The Newcastle-Sunderland Soapbox: high times, low life

Jake finds the word. And a smile for SIxer
Jake finds the word. And a smile for Sixer

The scoreline bears repeating over and again: Newcastle United 0 Sunderland 3. It was a wonderful team performance and it seems beyond belief that Alan Pardew should place such store by the wrongly disallowed Newcastle goal when Howard Webb had spared his side two, perhaps three first-half penalties, the likelihood of an early Sess goal and a sending off. It also seems beyond belief that in 2013, humanity can still find enough zero-intelligence specimens to beat up a city centre, their own city centre at that though it wouldn’t actually make it seem more civilised had their spite been vented somewhere else, because a football game has been emphatically lost. Pete Sixsmith offers the right mixture of high praise and schoolmasterly scorn …

As a lad of 15,
I stood in the Gallowgate End and watched George Mulhall, Neil Martin and John O’Hare score the goals that enabled Sunderland to cruise to a three-goal win.

As a young(ish)man, I stood in the Main Stand Paddock and glowed as Gary Rowell stroked in a hat trick and Wayne Entwistle rounded off our scoring as we beat them 4-1 in a Second Division game that saw us ultimately fail to make a promotion place.

In 1990, approaching middle age, I was behind the goal when Marco slid the ball under Fat Burridge to send us crazy and allow us to see how gracious the Mags are in defeat.

And yesterday, I saw a Sunderland side go out and score three of the best goals I have ever seen in a single match, thereby stuffing them and leaving their chants of “Going down” coming back to haunt them.

Of the four victories I have witnessed on Tyneside, this was the most accomplished and the most welcome. Here we are, regarded as cannon fodder by the Toon Army, a rag bag collection of players under a new manager with dodgy political views, up against the finest collection of French manhood assembled since the Battle of the Marne and an Englishman with a perfect tan, a perfect smile, that has to be from a great dentist like Dentist Vineland.

How could we possibly do anything other than be steamrollered by Sissoko, Cabaye, Chevalier, De Gaulle, Robespierre and the rest? Defeat was inevitable and we would limp back to Wearside and County Durham, the sounds of the Toon taunting tormenting our addled brains.

Except it didn’t work out like that and we stuffed, hammered, bladdered, walloped, cuffed them by 3 goals to nil. All three were absolute gems, worthy of winning any game, but to win a derby on enemy territory – well, that is something special.

So, how was it that a team that had looked to have no confidence, no fight and no idea of where it was going (other than the Championship) was able to do this against a team who were seen by some of their more deluded fans, potential world beaters?

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Phone in callers have talked about passion and commitment, but it was an awful lot more than that. You don’t win many games if that is all you have. There has to be a lot of thought that goes into preparing the team. And that was what we had.

What Di Canio and his coaching staff did was to ensure that we defended higher up the pitch. The back line was further forward, which gave the midfield a lot less space to cover and allowed them to pick the ball up and carry it to the forwards.

The midfield four had very clear instructions; each player had a specific role and knew what they were supposed to do. N’Diaye was told to collect the ball and give it to a colleague quickly and then get back into position and do it again.

Larsson, not a natural central midfield player, was allowed to go forward and surge into spaces which were there because the Newcastle midfield five was attempting to push up on our back four, but because it was much higher , there was room for him to operate in. No Newcastle player seemed to realise this.

This is the kind of thinking that a new coach brings to a club, just as Martin O’ Neill did when he introduced McClean into the team. The Irishman did a decent job yesterday and set up the opener for Sess, before he was replaced by Vaughan, who tends not to give the ball away as much.

Quick off the mark: ALS post-derby T-shirts
Quick off the mark: ALS post-derby T-shirts

ALS has done the odd favour for Salut! Sunderland – photo consents etc – so we’re happy to plug their post-derby T-shirts:

als 4

The major difference for me though, was that Di Canio had a much clearer picture of how to use Sess. He played him behind the excellent Danny Graham, and it looked as if he had a free role. Graham’s job was to pull their lumbering central defenders around (he did it brilliantly) and Sess would flit into the gap. It worked. The Benin Magician looked much more comfortable in this role and the goal he scored showed the advantage of allowing him a free rein.

