Sixer’s Sevens: Middlesbrough look useful – we look like strugglers

Sevens (640 pixels wide)

John McCormick writes: Pete neglected to send me a post-game text so I had to wait until Colin forwarded it. The e-mail he sent contained three possibilities. At half-time it was “Any early season optimism has disappeared already”, then came the seven words which fit the headline.

And last but not least, came seven words that might predict the future:

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Middlesbrough look useful – we look like strugglers

First it bent, then it broke – the love that is Sunderland AFC

View From3I leaned my back against an oak,
Thinking it was the strongest tree,
But first it bent, and then it broke,
And that’s the way, love treated me.

(The Water is Wide – Traditional)

Malcolm Dawson writes…..many years ago I met a girl and fell in love. It was that gut wrenching, head over heels, lose all sense of reality type of love that blinds one to what’s really going on. It was that anguished, one sided kind of relationship in which not only was the love not reciprocated, but the frailties of total emotional commitment deafened one to the counsel of others. She was a beauty. She was the one that all the men wanted to be seen with and she chose me. She picked me out, took me home and I was smitten.

I ignored the words of warning that came from friends who had known her for some time and for a while I walked on cloud 9 enjoying the warmth that came from the absolute belief that she was the one. I ignored the fact that there would often be the same car parked outside her flat as I made my way home, deciding the owner must be visiting someone else despite being told by her flat mate that it belonged to one of her many men friends.

Even as the proof built up that I was being used and emotionally abused, I found it hard to reconcile truth and reality. I don’t know what it was that brought me to my senses but being young and resilient I soon got my life back on track, though if truth be told, I never quite got over her and even now I sometimes wonder just what might have been. What a mug!

Fast forward 40 years and I have run the same gamut of emotional turmoil this summer.

The scenes at the Stadium of Light when relegation was avoided convinced me that my love affair with SAFC was finally on track after years of disappointment. I had remained true and here was proof that it had all been worthwhile.

We had a manager who was there for the long term, who would take the club onwards and upwards and finally bring us stability and ultimately success. We had a group of players who were committed to the cause, had developed a rapport with the fans and were as much in love with the club as we are. It began to feel like we were one big happy family heading in the right direction and that Ellis Short was like a protective father, who initially worried about his only daughter’s choice of suitor, would now embrace the situation and be prepared to splash the cash to ensure her future happiness.

What a mug!

OK I accept that England situation was nothing to do with Sunderland AFC. I accept that Sam Allardyce had always coveted the job of national team boss. But I saw a man who seemed the perfect fit, had been in the job less than twelve months and would want to take the club onto bigger and better things. I hoped he would honour his commitment to us the fans and to the football club he had dragged up by its bootlaces. But those perceived commitments were illusory and Sam went. Kick in the teeth number one.

But all was not lost. We still had the backbone of the squad that performed so well. M’Vila surely was on his way back and a raft of under performing and potentially disruptive players had left. The squad performed well at Hartlepool. It was obvious that pre-season had gone well, the players were raring to go and the club acted swiftly in appointing David Moyes even if they were not showing the same urgency in the transfer market. Surely there would be signings which would strengthen the squad as Martin Bain settled into his plush leather seat.


Kone made all the right noises saying how he wanted to score more and take the club on. Then came the Everton interest and the statement and transfer request he denied making. Only six months into his contract and only three months after those outpourings of emotion at the Stadium of Light he (or his agent) appears to be holding the club to ransom and he has put himself in a position where even if he really does have a bad back, no-one believes him. Should he be forced to stay now (and I can’t believe the club would be in a position to make him to see out the remainder of his contract, though I wish they could) he has lost the affection of the fans. Stab in the back number two.

Kaboul made all the right noises and his tears on that lap of honour seemed genuine. His departure only a day or two after he was the cover boy on the official website, saying how he loved to win derbies, may have been brought about by family pressure and appears less treacherous than Kone’s behaviour but it is still disappointing. Body blow number three.

Jakes new graphic already redundant
Jakes new graphic already redundant

And still no M’Vila or Yedlin. Of big Sam’s preferred starting XI in the final months of last season (the XI I was convinced would start this season and provide the consistency and the stability we crave) more than half will not be in contention for a place against Middlesbrough tomorrow.

