Sixer’s Lincoln City Soapbox: on watching a team in red and white dominate

Jake recalls a grey day

Malcolm Dawson writes……the last time I went to Sincil Bank, I had a nice day out with other members of the Heart of England Branch, spending time in the Lincoln City Social Club before witnessing a 1-0 win in the F.A. Cup. The last time I went to Lincoln I was enjoying a day out with a friend of mine and her (at that time) young son. We walked the walls, went in the Cathedral, looked in a few shops and had a decent dinner somewhere so my memories of the city are pleasant ones. So were Pete Sixsmith‘s until about 3.05 pm yesterday afternoon. Let him explain……

LOST IN LINCOLN

In the dim and distant past, Bruce Forsyth used to ask contestants on Beat the Clock, to rearrange words into a well known phrase or saying.

Let’s see what you, dear reader, can do with these:

Lincoln end embarrassing could the beginning debacle of be at This.

Although you may have framed these words into a question, if you came up with “This embarrassing debacle at Lincoln could be the beginning of the end?” you would be on the same wavelength as me. If you were to add “And the quicker Jack Ross leaves, the better for all concerned” you would be echoing the thoughts of the vast majority of the Sunderland supporters who entered Sincil Bank with a modicum of optimism and left (many of them before the final whistle) with that optimism gone.

Alright my loves? Not if you were in the away end yesterday.

This was by far the worst performance of the manager’s time on Wearside. Buoyed by two decent wins, we went into a game against opponents who appeared to be mourning the departure of the Cowley Brothers and who looked to be in a state of emotional collapse.

The Sincil Drain

Last time at their pleasant and atmospheric Sincil Bank, they collapsed to a 0-6 pummelling by Oxford United. Last weekend, they lost at Blackpool, albeit to a last-minute goal. So, they came into this game needing to show their noisy and boisterous support, that the mourning period was over and that “The King(s) is (are) dead. Long live the King.” New manager Michael Appleton and his players responded splendidly. Ours, manager and players, were supine. To describe it as a disappointment is like saying that Michael Gove is mildly irritating.

If you want a “d” word to cover it, how about “dross”, “Dismal”, “disgraceful”. That’ll do at the moment.

When we heard the team, the general feeling was that an unchanged side with a decent bench was just the ticket. The two new defenders would be able to further embed themselves in, the Wyke/O’Nien combination would have another chance to show its worth and McGeoch and Power would hopefully replicate their first half dominance of the previous Saturday.

Well, we got that embarrassingly wrong didn’t we.

They came at us right from the start and produced a performance that had pace, power and positivity. Our response was ponderous, feeble and lacking in any positivity whatsoever as we were outplayed and outfought by a side who had been clearly instructed about our weaknesses and had been drilled to take advantage of them. I imagine that their scouting report on last Saturday suggested that we were slow in the build-up, liked to turn back on ourselves and had no real urgency in the opposition box.

It may well have said that certain players like to hold the ball too long, others are uncomfortable when a quick player runs at them and they offer little up front. And the goalkeeper is going through a dodgy spell. If it didn’t identify those failings, the scout wasn’t doing his job.

Jon McLaughlin has been below the impeccably high standards that he set last season. Many felt that he should have done better with the goal he conceded last week. This week, he was indecisive when coming for a dinked pass by Eardley and was bundled over by Tyler Walker, resulting in either Walker’s 7th goal of the season or an own goal by the keeper. Let’s give it to Tyler.

Bruno Andrade

We had one opportunity to level the scores, when De Bock, who was given a torrid time by Bruno Andrade, hit a fine shot which had Josh Vickers stretching to tip over the bar, but that was it. Nothing else. Vickers had a quiet afternoon as our attempts to salvage something foundered.

Walker hit the post with a penalty after De Bock pulled down Andrade following a scintillating move from The Imps which started deep in their half and quickly moved into our box. The manager responded by hauling off Maguire and Gooch (each equally ineffective) and sending on McGeady and McNulty to supplement Wyke. Alas, it gave Lincoln even more room and another flowing move allowed the unmarked Andrade to gallop away and play a superb first-time ball in for Walker to stab home with Lynch and Willis nowhere near him.

We could have gone home then. There were some dismal attempts to get back into the game, but the City defence was comfortable with the limited options that we had and they were worthy winners at the end. They had everything that we lack. They have pace in Andrade. We have Gooch. They have a goal scorer in Walker. We have Wyke. They have busy central midfield players who move the ball quickly. We are slow and ponderous. They have central defenders who have that security blanket in front of them. We have defenders who are always plugging gaps.

The crowd were nowhere near as unpleasant as at Bolton two weeks ago but there was little support for either players or manager. It may well be that he is coming to the end of his time at Sunderland. He has not improved the side at all over the summer – in fact, we have gone backwards and the reliance on McGeady to pull some magic out is embarrassing.

Whether the current owners want to appoint a new man with the takeover talks at a delicate phase is unlikely, which gives Ross a week or two to sort out this shambles as another debacle at Wycombe will surely tip him over the edge. Nothing less than a run of victories and some flowing, interesting football will satisfy and convince supporters that he is any better than Moyes, Grayson or Coleman.

As often happens, the game spoilt a pleasant day. The trip down was quiet and uneventful, we arrived in Lincoln in ample time to sample some of its many delights and most of us did. I wandered into the very busy city centre, swarming with shoppers and students and full of busy shops. There were even people buying things in Debenhams!!!

I strolled up to the Cathedral up Steep Hill, the most appropriately named thoroughfare in the UK, and popped in to see if the Imp had been doing his a*** kicking routine. I was assured that he hadn’t and that he was saving that for Sincil Bank later in the afternoon. He should have stayed in his place in the roof and spared us all an embarrassing afternoon which makes me think very hard about wasting time and money on trips all over the country. Visits to Shrewsbury and Oxford are looking increasingly unlikely.

Let’s finish as we started, but no answers this time. I invite you to rearrange these words into a well known phrase or saying;

Are Saturday of there ways afternoon. better a spending

Not difficult is it……?

Lowlights of the game via safc.com

View from the West Stand: initially impressive Cats overPower MK Dons then hang on

Jake: ‘from Spain, it sounded like the classic game of two halves’

Returning visitors to Salut! Sunderland will know that Pete Sixsmith, our regular match correspondent, is a Guardian reading liberal (with a small l) with a well developed sense of decency and fair play but there are a few things that I guarantee will provoke him enough to elicit a barrage of anger and expletives, namely: Crystal Palace, Surrey County Cricket Club, Highways England, Rugby Union, Ant and Dec, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.  Oh and I almost forgot – franchised football.

I don’t know how many of you remember, but only a few days after our defeat to Millwall in the 2004 FA Cup semi final at Old Trafford, we had to travel to the National Hockey Stadium to face a club that had been allowed to up sticks and move lock, stock and barrel to a land of concrete cows and ring roads. It was there that my sister and I met up with Sixer and I had my first experience of a volley of Sixsmith invective, aimed at a youth of no more than thirteen years who dared to try and mock we three for supporting a club that had got to within one game of the Millennium Stadium, whilst his team, still known as Wimbledon had been knocked out  in Round 4. We won 2-1 that evening with goals from Darren Byfield and Marcus Stewart but would miss out on promotion after losing to a side from South London in the playoffs. See you bright young things, we have seen it all before.

Wimbledon on the other hand, would be relegated from what was then known as the First Division, but was really Division 2 in old money, before changing their name over the summer and sparking Alun Armstrong, a native of the North Durham village of Annfield Plain, to wear an AFC Wimbledon shirt on the newly aired TV series “New Tricks”. 

Was that really 15 years ago? It was and Pete still hasn’t forgiven the footballing authorities for allowing a club with a long history to move and change its name, so only a few weeks after we beat the real Dons at the Stadium of Light we agreed between us, that I should bring you the Salut! Sunderland view of a game that brought a welcome three points.