The other two goals were special because they were at our end. The ALS writer stood next to me (sorry, Sobs) was berating Johnson for not shooting or passing, when all of a sudden he let fly and we were 2 up. Thanks to the rapidly retreating Steven Taylor, he was able to set it up and pick his spot. Oh joy it was to be alive at that moment.

Then, the icing on the cake, a third goal and one that stirred memories of 1966. David Vaughan picked the ball up, advanced a few yards (no attempt at a tackle by a now ruined Newcastle midfield) and put it beyond Elliot into the net.

Oh how we laughed as the Toon Army poured down the steps, faces as long as a horse’s and mood as black as night. Off they went into the Toon, to wreak their vengeance on any passing phone box, Gregg’s shop and poor, innocent plate glass window.

There were some contentious issues in the game;

Cisse was not offside when he put the ball into the net, said numerous Mags.

Yes he was. The assistant put his flag up, ergo he was offside.

We should have had a penalty said numerous Sunderland fans.

Yes we should. Various texts made it clear that Danny Graham’s shirt had been tugged. The referee failed to see it. Typical Howard Webb – we expect nothing different from him.

Steven Taylor should have been sent off and then thrown to a pack of starving wolves.

Yes he should. Despite the fair minded M Salut saying that it was a yellow card, he should have been given a red for simply being Steven Taylor. Delighted to see that it was he who was bamboozled by Sess and it was he who kept backing off Johnson for the second. England player my a***.

At the end of the day, we played well, far better than the opposition and far better than we had in the final months of the bitterly disappointing O’Neill period. Players showed that they had bought in to the Di Canio style and that they wanted to succeed. Fans have adopted a siege mentality with regard to the new manager and that can only help by creating unity.

His celebrations were very impressive and I believe the club have opened a special account at a local dry cleaner to try to sort his mud stained trousers out. But he looks a good coach and his substitutions were perfect. Vaughan scored, Colback filled in well and Mangane looked as big as a pine tree.

It was a great day and, coupled with Stoke City’s inevitable defeat against Manchester United, gives us a very, very good chance of retaining our Premier League place. Norwich and Pardew’s rabble are also in trouble. The whole thing is in our hands now.

Beating Newcastle is a doddle compared with us beating Everton. That will be a test for Di Canio. But let’s revel in this and have a great week. My classroom will cease to be Room 8 on Monday and will become Room 30.

Ha’way the lads!!!!!!!!!

24 thoughts on “The Newcastle-Sunderland Soapbox: high times, low life”

  1. If Graham plays like that every week, creating chances, pulling defenders out of the way for better players, then I think we will do well and i won’t really care how many he scores, although I am sure he will. Niall Quinn was consistently under 1 in 3 through his career and he was fantastic for us, letting better players play and score.
    However, I also completely agree that it is his only decent game so far and he was looking a terrible buy under MON.
    Let’s not go overboard on 1 good performance but let’s also give him a decent chance to show what he can do before we write him off. Not quite the same but Sess was terrible in his first few games as well. No coincidence that both had arguably their best games for us in the same game.

  2. “If anyone thinks Graham wasn’t worth his place on Sunday then tell me what your starting line up would have been from the available players.”

    I think this comment sums up the whole debate. Nobody is arguing with this view at all. Certainly I’m not. If that’s all you have then obviously that’s all you can pick. The fact that he is not good enough and should not have been signed in the first place is another debate. That’s not the argument that I am having here in case anyone is confused. He couldn’t get in Swansea’s team but O’Neill thought he was good enough for us. Graham is one of the reasons why O’Neill is out of a job. If he had arrived in Jan and scored 2 or 3 goals we would never have seen the back of O’Neill.

    The issue is that this is the best we have got apparently and the notion that he won’t be near the starting line up with a fit Fletcher and Wickham doesn’t stand up. O’Neill consistently picked him ahead of CW. CW was sent on loan to Sheffield Wednesday rather than play him.