That team I thought was going to be the side that would give us the impetus to march up the table and provide the launchpad to success. More fool me. I’ll have to wait and see how the new boys bed in and if in fact they and David Moyes can keep the club going in an upward direction, but it doesn’t feel that way. The platform that Allardyce constructed is slowly being dismantled and Moyes is having to start from scratch with all the incoming players deemed surplus to requirements at their former clubs and unable to command regular starting places. On the face of it our transfer business to date has been underwhelming. I cling to the hope that Khazri, Kirchhoff and Kone were unknown quantities in January and that Kaboul had a less than convincing start to his career in red and white. I can but hope the latest group of incomers will be just as effective. But the fact is one of the best centre back pairings I have seen at Sunderland for years is no more. We have replaced tried and tested players with inexperience and the squad is paper thin. Knock down number four.

I’ll be at the match tomorrow. I have my season card and will keep going but the positivity I felt in May is not there. I feel let down. My fault. I thought that things were moving forwards. I thought we had a group of players who would do anything for the club and its fans and weren’t all money grabbing mercenaries. Naive I know. To get to the top in any sport you need to have ambition and determination and I suppose it’s that drive that led Allardyce into leaving and to Kone (or his agent) pushing for a move despite both manager and player being contracted to the club.

Make my day Jermain
Make my day Jermain

Do I cling to the belief that players like Cattermole, Defoe and Rodwell may actually be committed to the cause? Do I ignore the fact that despite his 100% effort whenever he takes the field Borini opted to spend a further year at Liverpool before returning to the North East?

They say love is blind but this morning I find myself going back forty years and thinking there’s no fool like an old fool. Give us a lift tomorrow boys by showing that you really do care.

Ha’way the Lads.

The Water is Wide – sung by Niamh Parsons
Hear it on YouTube

The Devil’s Advocate: the unbridled joy that lies ahead for Sunderland fans

Rob as seen by Jake
Rob as seen by Jake

Rob Hutchison – find him at Twitter on best known around here for his one-word ratings, always welcome and always arriving just as Monsieur Salut is about to go out, obliging little white lies to Mme Salut to cover the delay. He now launches an occasional new column, the idea for which appeared as a light bulb above his head as he returned from the opening game at City. He aims it to be weekly – I think occasional is more likely! – and also to devote it to the counter view to the norm on all things Mackem. Over to Jake to come up with a magical image …

Read moreThe Devil’s Advocate: the unbridled joy that lies ahead for Sunderland fans

Sunderland v Middlesbrough ‘Who are You?’: a Smoggie optimist in Prague

Thomas Keen: kissing the badge or trying to smell it?
Thomas Keen: kissing the badge or trying to smell it?

All the way from professional exile in the Czech Republic, Thomas Keen*, of half-Guisborough, half-USA stock, tells Salut! Sunderland ahead of Sunday’s Wear-Tees derby of his confidence for the season just begun. He wouldn’t mind taking Jan Kirchhoff, Lamine Koné or Jermain Defoe but is too young to have a clear idea of whether Alf Common would fit into David Moyes or Aitor Karanka’s sides …

Salut! Sunderland: Promotion was won with a solid run, give or take a hiccup or two, last season. Were you always confident of taking one of the automatic spots and do you believe you can emulate Watford and Bournemouth and keep out of trouble?

Thomas Keen I’ll admit it was a nervy time the second half of the season with our poor run of form and Aitor going AWOL for a few days. You never want to count your chickens, so it was an incredible release after that Brighton game… I wept. I think we have a really solid foundation.

We have all of the infrastructure and organisation of a stable club with the best chairman in the game. We have all of the ingredients to become established in the Prem so I hope we can emulate the likes of Watford and Bournemouth from last season and then go on to emulate clubs like Stoke who are starting to attract young, global talents.

You’ve spent nearly £20m (a figure that may well rise by the time we play). Who among the new recruits most excites you?

I’m excited most for Valdés, Negredo, and de Roon. They all have something to prove and they all seem to have the quality and will to do so.

Aitor Karanka has had his moments – that vital match at Fulham lost the season before last when he sent your keeper forward for a last-minute corner, and last season’s spat with Steve Gibson. What’s your assessment of him?

Although Aitor has had a couple moments, all managers make mistakes, and his have been few and far between. He was completely lifted our club to a new level that it probably hasn’t been at in the last decade. All teams from the under 18s through the first team are doing well and he’s attracted top quality backroom acquisitions as well. It will be hard to hold on to him if we stay in the Prem for 1 or 2 seasons.

And of the contribution your chairman Steve Gibson has made to the club?

It cannot be overstated what the man has done for our club. He has been innovative and always fully supports his manager, financially and beyond. He is ready to take Boro back into the big time and make sure we’re here to stay. The man is a living legend in the eyes of all Boro supporters.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly: who is going down this season?

Hull, Swansea, and Palace.

If you didn’t include one of both of our clubs in that trio, where will they finish?

