Pete Sixsmith flies home from Amsterdam a little the worse for wear, but in good spirits after a convincing win over Atletico Madrid …
A bit of a lie actually, because this is being written from the study at Sixsmith Towers, while the cat re-acquaints himself with the furniture by sharpening his claws on it. The spell check is on, so any problems in that department should be solved.
An early morning alarm call enabled Mr Horan and me to grab a quick breakfast at the excellent Bridge Hotel and move onto the transit town that is Schipol airport. We did it with a slight beery hangover, having drunk in our adopted bar in the Nieuw Maarket until they closed at midnight. The excellent, pub brewed Mannke Monke (Droopy Monk), beer tasted all the better after a very competent 2-0 win over Athletico Madrid.
It was a good result and although it may not send shock waves throughout the Premier League, it made the 2,000 plus Red and Whites in a red and white dominated arena, look to the coming season with more optimism than after Friday’s drab and error ridden show against Benfica.
Many were surprised that Bruce picked the same team, but it can be seen as clever motivation. “I don’t believe you are as clumsy and careless as you were on Friday. Go out and show me what you can do”. They did. Malbranque was outstanding on the left and was given the instruction to go wide of the full back, but also cut in when given the chance. At times, it was like seeing Bullet Mulhall or Magic Johnson again and although the penalty was a soft one (The Eredveise must have an awful lot of penalty kings, if these two refs were anything to go by), he forced a number of errors out of the Madrid defence.
Kenwyne (spelt K-E_N_W_Y_N_E – not quite the home of Horace Batchelor’s Infra Draw Method) played him in with a lovely ball and once again looked the player that Dr Robson, who God preserve of Utrecht, suggested was as indispensable as selling your own liver. He should have scored, but his all round game brings other players in and his partnership with Campbell or whoever, could be extremely fruitful. And don’t forget his contribution to the defence. He won two towering headers when we under pressure in the second half. He also linked up well with Kieran Richardson, who seemed very happy playing just behind the front man. Does SB see KJ as another Emile Heskey?
Defence and midfield were sound and the number of misplaced passes was miniscule compared with the inaccuracies of Friday. Ferdinand tackled well, Nozzer concentrated and both full backs were tighter. In the centre of midfield, Leadbitter and Henderson did their best to show Steve Bruce that there was no need to spend money on Cattermole.
So, it was happy Sunderland fans who descended the 9 flights of stairs from Riff-Raff Corner in The ArenA (sic), only to be met by a locked exit gate and Dutch police demanding to see proof of British identity. Rumours of Feyenoord fans infiltrating the Sunderland area or police looking for fans involved in fights in the Red Light District were put forward, but it was a disappointing example of how the seemingly liberal Dutch have an authoritarian streak in them.
This had been illustrated earlier in the day, when we had visited the excellent Museum of the Occupation. Here the Dutch face up to what happened to their nation between 1940 and 1945 and give a very convincing answer to the question, “What would have happened if we had been invaded in 1940”? The answer is that, like the Dutch, we would probably have got on with life and although some actively collaborated with the Nazi’s, most just kept their heads down and grumbled in private. The Resistance movement was made up of women who sewed the feet of German soldier’s socks together rather than gangs of gun wielding partisans, but they made their dislike of the invader known in many ways. As awful as Frank Rijkaard spitting in Rudi Vollers face was, it was seen in the Netherlands as a belated reaction to the ignominies heaped on the Dutch people in those dark days. The Museum is opposite the City Zoo and is well worth a couple of hours of your time if you are visiting the city.
Well, another pre season trip over and probably the most enjoyable yet. More observations on Holland and the Dutch to come later! Steve seeks to strengthen the squad by recruiting and releasing and having watched the You Tube video of Cana, he looks interesting. Could be an interesting afternoon at Parkhead on Saturday.