Colin Randall writes: The last time Mike Morris* shared his thoughts with Salut! Sunderland, it was mid-season (2013-14) and he was expecting a 14th top finish for City, bottom place and relegation for us. We drew at their place and then hammered them at home during the marvellous escape act orchestrated by Gus Poyet. They went down.
Mike, editor of the CardiffCity.com fan site, returns now with his team riding with along with Leeds and Wolves at the top of the Championship. He’s made his peace, emotionally, with the owner previously known as Public Enemy Number One, has a sharp dig at Sunderland fans who desert the stadium when things go wrong (music to Wrinkly Pete‘s ears, though his main gripe is with people leaving before the end of any home game) and offers an unwelcome view of the Wear-Tyne pecking order …
Salut! Sunderland: I honestly didn’t expect this to a top-bottom clash but it’s close. Despite the setback at Preston, you must be relishing change to join the Stadium of Light scalp-hunters
Mike Morris: As an eternal pessimist my gut feeling is that we will be come the first side not to get a result at the SoL this year. But my head says that we should be good enough not to lose the game.
You were very critical of Vincent Tan’s ownership style when last we met, both of us then in the Premier League. Are things any better
For Malky Mackay, read Neil Warnock with a few in between. What is your assessment of the job he’s done compared with what has gone before in recent times?
Not as many familiar names among your quad as I half-expected, though I see our former player (if briefly) Greg Halford there plus a player I always rated, Junior Hoilett. Who’s doing the business for you so far and where do you still need strengthening?
How galling is to see Swansea still in the Premier League (though they look to be in for a tough season) or are you far too mature to worry about tribal rivalry?
I don’t give too much of a s*** about them. I pretend not to care if they win but am happy to find it funny when they lose.
I well remember your description of the joys and misery of football: ‘seeing your team score a goal, win a match and climb the table is like a drug. You never tire of it. On the other hand seeing some individuals use clubs for their own benefit and indulge themselves in the massive amounts of money makes some things obscene.’ Any change of outlook, for better or worse?‘
The hit of seeing your team win is still a buzz. Maybe more now that we have reverted to our traditional colours and are starting to build a community again. With football things are always obscene, but it’s the market. I play football myself at a very very low level and when I feel that I gave more on a Sunday evening for an hour than someone who gets £15,000 a week for a five minute token appearance and not break sweat then you do feel aggrieved. It’s better now because you feel Warnock has got all the players working for a cause. They know the value of themselves and what it means to the fans.
Your own highlights – and low points – of supporting Cardiff?
And the best players you’ve seen, or wish you’d seen, in your colours? Chopra meant quite a lot to you, I recall.
Chopra was great. Did a really good job for us. Having Craig Bellamy in his prime was superb as well and to get another period of Aaron Ramsey with us was a joy. Hard to say who I’d wish to see play for us. I guess everyone would like a Messi or a Ronaldo, but we’ve not done too bad.
I recall Robbie Fowler being your nomination as the worst. Anyone else been worse since his time at the club?
In 2016 we had two players in contention. Fred Gounongbe and Ken Zohore. Both had hope and potential. Both flunked. But with Warnock’s coaching Zohore has become a £15m striker. Fred unfortunately hasn’t been seen since.
What, hand on heart, will it take to re-establish Cardiff as a permanent top-flight fixture? Can it even be achieved?
Of course it can. Proper management, sensible ownership and community support. At the moment Cardiff have all those things in operation, maybe it’s the start of something.
Your thought on the Wales national side and, of course, Gareth Bale?
Wales have been superb. Semi finals of a major tournament, still in with a shout of WC qualification and in Bale you have a world beater. It might not be the case every game but his performance history stands up there with the best of them.
And where do you reckon our two teams will finish this season?
Sunderland are destined to struggle. There is a negative vibe that is likely to see a bottom half finish. I’d love to think Cardiff can stay top three, but a top six finish would be progress.
Have you been surprised at our steep slide from, well, bottom six Premier to bottom six Championship?
No. You’ve been a disaster waiting to happen for years.
Any other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, Simon Grayson?
Feel for the genuine fans. But have little time for those that feel the need to leave after 30 mins if things are going wrong. As an outsider you always think of Sunderland as in Newcastle’s shadow.
We have already seen life in the Championship can be tough. What have been your impressions since relegation?
We were here for 10 years before going up. No surprises. It’s a great division, where literally anyone can beat anyone. Just ask Leeds who lost at Millwall last weekend and Fulham, who were superb in drawing with us, lost at Burton.
Is cheating, in your view, as much a problem at this level as above? Does it matter any more if players dive, feign injury, wrestle at set pieces, wave imaginary cards?
As a fan, seeing an opposition players try to con the ref is a real issue. You have to contain yourself when you feel cheated. While it happens I think crap referee’s is a bigger problem at this level. They miss so much.
Best ref, worst ref you’ve encountered in Championship games?
Can’t pinpoint a great ref, you don’t notice the good ones. Lee Probert, an EPL referee, was no so great last weekend.
One step needed to improve football and the experience of ordinary fans?
Make it affordable. £20 a ticket, £3 a beer, £2 a pie. That’s fair. Not £35, £4 and £3. That’s without taking the family.
Will you get to the game and what will be the score?
I have a ticket, I still have to finalise my travel. I know you haven’t won at home since forever. I fear that record will change this weekend but my heart still says it will a 2 – 1 Cardiff win.
* Mike Morris on himself: Still updating a website, running a messageboard. Full time fan, frustrated supporter, a referee when moderating the forum. Always looking forward to the next game, always having my mood controlled by the previous game.
Interview: Colin Randall