    The argument about DG is being taken beyond proportion and I take some responsibility for that. He hasn’t scored but he had a decent game at the weekend which has been his only creditable performance since arriving in Jan. However, this limited contribution to the cause is seen as some posters on here, as a reason for his doubters to be silenced. That is the crux of the issue for me, that the slightest sign of someone being something other than complete dross requires a fan fare and bugles etc. I’m sorry, but that is complete and utter bollocks. Graham had a canny game; didn’t score but that’s it. He needs to do a whole lot more and consistently to warrant a starting berth or even a place on the bench. What we have seen so far goes nowhere in silencing his critics. The fact that some of our fans are of the opinion that it does just goes to show the low standard that some of us are content with, and underlines the point that I made in the article yesterday about accepting relegation as part of O’Neill’s masterplan; which was also of course, complete and utter bollocks as most people are now realising. It would have been a complete and unmitigated disaster. I was sat in the pub when we heard that O’Neill had been sacked and my two Sunderland supporting friends were of this view. I couldn’t believe it. We have accepted mediocrity for decades, but some people have begun to thrive on it.

  3. Jeremy says “The whole debate about Graham since Sunday typifies the views of Sunderland fans. To be content with very little. Here’s a striker who hasn’t found the net yet, but because he managed to play 90 minutes without actually stinking the place out for once everyone is talking very positively about him. It’s madness.”

    I have to disagree but because of the starting point of the debate.

    If we are talking about how to strengthen the team in the future, where we need to improve as a club etc then it is wrong to be satisfied with mediocrity. But the reality is that the manager (any manager) has to work with the players at his disposal and try to get the best out of them and set up the team to play as well as possible.

    On Sunday, unless PDC did a Steve Bruce at Brighton, Graham was the only option for that role and he did us proud. I am talking about energy and commitment and giving his all. He may not be of the greatest quality but his attitude and work rate was spot on. People made the same criticisms about Bendtner but there were times when he was the only choice.
    If anyone thinks Graham wasn’t worth his place on Sunday then tell me what your starting line up would have been from the available players.

    To say Graham isn’t good enough without offering an alternative and then to say those of us who applaud his efforts in the match, are content with very little is insulting if I’m honest. We all know that Jeremy didn’t want O’Neill to sign him because he is a Geordie and suspected that for two games a season he might not give 100%. I think he disproved that at the weekend.

    By all means let’s talk about the areas where we can improve the quality of the playing staff during the transfer windows. Let’s compare and contrast tactics, team set up and by all means highlight players for lack of commitment but let’s also credit those who, whatever their ability, are prepared to battle to the best of that ability.

  4. “That said, I wonder what everybody else thinks about starting Wickham instead? I would.” Agreed completely. Wickham needs to be given games to develop although I accept that this is difficult in a struggling side. That said he looks far more of a threat than Graham does. Agree with your line up or suggestion that Larsson goes to the right aswell. The only place for Colback is in the middle.

    I could have written that last posting myself :-). Spot on about Vaughan who I was delighted to have come to us but apart from a couple of great displays he has been disappointing. Fervent agreement breaking out on here!

  5. You lads should have a go on the BBC EPL Predictor. It’s interesting. Being as impartial as I could possibly be, the Mags are gannin’ down! Comfortable end for us at 13th.

    Ian said (about Graham) “He kind of flumbers about but gets in good positions in the box, – a Darren Bent-like predator without quite the clincalness”

    The truth is that he is as slow as Old Nick. He did better against the Mags but his inability to win a header from clearances was driving me mad. I can only recall him getting his head on one and that was when nobody challenged him. Your comment made me laugh Ian, I have to say. It’s a bit like saying that so and so is like Phil Taylor but without the darts.

    The whole debate about Graham since Sunday typifies the views of Sunderland fans. To be content with very little. Here’s a striker who hasn’t found the net yet, but because he managed to play 90 minutes without actually stinking the place out for once everyone is talking very positively about him. It’s madness. I remember Elmo putting a cross in once (and only once), and his advocates would have the rest of believing that he was the new Nicky Summerbee.

