A very rushed posting but a very warm bienvenue to Sunderland’s latest francophone recruit, the Gabon international Didier Ndong from Lorient, for a fee of 16 millions euros, however many pounds that converts to post-Brexit.
Safc.com tells us he has joined on a five-year deal as David Moyes’s seventh arrival of the summer. That he came from the same club as Lamine Kone does not mean he’ll be demanding a transfer or new contract by Christmas.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..I’ve no doubt the powers that be are working their socks off trying to rationalise the playing staff at Sunderland AFC but the goings on all seem a bit strange to my unknowing eye. Jeremaine Lens, who I thought might have proved to be an important player for us this season, is allowed to reunite with Advocaat in Turkey, presumably on the premise that Vincente Iborra and Ryan Evans had pens poised ready to sign and bolster our midfield. Now we know those deals have fallen through and once again we are forced to take part in that last minute scramble that is transfer deadline day, still searching for a striker, a back up (or challenging for a starting spot) keeper, more midfielders and perhaps another centre back in case Kone is allowed to leave, despite Moyes’s insistence he will be going nowhere. We’ll know in less than 12 hours.
Meanwhile Pete Sixsmith has been busy trying to put the day’s dealings into some kind of context as he imagines how the deadline day chat between a possible Sunderland target and his agent might go.
AND THE CONVERSATION GOES LIKE THIS……..
Imagine a player in Europe and his agent talking on Transfer Deadline Day. The conversation might go something like this:
Player: “Have you anything fixed up for me today then?” Agent: “There’s some interest from the English Premier League.”
P: “Who? Everton, Tottenham? Southampton?”
A: “Er, not quite. Set your sights a bit lower.”
P: ”Watford? Come on tell me.”
A: “Well, they’ve been in it for 10 years and they have an experienced manager. It’s Sunderland.”
P: “Where’s that then? Is it near London? How close to Manchester?”
A: “No to both. It’s in the North East of England. It’s nearer to Edinburgh than London.”
P: “Do they wear kilts and play the bagpipes then? If they do, you can cross them off the list.”
A: “Nooo. It’s a nice place. It has a beach and is near to some glorious countryside.”
P: “Ok. Fill me in on the city. I don’t have to live there do I?”
A: “It used to be a shipbuilding town but the shipyards have gone. Nissan have a huge factory nearby which makes all kinds of motors but they have little to do with the football club. The River Wear cuts the city in half and the stadium overlooks the river as it makes its way to the sea. There are a couple of good beaches and a splendid Morrison’s on the promenade. What more could you want?”
P: “Tell me a bit about their history.”
A: “They have won the League Championship six times, but the last time was eighty years ago, long before the European Cup, never mind the Champions League. The last trophy they won was the FA Cup in 1973 and since then they have been down up and down like a bride’s nightie. Are you familiar with that saying where you come from?”
P: “Of course. George Formby is very popular where I come from. We love his toothy grin and his ukulele and his catch phrase ‘Turned out nice again.’ Tell me about their recent history.”
A: “They have been in the EPL for ten seasons and have only once finished in the top half. The last four seasons, they have avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth. They have employed eight managers in that time, some of them big names.”
P: “What happened to them”?
A: “The owner either sacked them or they left to retire or they went on to manage the national team. Now he has employed a man who was at Everton for a decade and who has since been sacked by Manchester United and Real Sociedad. They have trouble keeping managers. Arsenal it isn’t.”
P: “Any decent players?”
A: “They have some but whether they are there after the window closes is debatable. Kone from Lorient did well for them but Everton want him. They have Jermain Defoe but he is getting no younger. The rest are ok – you may have heard of Fabio Borini, ex Liverpool, Jack Rodwell, ex Manchester City, Adnan Janusaz, ex Manchester United and Jeremaine Lens, ex Dinamo Kiev – but he has just scooted off to Fenerbache. They need a couple of good signings. You could be the boy.”
P: “Give me three good reasons why I should go there.”
A: “They pay well. They have a great fan base – average crowd is about 40,000 in a 48,000 stadium and the supporters know their stuff. You could be a hero if it works out for you and you don’t bugger off to Everton. And I need the commission on this one”.
P: “And three reasons why I shouldn’t.”
A: “They chop and change managers an awful lot. The last one left to take over the England job and the club never thanked him for keeping them up and sending their bitterest rivals down. He never said thanks to the fans that had stood by him, so it all ended rather badly. Two managers before that, they appointed a crazy Italian who signed a raft of players and banned mayonnaise and ketchup from the canteen. He lasted six months.
They also seem to sign players without quite knowing why. There is no coherent playing philosophy at the club and they seem to stumble along having thrown a team together in September and then changing it again in January.