Jake does his bit for the seat change

M K DEFEATED

The Grand Canal Venice

Because of an imminent trip to Venice courtesy of a Thomas Cook package (fortunately our Ryanair flight took off a matter of hours before they went bust) I didn’t get to the Bolton match and followed the Carabao Cup tie at Bramall Lane via the BBC and SAFC text services, whilst cruising the Grand Canal and Venetian lagoon on my way back to the hotel on the islands of Murano.

But I’d made sure that I was going to be back in time for the next home game, although you wouldn’t have thought it on Friday morning when I looked out of my window, what with the amount of  water that was running outside my house and the state of my patio around the back. Fortunately, although it was still wet underfoot on Saturday morning, it had actually stopped raining so the Park and Ride option was still viable and in the end it turned out to be a pleasantly sunny afternoon.

View from my kitchen window on Friday

I’ve only started to use the P&R this season and one thing it does is to allow me to take a snapshot of the pre and post match feelings of a section of the support. Yesterday the atmosphere on the bus going to the ground was subdued but I detected an air of quiet confidence, whilst on the return journey there was a quiet satisfaction at a job done and the group from Milton Keynes who sat near me had enjoyed their day, were looking forward to an evening in town and weren’t overly disappointed at the result, having had no expectations of a victory before kick off.

As I passed on the copy of La Gazzetta dello Sport which I had brought back for Mr Sixsmith it was good to have a brief word with associate editor John McCormick who I last saw at the rainfest that was Accrington Stanley away last season and who has spent the past few months recovering from a particularly unpleasant form of medical treatment. At least the sun shone for him yesterday and he was to see a home win.

Whilst injuries had obviously limited Jack Ross’s choices, we now have a squad that not only seems well balanced, but contains a number of players who can do a job in a variety of positions. The starting line up reflected this, with a back four comprised of summer signings including Jordan Willis who was handed the captain’s armband. Laurens De Bock and Joel Lynch after getting midweek game time were considered fit enough to start and this not only gave the team a more balanced look, but also provided a bit more height and muscle to the side. Having the Belgian available meant Conor McLaughlin was able to play on his favoured right side and more importantly freed up the energetic Luke O’Nien to play in a much more advanced role. The central midfield was taken up by Power and McGeouch both of whom are more mobile than Grant Leadbitter and more experienced than George Dobson. Charlie Wyke was to lead the line.

No Aiden McGeady meant that Chris Maguire was to start wide right with Lynden Gooch taking up the left hand berth. I suggested in a GTS comment, that I thought sometimes the team plays better without McGeady, which is not to say that I wouldn’t have him in the starting line up, just that when he isn’t there others step up to the mark and can maybe play in their stronger positions. Maguire, as we know can operate in a variety of positions but for me he is most useful when he plays wide right and I prefer to see Gooch on the other flank, where he can twist and turn then cut inside more effectively to set up a shot with his stronger foot.

Chris Maguire

Despite the suggestions in the headlines of some of the more sensationalist websites, desperate for clicks and increased advertising revenue, it was not shocking to see Jon McLaughlin back between the sticks. Yes Lee Burge had a good game against The Blades but big Jon is first choice and will remain so until he suffers a loss of form, forgets to have his flu jab or needs a lie in on a Saturday morning.

Certainly with this line up we saw eleven players who knew their brief and in the first half especially, retained the shape of the side, with little lateral movement or swapping of positions. The basic shape was 4-2-4 with O’Nien, buzzing about just behind Wyke, but the two wide men were quick to drift back and make it a 4-4-2 when required and as the game progressed, the two full backs got forward more, not in the gung ho attacking style that we sometimes get when O’Nien and Hume take up the Cec Irwin and Len Ashurst mantle, but in a more considered supporting role.

Just as we had against Rotherham we dominated the first period of play. After only three minutes the MKD keeper Lee Nicholls was called into action saving at the feet of Charlie Wyke. Our boys were linking up well and retaining possession and on the odd occasion that the visitors pushed forward the defence looked solid and capable. There was plenty of interplay, short passing and running into space and despite the presence of Wyke, for much of the time we played the ball on the ground. It was this sort of play that produced the first goal.

O’Nien, tracking back in his own half, took possession and played the ball out to Chris Maguire who, surrounded by three yellow shirts did a bit of twisting and turning before sending a ball down the line to big Charlie who had drifted out wide. For a big man Wyke looks comfortable with the ball at his feet but he seemed to have played a poor ball behind O’Nien and into a triangle of opposition players. It was just in front of where I sit and there was a split second’s disappointment as it appeared that a promising attack had broken down, but what the centre forward had seen that we hadn’t, was the run of Max Power, who hit a beautiful curling shot that gave  Nicholls no chance and Power his second wonder strike within three days. One – nil and looking comfortable. Deja vu and not for the first time. We all knew that more was needed before we could feel confident that all three points would come our way.

But we kept going and within three minutes we were two ahead while Luke O’Nien might have had a hat-trick. Almost straight from the re-start Joel Lynch found Gooch in space on the left wing. As the defence moved across, our favourite American had jinked and twisted his way into the box before playing the ball back to De Bock, who sent a first time peach of a cross into O’Nien who was unlucky to see his header rattle the foot of the post before being put behind for a corner. The coaching staff and players have obviously been working hard on corner routines as there is now much more variety. Instead of simply lumping the ball into the box, there are a number of shorter options being used, as well as those finding players outside of the penalty area, like Wednesday night.

Although that corner came to nothing, from the resultant goal kick, the MKD defence got into a right pickle trying to play it short and a hasty clearance from Nicholls only found a rejuvenated Max Power, who picked up the loose ball and now full of confidence tried another 25 yard pile driver which deflected off a foot for another corner, this time on the right. Maguire curled one in to the near post where a stooping Luke O’Nien got off another great header, which was well saved and prompted the former Wycombe man to go over and congratulate Nicholls for the quality of his diving stop as we set up for another corner.

This too was defended effectively and the Dons broke forward but a fine tackle from Max Power not only stopped the visitors in their tracks but also won us a throw in. At this point one of our opponents decided that his white boots didn’t really go with primrose yellow so hopped off the pitch to swap them for a darker pair. More fool him because from the resultant throw, the ball was returned to McLaughlin C who lobbed the ball forward into the path of Luke O’Nien. Nicholls, unsure whether to come out and close him down or drop back onto his line did neither and O’Nien lobbed him in a way that reminded me of a goal I once almost scored myself in a 5 a side game at The Crowtree Leisure Centre. However, while mine bounced back off the angle of post and bar, O’Nien’s effort hit the post and side netting, with enough of the ball across the line to convince the referee’s assistant that it was a goal. From my seat I couldn’t be 100% sure all the ball was over the line before it was headed out, but hey who are we to argue with the officials when they rule in our favour? Having watched the replay it looks as if VAR could have decided either way and the 450 odd visiting fans might not have been happy but we were and our play up to that point had been worth more than a one goal lead. Luke O’Nien too was overjoyed. It’s not always easy to tell with our Luke as he plays with a permanent grin but his enthusiastic demolition of the corner flag as he went to celebrate with the fans said it all.

We continued to dominate, whilst the visiting defence looked shaky at times and another poor clearance found Gooch who burst forward and was unlucky to see a powerful drive from distance, pass just the wrong side of the far post. There was still time for one more bit of controversy as Max Power was fouled just in front of the technical areas and while the game continued, with the ref playing a good advantage, substitute David Kasamu did something to the prostrate Max Power as he ran past. We assumed it was a kick and there was plenty of shouting at the ref for a red card. After speaking to the 4th official Kasamu only saw yellow and then Max Power also went in the referee’s notebook, presumably for remonstrating as he walked away, although some thought it might have been for making out it was worse that it was. If I’m right and it was for criticising the ref, this is the second Saturday in a row that Power has picked up a stupid booking and while I like to see a bit of feistiness in our players it is no good if it means that player ends up missing games.

