Sunderland’s year in review: (3) gloom descends, storm clouds gather

The third
part of Salut! Sunderland‘s look back on the year – makes a change from looking back on the past week – takes in all the hopes of summer, the false dawn of that spirited opening day fightback at Anfield and the start of the abysmal sequence that finally cost Steve Bruce his job.

I hope you enjoy this year-end review and, more importantly, that the new year is a happy one for you and Sunderland AFC …

* Part one … click here
* Part two … click here
* Part three … click here
* Part four … click here

* The Ithics Files: thanks to Nic Wiseman, who was its co-editor, we are able to bring you extracts from the short-lived but excellent fanzine It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand. This is the last in our series and if you follow the link you can see a piece by Nic himself (“Why Do We Support Sunderland?”). My posting includes this plea, so far unanswered …

I wanted to end the series with two more pieces: the Kevin Ball article that drew a sharp but ultimately friendly response from the man himself and a suitable farewell, assuming one appeared, from the final edition. That is the only ITHICS I have not got, and Nic Wiseman, the co-editor who has supplied me with all these scanned pages to enable you to read some of the best of the fanzine, cannot locate his copy.

If anyone else has it – and we are talking about ITHICS No17 – they’d be doing us a much-appreciated favour if they could scan the Bally piece and any article dealing with the magazine’s closure. Use the email link in the Contact section near the top of the right-hand sidebar or copy … thanks in anticipation.


* Greetings to Wes Brown. Transfer activity is warming up and we have official news of the Manchester United defender’s signing. We also express irritation at another of those “undisclosed fee” statements …

Salut! Sunderland offers a warm welcome to Wes, who arrives in one of those infuriating and frankly meaningless ‘undisclosed fee’ transfers (take your pick amid the speculated fees you will find all over the press, on TV and radio and online, and simply laugh in the face of any SAFC official who tells you ‘that’s not the right figure’). The first one I found one said the fee was ‘in the region of £1m’, with payments to United rising to £12m if we also buy Gibson (we didn’t!) and O’Shea (we did!); you may be able to raise me on those figures.

* And there
is a SuperKev quiz to enjoy. We repeat a few of the questions and direct readers to The Guardian, where it originated, for the quiz in full …

Sample question:
Phillips was the Premier League top scorer in the the 1999-00 season, winning the European Golden Boot in the process. How many goals did he score in that season?


A sort of 1920s Bardsley is how we described Isaac “Jack” McGrorian, a player from Sunderland’s past whose story we told with the help of his family. This is an extract from his contract on leaving us to join Notts County in 1927 …

In terms of an ‘Agreement for hire of a Player’ between Isaac McGorian and Horace Henshall representing Notts County FC dated 30th April 1929. It was agreed that ‘the Club shall pay the said Player the sum of Six Pounds per week from May 6 1929 to August 24 1929 and Seven Pounds per week from August 24 1929 to May 3 1930 at which date the Agreement shall cease and determine. The Club shall pay the Player One Pound per week extra when in the First Team.

* To business.
The first game sees Liverpool threaten to tear us apart in the first half hour but slowly surrender control of the game so that, with the aid of a spectacular Larsson volley, we are able to leave with a mightily satisfying point. Pete Sixsmith gets off to a flying start with his matchday analysis

And so came the second half. They ran out of steam and ideas, we began to play. Cattermole had got his booking out of the way (a nasty tackle on Suarez; not proud of that) and began to show what a good player he is, working along the line, picking up loose balls, bringing Sessegnon into the game. If only he didn’t have that nasty streak in him. He can be very hard to defend at times – although not in the Joey Barton class as complete and utter t***

* It cannot last and doesn’t. After the promise (and good fortune) of Anfield comes a woeful home defeat to Newcastle United, a drab goal-free draw at Swansea and shameful exit from the Carling Cup at Brighto’ns new ground. It is beginning to look bad for Bruce. Pete Sixsmith again …

Tactically, Bruce reminds me of Peter Reid. If the players click and it goes well, then the team looks good. But if it goes wrong, there is no back up, no change of idea or plan.

* Not a great time to mount Salut! Sunderland‘s stuttering early attempts to sell a little merchandise. Please note that prices have come down since then! …

Click here: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop
Visit the Salut! Sunderland Shop ...

Murdoch is not in charge around here so no one pays to visit Salut! Sunderland – though if I could secretly levy a £1 tax on each visiting, gloating Newcastle United fan, I’d have made thousands (after the Wear-Tyne derby).

* Sad news from France that Steed Malbranque’s return to Ligue 1 has backfired. His decision to leave so soon after arriving at St Etienne is not properly explained though it leads to utterly false speculation (mentioning an allegedly cancer-stricken son whereas his children are healthy girls) that begins on the other side of the Channel and is widely repeated in the UK …

The French football site Foot Mercato, describing Steed’s decision as ‘incredible’, says: ‘His ability to beat a player, his acceleration and his linkplay were all qualities the Chaudron (Cauldron, home to St Etienne) was impatient to see. It won’t see them. He has decided to end his career.’


Fair to say we are not impressed by Mr Asamoah Gyan’s desire to abandon the Premier League and accept a shedload of money – sorry, an even bigger shedload of money – to play in an inferior league in the UAE. Given his early season performances, Al Ain’s gain is our gain, too (Click this link for a piece that put more flesh on the bones of what we know of the move)…

All the same, Salut! Sunderland is aghast and that is all that needs, for now, to be said – unless you think differently! Pete’s text did have a few more words to run: ‘… but that’s three top strikers lost by Bruce …’

The Gyan move has a lot to do with money – Gary gives his Al Ain deal as being worth $200,000 a week whereas Niall Quinn had rightly sent him packing when he put in a demand for a pay rise at Sunderland – though disenchantment and disillusion play their part, too. It reflects poorly on several of those concerned.

* Hopes rise
again. Yes, we all know what happens after the 4-0 thrashing of Stoke City but at least it enables Bruce to dash out, or have someone from the Stadium of Light press office dash out, an upbeat post-match e-mail for a change …

There were some big performances from individuals and we’ve now seen glimpses of what the team is about.

* With a meek defeat at Norwich and the late-night arrest of Titus Bramble, SAFC are back on the ropes again soon enough. Jeremy Robson has had enough and says that come what may in the next game (home to WBA, two down in five minutes, face-saving comeback for the draw?, Bruce has to go ..

Despite the amount of money that has been invested we find ourselves with a strike force consisting of a Dane who is disillusioned with Arsenal, a teenager without a PL goal to his name and a young lad from Korea who can’t speak the language. Our senior striker is Fraizer Campbell who will miss most of this season, that is if he ever plays again.

I think we all know what happens next, but come back later today to make sure …

Colin Randall

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