Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.
West Ham versus Sunderland has never previously produced a goalless draw at the Boleyn Ground and today this was surely not the result that either set of fans or manager would have wished for. It’s difficult to say which will be the happier after this unique result and probably fair to say that neither will be truly satisfied. Sunderland were the better side but once again failed to convert a single chance. The positive is the point gained but here was another missed opportunity to close the gap on another team fearing relegation. Here is where to find Pete Sixsmith’s seven word summing up.
December 14 2013 West Ham Utd (0) 0 Sunderland (0) 0 Better side by miles – couldn’t finish it
December 8 2013 SAFC (1) 1 Tottenham Hotspur (1) 2 Score flatters us as task gets harder
December 4 2013 SAFC (1) 3 Chelsea (2) 4 Pushed a strong side all the way
November 30 2013 Aston Villa (0) 0 SAFC (0) 0 *Villa almost undone by cream soda performance
November 23 2013 Stoke City (1) 2 SAFC (0) 0 Ridiculous red gave us an impossible task
November 10 2013 SAFC (1) 1 Manchester City (0) 0 A wonderfully disciplined performance. Real hope now
November 6 2013 Capital One Cup 4th Round: SAFC (0) 2 Southampton (0) 1 A tidy second half brings Wembley closer
November 2 2013 Hull City (1) SAFC (0) Damage limitation after appalling first half performance
October 27 2013 SAFC (1) 2 Newcastle United (0) 1 Bragging rights and a win. Good combination/ or Perfect Poyet puts another one over Pardew
October 19 2013 Swansea City 4 (0) SAFC 0 (0) No Poyet magic cure for abject failure*
October 5 2013 SAFC (1) 1 Manchester United (0) 2 Better side first half, outclassed in second
September 30 2013 SAFC (0) 1 Liverpool (2) 3 Spirit in abundance, undone by shoddy defending
September 24 2013 Capital One Cup 3rd Round: SAFC (1) 2 Peterborough United (0) 0 A solid performance without any touchline histrionics
September 21 2013 West Bromwich Albion 3 (1) SAFC 0 (0) Coach looks completely out of his depth
September 14 2013 SAFC (0) 1 Arsenal (1) 3 Performance far better than the result suggests
August 31 2013 Crystal Palace (1) 3 SAFC (0) 1 Nowhere near good enough for this league
August 27 2013 Capital One Cup 2nd Round: SAFC (0) 4 MK Dons (1) 2Outplayed, outclassed, somehow got out of jail
August 24 2013 Southampton (0) 1 SAFC (1) 1 The point was better than the performance
August 17 2013 SAFC (0) 0 Fulham (0) 1 Ultimately little difference from previous two seasons
Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson writes…Another frustrating evening at the Stadium of Light saw another defeat and to my eyes a squad of players who just aren’t good enough to compete with the better sides of the Premier League. The good news is that they are probably good enough to compete with the poorer sides and avoid the drop but today’s results from the other grounds did us few favours. The manager in his post match e-mail also seems to be struggling to explain things whilst having a grasp on reality.
It’s difficult to analyse the game because we were solid, we were trying to play and we scored a good goal. Then we conceded at maybe the wrong time but the second-half was very disappointing. Things happen in football and you never know the consequences – it’s a totally different game if you come in at half-time 1-0. Saying that, we talked about things at half-time and I wanted to go out in the second-half and perform because we were playing against a very good team.
Somehow again we conceded an own goal and then it was too open – we needed to go forward and create something somehow and then we leave space at the back.
At the moment it’s very difficult for the players. That’s the way I understand football and that’s the way I would like this team to play football. I’ve said it a few times and I will repeat it now, we cannot do it for long periods. That’s what we try to change, that’s why we give different options, that’s why we finish playing a little more direct, that’s why we changed the personnel.
We’re trying, nobody can say that we are not trying and the players are trying their best but the table is there and like I always say the table doesn’t lie. Other teams are winning somehow and we don’t, so there’s nothing to complain about. Every single game that comes now is bigger than the one before, we need urgency, we need men, we need people on the pitch who can take it.
We’ll train all week and we’re going to keep trying to make them understand things and try to put it on the pitch on Saturday.
Friday night saw Peter Sixsmith in attendance at the first Northern League game to be played at Consett’s new Belle View ground and Saturday saw him forgo his usual Saturday footy fix for the lure of the Rugby League World Cup Final at Old Trafford, leaving it to Super Sub Bob Chapman to step off the Salut! Sunderland bench.
Last weekend although England had run the Kiwis close, they lost to the last kick of the match, meaning it was the 13 man equivalent of the All Blacks that would face up to the mighty Kangaroos. Pete booked his ticket months ago and put his disappointment to one side to root for the underdogs. The result wasn’t to his liking and neither was the journey there or back. Still he managed to catch MOTD and reflects on what he saw at the end of a long day, at Old Trafford and on the Saturday night highlights package.
With Pete Sixsmith indulging his passion for Rugby League at the World Cup Final at Old Trafford today it falls to his fellow Shildonian and East Stand neighbour, Peter Horan to step up from the bench and provide today’s Seven. Pre-match discussion revolved around the replacing of Johnson and Colback with Borini and Gardner and whether or not the team would leave the pitch with the same number of players that walked out of the tunnel prior to Kick Off. The final whistle saw an improvement of sorts, Sunderland leaving the field with a full complement of players, a clean sheet and a share of the spoils enough to get the side off the bottom of the Premier League table. Here, in seven words is the other Peter’s summation of the game.