Anyone who knows me will confirm that I am rarely relaxed until we have at least a four goal lead and despite being two up at half time, the consensus around me was that we needed at least one more to settle the nerves. And true to form we were to endure a nervy second half as the Dons got into the game more effectively and halved the lead after only ten minutes of the half – although we might have had another goal before that, when a Chris Maguire cross found Lynden Gooch who was unable to shoot first time and in controlling the ball gave the defence time to re-organise and head clear, but only to the feet of Max Power, who tried his luck yet again with a right footed volley from the edge of the box, which scraped the post as Nicholls made sure it stayed out.

Their goal when it came was not great from a defensive point of view. I was explaining to the young lad who sits near me that the high pressing game we had employed earlier on uses up a lot of energy and that with a two goal lead, by defending deeper and allowing our opponents to pass the ball around in their own half, the emphasis was more on reducing passing options and managing the game but I was probably trying to reassure myself as much as him. The Dons had been passing the ball around more in our half and eventually Kasamu, crossed the ball deep to George Williams who had stolen in unnoticed on the far side. McLaughlin moved across to cover the near post but when Williams headed across the face of goal, he was forced to scramble back as Jordan Willis struggled to block the run of Jordan Bowery and somehow the ball ended up in the back of the net. McLaughlin protested he had been impeded but to be honest it wasn’t the finest bit of keeping I have seen from the big man. But there was confusion as first we thought the goal had been given, then disallowed, then given again.

There was some anxiety in the last half hour or so, which Chris Maguire might have alleviated had his effort brushed the underside, rather than the top of the bar as MK Dons continued to press but on the whole the defence coped well. As had happened against Rotherham we allowed our opponents the chance to get back into a game which we had started as the better side but we can’t expect other teams to simply roll over and capitulate. At the end of the day this is another three points and takes Jack Ross’s managerial record in league games as P 56  W 27  D 23  L 6 which takes him close to the two points a game target he sets himself. We have only lost once in the 28 games which he has supervised at the Stadium of Light. I don’t suppose the facts and figures will go any way to silencing those who think that a change of manager will automatically mean we will see a team winning easily each week but I do think constant criticism is not helping. Wins over Lincoln and Fleetwood would help.

Haway the Lads

Match highlights via safc.com

 

Benefactors or men with a motive as a takeover looms?

Malcolm Dawson writes…….I am due to fly to Venice soon but my flights are booked with Ryanair, whose pilots have recently been taking industrial action and my hotel was booked through Thomas Cook, who may or may not still be in business if and when I reach the check in desk. Apparently Ryanair shareholders blocked the proposed payment of more than £90 million to Chairman and founder Michael Ryan which he was asking for, leaving me scratching my head and questioning why people with more wealth than I can ever imagine, feel like they need such amounts on top of what they already have. I don’t know how disappointed he must have felt following the decision taken at the AGM, but I know for a fact it will be greater than that felt by Thomas Cook of Melbourne, Derbyshire if the company he founded goes bust.

Titus Salt – not part of the FPP consortium as far as I know.

That got me thinking about a talk I went to recently concerning Titus Salt, mill owner and philanthropist and founder of Saltaire village in West Yorkshire, who is often considered to be a benefactor of the poor, creating his model village which provided former residents of the slums of Bradford, Halifax and the surrounding areas with good housing, parks and gardens, libraries and meeting halls, but no pubs. It was explained that whilst all this was undoubtedly a huge improvement in the living conditions of his workforce it was done for commercial, rather than charitable reasons affording him total control over those he employed, a successful strategy which allowed him to become one of the wealthiest men in Britain by the time of his death.

So what has all this got to do with SAFC? On the eve of an apparent takeover by a consortium of wealthy Americans I came across this article, which I thought worth sharing and I needed a bit of bumpf to introduce. According to some, this investment when it comes, is bound to propel us Man City like up through the divisions to the top of the Premier League and heading for a Champions League final. I fear anyone thinking that is in for a few years of disappointment, though I do expect that should it come about and that Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven are still at the helm, they will steer the club in the right direction and we will be in a financially stable position and higher up the leagues than we are currently. That I’ll ever see another major trophy win in my lifetime is something I’m less confident about.

In the meantime, the following seems to me to be a sensible, objective and realistic article.

https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/soccer/english-soccer/michael-walker-a-new-or-false-dawn-at-the-stadium-of-light-1.4025003

 

Should’ve, Could’ve, Might’ve: Sunderland v Rotherham from sublime to ridiculous

Malcolm Dawson writes……..others I know will not share my opinions, but as I’ve got older I believe I have developed a healthy attitude to life and an ability to put into perspective things which seem to send others into paroxysms of rage. So whilst I walked away from the Stadium of Light frustrated at the overall performance of a team which dominated for the first third of the game and disappointed having dropped another two points, it didn’t take me long to get over it.

On the Park and Ride I had a chat with a young lad, not long out of college, who asked how long I had been following the Lads and on hearing that it was getting on for 60 years – 55 since my first visit to Roker Park, followed this up with “does it get any easier?” No prizes for my response.

I also had a bit of a chat with a Rotherham supporter and his son sitting behind me about a) the validity of McNulty’s goal and b) the first half penalty shouts that The Millers had. I had to admit that when I turned to look at McNulty he was already past his man so I immediately looked at the linesman who kept his flag down, whilst he didn’t think either of their shouts in the box were anything other than marginal.

Perspective! Watching football is something we do to fill in some time and hopefully keep us entertained. It is something we can get passionate about and we can experience a whole range of emotions following our team but at the end of the day it’s not, despite what Bill Shankley once said, more important than life and death and as I write safc.com tells me it’s only 3 days 5 hours and 29 minutes to the next instalment.

Climbing into the car I switched on Spotify, clicked on liked songs and set it off in shuffle mode. Driving towards the A19 the first three songs that came up were “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor, Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” and Leon Russell with “Tightrope”. All appropriate in their own way.

The first a reminder that as we go through life, we all have personal issues to deal with and we will have had a pretty smooth ride if all we have to get worked up about is the failure of our football team to snatch a win. The second reminding me that I was 19 the last time Sunderland actually won a trophy of note and the only one in my 65 years on this planet, and the third with the lyrics “one side’s hate and one is hope” and “I’m up on the high wire, flanked by life and the funeral pyre” which if you were so inclined you might see as my attitude to watching football. But then you might just think I’m a bit of a tosser, who as an ex girlfriend once said is lacking in emotion. I get excited when we score and I enjoy it when we win but though I’m disappointed when we don’t, I’m not going to let it ruin the rest of my week. Oh and in case we forget we didn’t lose.

Jake does his bit for the seat change

COULD’VE, SHOULD’VE, MIGHT HAVE

And so to the match.

Here was a game we could have won and the way we started this was a game we should have won. By the end this was a game we might have lost but then we still might have won at the death – although over the course of the 90 minutes it would have been an undeserved victory had we managed to grab a winner.

In his pre-match press conference Jack Ross had mentioned that a couple of players had got through the Accrington Stanley game carrying knocks, so it came as no surprise that there were two changes. That one was Chris Maguire was disappointing. That the other was Grant Leadbitter was less surprising.

What is it with social media and radio phone ins? On Saturday Twitter and Radio Newcastle were awash with the views of those who thought we had put in a poor performance, despite the three points. Last night it was all “stick with the same team” and “never change a winning side” and “what’s Ross doing dropping Chris Maguire?”

Well for a half hour or so it looked like Jack Ross had got it spot on.

Marc McNulty thanks to bbc.co.uk

For those first thirty minutes, this was as convincing a Sunderland performance as I have seen for a long while. Within seconds of the kick off, which Rotherham took, Ozturk was awarded a free kick for an offence that no-one near me noticed. He took it quickly and by the time I had turned my head to follow the ball, McNulty had got behind the last defender, controlled the dropping ball beautifully and rounded the goalkeeper. It looked for a second as if he might have let the opportunity slip before calmly slotting home. It then took longer to get the game restarted than it had for us to take the lead.

We dominated that opening spell.