    Come back and talk about Graham when he gets his 10th goal for us. I may well be dead by then mind you.

    • Graham did look a bit slow, and leggy. maybe PDC’s regime will get him really fit and sharp?
      That said, I wonder what everybody else thinks about starting Wickham instead? I would.

      The centre of the park is the worry for me v Everton.
      My idea would be to start Gardner and Larsson in there. Colback is not physical enough and I think NDaiye is yet to find his effectiveness in MF yet. He can run and is physical but not quite got up to speed yet.
      Vaughn is a funny one. He has one excellent game in 5, but for the other 4 he is anonymous. Inconsistent.

      In an ideal world I’d like to see Larsson start on right wing but I think Johnson is slightly more effective on the right cutting in , compared to the left wing. Johnson has to be deployed right wing to worry Baines enough not to push too far forward.
      McClean has not been to effective of late.

      Bard OShea Cuellar Rose
      Johnson Gardner Larsson McClean
      Wickham Sess

    • Graham came in and did a job on Sunday, he wqas the only fit striker we had. He did OK and hopefully will improve with increased fitness.

      I could not understand MON dogged persuit of him in January as I think he is Chamionship standard at best, but lets see what Paulo can do with him. Realistically he is not going to be ahead of Fletcher or Wickham in the pecking order when they are fit.

      We are stuck with him for the next five lets see if he rises to the challenge, judging any player during the death throws of MON managerial stint is a little unfair.

  6. I have not been over impressed by Graham so far. In the N’cle game he did give Mbiwa a hard time and won some balls but looked very leggy and never looked like scoring. He kind of flumbers about but gets in good positions in the box, – a Darren Bent-like predator without quite the clincalness.

    I would be tempted for Everton to give Wickham the starting role. Wickham looks like he can put the ball away more.

    I did see something happen on Sunday that I know I wouldn’t see under O Neill: Vaughn made a forward run from midfield passing two N’cle midfielders and getting into a position to score. Now THATS more like it. Under MON we never got midfielders making those probing runs and getting into the box area.
    My hope is the momentum continues v Everton. We’re going to need the crowd in full voice.

    Its so tight at the bottom. I think its between us and Stoke. At the moment I fancy us to stay up. Wigan (as per) will escape by a miracle, and Aston Villa look to have just enough in them to stay up.

  7. It was most definitely Grahams best performance to date. When he first came he was quite clearly well of the pace for a PL player, but he has shown significant improvement with his performance on Sunday.

    I agree he is not the most gifted of players but if he can replicate that performance for the next five, and sneak a goal or two then I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Yes he said some daft things in the past, but so has our current manager so it’s just time to move on. Lets get the next five out the way and then argue over who should go and who should be brought in from the comfort of our PL status……..lets hope Arsenal and Everton go hammer and tongs at it tonight! FTM

  8. No Malcolm I agree. DG is clearly a different kettle of fish to Chopra, for example.

    It shows how things have changed in football when the focus is on whether a well paid (well overpaid) footballer can apply himself in a derby match. To me however, that is the minimum we should expect. It’s not something he deserves special credit for of course. It’s mandatory, or at least it should be.

  9. “I seem to recall you were no fan of Danny Welbeck either in his early days but he came good, which you admitted in a recent post. Graham, whilst not the most talented of players, will do a job for us in my opinion”

    No I wasn’t a fan of Welbeck Malcolm; that’s right. That was because he was terrible for us to start with. I’m not a fan of developing players for Manchester Utd as I see Sunderland as something of a cut above Royal Antwerp.

    I’m not condemning Graham but for calls for his doubters to be silenced when he hasn’t scored a goal in three months is a little premature, lets say. Assuming that he carries on for the next 12 months and still hasn’t scored, will his advocates still be expecting DG’s detractors to be slient?

    He had a decent game against the Mags and maybe when he breaks his duck he will get a few more in the next couple of games. It sometimes works like that.

    • I accept what you say, and if he proves not to have enough quality fair enough, but he has also had to show that his boyhood affiliations wouldn’t affect his attitude in the derby match and he did that.