The owner is tightening the purse strings. I may get you a better deal and make more commission elsewhere.”
P: “Not entirely sure I fancy it. Are there any other EPL clubs interested?”
A: “ I have just had Tony Pulis on the phone………”
P: “Find me a nice house in Herrington………”
This is an article Hayley Penman, then aged all of 10, wrote for Salut! Sunderland back in February of last year. It was warmly received, and rightly so. Recently, another supporter of Sunderland AFC, Jennifer Lowery, though not of Hayley’s generation, asked that a prize mug due to her for coming up with the title of the manager’s post match e-mail “Moyes on the Boys”, should go to a deserving young reader of our choice. We invited suggestions and Hayley’s name popped up in the replies. The mug that is on its way to her is well deserved. It will not change her life but I hope it will encourage her to write over and again for this site and to develop what is clearly a real talent …
Bill Taylor remembers someone says football becoming like watching their Italians play your Italians. If he is right about the authorship of the quote – he thinks Len Shackleton may have said it – and a quick internet search did not help – imagine what Shack would have made of today’s Premier League. Bill wonders whether it’s time to acknowledge that when we shout for our team, we’re really shouting for ourselves …
Too much is never enough – songwriter Jim Steinman
Whore (verb): to compromise oneself for money
Perhaps we’ve been doing this all wrong…
A popular question for visiting writers of Who Are You is, “Club or country?” [It was a stock question but you remind me I have not asked anyone in ages – Ed]
I don’t remember anyone ever putting country first. This might, I’m beginning to think, be a mistake.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..Pete Sixsmith is slipping. His trip to the south coast last week meant he missed yesterday’s Under 23 game at Eppleton CW (a 3-0 win v Southampton) and this Bank Holiday Monday he will only make three games. The long journey back yesterday means that his much awaited match report from St Mary’s has taken a little longer than usual to reach us but here it is.
SOUTHAMPTON (a) August 2016
Three years and four managers ago, Pete Horan and I discovered Salisbury. We found a Bed and Breakfast that suited us perfectly fifteen minutes’ walk from the city centre, with a good beer pub just around the corner and the railway station within sight and sound.
This was our fourth visit to St Mary’s Stadium. The previous three had gone like this;
1) late equaliser after taking an early lead.
2) a hammering which we shrugged off as “Just one of those things” while quietly seething.
3) and a very late equaliser after taking a late lead which was far, far worse than the 0-8 as this one was towards the end of the annual relegation battle , provoking fears that this was one struggle too far.
This year, we hoped for a win, feared a defeat and would have been satisfied with a draw.
There were two taboos that nagged away at us as we discussed the game in The Platform Inn on Southampton’s waterfront. Could we shake off the stigma of failing to win a game in August since the days of Steve Bruce and could Jack Rodwell, quietly impressive this season, actually start a game in a winning team? Add to that the goalkeeping situation, the Kone situation and the Lens situation and we had more situations than the BBC Comedy Department.
The Sausage Festival at The Platform went down well. I eschewed the Llama, Alpaca, Zebra and Camel varieties, opting for Venison (a trifle de(a)er I thought) and Lamb and Mint while PH went for a Continental approach, opting for Toulouse and a Bratwurst – a mix of last season’s midfield of M’Vila and Kirchhoff.
The bus ride to the stadium was interesting. Tony the driver, a lookalike for Bernard Cribbins, he of the Spoons salesman in Fawlty Towers, novelty discs like Hole In The Ground and Right Said Fred, railway hi-jinks in The Railway Children and Wombling narrator, eventually got us there after a half hour wait outside the Isle of Wight ferry terminal.
It meant that we missed the kick off, something which some fans regard as sacrilege while others merrily amble in five or ten minutes late having finished off their pints. We were in time to collect our red envelopes containing a tenner courtesy of Virgin Media, the Saints new sponsors. Jeremy Corbyn supporters refused the Branson shilling and suggested it would be better spent by using it to buy bigger carriages on the East Coast Main Line.
We walked in just as Pickford was making the first of a handful of decent saves and we saw plenty of the action in the opening fifteen minutes as Southampton attacked our “new” defence. Manquillo was tested and came through, Kone and Djilobodji began to gel and with Rodwell, Gooch and Pienaar beavering away in midfield, we gained a foothold in the game. The longer it went on the better balanced we looked and the more ragged the Saints became. Opportunities began to present themselves as Kone headed wide when he should have scored as did Rodwell but as the half ended, the team in the spanking new all white with a bit of blue in it strip, looked the more comfortable.