Luke O’Nien – busy

Luke O’Nien playing in the number ten role buzzed about, making himself available and was a constant threat. McNulty showed his customary energy and made a nuisance of himself. McGeady was showing his silky skills out on the left, combining well with Hume who was pushing forward whenever he could. This is not the same Denver Hume who looked nervy and unsure against Oxford. This is a young man learning all the time.

Conor McLaughlin was looking assured at the back, much happier on his stronger side and as as we grew into the game he pushed forward more too. Ozturk and Willis are developing a good understanding and Gooch was as industrious as ever. McGeouch initiated some nice passing moves and Dobson was physical. Our lack of height was noticeable but Dobson and O’Nien in particular win a surprising amount of headers.

Big Jon McLaughlin made a couple of routine saves from Freddy Ladapo but wasn’t really troubled during that opening spell. It looked as if JR had instructed the team to be more physical in this game and were well in control, competing for and winning second balls and carving out a number of decent chances.

Some smart movement down the left flank saw McNulty dummy to leave O’Nien with a decent opportunity to increase the lead but he was leaning back as he tried to side foot the ball home and it sailed over the bar. On 17 minutes, McGeady fired a powerful curling shot towards the top right hand corner, after good interplay from Gooch and McNulty. It looked in all the way until Iverson in the Rotherham goal pulled off a fantastic one handed save.

The Millers had a couple of half hearted penalty shouts waved away, but our defence was dealing with everything that was coming their way and then Conor Mclaughlin tried to get on the score sheet but his effort also went high and wide.

The general feeling around me was that another goal or two would settle matters and that opportunity arose just before the half hour mark, when some close passing between McNulty and Gooch, saw the American tripped by Clark Robertson and we all glanced at the ref to make sure he was pointing to the spot. It looked as if Gooch wanted to take the kick himself. The consensus was that he was the appointed penalty taker, but captain for the night Aiden McGeady took the ball from him and placed the ball on the spot. No bother we thought. We have one of the best conversion rates for penalty kicks in the league and McGeady knows what he is doing. There then followed one of the worst penalties I have ever seen. No power, no placement and never left the ground. Daniel Iverson made the simplest of saves and our best chance to put the game to bed had evaporated. Doubtless, had Iverson flung himself towards the post and the ball had trickled under his body McGeady would have been hailed as a genius but to be honest this was as feeble an effort as you are ever likely to see. I hope it was a mis-kick but if it wasn’t then the entire squad must be made to sit and watch this then spend twenty minutes at the next training session practising picking a spot and striking the ball firmly. Fair enough if the keeper makes a great save, but he could have put one of those sausage dog shaped draught excluders on his goal line and it would have prevented the ball going into the net.

Could’ve saved that pen

This seemed to deflate the home players and spur the visitors on as from that moment the tide turned and for the fans a whole hour of frustration was to follow. Somehow, if we had played badly for the whole 90 minutes and come away with a point it would have been more satisfactory than last night, after the perfect start then missing a golden opportunity to put the game to bed

McGeady might have made amends just before the interval, making space for himself with one his characteristic spins before curling a shot wide of the right hand post, but we went into the break with the Yorkshire side in the ascendency.

In the latter stages of the first half and immediately from the start of the second Rotherham looked by far the more fluent side. Our play became scrappy, we were losing out in situations which we would have won in the opening spell and it seemed like only a matter of time before the equaliser would come. We were also picking up stupid bookings with Dobson and McLaughlin (C) both going in the referee’s notebook for what looked like innocuous challenges.

At one point the visitors did beat Jon McLaughlin with a deflected shot but play had already been stopped with Jordan Willis on the ground with a potential head injury. There then followed an interchange between the referee and the players which ended in an uncontested dropped ball just outside the penalty area, which the Rotherham player, possibly under the referee’s instruction, passed out to the right wing before play continued normally. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like that before and presumably it is the result of the new laws as they are applied this season.

Wyke came on and introduced a more physical presence. It was McNulty he replaced so I can only assume the Scotsman had taken a knock as he had busied himself all game. O’Nien too had been in the wars and by now was wearing a numberless shirt. He had also been yellow carded for a foul.

Rotherham were piling on the pressure whilst we were on the back foot and it was almost inevitable that they would get one back.

It came from a quick break down the Rotherham right. With our defence flooding back the ball found itself at the feet of Freddy Ladapo who had the presence of mind to look up and spot the run of left winger Jake Hastie. With Conor McLaughlin way out of position and scrambling back hastily across the pitch, Hastie had acres of space and plenty of time to fire hard and low across the other McLaughlin to make it one all.

Maguire came on for McLaughlin as O’Nien slipped back into the number 2 slot and in the dying minutes Grigg came on for Gooch. As the minutes ticked by we were hanging on for a draw, but despite being second best for all but the first half hour, had two chances to grab a winner. First Wyke found himself in the clear after a slip by a Rotherham defender but his shot was blocked by Iverson. Then McGeady sent in another trademark curler across goal which grazed the post. In the six minutes of added time, O’Nien too found himself in a good position breaking into the box but ran it out for a goal kick, when with a little less desperation might have done better.

Must be as frustrated as we are.

A home win would have been hard on Rotherham and had we lost I don’t think anyone would have been surprised but we did dominate for thirty minutes and had we played like that during the last half hour rather than the first, we might have been happy with a point. But as the two blokes passing my open window as I am writing this were saying, it was frustrating!

Highlights via safc.com

Sixer’s Accrington Stanley Soapbox:Wham! Bam! Thank you Stan!

Malcolm Dawson writes……what a contrast between yesterday and my previous visit to The Wham Stadium. Less than twelve months ago I got absolutely drenched as we watched the Lads playing for 70 odd minutes in a mud bath before the game was eventually called off. What’s more my car had collected a slow puncture which meant that I had to stop twice on the way home to try and get some air in my tyres in Accrington town centre then somewhere near Skipton and I drove home in the pitch dark, through driving rain, with the air vents struggling to keep my windscreen clear of the steam rising from my soaking thighs.

Yesterday I sat in glorious sunshine in a tee shirt regretting the fact I hadn’t decided to put my shorts on nor brought along any factor 20 Ambre Solaire (other sun protection creams are available). They’ve done a bit of work to the ground too and I was disappointed to find the double decker bus that sold cheap beer had been replaced by a number of bespoke refreshment bars but with a pie and a pint deal costing only a fiver it was still an inexpensive way to take a break from the diet.

I couldn’t get to the two midweek games we have played since Noah and his sons were spotted doing a bit of DIY on the recreation ground next door but Pete Sixsmith did and he has yet to see us lose there. It’s not a big stand at Accrington and Pete was only a few seats away so I have a pretty good idea about his impressions of a performance which brought about another three points in another 3-1 win. You can find out too by reading yet another top notch match report. 

WHAM! BAM! THANK YOU STAN!

After a two-week break from the County Palatinate, it was back to Lancashire as we trekked over Blubberhouses Moor and along the A59 to Accrington via Colne.

For many of us, this was the fourth visit to the home of the Accrington Nori (it’s a brick) in 9 months. For part timers like me, it was the third one since April. Fortunately, all three have been bathed in sunshine rather than bathed in the precipitation that often hangs over Pendle Hill.

It was an important game for us after the unpleasantness at Peterborough. With more pressure on the ramrod straight shoulders of Jack Ross and players needing to cement their places in the team, it was a game we needed to win.

By 3.05, it didn’t look good. Accrington played a long ball forward, Willis and Ozturk showed perfect manners in leaving it for each other.

Jordan Willis. Photo by courtesy of safc,com

“After you, Alim.”

“No, after you, Jordan.” “

“I say Alim, what’s that cad, Jordan Clark doing thumping the ball into the net?”

“He’s not quite pukka, Jordan.”

The conversation on the terraces was probably not that polite.

(It wasn’t behind me with a proliferation of fs and cs and a bloke in front doing an impression of Bez from the Happy Mondays – MD).

