Monsieur Salut writes: Some people are welcome to return time and again to the ‘Who are You?’ hot seat and * Ray Knight is unquestionably one of them. His support for Chelsea can be seen as a rare flaw in the make-up of a witty, heart-in-right-place sort of fellow most of us would happily have a pint with. I love his description of Sunderland’s annual flirtation with relegation but suspect his scoreline prediction is unlikely to come true …
Salut! Sunderland: Top of the league, by three clear points and with the best goal difference. Is this going to be Chelsea’s season again?
Ray Knight: So far it has reminded me of Lewis Hamilton’s season – a good start, a dodgy patch then a long winning streak, though obviously I hope for the gold medal spot rather than the silver which young Lewis achieved this year. I used to work with his dad 30 years ago – a very nice chap, which is why, despite knowing nothing about F1, I do take an interest in his career.
Antonio, and such stand-out players as the three scorers at Man City – Costa, Hazard and Willian – may take the current limelight but who else has been crucial to this season’s form?
It would have to be N’golo Kante, our very own Duracell bunny. If the other three represent the Lord Mayor’s Show, then he is the one who sweeps up the horse droppings. Victor Moses has proved to be a revelation as well, having spent two seasons away on loan as the Special One did not seem to like him much. Nor did he like De Bruyne and Lukaku either, which leads me to wonder about the Special One’s specialness. Did you notice that last week, while we had Moses, Man Citeh had Jesus – you could call that a victory for the Old Testament.
Without further ado, this season’s top four in order even though the last time I asked, you wouldn’t go beyond predicting the winners of Northern Ireland’s NIFL Premiership and cup?
In 2004 I predicted that the next Chinese new year would be the year of the Camel. How so, my baffled friends asked me? Because the Premier League top five in 2005 at the end of the season would be Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool, I replied. And so it proved. And did I put a bet on it? Sadly no. For next year I predict it will be the year of Calm – Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City. Or maybe the year of the Clam. What do I know?
And the bottom three (in the Premier League, not that it isn’t heartening to see Portadown So Down)?
I’ll go for Swansea, Burnley and West Ham (and poxy Portadown as well).
Whether you support Sunderland or Chelsea or neither, Guess the Score. You could win a great print from Art of Football: Have a go at https://safc.blog/2016/12/prize-guess-the-score-cock-a-hoop-chelsea-rock-bottom-safc-and-eric-roy/
You’ve shared your best and worst Chelsea moments before, but if you were able to attend only Premier games or only Champions League games, what – leaving aside the numerical difference – would you choose?
In my very first contribution to your esteemed site, I mentioned that we fans are driven as much by hate as by love. You think of the zebra-skinned ones as dearly as I think of Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man U. So can you imagine having to hate Sparta Prague, Paris SG, Bayern Munich or Barcelona? (Actually I can make a case for the last one). At the end of the day we are defined by our insularity and local rivalries, as proved by the Brexit vote.
And have you become blasé about the huge amounts of dosh sloshing around the upper echelons of football, or is it a cause for concern? Cuba’s more interested in baseball but I cannot think Fidel would have approved.
Having turned 65 back in April, to my delight the price of my season ticket was reduced by a whopping 53 per cent so I would rather have our oligarch than your transatlantic billionaire.
When the Premier League started it seemed that it would forever be Man Yoo versus the rest, so it has taken vast fortunes to break that monopoly, to the extent that all clubs now seem to be owned by billionaires/oligarchs/sheikhs to achieve a certain level of equality. The TV moguls know that the one of the main selling points of the Premier League is a certain amount of unpredictability, so what they don’t want is a copy of the Spanish League (only three clubs have a chance of winning it) the German League (one club), the French League (one club) or the Italian League (three clubs). I would argue that successful clubs have always been the richest – the Mears family that founded Chelsea back in 1905 were the oligarchs of their day. They founded a football club because they had a sports ground with no team to play in it.
Chelsea: still the club everyone wants to hate, or in danger of becoming more lovable if only the toerag and racist elements can be eradicated?
I read on the internet just the other day that according to some kind of survey Chelsea are currently the most hated Premier League club. But these may be the same people whose surveys confidently predicted that Hillary would now be choosing new curtains for the Oval Office.
