Our second Gooner to preview SAFC v Arsenal, Jon Ryan*, had an enviable journalistic career, mixing business and pleasure by becoming sports editor of the Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Telegraph. A racing man, too, he rounded it off by cantering into a top job at the British Horseracing Authority, which oddly enough brought him into contact with Niall Quinn. No hardship for a big Quinny fan. Jon is pictured with his daughter Jemma “on a disastrous night in Munich – we lost 3-1 in a snowstorm but at least witnessed the world’s biggest snowball fight in the Olympic stadium and had a mean knuckle of ham”. Bet he was happier last night …
Salut! Sunderland: What do you make of Arsenal’s start to the season and what are your minimum/maximum expectations?
We’ve started extremely well in filling up the treatment room, right where we left off at the end of last season with Walcott, Robin van Persie, Bendtner, Nasri, Ramsey all out for varying periods and now Diaby. On the pitch we were lucky at Liverpool, ok against a woeful Blackpool and determined against Blackburn (not a trip we usually enjoy) and much better against Bolton. Minimum expectations? Top four above Tottenham. Maximum expectations? At least one trophy and that doesn’t include the Carling Cup where I think Wenger will continue to stick with the younger fringe and reserve players and as we meet Tottenham the Tuesday after you guys it will end there as ‘appy ‘arry would put the first team out to win a cup of tea.
Was there a time last season, with Man City spending like crazy and Spurs/Liverpool/Villa breathing down your necks when you feared the Gunners would drop out of the Big Four?
On a regular basis, but then that is the nature of being a Gooner. We suffered dreadfully from injuries and a goalkeeping duo whose confidence evaporated alarmingly. In the end it was comfortable enough ,but that was in no small way thanks to Liverpool and Villa falling apart and Tottenham playing with greater commitment than anyone can remember to get into the Champions’ League.
I have always been quite charitable about Arsene Wenger’s selective view of foul play and prefer to proclaim my admiration for him and the way he wants his team to play. Is he still the one for you?
For a man with such poor eyesight Arsene has achieved remarkable things in football. If you have followed Arsenal since 1954 you appreciate what he has done, yes ,we had the George Graham years but that 1-0 to the Arsenal chant and the style of football wore very thin. What irritates is people like Alan Green chirruping on about “the fans won’t like this … another season without a trophy” when we still watch some of the best football in Europe. What would you rather do: watch Arsenal in full flow winning nothing, or Stoke? I would have paid to just to see the last goal scored by Vela against Bolton from a through ball by Fabregas at the end of a 20 plus passing move.
Last season, Arsenal were seen by many as both victims (eg Aaron Ramsey) and sinners (Mr Eduardo). Do you really think the Sunderlands/Stokes/Birminghams are out to get your players, and do you really believe Eduardo was unjustly criticised?
Not sure that Eduardo broke anyone’s leg and put them out for a season. I’ve no problems with Sunderland, the Diaby incident was four years ago and we all know how Dan Smith’s careered downhill. And yes, we have had players capable of putting it about (Bergkamp was no angel and Petit clattered good and hard … even Henry knew how to foul). I think Eduardo was naive, he was born in Brazil and played in Croatia before coming here … I wish him well but won’t miss him. Last Saturday against Bolton, following the away game at Blackburn, has shown that we do have more steel in the team.
You have a fair number of celebrity supporters, from literature, film, media, business etc. Are you more understanding of them than Roy Keane used to be of Man Utd’s “prawn sandwich” brigade?
You’ve apparently got Steve Cram, Dave Stewart, Kate Adie and Heather Mills. Go on then, I’ll name drop shamelessly – Rory McGrath sits two rows behind me and drinks in one of the less salubrious pubs in the area. I used to sit near Matt Lucas but they are genuine supporters as are Alan Davies and Ray Davies (definitely no relation) who go with the fans on away trips. Inevitably in London you’re going to get more celebs than you might elsewhere but reassuringly a lot of the club level executive boxes stand symbolically unfilled thanks to the economic downturn…But then I still fondly remember standing on the North Bank … no sport has undergone a greater change in its image and audience than football in the 25 years and it hasn’t all necessarily been for the better.
Marouane Chamakh. You won’t necessarily know this but we were in for him a year ago, only to be insulted by the Bordeaux coach (then Laurent Blanc) and president (Jean-Louis Triaud) as not being a big enough club for him. How good is he? And were we better off settling for Darren Bent?
He seems a tremendous player, great work rate, unselfish and athletic in the Henry mould … strikes me as the sort of guy who could play with any Premier League club but I think Wenger’s French connection is obviously the key for a lot of these players. In any case Bent’s done fine for you…and he moved from a small club to a big club.
And what will be the finishing top four this season? And, in case you ever look that far down the table, the bottom three?
Top four: Chelsea/Man Utd/ Arsenal/Tottenham
Bottom: West Ham are looking dreadful but apparently believe there are three worse teams than themselves in the league.Really?I don’t think it will be clear cut down there and any three from a number could be heading south … but I’d love Blackpool to stay up so that we can continue to get those refreshing weekly pearls of homespun wisdom from Mr Holloway.
Do you have any good/bad memories of Arsenal-Sunderland encounters, home or away, of the past? Or of players – Quinn, Schwarz, Stokes spring to mind though I don’t suppose Stokes came into view much – who have served both clubs. And don’t you mention Alan Sunderland too!
I loved Niall Quinn … he had tremendous feet for such a tall gangly guy and always ploughed on regardless and had a pleasant nature. I knew Charlie Hurley when he was manager at Reading and I reported on them, he was one hell of a character and I remember the Reading-Sunderland cup replay when you were on your way to beating Leeds where all the chanting was adulation in his direction….but bad memories, not really. Ask me again at 7.30pm on the 18th.
Have you already forgotten the World Cup and with what enthusiasm are you looking forward to Euro 2012?
Yes, the World Cup happily a long forgotten memory. I thought it was a disappointing tournament, no really memorable game only one player stamping himself as truly great and that was Iniesta. The best team won. I fall into the category of supporters whose sporting dream is to see my club win the Champions’ League and if you have seen England win a World Cup once another tournament doesn’t seem quite so important.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score.
Sadly not, it will be pub TV time. I would settle for a draw but think we’ll sneak it 2-1. Your new guy Gyan looks useful.
* Jon Ryan on Jon Ryan: first taken to Highbury aged five by my late Uncle Michael – his brother David is a Spurs fan so how lucky was that – and have been going even since. I currently have three season tickets to cater for my children Jemma, Tom and Harriet. Until I retired in May I worked in Fleet Street for 35 years on the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph as a news reporter, news editor, assistant editor and,most enjoyably, as sports editor (for two years on the MoS and nine years on the Sunday Tel). I began in local newspapers and covered Fulham, Chelsea, QPR and Brentford before working in Reading where I covered matches at Elm Park as well as working as a news reporter. I spent my last two working years as director of communications at the British Horseracing Authority so I saw a lot of Niall Quinn especially at Cheltenham.
Interview: Colin Randall