The mood lasted two minutes. Denver Hume put a fine cross in from the left for Lyndon Gooch to volley home a spectacular equaliser, restore equilibrium and establish control.

Half an hour later we were well ahead with goals from Aiden McGeady and Mark McNulty and the game was all but over.

McGeady’s came after a penetrating pass from the lively Gooch. The mercurial Irish international used his twinkling feet to create space and scored for the third successive game in this little corner of North East Lancashire.

Ten minutes later, Accrington’s defence was wide open as Chris Maguire broke away, beat two defenders and slipped the ball to the industrious Mark McNulty who opened his league account for the club with a comfortable finish.

Kick off at The Wham

In between the two goals, Stanley could have equalised when a Cody Bishop shot struck Jordan Willis, fooled John McLaughlin, hit the bar and dropped just the right side of the goal line before being hoofed clear.

The second half was relatively comfortable as Accrington huffed and puffed and resorted to a long ball game, which Ozturk and Willis handled with reasonable aplomb.

McLaughlin had a couple of tricky moments but was never really in any trouble and we had opportunities to wipe out the three-goal deficit in our goal differences.

For Rob Mason, one of the Durham Branch’s intrepid travellers, emotions were split. Another goal or two would put a marker down with the other promotion rivals and quell some of the grumbling. On the other hand, he had 1-3 at 16/1 and with the Mason family mortgage riding on it, he exhaled loudly when Will Grigg fluffed a sitter that would have made it 4-1 and would have reduced he and the delightful Sandra to living in a cardboard box on the mean streets of South Hetton.

It was an adequate performance rather than a great one.

Accrington Market

The game was one that we needed to win and win we did, so what’s not to like about that? Well, it wasn’t the most coherent performance and there were some blips but we could put that down to being rusty after a couple of weeks off.

Stanley look like strugglers for the rest of the season. Without Billy Kee, currently having some serious mental health issues from which we hope he makes a complete recovery, they had little up front and, despite having a grip on midfield, never really threatened.

Sam Finley was the pick of their players and kept them ticking over. His career started at Everton and has taken in stints at Southport, Warrington Town, Wrexham, The New Saints and AFC Fylde before he pitched up at Stanley a couple of years ago. He is a busy player who can pass, tackle and move forward and I admired his technique and commitment. He may not go any higher than League One but it shows that there are players who deserve an opportunity at this level.

For us, Lynden Gooch made a massive contribution with a splendid goal and an excellent pass for the second one. He used the ball well and worked extremely hard. George Dobson, who replaced Max Power, drove us forward but this was not one of Grant Leadbitter’s better games as he was hustled out of it by eager if limited, opponents.

At the back, Denver Hume did well and once they had been re-introduced to each other, Ozturk and Willis looked comfortable. Luke O’Nien was as industrious as ever, but there is a feeling that a good winger will take advantage of him. Accrington didn’t have one.

I liked McNulty, who works really hard and who will score goals at this level, McGeady once again scored at The Crown Ground and Maguire did well enough. The arrival of McGeoch and Grigg reinforced the depth in our squad compared with the relative paucity of the opposition’s.

I enjoyed my day out. The bright lunchtime lights of Colne were not for me so I caught a train on the East Lancashire line that took me from Colne via Nelson, Brierfield, Burnley Central, Burnley Barracks, Rose Hill (change for the Todmorden Loop here), Hapton, Huncoat to Grand Central Station, Accrington before departing for (amongst others) Blackburn, Bamber Bridge and Preston. It crossed three splendid viaducts which gave a clear picture of theses old mill towns, tightly tucked into deep valleys where witches roam and Massey’s Ales are still fondly remembered.

Accrington is a small town of 35,000 people, slightly bigger than Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor and with a clear identity. They have a splendid classical style Town Hall, a shopping centre that has seen better days, a fine (but very quiet) market hall and tributes to The Accrington Pals and the groundsman’s dog from Peel Park.

Tribute to an Accrington groundsman and his dog

After three visits there, I hope not to be visiting again next season and will be happy to travel the rest of the East Lancs line through to either Blackburn or Preston. The two games this week, against Rotherham United and Bolton Wanderers may well define whether I am able to do this.

Ha’way the Lads (in American accent).

Highlights via safc.com

The Brexit Debate. Today: the not so good Europeans of Sunderland AFC

Malcolm Dawson writes…..with the seemingly never ending issue of Brexit, the prorogation of Parliament and the confusing and contradictory outpourings of the major political parties and politicians I decided to take a sideways look at the whole business of leave or remain by comparing the contributions that EU citizens have made to the cause of Sunderland AFC, in the hope it would simplify my thinking.

Yesterday, I made the case for the Remain campaign and in case you missed it you can find it here (and hopefully this will take you there and not some dodgy Turkish escort site!).

Today I shall be looking at some of those players whose time on Wearside was less effective and give weight to the argument that freedom of movement is not always desirable – unless it means moving them on.

Initially I did think that this was going to be an easier task than choosing a team of individuals who had made a positive impact in the club’s history but realised quite quickly that my self imposed criteria, one of which was that I had had to see them play in a Sunderland shirt had actually restricted my options.

For instance, the first name that sprung to mind was that of Arnau Riera. Signed by Niall Quinn, Arnau made his first appearance from the bench at Southend, a game I didn’t go to, then in a League Cup tie away to Bury, his only start, he got himself sent off after only three minutes. I wasn’t at that one either. Then in came Roy Keane and out went the young graduate of Barcelona who had grown up with Lionel Messi and Xavi, so that was an obvious choice rejected.

But undaunted I have set about trawling the memory banks and come up with the following side, set up in a 4-4-2 system with a full bench of 7 subs.

GK. This was my most problematical selection. There were two obvious candidates. Mika and Keiran Westwood.

Mika’s dodgy holiday on Wearside doesn’t qualify him for the Brexit XI

However, whilst I am pretty sure I saw Mika play for the U23s at the Stadium of Light in a game where he made two howlers, I never saw him play for the senior team so I’ve ruled him out. So Westwood it had to be. After all he had played for the Republic of Ireland, which makes him an EU citizen, until I discovered that he had been born in Liverpool and qualified for Ireland owing to the fact that he liked a pint of Guinness, listened to The Corrs and once read Roddy Doyle’s “Barrytown Trilogy.”

Macho Macho man

So it was back to the drawing board and a bit reluctantly I’ve gone for Jurgen Macho.

The Austrian was a decent enough keeper, though he lacked a bit of beef as they say and had a propensity to punch rather than catch (some would say flap at) high balls. Macho joined us in the year 2000, from First Vienna as back up to Tommy Sorensen and made a total of 7 appearances in his first season, two as a sub. He only played 4 times the next season but in his third and final year, before moving to Chelsea he actually started 15 times and also came off the subs’ bench for a third time in his Sunderland career. Of the EU nationals I’ve seen play in goal for Sunderland (I never saw either of Edwin Zoetebier’s two appearances either) he would have to be my choice between the sticks for the Brexiteers XI.

Back 4:

RB Considering we finally ended up in 14th spot in the Premiership in season 2013/14 (but only after winning five of our last six league games) and we got to Wembley in the League Cup, we had a number of poor signings that pre-season. One of those Valentin Roberge is my selection on the right side of the back 4. Coming on a free from Portuguese side Maratimo, I actually thought he looked quite a classy player whenever I saw him but he didn’t really coupé la moutarde as the French never say. He was quite a cultured player but his style didn’t really seemed suited to the English game and after a mere 13 appearances he went back to his native France on loan to Reims.

CB There was a lot of competition for the back 4 positions but my two centre backs are Thomas Helmer and Sotirios Kyrgiakos.

