At ESPNFC.com the other day, I described West Brom away as our first cup final of the season. The way things are going, there’ll be many more of them. Can we finally break our duck? Our volunteer Baggie, Rikki Paul*, was found at the wbaunofficial site. He reckons WBA will add to our misery with a narrow win in a “tight, nervy” game …
Salut! Sunderland: Are you surprised by your underperformance so far this season and how much can be read into it?
Am I surprised? Yes. Having played four matches, Southampton H, Everton A, Swansea H and Fulham A – I expected us to be on more then our current total of two points. The most disappointing result was Southampton H – but for a last minute penalty against us, we would have picked up a point.
Overall our away performances and results have been good – but have lacked that imagination going forward at home. This was rectified by our deadline day signings of Morgan Amalfitano, Stephane Sessegnon and Victor Anichebe.
You have had a succession of impressive managers. How disappointed were you to lose Roy Hodgson or was it tinged with pride that he’d been chosen for national duty?
Just to correct we don’t employ managers. We work under a two tier system whereby we have a sporting and technical director and head coach. Sunderland now operate with this system I believe with Roberto De Fanti as director of football.
We have had this system since 2007 when Dan Ashworth was employed and I am in favour of it – the majority of European clubs favour this model as it leads to less problem when the head coach departs. The scouting etc isn’t uprooted; it is kept on the club’s database. With football such a rich cash-cow, why should one person have sole responsibility? What happens when he leaves? Massive changeover in players, and the whole coaching staff is taken away.
Proud of Hodgson’s appointment. He was a good fit for WBA and alonsgide our previous sporting and technical director, Dan Ashworth. This has meant we can lookat pride that two key components now work for England.
And Steve Clarke, in his first permanent job as manager, was credited with considerable success last season Notwithstanding the early sluggishness (ie in the first three games), is he the man to consolidate Albion’s Premier status and move you to another level?
Steve Clarke did do well. But our form since January 2013 is a concern. But ultimately you have to view the season as a whole and to finish 8th for a club the size of West Bromwich Albion who work on a tight budget – is a great achievement. What is “another level”? If you mean top 6 – then that is a closed shop. For me success is continued Premier League football playing attacking, progressive football and seeing Academy graduates in the first team with an attempt to do well in the two cup competitons. I like Clarke but I wouldn’t fear if we decided to look for a new head coach. Like I said previously it is an expendable role in our organisation.
Whatever your answer to that, how far can WBA realistically hope to go?
Seventh top and win a cup competition. That’s where majority of teams are, discounting the “big six”
What do you make of the signing of Stephane Sessegnon? His departure divides SAFC supporters; all recognise his natural ability but some felt his promising play is far too often ruined by a poor end product (I was very sad to see him go because players of his flair and technique are rare in Sunderland colours.
Impressed. He’s a player that has always caught my eye for Sunderland. I love watching him play albeit having not watched him play 90 minutes on a regualr basis he always impressed when playing against WBA. He seems the type who needs to be loved and wrapped in cotton wool. I can see him being a success as we do need pace and creativity.
Who are the best players you have seen, or wish you’d seen, in Albion colurs? And who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
Best player I’ve seen would have to be Enzo Maresca. I wish I’d have been able to see Laurie Cunningham and Tony Brown. Bartosz Slusarski should never been allowed to pull on the blue and white stripes
And what have been your own highs and lows as a Baggie?
Highs: Great Escape 2005, Championship Winners 2008, Championship Runners Up 2010
Lows: losing 11 games in a row under Alan Buckley, Mid 90s, playoff final defeat 2007, FA Cup Semi Final defeat 2008, relegation 2009,
You have had fair success against us in recent years (since 2009). Have you come to see us as a routine three points?
Not at all. I always view Sunderland as a difficult game, home or away. This will be no different. We do seem to have the Indian sign over you. Let’s hope this continues this weekend…
Do you have any thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region?
Sunderland are personally my favourite of the three North East clubs. Love the passion and the away following you have is excellent. You always seem to take a big following wherever you go regardless of form. Your recent history is similar to ours and I think we are both generally down-to-earth and easy going when compared to our rivals.
We have covered your club’s appeal to tennis stars, John McEnroe and especially Goran Ivanisevic (https://safc.blog/2010/08/wba-v-sunderland-john-mcenroe-cannot-be-serious/). How do yoiu explain the fairly long list if celeb supporters including – with, presumably , varying degrees of passion – Julie Walters, Eric Clapton, Lennie Henry, Ronnie Wood, Judas Priest members, Adrian Chiles, Cat Deely ….? Do any command special respect among the fans?
I’m not sure. It’s a good question. One I couldn’t answer. Chiles and Skinner are season ticket Holders.
Who will finish as the top four, in order, and who is going down this season? Any tips for the major cups
1 Manchester United
2 Manchester City
18 Crystal Palace
FA Cup: Tottenham
League Cup: Chelsea
And where, if not already mentioned, will Sunderland and WBA end up come May?
You 17th, us 9th
Club versus country. Who comes first for you, why and to what extent influenced by the case of Hodgson?
Club. Not influenced by Hodgson. No anger because England took him away. I was happy for him but club will always be first for me! Boing Boing!
What most inspires you about modern football and what seriously annoys you?
Inspired by the diversity of supporters. More people from ethnic minorities attending games which is nice to see. What annoys me? The prices.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
Yes. A tight nervy game – 1-0 Albion
* Rikki Paul on himself: I have been supporting WBA since 1993 and post at WBAunofficial as Zizou and, having previously worked as a pharmacist, am now an online medical sales rep (Sunderland fans could do with some happy pills, Zizou – ed).
Interview: Colin Randall
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