But can you imagine being a supporter of Hartlepool?
Where is that? Is it a Caribbean tax haven or something? Ask me another one.
Sunderland: three wins in four (writing before this weekend’s clueless display at Swansea made it three in five) lifted us briefly from the bottom and seemed to give us a sporting chance of moving uptable. Were you surprised more by our wretched start or the recent mini-revival?
I hate to break this to you, but I see Sunderland’s wretched start and miraculous escape from relegation as part of the fabric of British society – they always happen every year, like the State Opening of Parliament, and judging by your pink away kit, both events are commemorated by people dressing up in ludicrous costumes.
‘Describe being a Sunderland fan’ pic.twitter.com/Wx7jmsU7l7
— Stout (@Stout_SAFC) December 10, 2016
Is there a single player from our squad who you feel would be fit to warm your bench?
I’ll cheerfully take your goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, thank you.
Any other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, David Moyes, even the old Durham coalfield on top of which – OK, just a bit of it – our stadium stands?
Maybe I will visit your ground one day, as soon as I can find a thick enough overcoat to brave the North Sea gales that I am told are part of the local charm. A special weapon you ought to develop is David Moyes’s scowl, looking as he does when prowling the touchline, like the very last person you would want to meet on a Saturday night in Sauchiehall Street. Get someone to wind him a bit more and you might get the linesmen and fourth officials more willing to consider the Sunderland point of view when confronted with controversial incidents.
Can I just say the finest answer given in the Who are You? series was yours.
Q: How did you persuade Peter Reid to buy Gareth Hall?
A: Peter Reid was under the impression that it was a property deal – he’d been told that Gareth Hall was in fact an old Mormon church behind Sloane Square that, with the right amount of investment could be turned into a highly profitable concert venue.
So go on: who is Chelsea’s more-Gareth-than-Gareth Hall, the worst you’ve seen in blue?
On our post-match journeys home Sid [David ‘Sid’ Millward, nicknamed after his bandleading uncle and an occasional visitor to these pages – Ed] and I soon tired of “Pick your best or favourite Chelsea eleven” games in favour of “Our worst Chelsea XI”, a much more entertaining pastime, and always the first name on my sheet was David Mitchell, allegedly an Australian international bought by Bobby Campbell, on the recommendation of his son. His name should rank alongside that of Ali Dia, formerly of Southampton and Blyth Spartans, with regards to footballing skills.
By the way, Gareth Hall has since been renamed Cadogan Hall, and is a very successful concert venue, where I saw John Mayall perform a couple of years ago.
Diving: a dead issue because every club had divers and other kinds of cheats (see the appalling Snodgrass dive above), or still worth hammering away at?
The only way to do anything about it is to highlight it on Match of the Day, and give points for artistic impression. It would give the “Should Diego Costa have been sent off” correspondent something else to do.
Best ref, worst ref (Premier League, not the Guildford & Woking Alliance)?
The best referee is the one you don’t notice so I can never remember their names. Today’s ref, Jasper Carrott lookalike, Mike Dean often has me frothing at the mouth. For the Champions League, no-one can surpass Tom Hennings Ovrebo from Norway, who denied us a place in the 2009 Champions’ League final. For him, I was prepared to do severe damage to the Norwegian embassy on the night in question, if only I knew where it was.
Will you be at our game? I know its pointless asking for a score prediction!
Sorry, I still don’t have that thick overcoat. I predict a 9-0 victory for Sunderland, with Borini, van Aanholt and Djilobodji each getting a hat trick against their old team. By the way thanks for not pooping Drogba’s leaving party in 2015.
* Ray Knight on himself: I am still a railwayman at Kings Cross, now 65 and expecting to retire soon. I am lucky in the sense that, having worked for British Rail, I will retain my travel concessions after I cease working, unlike the poor sods who work in today’s new, exciting, entrepreneurial, privatised railway, who will not. That will leave me plenty of time and wherewithal while I still have my marbles, to attend away matches at such exotic locations as Roker Park, Ayresome Park, the Dell and Highbury.
Interview: Colin Randall