Colin Randall writes: it is beginning to feel like a farewell. People supporting other clubs who have written, or been interviewed, in the past at Salut! Sunderland have been popping up again and this time it’s as we prepare to depart the Premier League. Will we have the stamina to find 46 ‘Who are You?’ candidates, plus fans of teams we meet for probably one round in each cup, next season? We’ll see.
Jon Ryan* is a friend, former colleague and lifelong Arsenal supporter. He misses the great occasions at Highbury, thinks the Emirates a great stadium as new ones go but little more than ‘part of the London entertainment scene’, and is worried about Arsène Wenger having been a great admirer. He’s been sympathetic all season towards SAFC but identified a need for change that hasn’t been forthcoming …
Salut! Sunderland: so where do you stand on the Arsène Wenger saga and has your opinion remained constant or shifted?
Jon Ryan: I changed my views on Arsène this season. He has been our greatest manager but I think the ‘will he’, ‘won’t he’ saga has been farcical and exposed Gazidis and Kroenke as men struggling to cope. It is the first big crisis for them both and they have been woeful.
Some of us, of course, would love the kind of failure he has brought your club. Is it time for Arsenal supporters to recognise theirs is a big club but no longer among the very biggest?
I have always seen the Arsenal as a club big on tradition with a great history and with a way of behaving that is the Arsenal way. We have a financial plan and have stuck to it over both transfers and wages. Chelsea and the two Manchester teams have no financial constraints so for the present it means the rest have to hope they slip up or someone can repeat ‘a Leicester’.
Who have been the heroes and villains of your season?
Ozil and Alexis have been both heroes and villains, players capable of exquisite skill and then capable of disappearing (Ozil) or sulking and giving the ball away in dangerous positions (Alexis). Rob Holding has been a revelation and is really one for the future.
And what would it take to make my second question unreasonably downbeat on Arsenal’s status within the pecking order of football?
If we win the FA Cup. People forget that we did spend many years in the doldrums where a top four finish would have been greeted ecstatically.
When you watch Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud, Ramsey etc, how do they stand up against the greats of the past, above all the Invincibles?
Ozil and Sanchez would have fitted into the Invincibles as for Ramsey, injuries have blighted his career. I think Bellerin would get in a lot of past teams.
And who are the players who’ve given you most pleasure over the years?
Liam Brady, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Charlie George, Tony Adams ….and my boyhood hero Vic Groves.
Can you call to mind any who should have been allowed nowhere near Highbury or the Emirates?
We have had some oddities over the years but Wenger unearthed nuggets like Viera and Petit and turned round the careers of Thierry and Bergkamp so you have to expect a few duds.
Speaking of Highbury, do you miss having a proper, intimate, rocking football ground instead of the soulless new stadium (best of the genre though it may be)?
Very much…the atmosphere is different and when you increase your capacity by nearly 50 per cent and boost the dreaded club level the type of support changes…..sadly we have become part of the London entertainment scene.
Where will Arsenal finish this season? Minimum expectation for next time?
Fifth….top four next season [answered before the 4-1 win at Stoke – Ed].
What about our dismal season. Did you see it coming?
There are other teams I would have seen more likely to be relegated than Sunderland. But recent history clearly indicated that something needed to be done. ….and it wasn’t.
Other thoughts on SAFC – the club, fans, chances of a quick return, Moyes etc?
I had hoped Moyes might be the answer but to me he has always looked acutely uncomfortable at all three clubs he has managed since leaving Everton. You have a fine stadium, a great fan base and only need three good, solid experienced players to get you back but you really need to bounce back next season. The fate of Blackburn and the struggles of Villa and Norwich are ample warning of what can happen.
Bleak thoughts on Sunderland after the woeful defeat to Swansea but presented with all the wit and wisdom we have come to associate with Pete Sixsmith‘s writing
Diving and the rest of the cheating ways of modern football: a dead issue since everyone’s at it, or still worth tackling?
I think video replays must be used – certainly for offside and penalty decisions. Something else that irritates is players feigning injury, a simple answer would be that any player treated in the pitch has to then spend five minutes off the pitch, if he is injured then it makes sense , if not it is summary justice.
Best ref, worst ref?
I have never been part of the Clattenburg fan club – I loathe the celebratory tattoos and studied camera poses……Martin Atkinson was superb in the Madrid Champions league semi final.
Your biggest gripe about modern football and how it might be answered?
Lack of consideration for away fans with some ridiculous kick off times and only 28,500 tickets for each side in the FA Cup final which is simply offensive and please don’t talk about the need to cater for the ‘football family’.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
I certainly will. A lot depends of how much we have to play for but I would go 3-1.
* Jon Ryan on hismelf:
I was a Fleet Street journalist for over 40 years as a news reporter, news editor and , most pleasurably , a sports editor on the Mail in Sunday and Sunday Telegraph. I now keep busy with grandchildren (Naomi ,7, is a Gooner), travelling and trying unravel the mystery of Wenger’s Future.
Interview: Colin Randall