As long as we finish above 18th I’m happy. I reckon we’ll finish 16th.

Much less important but what will be the top four in order?

It’s a toss up this season but I think Conte’s gonna take top honors with Chelsea, followed by United, Spurs, and City.

Alf Common: the first £1,000 player - that's what Boro paid us for him in 1905
Alf Common: the first £1,000 player – that’s what Boro paid us for him in 1905

Which of many connections between our clubs sticks in the memory? If you were old enough, you might say Brian Clough but recent times have given Downing, Arca. Hoyt, Adam J*****n and your assistant manager Steve Agnew among plenty of examples.

For me we never should have sold Cattermole to Wigan before he went up to Sunderland. He was a young up and coming midfielder with potential and once we sold him on we lost a lot of our solidity before being sent down. I know it’s one of Steve Gibson’s regrets.

Catts: 'wish he'd stayed;'
Catts: ‘wish he’d stayed;’

Who have been the greatest players you have seen in Boro colours – or wish you’d been old enough to see?

I wish I was able to see Bryan Robson’s team in its heyday with Emerson, Juninho, and Ravanelli.

And the worst?

Any Strachan team was diabolical. They somehow got progressively worse the longer he was in charge.

Jake welcomes our near neighbours
Jake welcomes our near neighbours

Guess the Score (whoever you support) at

What have been your highs and lows as a Boro supporter?

Losing to Norwich in the playoffs the season before last was tough. That being said, it was probably better timing to get promoted this year. We are more experienced, solid, and we’re in the money with the new TV deal.

Any special memories of Wear-Tees derbies?

None really stand out unfortunately.

What is your impression of Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, David Moyes?

Sunderland is a town with similar roots to Middlesbrough. We’re both medium sized industrial cities that love their football clubs. I think David Moyes is a decent appointment. He’s looking to establish himself in English football again and Sunderland are looking to establish themselves in the Premier League with some mid-table finishes. He also knows how to work on a budget.

Is there anyone in our squad you’d fancy in yours?

If I had to pick I would go with Kirchhoff or Koné. Aitor loves a solid defensive spine. Although, I wouldn’t mind having Defoe to be honest. It’d be nice to have another proven Premier League poacher to help us stay up.

Diving: a non-issue because everyone’s at it, or still worth fighting to eradicate?

To ignore diving is to ignore cheating. It’s definitely worth fighting, as are disrespectful treatment of the referee – and Sepp Blatter.

Will you be at the game and what will be the score?

Unfortunately I won’t be able to make the match, but I reckon it’ll be a testy 1-2 affair. With the stinginess of our backline, and Koné going out the door… I think we’ll edge it. That being said, your boys will want to prove their worth to Moyes in such a built up match.


* Thomas Keen on himself:

I’m half American half English, with my mum hailing from Guisborough. I’ve been going to Boro matches since I was a kid and always plan to see a home match when I’m back in the northeast. Currently I work at an international boarding school in the Czech Republic.
I have managed to see the Boro play away a few times as well. The last match I saw was away at Craven Cottage last season. This season I’m planning on coming over for a week before Crimbo to see Liverpool and Swansea at home. I just hope I can get tickets!
I read about the Boro multiple times a day and have the Boro+ pack so I can listen to matches when I’m on the road.

Interview: Colin Randall

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Sunderland v Middlesbrough ‘Guess the Score’: a time for winning

Jake welcomes our near neighbours
Jake welcomes our near neighbours

It has been an eventful week.

Much better than expected display at the Etihad, ruined by an unfortunate own goal, egg on Monsieur Salut’s face after he fell for an online reference to Graham Gooch being Lynden’s dad, insolent follow-up comment from Sixer and Malcolm Dawson and now speculation that Watford want and may land Younes Kaboul. Not to mention our former web guru Sam’s belated success in getting rid of that awful error message that had polluted Salut! Sunderland‘s landing pages for a long, long time.

Read moreSunderland v Middlesbrough ‘Guess the Score’: a time for winning

Pete Sixsmith’s alternative “Who’s who”

Pete Sixsmith. Delivers more than just the papers
Pete Sixsmith. Delivers more than just the papers

John McCormick writes. Our Web wizard has scheduled some site maintenance and you may find the site is down for a short while some time today, so please bear with us.

