Sunderland and Paolo Observed: beyond the media frenzy

Pete: strange times
Pete: strange times

Once again, The Observer called on Pete Sixsmith to sum up a week in the life of Sunderland AFC. This was written and, of course, appeared before the Chelsea game but remains a valid assessment of extraordinary events in the life of our club …

Well that was
a nice quiet week… It reached its surreal peak when I opened the Guardian on Thursday to find Suzanne Moore writing about the new Sunderland manager. It has all been a bit bewildering, to say the least.

The surprises began last Saturday. It was clear enough that Martin O’Neill’s time in the job was limited: the football was poor and everything about his body language and demeanour suggested he had little idea what to do about it. But I expected him to go in the summer. The fact that he was sacked so late on a Saturday made us assume a sensible successor was already in place, with Gus Poyet the obvious choice.

But if the sacking was a shock, the identity of the new arrival was something else.

Dealing first with the football angle, it was clearly a very left-field appointment, and a real shift from the last two appointments. Both of those, Steve Bruce and O’Neill, were traditional British managers, but maybe it was the fact that they spent so much of owner Ellis Short’s money taking us nowhere that made him change course.

Something different was called for – and you don’t get any more different than Paolo Di Canio.


What has been more hard to handle, of course, is his background. I did feel the media frenzy tended towards the hysterical, especially as he has been at Swindon all this time – but you cannot get excuse his views on fascism.

And those views cannot be airbrushed away by a statement put out via the club. Refuting a general philosophy that he has followed all his adult life, just for PR reasons, hardly rings true.

So how do we deal with it? David Miliband did what he thought was right, and he would have been a hypocrite not to resign.

As for the rest of us: I’ve had to wrestle with my conscience about renewing my season ticket. A number of friends have seen this as the last straw and I quite understand what they have done.

I am going to focus on the football. In the short term we need nine points out of the 21 on offer, and that should not be beyond us if Di Canio makes the sort of impact he has suggested he can. It will be interesting to see which players respond to him and which decide his style is not for them.

Long term, who knows what comes next. Short has attempted to protect his investment in a bold, radical way. But at what cost to the good name of the club?

22 thoughts on “Sunderland and Paolo Observed: beyond the media frenzy”

  1. I think we have three games that are definately winnable: Stoke, S’hampton and Villa. And we may have caught Newcastle at the right moment with a few injuries, and a midweek game away and they could be complacent after beating Fulham.

    So, I have a new spark of optimism. I never actually called for MON to be sacked because I thought that no-one else who was available could do a miracle job.
    But, I see that PDC just might do better than MON. In terms of motivation, fitness, kick up the bum.. I think PDC has the passion to scrape us in.

    Next week though, we’ve got to be passionate, energetic, tireless in closing the Mags down. BUT, lets be all those things but not reckless to the point where we pick up any red cards.

    • Spot on Ian…and our luck against Everton … or anybody else for that matter…. has to change sometime.

  2. I’m just taking comfort in Stoke’s form. Pulis has lost most of the fans’ support it seems and appears to be out of ideas. We could really do with a win on Sunday. Like really, really.

    • I think what has happened at Stoke was always on the cards. Pulis may have lost the dressing room along with the fans. He has turned one-dimensional football into an art form.

      Usually one club goes into a tailspin late in the season, and often ends up being relegated. I have felt for weeks that it was probably Sunderland this season, but I wonder now if that club could be Stoke?

  3. Whats all this crap about the jumper Di Canio was wearing,who the hell cares,talk about football or keep quiet…..

  4. I think we can rest assured that the new man will leave no stone unturned in his quest to survive, but finger nails and hair may take damage on Wearside to say the least!

    I dread to see what sort of jumper he will have on boxing day though.

  5. “On a different topic, can we get together with Newcastle websites and organise a minute’s booing on Sunday in ‘tribute’ to Thatcher?”

    I could quite happily spend the rest of my life booing. I think that the best thing supporters can do is to arrange to stand silently in unison outside the ground 1hr before kick off as a tribute to remember the thousands of lives Thatcher ruined. That would be more fitting and dignified than actually booing, although I don’t think it would be physically possible for me to observe a minute’s silence for her. I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself.

    • Jeremy
      Completely agree that would be more dignified but I just can’t see it happening at this game. Having been bricked, spat at etc in the past, I would not be keen on standing silently outside that ground for any time at all. Also, I know they are not South Yorkshire police but I still wouldn’t want to give Northumbria police a non-moving target.

  6. So much of what the Villa fans were saying all along about O’Neill ring true. As Pete says we were so wrong to doubt you.

    Arguably one of the other things that football supporters should be appalled with (along with fascism of course). although I’m wondering about the other “F” now which is “fashion” after seeing the red tie and multi-coloured tank top on the touchline yesterday. Oh I digress…………….the other thing we should all be equally appalled by is the fact that a squad of highly paid mercenaries ehr……. footballers should not be as fit as they can possibly be.

    You would never have seen anyone wearing a tie like that with a dark coloured donkey jacket in the Clock Stand Paddock, now would you Pete?

  7. Keithj; as the departed former Prime Minister never said; you were right, we were wrong, Apologies for doubting you. Let’s all turn our venom on Stoke City.

  8. Hi again lads

    Remember in my last posts about the drunken brawls on team bonding days at villa, this was because GH came in and immeadiatly identified that the squad was unfit ( sound familiar). Unfortunately for Villa we had mon for 3 years and the players were used to the easy life and some, his signings, refused to accept the extra workload, hopefully your lot only had just over a year of the easy life so will not find it to difficult to adjust but having said that prepare for some disruption and above all back your manager.
    As long as we finish above you good luck for the rest of the season.

  9. On a different topic, can we get together with Newcastle websites and organise a minute’s booing on Sunday in ‘tribute’ to Thatcher?

    • Not sure that that would be much to our credit……and think of the poor overworked Press having to come up with copy about left wing club with a right wing manager…..have some sympathy …..although it would keep us in the headlines!

  10. It’s encouraging that losing away to Chelsea makes you feel gutted. Just hope it’s not too little, too late. Hindsight has smacked me right in the face, who would deny that playing as positively as this all season would have resulted in us picking up more points than we have?

    We have winnable games, but can we deal with the downward momentum we’ll pick up if we lose our next two?

    If we are to stay up it’ll be by finishing above Stoke or Norwich, as Villa and Wigan will both have enough you feel. Oh for that midtable obscurity.

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