  10. Dave. I don’t think that Graham can silence his doubters, or that they are asked to be silenced until he finds the back of the net. That’s his job as a centre forward. He put in a better shift yesterday than we have seen from him, but let’s not get carried away. He had decent game and should have got a penalty, but thanks to Howard Webb (Newcastle’s top man yesterday) he was denied.

    At this point it really doesn’t matter whether PDC can manage at this level. He has responded with some aplomb to his job in hand and that is all we need to worry about for the next month. His passion as a manager is phenomenal and the fans identify with that. It’s a refreshing change to the sheer bloody dreariness of O”Neill, who remarkably seemed to think he should still be in a job. He probably feels more than a little embarrassed by his remarks after watching the game yesterday. He damn well should.

    We are in the very early hours of the honeymoon, and in fact the lights haven’t even been turned down low. It’s a canny start though and has brought some passion back to the thousands who have had to contend with unsufferable shite from both O’Neill and Doubtfire for the last few years. I am looking forward to seeing Cribbins coming back with his charges next season when we will give them the stuffing of their lives. H’way the lads!

    • I have to agree with most of what you say Jeremy. It’s a fantastic start for the new manager but only the start and the next five games are equally important – the Stoke and Villa games especially. Wins against either of those two drops them further into the mire and wins against both should ensure we finish a few places above the drop zone….. but we can’t count our chickens.

      As for Graham’s contribution, yes scoring goals is part of a centre forward’s job but only a part. It was his run across goal that created the opportunity for Sess, with the added effect of making it harder for Krul to have a clear view of the shot. Add to that the fact that the whole team was playing higher up the pitch so while he tied up the centre backs, the movement and presence of others meant that AJ and JM weren’t constantly double marked and more of an attacking threat. Movement and energy created space and there was a distinct lack of tippy tappy football which was the trade mark of MON and his staff.

      I seem to recall you were no fan of Danny Welbeck either in his early days but he came good, which you admitted in a recent post. Graham, whilst not the most talented of players, will do a job for us in my opinion.

      I don’t want to get too carried away after one win but I have argued all season that the players we have have been under performing. Last season we saw a turn around when a new manager was brought in. He rapidly ran out of ideas and seemed to lose his enthusiasm once we were safe. I can’t see that happening this time but with such a volatile character in charge expect the unexpected.

  11. Ok, well, i have to hold my hand up, i was a doubter, maybe still am a bit, i doubted PDC’s ability to manage at this level,and maybe i may be right, although i genuinley hope not, the passion and commitment he showed yesterday on that touchline was awesome, his enthusiasm and emmotion was there for all to see, and te team mirrored this on the pitch.
    I cant think of a man who didnt have at least a good game, most had an excellent one! , i was pleased young mcclean had a decent game, gaining the asisst for sess’s goal, Graham, i hope has now silenced his doubters, and Migs……. Simply outstanding (again)
    Well. im keeping the faith, i still think something was wrong behind the scenes for MoN, but for now, in Paolo im starting to trust

  12. Above all, it was a TEAM performance. Under O’Neill, at times it looked as if eleven individuals had turned up for a game, and happened to be given the same shirt. To me, it demonstrated only too well the suspicion that many fans had reached, that coaching and tactics under MO’N was at best sketchy. [ I bet more about this will emerge in due course ]

    On Sunday, it was very obvious that each player had a specific role, and they carried it out to the letter. I would particuarly pick out Graham, who really gave those centre backs a torrid time, and John O’Shea, who was a towering presence in the centre of defence.

    All three goals were superb, and Mignolet was immense [ he always is ] but what Di Canio will be most proud of was the commitment and organisation his players showed. It is to his immense credit that he has been able to instill such an impressive collective mentality in such a short time.

  13. Pete I am surprised you could see anything at all up their with the Gods.Looked pretty fine from my armchair though.

    NUFC are an average team and we had been conned into thinking they were far superior to our team….Mr Taylor please take note…..though I imagine him hiding under his duvet all week right now.

