Sixer and Orwell: from Benjamin the donkey to Donald the SAFC saviour?



Photo from 1933 – only three years before our last top flight title – by Monsieur Salut’s own National Union of Journalists 

Monsieur Salut writes: what might George Orwell have said of the takeover? Will a new manager give Jack Rodwell a cuddle and turn him back into the player he thinks he still is? Questions about the takeover abound and who better than Pete Sixsmith to delve into his old George Orwell paperbacks, and memories of teaching history to year 11, and seek to tease out the answers? ….

Many years ago, when I was a history teacher in County Durham, I would suggest that my Year 11 students should read Animal Farm to get George Orwell’s view of the Russian Revolution and the descent into Stalinism. It was a popular read partly because it was a short one, partly because it had talking animals in it and partly because they liked to draw parallels between the animals and various members of the teaching staff.

The animal I was decreed to resemble was not one of the pigs but Benjamin the donkey. He is the companion of the great Boxer, the mainstay of the revolution who follows every edict with rampant enthusiasm, something Benjamin does not.

When the other animals criticise him for this, Benjamin looks at them and says something along the lines of: “You think you have seen many things, but I’ll tell you one thing you have never seen. You have never seen a dead donkey.”

Donkeys live a long time, far longer than sheep and chickens and even poor Boxer who is worked to death and then sold to the knackerman for halfpennies and coppers.

The point of this interpretation of the Orwellian fable is this:

I have been watching Sunderland for longer than most donkeys live. I have seen and been enthusiastic about a fair few new dawns. But now, in the approaching twilight years, I am perhaps a tad more cynical about this latest takeover.

I am pleased that Elis Short has sold the club. His tenure has been a disaster with his money and our support having been wasted, particularly over the last four years.

His appointment of that wretched duo of Margaret Byrne and Roberto de Fanti has cost him a lot of dollars and also his good name on Wearside – not that he will be paying many visits to Sunderland’s pubs and clubs.

His successor is an insurance company owner who has considerably more football knowledge and understanding than our Missourian, not that he would need very much.

Stewart Donald has owned Eastleigh for a number of years and has a share in Oxford United. We will be playing the latter in the league next season and it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that we could play the former in the FA Cup.

He heads a group of “investors” whose names have not been made public yet. They may be a Spanish hedge fund (my mane bristles at those two words; hedge funds are not greatly liked in my stable) who have been involved with Segunda B team Albacete and who see Sunderland as a project that could make them a lot of money if we return to the Premier League much sooner than old donkeys like me anticipate.

As for Chris Coleman, his record was not great. His tactics were criticised, some of his team selections left much to be desired and maybe the new owners wanted to clear the decks.

Coleman will get fixed up with another job in the summer and most Sunderland fans would wish him well. He came across as a decent man who understood the club and the immediate culture of the area. But his results were awful – we didn’t even get the new manager bounce that an appointment sometimes bring; a 2-0 win at Burton Albion is hardly a bounce.

Like that cynical donkey, I want to wait and see what happens.

Who will they appoint? Chris Wilder at Sheffield United and a former Oxford United manager is being widely tipped as there is trouble at t’Lane.

What kind of budget will the new manager have? Clearly he won’t be shopping at Harrods or even Marks and Spencer. But he doesn’t want to rooting around in the charity shops as both Grayson and Coleman were. I would settle for a decent basket of Lidl goods.

Will he keep the young players that Coleman has nurtured this season, the likes of McNair, Asoro, Maja and Robson? Will they sign new contracts or will they think that playing at Sunderland is not great for their career. Mind, Henderson and Pickford disprove that theory.

What will happen to Rodwell? Some would say that Coleman could have handled that situation in a different way that might have had a more positive outcome for both club and player.

Perhaps a sympathetic conversation with a young man who may well be struggling with his own problems may get him back on side so he can set about regaining his place in the England squad for Qatar 2022.

I have often used the quote from Macbeth, “then ‘twere well it were done quickly” and we now have some time to appoint someone who might have us up and running by July and who might be able to purge the playing staff of those who really should no longer be wearing the red and white striped shirts.

If Stewart Donald could get us a proper strip back, he will be off to a cracking start.

But like Benjamin, I shall not be getting too enthusiastic.

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11 thoughts on “Sixer and Orwell: from Benjamin the donkey to Donald the SAFC saviour?”

  1. As George Orwell said ‘Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it’ lets hope this is at least half true to for our new regime.

    Coleman was unfortunate, but he must have appreciated the risk when he took the job, expectation to keep us up with the added possibility of a new ownership. Not having any dialogue with Short was perhaps very telling.

    The big question is would he have been kept on by the new owners had he kept us up. Was the relegation the spur to get Short to act again, who knows.

    Lets just hope that the new owners are sincere in their intent and that they make the right appointment and give him (or her…..that would be a turn-up) the correct financial backing.

  2. I too praise Ellis Short for doing the decent thing. He made a lot of mistakes, and was let down by some poor appointments and some catastrophic signings.

    Eventually, the chickens came home to roost, and we have suffered successive relegations as a result.

    The new ownership has come at the right time, and if our new owners can make a good managerial appointment we might start our climb back immediately.

    I feel sorry for Chris Coleman. I think he genuinely wanted the job. He did not however, convince me that he was the answer, and I can’t help wondering if we would have been better off sticking with Simon Grayson.

    I hope, and believe that CC will soon get another job, and that he won’t think too badly of our club, for the way he has been treated.

  3. Short could have put us into Administration. It’s how Leeds shifted much of their debt. Instead Short has taken the hit. Whilst not denying any of the sentiment herein, this act will help us substantially. I’ve been advocating using our bairns for years rather than the mercenaries who won’t play if their chi is misaligned. The bairns plus Mr Watmore will do the business. I want to draw a line under the last few years. This relegation may have cauterised the hiring of PDC and the firing of too many decent sorts…of which Coleman is the latest. Does Orwell write anything about new dawns?

  4. Rodwell for World Cup?…he could certainly afford a ticket for a game or two,nearest he will get to one anyways.

    Would agree with evrything else said here though,thanks

    • Maybe Rodwell is part of the new consortia he could bloody well afford that too………although we might fall short of the EFL ‘Fit and Proper’ approval with him on board, certainly the ‘FIT’ bit.

  5. Missed last season thank goodness through a broken leg and couldn’t drive. Just renewed my season card after the recent news. Looking forward to the journeys from Barnsley where I have lived for 30 years to SOL and the craic in the Navy Club on Roker Avenue.
    Great article Pete.
    Andrew Browell.

  6. It was Orwell who said

    “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection”

    How true in our case

  7. Like Pete I’ll wait and see how things progress but whatever the motivation behind the consortium’s takeover I can’t see them wanting to carry on running the club into the ground the way that Short was, even though he might not have intended to do.

    Reading between the lines, it would make sense for Coleman and Symons to be released from their contracts before the takeover, so that it was Short who had to meet their payoffs, leaving the way clear for the new owners to appoint their own man without having to start off with a massive compensation deal. I’m pretty sure they have someone in mind whose name they can’t release just yet.

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