Thomas Helmer – capped 68 times by Germany and a member of the winning side of Euro 96 came to Sunderland in 1999, brought in by Peter Reid to cement our place back in the top flight. He managed all of two games – a 0-0 at home to Arsenal and a 2-1 away win at Elland Road. I was at both of those games but never saw Helmer again. Did Peter Reid not rate him? Was he suffering from homesickness or couldn’t he face the constant singing of the The Dambusters March by opposing fans? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. He came on a free but on massive wages and returned to Germany, on loan to Hertha Berlin, before we’d all linked hands and sung Auld Lang Syne to celebrate the new millennium a year too early.

Do you remember Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the big Greek centre back who came to us on loan from Wolfsburg?

No? Well I do – just. He played a total of four games for us and I know I saw him play but I can’t for the life of me recall who our opponents were. I have vague memories of a lumbering hulk with long hair who looked clumsy on the ball but that’s about it. The main centre back pairing that season was John O’Shea and Titus Bramble with Carlos Cuellar ahead of Kyrgiakos, which perhaps indicates just how much managers Martin O’Neill and Paulo di Canio rated him but like so many on this list he played several times for his country as well as at the highest level in European competitions with Glasgow Rangers. Maybe we just never got to see the real deal.

LB has to be Andreas Dossena. Dossena came to us on a free from Napoli, via a loan spell at Palermo. The Italian could have become a cult figure after making his debut in a 2-1 victory at Sid James’ Park but in only his second game, at Hull City, he was sent off for a needless stamp in the 6th minute of first half stoppage time. Not only was that an act of pure stupidity in itself, being as it was out by the touchline in the opposition’s half with the ref just about to blow for the break, but we were already a goal down thanks to a Carlos Cuellar OG and a man light already courtesy of an idiotic lunging tackle from Barry Lee Cattermole not long before. It was a credit to the nine men still on the pitch that we finished that game without conceding another goal and unlucky in fact not to have got at least a point.

As before the competition is healthy for the midfield berths but my selection lines up like this: Carsten Fredgaard, Jason Denayer, Christian Bassila, Charias Mavrias.

Read moreThe Brexit Debate. Today: the not so good Europeans of Sunderland AFC

The Brexit issue: The good and not so good Europeans of Sunderland AFC

Malcolm Dawson writes…..I was 19 when I was first able to vote in a General Election. Sunderland were the holders of the F.A. Cup and for just over a year the UK had been members of what was then known as the Common Market. Labour became the biggest party after that election in early 74 and promised a referendum on whether or not we should remain in Europe, but with a minority of seats in the House of Commons, P.M. Harold Wilson called another election within six months and got the majority he was looking for. After some negotiation with the powers that be in Brussels, a referendum was held in 1975 when 67% of voters supported the decision to remain.

Europe of course was a vastly different place then. The governments of Spain and Portugal were still dictatorships and despite East Germany’s official name of the German Democratic Republic none of the post war Eastern Bloc countries were democracies. The Baltic states were still a part of the USSR as was the Ukraine and most of the ‘stans.

Fast forward 44 years and I am soon (aged 65 and 7 months) to receive the first instalment of my state pension and bus pass, still with no clear idea if or when we will be taken out of the greatly enlarged institution now known as The European Union, whilst Parliament is prorogued and there seems to be as big an impasse as ever.

I’m not sure I have ever fully understood the arguments for and against and there are still some waverers out there, so to simplify matters I’ve decided to select two teams of  former players of Sunderland AFC to help me decide whether we should (as the Clash once sang) stay or go. And like our esteemed Prime Minister (and I’ll leave you to decide whether I say that ironically or not) I will set out the case for remain today but tomorrow tell you why leaving is an option worth considering.

I have used three criteria in my negotiations:

  • The UK must have been in the Common Market/EEC/EU at the time these players wore a Sunderland shirt in a competitive game. Unfortunately this rules out some great players such as King Charlie.
  • The players must have been EU nationals at the time they played for Sunderland so the fantastic Claudio Reyna and John Mensah are excluded.
  • I must have seen my selections play in the flesh. As I moved away from the North East in the early seventies, and with work commitments and my own involvement in sport for many years, the majority of my team inevitably comes from the Peter Reid era and later. I never got to see Thomas Hauser but EU nationals playing for SAFC were thin on the ground in the 80s and early 90s anyway.

So here, playing 4-4-2 with 7 subs is my REMAIN team.

GK: no thought required here. After Monty my favourite Sunderland goalie of all time is Thomas Sorensen.

Click on the image for the You Tube clip of his penalty save

Having been unable to get a ticket for the 1998 play off final, despite my having been to 43 games home and away that season, I decided I would get a season ticket for our second year at the Stadium of Light and I saw The Great Dane make his debut from my seat in the Premier Concourse, in the opening fixture – a 1-0 victory against QPR. He went on to play 57 times that season, only missing one game when Andy Marriott deputised. The Championship winning side took the title with 105 points with Tommy only conceding 28 goals in the 45 league games he played that season. He saved an Alan Shearer penalty and was the reason the club went on a pre-season tour of Denmark – one of my favourite overseas trips.

Back 4:

Want to see PC score against the Mags? Then click on the image.

RB proved a problem as Poland was not in the EU when Dariusz Kubicki occupied the number 2 shirt so I racked my brains before remembering Patrice Carteron. The Frenchman came to us on loan from St Ettienne but only played 8 times for us – hardly a glowing SAFC career but he did score once in a 1-1 draw at home to the Mags. That in itself gives him hero status so he makes the starting line up.

CBs. Somewhat easier to find a spine in defence with a few more to choose from but I’ve gone for Younes Kaboul and Stanislav Varga.

After a dodgy start at Leicester when he was all over the shop and a sending off for two bookable offences at Bournemouth, Kaboul became one of the stalwarts of Big Sam’s battlers, forming a solid defensive partnership with Lamine Kone helping us pull off another great escape. It took many of us by surprise when he was allowed to go to Watford, citing family reasons.

Jake’s graphic was soon redundant
Stan the Man

In contrast Varga made an instant impression when he debuted in a 1-0 home win against Arsenal in the first game of the 2000/01 season. Unfortunately he was badly injured in the very next game at Maine Road but recovered sufficiently to form an impressive partnership with the Brazilian Emerson Thome as the team went on to finish 7th in the Premiership. Stan was born in what was then Czechoslovakia but won his 50+ caps playing for Slovakia after the former communist state reverted to two independent nations.

LB didn’t take much thinking about the name Patrick van Aanholt immediately springing to mind. Although a registered player with Chelsea, van Aanholt came to us after several loan spells, including one where he appeared seven times for the Mags and twenty times for Coventry City but we never held that against him. Signed by Gus Poyet the Dutchman was a regular during the great escapes under Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce. PvA played in 95 games for us scoring 8 times and despite being sold to Crystal Palace in the 2017 January transfer window still finished joint second top scorer under David Moyes with three goals with only Jermaine Defoe bagging more!

Jake’s PvA graphic

There was plenty of healthy competition for the midfield berths but in the end I have gone with:

Steed Malbranque, Yann M’Vila, Eric Roy and Emanuele Giaccherini.

Malbranque

Steeeeeeeeeeeed! The cry would go up whenever the Belgian produced a moment of magic. Signed by Roy Keane from Spurs, after spells at Lyon and Fulham, Malbranque was versatile enough to play in any of the midfield roles. I’ve put him on the right hand side of my XI but he could quite easily swap sides and play left wing or move into a more central position if required. He was eventually sold to St Ettienne having played 102 times for us, yet surprisingly only finding the back of the net once. Although born in Belgium Steed played all his representative games for the French U16s, U18s and U21s.

Yann M’Vila. For me the writing was on the wall that the club was going down the pan when there was no move to sign M’Vila and American DeAndre Yedlin after Big Sam had engineered yet another great escape.

Slipped through our fingers

M’Vila came to us on loan from the Russian side Rubin Kazan and didn’t have the best of starts, being sent off after an hour in an Under 21’s game against Norwich for head butting an opponent. But he was one of the mainstays of the side that season and earned a MoM award for his part in the 3-0 demolition of the Mags at the SoL, describing it as the best atmosphere he had ever experienced. We all thought he would be signed permanently in the close season and he apparently even paid his own air fare to ensure the deal could be done but for whatever reason it never materialised. It was that which made me think that Ellis Short had lost interest and was not prepared to see Allardyce’s ambitions through to fruition and I was convinced that we would have a new manager before Christmas, even before England’s defeat to Iceland and the offer of the England job.