The second half reiterated that fact as we began to take control. Januzaj slalomed his way through a number of tackles and was brought down on the edge of the box only for Borini to take a feeble free kick and injure himself into the bargain. Watmore, on for Borini, delayed his shot after Lens, on for Pienaar, had played him in and gave a poor ball to Defoe. We kept pressing and then the breakthrough came. Lens broke down the left and played a smart ball into Defoe. The former England man moved into the box and encouraged Southampton captain Fonte to foul him. The Portuguese Euro Winner, who was sent off for a foul on Defoe last season, promptly did and it was a clear penalty. Up stepped Jermain to nearly lift the net off its supports. Ten minutes to go.
Could we hold on? Would we win in August? Would Jack have that elusive victory?
Of course not – this is Sunderland we are talking about. Southampton pushed forward and we were pushed back. With four minutes on the clock, Jay Rodriguez lined up a shot, hit it well and beat Pickford, who allowed it to go under him and into the net. Frustration on the pitch, much wailing and renting of garments in the away end and the home team pressed for what would have been an entirely undeserved winner. That we prevented that is a positive to take.
At the end, some of the players came over and Defoe gave away his shirt, prompting thoughts amongst one of the party that he was on his way to Palace or some other such third rate club. There was sympathy for Pickford, a Sunderland supporter since childhood and there was hope that a solid performance from Kone indicated that he wanted to stay – although Moyes’ press conference afterwards made that look less likely. PH was impressed with Djilobodji and I was impressed with Manquillo. All of a sudden, things began to look better as we reached the dizzy heights of sixteenth in the first proper league table of the season.
It was a much more balanced team than the one selected for the Middlesbrough game. The back four looked solid, albeit against a Southampton side who like us, have hit the road stumbling. I think we can get better. I am not sure about them.
The transfer window will hopefully see a forward and a couple of midfielders in and Kone staying. If he stays and plays, we are a side who will be on the up. If he leaves and we have nobody to replace him, we may well see sixteenth as the optimum position.
The night continued in jolly style back in Sarum. The Turkish restaurant we ate in was interesting. The food was fine, the décor a tad faded and the front of house entertaining. The card machine didn’t work and the couple on the next table had to go to the Convenience Store next door to get cash. Mr Front of House had no change so they tipped him more than they might have done.
A brisk walk back to the Duke of York, a splendid pub if a bit quiet for a Saturday night, led to Matt the Landlord placing a whisky bottle on the bar and encouraging us to partake of it. Pete then fell into conversation with a surfing hippy who had been in France and I chatted to the drummer from Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch. He was called John, the original drummer had been Stan and, although Dave Dee had died a few years ago, they still got together to play. He had fond memories of Sunderland Empire and liked “that thing opposite Newcastle that looks like a huge condom.” I assumed he meant The Sage and not Mike Ashley.
A good weekend ended with the sight of bleary eyed and gravel voiced Hull FC supporters making their way home from Wembley having won the Rugby League Challenge Cup. Horan and Sixsmith, the Old Firm, were not quite in that category but we were two tired pensioners when we got home. Listening to the stinker between The Baggies and The Smoggies didn’t help. May the transfer window bring us all we need in the form of arrivals and non-departures. I shall be consulting the various web sites with growing frenzy as Wednesday night approaches.
Finally, a happy birthday to M. Salut, who reaches the splendid age of 60+ a few today. Have a grand day down there on the Cote d’Azur.
John McCormick writes: I’m frequently surprised by stats showing how little possession we have when we look untroubled for long periods. Today was another example. Saints pressed but rarely bothered our keeper and when they did he rose to the challenge on every occasion but one. Unfortunately that one time gave Southampton a point – I was going to say gifted a point but, in reality, our attack was poor and we didn’t threaten much ourselves.
Looking untroubled must mean our defence is improving, mustn’t it? I thought it not only looked solid in the centre but also coped with wide balls and tricky wingers, so I do think things are looking up.
But does David Moyes? The letter he sent to M Salut (and perhaps a couple of others) immediately after the game is a little short on optimism:
A point at Southampton is always a good return. But for the third time in four seasons – the odd one out leaving us a little humiliated – Sunderland lost out on an important win because they could not defend a lead. SAFC were the better side in the first half, recovered from a second half loss of dominance to take the lead through Jermain Defoe’s penalty but could not keep the Saints out for the remaining minutes … Pete Sixsmith will fill in into more detail about his trip down south in due course but this is his instant verdict ..
Alan Copps* is one of Monsieur Salut’s valued former colleagues and his fine writing – as opposed to M Salut’s basic reporting – graced the pages of The Daily Telegraph and later The Times. Late in his career, he moves significantly upmarket to offer various thoughts to the thinking man’s football site Salut! Sunderland ahead of Saturday’s game. Oh, and as I write, Salut! Sunderland is seven followers short of 2,000 at Twitter …