Monsieur Salut writes: Salut! Sunderland is used to having its brains picked by others. I usually duck the questions, trying to farm them out instead to our star writer Pete Sixsmith or the deputy editor, Malcolm Dawson, both of whom see many more games, or associate editor John McCormick.
I lowered my guard when The Betting Runner Blog popped up with an interview request. This is the result (and I sincerely hope to be shouted down and flattened by a stampede of under-40 readers). So, in case you ever wondered what makes Salut! Sunderland tick, assuming it does, and how we went from nothing to 3.2m reader visits, read on ..
The Betting Runner Blog: Hello Colin, what are your roles at Salut! Sunderland?
M Salut: I am the owner and editor of the site, having launched it at the beginning of 2007 while on “garden leave`’ after being made redundant by The Daily Telegraph. Salut! Sunderland was an offshoot of Salut!, a “privatised” version of a blog I had written for that newspaper when its correspondent based in Paris.
Are there any other contributors?
My lifelong friend Peter Sixsmith is in the site’s DNA. His match reports combine formidable general knowledge, supreme wit and a remarkable grasp of football. I could not keep the site going without astonishing support from him or my deputy editor Malcolm Dawson and associate editor John McCormick, along with “Jake”, our artist. Many others also make invaluable contributions.
What makes Salut! Sunderland different from other blogs?
All of us – Pete, Malcolm, John, Jake and I – are of a certain age, each having supported Sunderland for around half a century. I suspect many if not most readers are 40 and above. The site prides itself on decent writing, a balanced outlook and a distinct lack of screeching and profanity.
Where do you see Sunderland finishing this season?
My heart says we will stay up and even reach midtable. My head suggests another close-run thing. I am not happy to settle for a narrow escape each season but would take 17th if offered it now.
Who will be the key players to help them avoid relegation?
We would be buried already without Jermain Defoe’s goals. Victor Anichebe is finally providing the support up-front that he needs and shows terrific hold-up skills unseen since the days of Niall Quinn. Jordan Pickford performs heroics in goal. It is vital we hang on to all three.
Who are young players in the squad to keep an eye on?
Apart from the obvious example of Pickford, Duncan Watmore shows glimpses of real promise but must be more consistent and improve his final touch.
Do you see Sunderland making any key signings during the upcoming transfer window?
Several key players have been out through injury, leaving our midfield light on strength, finesse and guile. We are also short of another convincing centre-back.
Do you see veterans John O’Shea and Steven Pienaar possibly staying beyond this season?
O’Shea has served Sunderland well and remains useful back-up, but too often seems slow (and sometimes betrays lapses of concentration); he may not be far from retirement, at least from top flight football as a player. Pienaar has good technique and shows his age less, though he too can be caught out for lack of pace.
** If any reader would like to become more involved in this site, let us know in the Comments below and we will be in touch. The invitation is not restricted to the over 40s.