Ooo la la it’s Eric Roy

Eric Roy. Oooh ahhhh – it’s Eric Rwah ye knaa. Has there ever been a more cultured player to wear a Sunderland shirt? Possibly but there can’t have been that many. Strong in the tackle, confident on the ball and capable of picking out the perfect pass Eric Roy was signed for £200,000 from Marselle in 1999 and although only making 27 appearances for us, left an indelible memory on those of us who saw him. The Frenchman was a shoe-in in my Remain side.

How Jake saw Emanuele Giachherini

Giaccherini might be a debatable selection but I always liked the diminutive Italian who suffered badly with injuries whilst at the club. Tricky on the ball and capable of scoring some fantastic goals as well as giving the side some width, he was a creative winger who provided plenty of assists enabling others to get on the scoresheet. And if you are still a bit doubtful, 29 appearances for the Azurri shows he wasn’t half bad.

Up front another shoe-in with the legend that is Niall Quinn leading the line. Centre forward, manager, Chairman, overseas ambassador the man many of us refer to as Sir or even Saint Niall once said “I learnt my trade at Arsenal, I became a footballer at Manchester City but Sunderland got under my skin.” I don’t really need to go into his playing career but after an injury blighted first season at Roker Park which saw us relegated from the Premier League Quinny went on to form a deadly partnership with Super Kevin Phillips which saw us make the Championship play-offs, get promoted with a record points haul and take the team to successive 7th place finishes in the top flight.

Top man all over the pitch and off the field

Not only was he a tremendous footballer and ambassador for the club and the game but he showed what a top bloke he was when he donated the not inconsiderable proceeds of his testimonial to children’s hospitals in Sunderland and Dublin.

For his strike partner I was tempted to go with Marco Gabbiadini but despite his Italian heritage Marco was born in Nottingham so instead I’ve gone for a real Italian in Fabio Borini. I thought Fabio was a bit of a curate’s egg. I liked him the first season when he came to us on loan from Liverpool. I thought he always worked hard and was capable of scoring some cracking goals, but he went off a bit after he signed for us permanently, having originally elected to fight for his place in the Liverpool team. Of course the fact he scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Mags had nothing to do with his inclusion nor the fact he also scored a penno against them!

Fabio Borini – boom boom. Click on the image for one of his goals that sunk the Mags.

He suffered a fair bit with injuries during his spell with us and I was surprised to find that he actually played a total of 93 times for us. How well he would have linked up with a player like Niall Quinn I’m not sure but to be honest, I was a bit limited in my choice of a second striker and Fabio was really the only one I thought fitted the bill.  

Subs Bench:

I had a number of stoppers in mind. Mart Poom, Jurgen Macho, Simon Mignolet, Lionel Perez and the late Martin Fulop all came to mind and Thomas Myhre didn’t qualify as Norway has never joined the EU, so in the end I settled for Don Vito Manonne, as much for the support he gave to Bradley Lowery and his family alongside Jermaine Defoe, as for his prowess between the sticks. Top bloke.

Bernt Haas. We’ve not had that many decent EU nationals at right back and initially I discounted Hass as he played his internationals for Switzerland but looking him up I found out that he was actually born in Vienna so being Austrian by birth qualifies. He came to us from Grasshoppers but as far as I know never played cricket. However he did play 27 times for us. A place on the bench for him but it was a close call between him and Pascal Chimbonda.

John O’Shea makes the bench for his sterling service to the club as a central defender and captain. There are those who will question the influence he had within the dressing room and the boardroom and he has been accused of undermining some of the managers he has served under but to me he was a stalwart of the club and at one point I wondered if he would be offered a coaching role when his playing days were over.

Jan Kirchoff is included not only because of his ability to play centre back as well as in midfield, but also because when he was fully fit he was pure class. He had a bit of a nightmare debut at Spurs but on his day was one of the best. Calm on the ball with the ability to find a defence splitting pass he was another whose Sunderland career was blighted by injury.

Stefan Schwarz and Bolo Zenden are another two hard working midfielders who make the bench. Schwarz I feel was often underrated but the work he did off the ball, denying opponents space and closing down passing options was first rate. Add to that his prowess in dead ball situations and he is unlucky not to make the starting XI. Bolo would give us a bit of width should we need it and a bit of height too when that was needed. Who will ever forget that great left footed volley he scored against Spurs at the SoL in 2010?

Niklas Bendtner. A bit stuck for a sub forward so I shall overlook his misdemeanours in the centre of Newcastle and in various pizza shops. I never felt he really achieved his full potential with us whilst on loan from Arsenal, though he was another in the side who got a goal against the Mags.

That’s it then. The Remain side of players making the case for the EU.

Tomorrow those who we probably wish we’d never seen on Wearside making the case for the Brexiteers.

 

If there is any copyright claim on the images used in this report, not answered by “fair comment” please let us know and we will remove or acknowledge as requested.

 

 

Sixer’s U23s Soapbox: Sunderland Triumph in Washington DC (Durham Challenge Cup) tie

Malcolm Dawson writes……I was trying to decide whether take the car and go to see our U23s in action in Durham last night or walk up to the local for the Wednesday pub quiz, when I decided that I needed to escape the ever pervading smell of some pan fried mackerel I’d had in an effort to follow the latest dietary guidelines. So leaving the Fabreze and Glade plug ins to do their work I elected that the footy had to be the sensible choice. After a bit of banter with the lady in the shipping container which serves as the refreshment centre (£1.40 for a cup of tea!) I made my way into the stand as the teams took to the field. I was about to take the nearest empty seat, which just happened to be next to one Gary Bennett, when I heard my name called from a couple of rows behind. It was none other than Peter Sixsmith. Was I surprised to see him there? Well of course not but especially as we had both been at the Shildon v Guisborough game the previous evening and talked about going to this one. 

Both were enjoyable games played in a good spirit by four teams all trying to play good football. On Saturday there’s another enjoyable trip to Accrington and a couple of beers in the Peel Park Hotel before the game. What’s not to like about football outside of the Premier League? Oh yes – the Stanley drums but then you can’t have everything.

I know Pete enjoyed last night’s game as much as I did – let him tell you why.

WASHINGTON SQUARED UP.

It was a nostalgic evening at New Ferens Park last night when our Under 23’s took on Washington F.C of the Northern League Second Division in the Preliminary Round of the Durham Challenge Cup.

Nostalgia for the days in the 90’s when our Reserve team turned out there on Monday nights and crowds in excess of 2,000 turned up to watch Andy Marriott, Neil Wainwright and Danny Dichio strut their stuff on what was probably the best grass pitch in County Durham.

Did you ever see him use his “other” foot?

Nostalgia too for some of the opposing players we saw. Paul Merson, then of Villa and playing in a side that were 6 down, turning to the crowd and saying “What the f*** am I doing here? And what the f*** are you lot here doing watching me?”

Gazza in one of his more reflective moments

Or Paul Gascoigne, recovering from injury at Everton, being jeered at the start and then winning a deserved standing ovation as he went off after 70 minutes for his sheer good nature as he smiled, chuckled and gurned his way through his latest recovery and made it very clear that he just loved playing football.

No such stars last night, as our Under 23 squad had a comfortable 5-1 win over a Washington side who played football throughout, refused to lump the ball upfield, committed no egregious fouls and who scored a spectacular goal that, briefly, brought it back to 4-1.

They are playing at NFP because it is available and nothing else is. They left their Albany Park ground a while ago after a long running dispute with the owners – I gather the site is now being converted to housing – and lodged at the Nissan Sports and Social Club for a while.