    No doubt the Benfica game took some energy out of them,but where was Cabeye and Tiote?.Previous games they have dominated us but they looked jaded yesterday.I think our defending broke them,back four solid when under early pressure,Rose resolutely refusing to be beaten….sign him please.Mignolet made a massive save and that seemed to be the Toon out of ideas 1st half.

    I was listening to PDC on Radio Newcastle before the game and he said he wanted the midfield to get into the penalty area and shoot more.He said we did it at Chelsea and after watching many games on video he highlighted our lack of shots as a problem.He wanted more runs into the box and more shots….goals would come……How right he was.

    Yes we will take the disallowed goal….as we lost out on a cert penalty……We now know we have the players to score spectacular goals,just they had never been unleashed to do it.I feel annoyed now having had to watch the dross we have all season when we could have been watching this.

    • Alan Hansen in his newspaper column says that the players should take a look at themselves for not playing with the same commitment and passion for Martin O’Neill as they did yesterday. My own view (see above) is that they were playing to orders.

  14. As we floundered increasingly under MON I highlighted (as did many others) the lack of movement off the ball and the reluctance of the team to get forward into space and show any real attacking intent. I have maintained all season that we have players of a quality which should have seen us in the top half of the table, rather than battling relegation. I pointed the finger at coaching methods and the tactics employed.

    What we have seen in the past two games is how off the ball movement, positional sense and energy is proactive and takes the game to the opposition rather than the reactive, sit back and let them come at us approach, that had become O’Neill’s only tactic and which was rarely likely to achieve positive results.

    No-one typified this more yesterday than Danny Graham. I wished he had scored but the amount of work he put in yesterday, harassing defenders, pulling them out of position and battling for possession was just as crucial as the goals, Mignolet’s saves and the assistant referee’s misjudged flag. He may not be the most talented player ever to don a Sunderland shirt but there was no doubting his commitment to the team at Sid James’ Park.

    He may have grown up supporting the bar codes (as did Adam Johnson) but yesterday showed he was professional through and through and may even have convinced Jeremy that he is fit to wear the red and white stripes.

    • The movement was summed up brilliantly by johnson’s goal, two or three runs made left him the space, and look what he can do with it! tactics all season have been oppressive in every way, look at us now, great stuff!

      • Spot on.
        I was just about to post exactly this. Johnson lacks pace and is not going to go past people. He needs help from his team mates and he has not been getting it. He does, however have fantastic ability and, despite having a widely-perceived poor season, has been involved in most of our goals. He would never have got that goal previously because he would have been tackled before shooting. Instead, Danny Graham, Sess and, most effectively, Alfy N’Diaye all made runs that took the eye of defenders and stopped them tackling Johnson.
        Basic, but something that has been obviously missing. I couldn’t believe that MON was not asking for these runs so I assumed that the players were choosing not to make them. Looks like I was wrong.

  15. When asked had he spoke to the fans about the importance of the game PDC answered No I have only spoken to the players, I start work at seven and go home at midnight. He’ll do for me. The nonsense that has been spread and the slf righteous condemnation that has been preached far and wide has now quietened down, Milliband, Davey Hopper Prof Hudson have you changed your minds? Never darken the terraces of the SOL again

  16. There is something quite remarkable that a new manager would come in and get his first win up there, given our record at the Temple of Darkness over the years. For far too long we have gone out with our tails between our legs against them.

    Di Canio doesn’t like the script, perhaps doesn’t know that there is one, and if he did, he’d likely be hell bent on rewriting it. The Everton hoodoo will be laid to rest now that the jinx at the SAD Arena has been obliterated with such style and ease.

    If ever a Sunderland manager encapsulated and personified the emotions and passions of our collective mind, it is this man; Paolo Di Canio. O’Neill was killing it for me. The football was as dull as canal water and he wasted millions in the process, much like his predecessor. Both were guilty of letting players go, who should have been kept and should still be here in some cases, but their vision of what constituted improvement in playing staff ranged almost without exception between abject and bewildering.It’s far too early to speculate about the sort of player that PDC will bring in, but they won’t lack the heart for the battle. Of that we can be sure. Interesting times lie ahead. Bring on the Toffees!

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