And while we’re on the subject of bearing we need to move beyond  the Lynden and Graham Gooch situation. Luckily, we have Pete Sixsmith to help us. Pete doesn’t just appear on TV (who else saw him on MOTD?) He doesn’t just deliver erudite summaries to the papers (and nor does he just deliver the papers). He’s also a bit of a historian, as he demonstrates in this wander through the genealogical archives of the North East:

Read morePete Sixsmith’s alternative “Who’s who”

Un peu d’oeuf sur le visage as U23s drop point v Chelsea

Malcolm Dawson writes….the pre-match talk yesterday as Pete Sixsmith and I made our way to the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground was just who was Lynden Gooch’s dad? As we listened to TMS and bemoaned the fact that England was sliding inexorably to defeat, we decided that it couldn’t have been the moustachioed former Essex and England batsman. “Never mind what it says on Wikipedia we would have heard about it” we agreed.

We also agreed that following on from a decent Premier League debut Gooch would not figure for the Under 23s in the revamped competition that raises the upper age limit from that of previous seasons. Would there be run outs for Gomez, Bridcutt and Mavrias in an attempt to up their fitness levels while the club tries to off load them? Well no as it turned out and unless they are moved on soon the club could easily find itself with a Valentin Roberge situation times three, on its hands.

It was a decent enough game with two soft goals which left both defences with a little egg on their respective faces. Too much perhaps because as the French would say “one egg is un oeuf.” I’ll get me coat and leave Pete to bring you up to speed.

Read moreUn peu d’oeuf sur le visage as U23s drop point v Chelsea

Sixer’s Soapbox: City relieved as Sunderland almost snatch a point

Malcolm Dawson writes….I switched on MOTD last night, not to see Gary Lineker in his underpants, but to play spot the celebrity in the crowd. And there he was – not Liam Gallagher, not Sam Allardyce, not comedian Jason Manford but our own Pete Sixsmith clear as day in amongst the Sunderland fans in the pre-match shots of the away end. And because he was there he brings yet another first hand account of the day’s proceedings in the land of barm cakes and Betty’s hot pot. Now I’m off to dig out my autograph book before the two of us head off to Hetton to watch a depleted U23 side (depleted because it seems half the side have been put on 1st team stand-by) take on Chelsea.

MANCHESTER CITY (a) 13/10/16.

MANCITYsoapboxAs far as opening day defeats go, that wasn’t a bad one. It was far better than the debacle at Leicester last season and light years away from the 5-0 thumping we took at the Baseball Ground in 1993. But it was still a defeat and it means that we haven’t won an opening day game since Darren Bent scored at Bolton Wanderers back in the days when Gordon Brown was still Prime Minister and the thought of a Match of the Day presenter hosting the show in his pants was, well, unthinkable.

The team selection was interesting, not least the inclusion of the greatest potential traitor since Lord Haw Haw, Lamine Koné. The runes were read to see what it meant. Was it reconciliation between him and the club? Had Ronald Koeman dashed over from Merseyside to have a proper look at him, the way that a potential buyer takes a car or a horse out, before coughing up £20m? Whatever it was, there were sharp intakes of breath as I conversed with fellow Sunderland supporters as we followed the tram tracks to Eastlands.

Jake's take of a man still in the manager's plans?
Jake’s take of a man still in the manager’s plans?

Donald Love made his debut at right back and Lynden Gooch came in to the midfield. The first one was predictable in that he is a right back and we didn’t have another fit one, the second was an interesting call. Gooch is a player that I have admired and enjoyed from the grassy bank at Eppleton – it’s a huge step up from there to the forced atmosphere of Manchester’s second biggest stadium. The set up saw John O’Shea playing in front of the back four a la Kirchhoff, with Borini sitting in front of the midfield three to try to get up and support Defoe. The planning had been done and Moyes comes across as a man who thinks carefully and plans meticulously. The press conference on Friday when he dealt with the Konégate affair showed that.

However, as the poet Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft gang awry.” Scotland’s finest may well have been writing about the effect of the harvest on the life of a wee field mouse – we are looking at it from the point of view of Patrick van Aanholt.

After a bright start, where we forced a save and a tip over the bar from Willy Caballero (he always sounds like a failed Flamenco singer), Raheem Sterling ran at our left back and skipped past him into the box. The PVA of the closing stages of last season may well have passed him on to another defender. Unfortunately, he tried to tackle him and gave away a penalty that was so cast iron that a whole lorry load of Agas could have been made from it. Up stepped Aguero to tuck it past Mannone. Up went the flags and the barrage balloons. The music played and the stadium announcer shouted out the name of the scorer. The crowd cheered, although not very loudly, and sat back to watch City demolish Sunderland.