Now they are playing on an artificial surface at a ground where Durham City played until they too fell out with the owner – they now ground share with Willington – but they have not neglected their Wearside roots and there was a good turnout from the club’s many junior teams of both genders. Some watched the football, some played on their phones, most spent a large amount of the evening scoffing chips, ket and chocolate.

The Under 23s are not doing particularly well in Premier League 2 Division 2 but the purpose is not winning but trying to bring young players through. The Two Jordans started at this level as did Jack Colback (a better player than JH at 18 in some regulars’ books).

Of the current first team squad, Denver Hume, Elliott Embleton, Ethan Robson and to a lesser extent, Duncan Watmore and Grant Leadbitter all learned their trade at Under 23 level and the work done by the likes of Robbie Stockdale, Elliot Dickman and Michael Proctor, should not be dismissed.

Bali Mumba and Benji Kimpioka were missing as they have just returned from international duty so it gave some of the younger lads a chance to show what they could do. The player who really caught the eye was French full back cum winger Williams Kokolo, who has filled out well over the summer without losing any of his speed. He scored a fine goal, defended well and used his developing strength to edge out a couple of dangerous Washington breaks. Definitely one for the EFL Trophy games.

Caught the eye

Lee Connolly scored two well taken goals but was caught offside at least three times as much, which reduced his effectiveness. He is quick and sharp but small so he has to rely on his speed to get away from defenders. Another one for the Trophy, I feel.

Jack Bainbridge and Ruben Sammut both looked very comfortable and these two venerable 22 year olds were withdrawn with half an hour left to allow them to get the pipe and slippers out and relax over a whisky and soda, while young keeper Ahmed Abdelkader made a couple of decent saves and ran his box well.

The crowd of 195, gorged on chips and chocolate, went home happy at witnessing a decent game of football, well refereed and on a pleasantly warm night. Far better than watching the telly, that’s for sure (c. Steve Bruce).

Accrington next and my third visit in 6 months.

Bet we get them in the FA Cup.

The Chapman Report from Peterborough: alarm bells or just a wake up call?

Jake goes all monochrome on a grey day

Malcolm Dawson writes…..with Pete Sixsmith having set himself a southern limit of Lincoln City for away days this season, Bob Chapman steps off the subs’ bench for his take on yesterday’s events. His full time 7 word summary said not a single positive from this shocker.  I have to say I thought we started the game the stronger and until the second goal went in I thought we were still in with a chance, though clear cut chances were few and far between. McNulty looked lively and perhaps might have done better on a couple of occasions but in the end we were well beaten. 

I was going to say well and truly beaten but although it was daft and undisciplined of O’Nien to raise his hands, for Ivan Toney to go to ground clutching his head was scandalous. It may be that the ref would have sent O’Nien off anyway but his shove on Toney’s chest was no worse than much of the pushing and shoving that goes on in midfield when players challenge for a goalkeeper’s clearance.

That’s not sour grapes or an excuse on my part as we were heading for defeat anyway but if video evidence can be used in an appeal then surely it’s not too much to ask that the footballing authorities look at that and similar incidents and think about issuing retrospective punishments to players who they deem have reacted in an unfair manner. It’s a form of simulation after all.

Whilst I am desperately seeking positives I can’t argue that they weren’t heavily outweighed by the negatives, but remember that had we lost 9 of our drawn games last season and won 9 others we would have had 9 more points. That’s a trade I’ll happily make this year but for now, let’s see what Bob thought of our first defeat of the season.

Jake’s view of the subs’ bench

PETERBOROUGH UNITED 3  SUNDERLAND 0 31/08/19

My first contact with Peterborough United came in 1967, when Bedford Town of the Southern League played them in a 3rd Round F A Cup tie. At that time growing up in Bedford, watching Sunderland was always a treat and invariably involved a visit to London. Consequently it usually resulted in a defeat and disappointment. Although there was the odd away win or draw I got used to severe thrashings at a very young age!

Yes, I was at Upton Park when Geoff Hurst scored 6 in that famous 8-0 defeat. I saw the great Jimmy Greaves score 4 in a 5-1 defeat at Spurs and I even managed and still have Colin Suggett’s autograph before another 3-0 demolition at Spurs. Visits to Roker Park were always at the start of the season when we were visiting relations during the summer holiday.

Yet despite all the drubbings and being 230 miles away, Sunderland was my team. My second team was Bedford Town of course. Before I started playing regularly at 14 I would frequently go to The Eyrie where the Eagles- Bedford Town played. I would watch the first team and the reserves play. Bedford Town were in those days one of the larger non league clubs and had an excellent FA Cup Heritage.

The Eyrie as it was.

So on the 26th January 1967 I set off on my bike for the 3rd round tie against The Posh. There would have been a crowd of at least 12,000 for the match, but unfortunately we succumbed to a 6-2 defeat to the league side. After the match it would have been a quick dash to Radio Rentals TV shop window in town to catch the Sunderland result as it came through on the BBC tele -printer. We beat Brentford 5-2 that day and guess who we got in the Monday lunchtime 4th round draw- yes it was Peterborough United.

I have often wondered what would have happened if Bedford Town had beaten Peterborough on that day and gone on to play Sunderland. Even then I had no doubt as to which of the clubs I would want to win and even though Bedford born and bred it would have been Sunderland. My brothers are all the same, so my Dad did a good job on us is all I can say!

Apart from that initial 4th round tie I am sure I have seen all 9 of the other matches with Peterborough, winning or drawing all but one of them. However despite this record I was not that confident about this particular match. Although we were unbeaten in five I am not convinced about our ability to keep a clean sheet. To achieve a 100+ point total will require a significant number of clean sheets. Where they are coming from I do not know, unless the manager can sort out our defence and especially the full back positions.

Where have all the left backs gone?

Problems again I thought when the team was announced without Denver Hume our only recognised left back. As the half progressed I couldn’t understand why I had been so concerned. The game was fairly even with few chances by both sides. Knowing that we always score in this league I was now quietly confident that we would come away with at least a draw.

However with 35 minutes gone and nearly 35 yards out Maddison changed all that. His free kick completely wrong footed our keeper who was left stationary as the ball flew into the net. It had to be Maddison didn’t it? I could have predicted that. I can understand why we didn’t pursue him at £2.5M when he is out of contract in the summer, but there was always the inevitability that he would come good against us.

At half time I was still optimistic that we could get something out of the game. Although McNulty had a chance in the first half, coming back from injury, he had been pretty ineffective and I hoped he would be replaced by Grigg. Wyke had won a fair amount in the air but had little support around him. Playing towards our supporters I was sure we would equalise at some point.

That dream was soon shattered in the 56th minute when Knight increased the lead. Having only created one chance so far there was no way back from this. Inevitably it was Maddison who finished the job off just 12 minutes later.

This was going to be our biggest defeat at this level I thought as both O’Nien and then Wyke were dismissed. My mind went back to Arsenal some 23 years ago when both Martin Scott and Paul Stewart got their marching orders. The referee that day was the incompetent Paul Danson and I felt the current official, Craig Hicks was not far behind. O’Nien fell for a sucker punch by the cheating Toney. As for Wyke just put it down to frustration on his part.

Stepping into Cattermole’s boots

Lets just hope this match was a one off and a wakeup call. A two week break may just give us enough time to sort out our defensive frailties. I felt the performance at the SOL last week was the best we have played during the last two seasons at this level. I can’t believe we can then regress back to sloppy defending and a lack of fire power up front in just 7 days.

In hindsight maybe I should have stuck with Bedford Town. However, maybe not as The Eyrie no longer exists. The club went bust in 1987 and the brewer Charles Wells occupies the site. The club reformed about 5 years later and now play in a much inferior Southern League Division 1 Central. It a far cry from the days when they attracted 18,000 for a cup tie against Everton in 1966.

And finally to finish off, why not ask your friendly Mag what they know about Bedford Town from 1964.

To save you looking, yes we beat them 2-1 in the Cup.

Highlights via safc.com – if you really must

Just click the banner and you’re there