As M. Salut and his deputy will shortly be unavailable it may fall to me, John Mac, to keep the site going. My html editing skills are not what they once were and I’m still finding my way round the control panel so presentation may sometimes fall below the standard you have come to expect. The quality, however, will remain as high as ever, as you can see from Goldy. The media speculation suggesting that the club may well be signing a striker who made derogatory comments about our beloved club has created debate, outrage and an on line petition calling on SAFC never to sign a player who has stated his allegiance to the team by the Tyne. Stephen Goldsmith tries to put it all into perspective.
Before we get there, here’s a weather update from the North West, or at least Liverpool, timed at 4pm on Friday:
It’s about freezing point but the snow which was falling for a few hours stopped about 3.30pm. All being well the snowbelt will have cleared Wigan shortly but it could be heading your way. If you’re coming tomorrow leave a bit earlier and wrap up well. Maybe I’ll see you there.
The arrival of a new striker appears imminent. The departures of Frazier Campbell and Louis Saha were inevitable of course, but the thought process allowing both to leave simultaneously is surely manufactured by the knowledge that a replacement is forthcoming.
And evidence is suggesting it could be Danny Graham.
So the uproar begins.
The North East derby has evolved into a bit of a soap opera in the last twenty years. We get a kick out of it in a perverse sort of way – the evils and the dramas that escalate when the region’s big two clash twice a season. The Pardew and O’Neill spats, the trash talking and the downright impossibility of actually enjoying the games once in progress – we get a fix from it. I won’t be arrogant enough to suggest that Sunderland and Newcastle support their sides better than other clubs, but taking into account the underachievement of both sides it appears to border on lunacy when trying to understand the rationale behind the fanatical nature of it. The fact the region only has two clubs helps create this goldfish bowl environment where it’s “us v them” – and I love it!
Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill have both spoken of the type of player it takes to play for Sunderland, a player with a personality that has the desire to win at all costs and can withstand the high expectations. Seems a bit rich considering our modest place on the Premier League dining table but it should be embraced in O’Neill fashion, rather than feared in Bruce fashion. That’s what thirty years outside of the region does to you. Players who arrive here need to understand the passion and mentality of the area and they are swiftly inducted into it for sure.
So you wonder if managers consider the consequences of planting a fan from one of these teams onto the playing staff of the other. It’s a situation Newcastle fans aren’t too accustomed to, partly due to the inexcusable low number of professional footballers hailing from the city of Sunderland in recent times. But the other way round? “It’ll all end in tears” is the general consensus. In the past I’ve uttered those words myself in all probability and it adds to the whole authenticity of us believing ours is the biggest rivalry in domestic football. But scratching below the surface can generate a little food for thought in that respect.
The initial reaction to Danny Graham’s potential move is understandable as it’s a very real and sensitive issue that can’t just be dismissed and belittled by those who don’t have a problem with it. Most are coming round, though. A lot aren’t.
Lee Clark is the immediate name that springs to mind. It’s understandable to be annoyed by that T-Shirt incident, no matter how much he was forced into doing it. Then there’s his admittance that he wanted to leave as soon as he realised he “had to go to Newcastle as a Sunderland player”. Boooo. Hiss. He continued “I couldn’t go do that, go there and give 100% for Sunderland against the club I love and played for”. Let’s all dig out those pitch forks. But while condemnation of these comments slots into our soap opera and anti-Newcastle agenda, some miss the point a little. He could have continued to play for us for convenience purposes, giving his all bar two games. He admits had he done this he’d “have been cheating Peter Reid, Bobby Saxton, the fans and all my team-mates”. While that may sound insulting, it’s impossible not to see that he had enough respect for us not to lower himself to it. He knows first hand what these games mean to us and couldn’t play and not give his all. A weak excuse, maybe. I know I would rather he left us than not perform against them but he was superb on the pitch, to be fair.
And this is where Danny Graham’s actions have to be deemed louder than his words. I understand the initial outrage, but try and forget those anti-Sunderland comments he made while at Watford. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that he was engaging in this soap opera like the rest of us, because in the context of what he said, that seems the likely reason behind them. In truth, people using these comments to differentiate the situation from that of Steve Bruce are misunderstanding the contextual situation entirely. To suggest he’d be welcome as a Newcastle fan without making those remarks, is to say that we are to believe Jack Colback never made a joke about Sunderland when he was growing up. Or that Steve Howey didn’t do the opposite in his early Newcastle days. Let’s get real.
If Graham turns down other Premier League clubs to come here than that is his very assurance to us all, right there. We should at least give him the benefit of the doubt, surely? To refuse to accept him because of his roots implies Steve Bruce hasn’t been misguided with his managerial shortcomings all along. Hey, for that very reason alone we should roll out the red carpet for him. We all know the truth with Bruce of course, but it should be proved beyond doubt to all his pals in the media. Let’s not be hypocritical. And if you can’t take motivation in that, then just look how disgusted you are at Chelsea fans – and the vile and toxic atmosphere they have created at Stamford Bridge recently. We condemn them at will for their defiance in their anti-Benitez stance. We can’t lower ourselves to it.
Remember, for every Michael Chopra there is a Don Hutchison. Remember, for every Steve Bruce there is a Bob Stokoe.
Newcastle are looking for a striker anyway, we may just be paying for his petrol!!!