What is it about a weekend without a Sunderland game that makes life seem good? Answers on postcards please. It’s made
Colin Randallfeel so good that he is taking leave of his senses and working himself into an implausibly optimistic frenzy about Arsenal away a week from now. He’s taken a pill and should be better soon …
Some great answers arrived today from the Arsenal fan who is previewing next week’s game at the Emirates for Salut! Sunderland.
“On paper an easy game – but not one to be underestimated,” is how he puts it. Come back a few days from now to see what else he has to say about us and them, but that seemed a remarkably kind – or diplomatic – summary of the how the match is likely to turn out.
It is a measure of the despondency into which Sunderland fans have sunk that escaping from north London without another severe deterioration in our goal difference may be the limit of Mackem expectations. It is another measure of that despair that one or two fans have been joking about placing consolation bets on us going down (you can get nine or 10 to one apparently).
Or is this all too gloomy? Are we, instead, within sight of an extraordinary double? If Arsenal 1 Hull 2 was not just a fantasy scoreline last season, why not Arsenal 1 SAFC 2 this time?
I leave Salut! Sunderland readers to assess how seriously I believe that to be a likely outcome. After all, the performances I have seen at Stamford Bridge and Fratton Park would more realistically suggest a hammering on the cards.
But what if our depleted squad – depleted, that is, by insane suspensions as well as unfortunate injuries – plays as we did at old Trafford and White Hart Lane, but with a little more luck?
Our volunteer Gooner is not, after all, making idle talk when he goes on to mention the threat from Darren Bent. We saw enough of Alan Hutton in a dismal night at Pompey to realise that we at last have a full back capable of getting forward and causing real problems up front; it seemed to galvanise George McCartney so much on the left flank that he probably had his best game for us this season.
Lots of other things we saw at Fratton Park simply won’t do at the Emirates.
Packing our penalty area and heading cross after cross straight to an opponent lurking outside the box will cost us four or five goals. Bent himself will have to slot away any chance of the sort that came to him and went begging in the second half on Tuesday.
And if one or two of the Lads are planning another outbreak of kamikaze challenging regardless of the disciplinary consequences, we may as well send Arsenal the three points now in an e-mail attachment (that was a refinement of Jeremy Robson’s gag, on the eve of the pounding at Chelsea, about merely faxing them the win).
But let us for now be utterly irrational – a pre-condition of supporting Sunderland anyway – and pray for a truly heroic performance, plus the necessary good fortune at both ends, to secure our first away win since the opening day of the season, or at least prove that Arsenal are not unstoppable.