of a former contributor, Craig Johnson, a familiar figure from the Bolton Wanderers FC fansites Burnden Aces and BWFC UK Forum). At just 16, Danny is comfortably the youngest writer Salut! Sunderland has recruited for the Who Are They? series. He turns out to be very perceptive about us and philosophical about both clubs. So did the fixture ring a bell for him, too? You bet it did …
Last season was obviously a massive game for us as if we hadn’t won that we’d have found it very difficult to stay up.
So I think it helped us that you were safe by then and seemed to have started summer early.
This season, as you say, things are the other way round with you desperate for the points whilst we now look all but safe. Whether we’ll have taken our foot of the gas remains to be seen as we’ve yet to actually pass the 40 point mark but I wouldn’t expect us to put in such a flat performance that you’ll come and just take the points. I think if you’re going to leave with three points you’re going to have to work for them.
And now for the questions:
You seem to have done enough to keep out of trouble. Is that what you expected, better or worse?
At the beginning of the season I said I’d be happy with a mid-table finish and as it stands, we’re on course to achieve that, so from that point of view we’ve had a good season in my opinion. However some of the football that has been on display and the amount of times we just haven’t turned up has been very disappointing so I hope next season we can continue to build on the mid-table finish we look on course to achieve.
What did you think of our prospects this season back in August?
I thought you’d have a similar season to us really, I expected you to be safe without too many problems but without doing anything particularly special to get anyone talking.
And how did the 4_1 away victory for you, then Keane’s walkout affect your opinion?
If I remember correctly, you hadn’t been in great form before the game but I was surprised by just how poor you were, particularly after going in front. Once we got ourselves back in the game you seemed to just give up and that’s something I wouldn’t expect any team to do. I actually thought Keane leaving would have helped you more than hindered you as he seemed to have lost interest and I think you’d have continued to struggle under him. That’s obviously just an outsider’s point of view of course. Sbragia seemed to give you something during the caretaker part of his reign that you’d been lacking and I expected you to cruise to safety under him once he was given the job permanently.
Who has done brilliantly for you this season and who needs to be shipped out?
Kevin Davies has obviously had a great season and was unlucky not to get an England call up in my opinion. Matty Taylor and Gary Cahill have also been fantastic and are both proving to be great signings. Our two big summer signings, Muamba and Elmander have both been a little disappointing however I believe they both still have a big part to play at the club next season.
In terms of being shipped out, we have several loan players who just haven’t made it in Smolarek, Makakula and Puygrenier who will all return to their clubs and I’d expect the likes of Nicky Hunt, Danny Shittu and Riga, who have just not had any impact this season, to follow them out of the door.
Do any of the current mob of Premier stars deserve to be discussed in the same breath as Nat Lofthouse?
Obviously times have changed dramatically and the quality on show these days compared to Lofthouse’s day is clearly much greater. However in terms of loyalty, there isn’t anyone who can be compared to Nat, who has given his life to the club, as a fan, player, manager, coach and still today is here as president so on that basis, no, I don’t believe any of today’s stars can be compared to him.
How much does it hurt that Man U are likely to win the league again and teams like yours – and ours – will probably not do it in the next 10 years or more, maybe ever?
This is something that as fans, we had to accept a long time ago I think as the money now in the game has made it impossible for teams like ours to win the league in the foreseable future. Just to answer the first part of the question, it does indeed hurt that United are likely to win the league again, for reasons that I’m sure you can understand, having to listen to all their “fans” becomes incredibly tedious after so many years.
Be honest. Who is going down? If you nominate us, is that with regret? In other words, what do you honestly think about SAFC
Honestly, I think it will be West Brom, Boro and Hull that go down since, as much as I want to see it happen, I still can’t see Newcastle going down and I just expect them to pull something out of the bag that will save them by the skin of their teeth, much to the despair of the rest of the country.
Regarding Sunderland, I’m pretty neutral to be honest. Under Keane I would have happily seen you fail as he is one person who I can’t stand. Now however, would I miss you if you were to go down? Probably not. Would it bother me if you were to stay up? Again, probably not, so as I say, I just see you now as another club joining us in the also rans department.
Club v country. Who wins for you and why?
Club every time. I just fail to take any interest in any England games lately as it just seems inevitable that we’re going to let ourselves down. When supporting Bolton, I feel I can get behind every single player and manager who we might have, unfortunatly, the same cannot be said for England.
Who will win this game – Bolton v SAFC – and will you be there?
I’m usually hopeless with predictions but I’ll go for a draw with both teams just cancelling each other out. If I had to pick a winner, I’d say it would be Bolton, purely down to the home advantage. As always, I will indeed be there.
What is in store for next season? More of the same, or a whole lot better/worse?
For the league in general I think it will be more of the same with the top 4 spots dominated as usual by the big 4, don’t really have an interest in what order, and with the 3 promoted teams all struggling to survive along with a few of the more mediocre teams in the league, not sure who. It would obviously depend on what happens in the summer.
As for Bolton, similar to what I said in question two, i’d hope we can build on a mid-table finish whilst being able to show more encouraging performances than we’ve seen at times this season.
* Danny Warbrick on Danny Warbrick: I was brought up to me a Bolton fan and have stuck true to my roots with BWFC now running through my blood. I’ve been following the club for about 12 years now – I’m only 16 if you’re wondering why that is – and I’ve been lucky enough to see us have some great times in that period. I am a season ticket holder and go to every game as well as whatever away games I can afford. I think it’s been eight so far this season. Highs would include the play off final back in 2001, our first season back in the Premier League where we got some great results as well as an exciting end to the season and more recently, seeing us play in Europe twice, getting results at places like Bayern Munich and Athletico Madrid aswell as achieving survival in an exciting finale last year.
As for lows, losing in the Carling Cup final in 2004 would probably be the biggest one, especially in the manner it was lost with a poor refereeing performance not helping our cause. I would also include going out of the Uefa Cup last year, mostly because of the manner of our exit, sending a extremly weak team over to Lisbon as we were resting players for Wigan, only for us to go on and get beaten by a 10 man Wigan team after also being knocked out of Uefa!