For twenty minutes, they almost did. Sterling played well and Villa (a lovely footballer) made Love work hard to stay in the game. Watmore covered the young Scotsman, a man with the kind of name that Burns could have written a poem or song about, and we rarely got out of our own half. But they didn’t create much. They were slick and moved the ball well. Aguero’s touch is still a delight and the new man Nolito looked useful. Clichy did well in midfield, but we hauled ourselves back into the game due to diligent defending by Kaboul and Kone and some lung bursting work in midfield by Borini. Oh for a Cattermole or a Kirchhoff or an M’Vila to help us seize control.

A surprising omission from the starting XI?
A surprising omission from the starting XI?

We hung in until half time and, having dampened the crowds’ expectation, came out with more of the same in the second half. Off went Gooch and Watmore and on came Khazri and Januzaj, both far more experienced and far more technically accomplished. At first, it looked as if the balance had been disturbed, but both got into the game and Januzaj in particular changed it. He moved across the box, played a good ball to Rodwell, who in turn played a wonderful ball to Defoe. The man who should have been in France in the summer, got in front of the defender and slipped in a splendid equaliser, leading to celebrations on and off the pitch. When the hubbub died down the thought on everyone’s mind was: “Can we hold out for the last 20 minutes?”

Er, no. We tried. The defending was committed and the work rate was tremendous, but the introduction of Navas made the difference.

City now had two wide men and it was Navas who was causing more problems for van Aanholt. With three minutes left, his low cross was turned into the net by the unfortunate Paddy McNair (surely the name of a man from a poem by Seamus Heaney) and we were done for, despite Mannone attempting to do a Mart Poom at the end.

The sheer relief from Guardiola and the City crowd was testimony to a job almost but not quite well done and he was gracious in victory in his post-match summary – far more gracious than his counterpart across the city would have been. A pal of mine, a City supporter since the days of Les McDowell, Harry Dowd and George Heslop, agreed with my observation that we had scored the only “proper” goal and that we would not struggle this season.

The game cost BT £11m to televise all over the world. Viewers in Kazakhstan or Bolivia would have never heard of Lynden Gooch [surely the name of a character in a Richard Ford novel – and certainly not the son of Graham, as Monsieur Salut was misled by online references into having him in his ESPN report, albeit briefly until the player himself graciously corrected it] and Donald Love. But they may have been impressed by the obduracy of a Sunderland side that worked hard, showed some flashes of brilliance and who looked comfortable under the tutelage of their new manager. The expectations facing Moyes are nowhere near as great as those facing Guardiola. He would not be satisfied with finishing 10th and having a cup run – and nor would the Emirati owners.

The day was an enjoyable one. I declined the attractions of Bury and took the 135 into Manchester. The trip lasted 50 minutes, cost nothing and took me through Cheetham Hill, spiritual home of the novelist Howard Jacobson. The upper reaches of the hill are populated by Manchester’s Jewish population, many of them Orthodox or Hassidic. As the bus descends, it enters a polyglot community made up of all races, colours and creeds with their distinctive foods, places of worship and styles of dress.

Coming from a town where someone from West Auckland is regarded as a foreigner, these cosmopolitan areas make me realise that this country should be proud of the welcome it has given in the past to those from other countries. It has affected our football. On Saturday we had two Italians, an American, a Tunisian, a Cote d’Ivorian, a Frenchman, a Dutchman, a Belgian, two Irishmen, a Scot and three Englishmen on the field at one time or another. I remember when Dariusz Kubicki was regarded as an esoteric signing. We have come a long way since then.

Ha’way The Lads.

Hutch’s Patch: ‘imperious’ Kaboul gets the star rating in Rob’s one-worders

Jake:  welcome back, Rob
Jake: welcome back, Rob

The return of football means the return of Rob Hutchison‘s occasional one-word ratings.

Rob says: ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….it’s back. Never have we had so little possession and almost nabbed something. Get some bodies in and we’ll be ok’…

Read moreHutch’s Patch: ‘imperious’ Kaboul gets the star rating in Rob’s one-worders

Moyes on the Boys at Manchester City: ‘we have a game plan (honest)’

Jake flags our new columnist
Jake flags our new columnist

John McCormick writes: What with the Olympics and a defunct dishwasher, not to mention our Hazel calling round (her dad was at Wigan v Blackburn) I forgot to look out for an e-mail from our new(est) manager. But having watched the match more or less live I’m glad Ed, Pete and the others I tried couldn’t get me a ticket. I’d have hated to have been there at the end.

Were there good things to take from a galling defeat? The aforementioned newest manager appears to think so, as you may glean from the e-mail he sent to M Sault immediately after the match, and please forgive his grammar:

Read moreMoyes on the Boys at Manchester City: ‘we have a game plan (honest)’