Wedgewood and Minton, Doulton, Moorcroft and Twyford. All names associated with the Potteries. Now after his performance at the Britannia we can add Kevin Friend’s name to the list. Not so much pottery but potty. His decision to show Brown a red has been widely criticised by all and sundry – though maybe not Mark Hughes – but even Charlie Adam trying hard not to criticise the ref seemed embarrassed in his post match interviews. Peter Sixsmith has endured some disappointing days indulging in his love of sport but events in Brisbane and Wembley were just a precident to another frustrating day watching the Lads in red and white, even if this time they were in blue and yellow.
A DISMAL SATURDAY IN STAFFORDSHIRE
Dismal Saturdays at Stoke happen with monotonous regularity.
If I wanted a cheap laugh, I could say every week, but we’ll pass on that one.
The last few seasons in the Potteries have been fairly dismal. There was an awful 0-0 draw last season which was little better than Wearside League football. We won the year before on a day that was so cold that even the long suffering Stokies, accustomed as they are to watching football on top of a hill in a ground with only one filled in corner, had icicles on their moustaches. And that was only the women.
The year before that, on another nippy day, we contrived to throw away a game that should have been wrapped up long before City equalised and there have been occasions where both Fulop and Gordon have frozen literally and metaphorically at the sight of 6’4” midfielders bearing down on them. Not a happy hunting ground then.
To say that our cause wasn’t helped by the ineptitude and idiocy of Kevin Friend is like saying that the Heads of the Co-op Bank and Toronto’s Mayoral Office have nothing in common. Kev played a blinder, aided and abetted by his assistant, who also played a major part in “The Most Ridiculous Sunderland Sending Off Since Michael Turner at Manchester City” episode – a decision which was not only not overturned but earned an extra game ban for a “frivolous” appeal.
The assistant had given a ludicrous free kick against Brown for a non-existent foul on Jonathan Walters in the twelfth minute. The ball had been won, Walters had gone down with no expectation of a free but the assistant flagged for a foul. There was a widespread shaking of heads and cries of “I say, what a strange decision” from the Sunderland fans stuck in the corner, but the die had been cast or, as they probably still say in the Six Towns, “the clay had been placed on the wheel”. Twenty odd minutes later, and a goal down, Brown made the kind of challenge that he has been making since he was a nipper in Longsight and for which he is renowned. He won the ball, caught Charlie Adam a glancing blow on the ankle before coming away with the ball.
Enter the pantomime villain, Kevin Friend. Clearly influenced by the previous “foul”, he looked, thought and then, to the incredulity of the Sunderland team, bench and support, pulled out a red card and off went Wesley. Uproar from the Sunderland connections – amazement from the Stokies who could hardly believe their luck as one of the obstacles to their first win in 9 departed the field. Now, others may say that we were a goal down to a well taken goal that exposed our defensive frailties, so ultimately, the dismissal made little difference to the outcome. Others (include me in this group) would say that 11 v 10 for an hour is difficult.
Giaccherini, who had been playing well, went off and Roberge filled the gap at the back. He had a good game, looked a decent acquisition and could be a Di Fanti success story – although a certain Italian may disagree. But we didn’t really threaten the Stoke goal. They had a solid group of four at the back and a solid group of four in front of them and despite the best efforts of Adam Johnson, who I thought had an outstanding game, there was no way through.
Fletcher did much better when he wasn’t the lone striker and could have put us ahead in the first half after a superb ball by Johnson put him behind Shawcross. He was not able to get the ball down and Bergovic blocked it. That was the first of two blocks by Bosnia-Herzegovina’s No. 1. The second, also involving Fletcher, could have been a penalty, a sending off and an equaliser. Mr Friend gave nothing. TV replays suggest that he was less wrong on that one than he was on his earlier decision.
N’Zonzi, Stoke’s best player, wrapped it up in the 81st minute and we trooped back to the coach with a number of grievances some imagined but most real. We had played well in the opening twenty minutes, continuing the passing and pressure game that we had practiced against City in the previous game. The opening goal showed our deficiencies in that we did not pick up either N’Zonzi or Adam and Stoke probably had the better of the game after that – not surprising as all but 5 minutes of it were played with a man down.
The red card was thrown into perspective when I saw the tackle that Kevin Mirallas made on Luis Suarez. If Brown’s was a red card, the Belgian’s was worth three: it was high, studs up and caught the player, none of which applied to Brown. Phil Dowd may have been wrong but not anywhere near as wrong as Kevin Friend.
It wrapped up a dismal day which started as I awoke to hear David Warner smashing the England bowling around the Gabba and continued with Jonathan Trott’s eight ball nightmare as I drove to the coach pick up point. It got worse as New Zealand scored the winning try with a mere 20 seconds left to get to the Rugby League World Cup Final and break England’s hearts. Next week’s final will be an antipodean affair with Australia. Then we heard that Palace had won at Hull and we were back propping the rest up. We are still in touch with the other relegation candidates, but we need to start winning games against them. I would have swapped the wins against Newcastle and Manchester City for similar against Hull and Stoke, both of whom will be looking over their shoulders all season.
And to add to the crushing sense of disappointment, the Football Echo announced its closure at the end of this year. The real end of an era. I suspect there may be a nostalgia ridden piece later in the week.
Gus Poyet has every right to be fuming with referee Kevin Friend after today’s game at the Britannia Stadium. Of course Friend has form having shown red cards to Lorik Cana, Lee Cattermole and David Meyler (in the same game) but none could be harsher than that which was shown to Wes Brown this afternoon. It was a game changing decision which made it harder to come back from the 1-0 deficit, his side had conceded just minutes previously. Here, in his post match e-mail to M Salut and a few others is how he diplomatically expresses his thoughts.
I thought that we were much better, in terms of passing the ball and trying to create problems. The team that I have been wanting to see were there and then there was the sending off; it is difficult to accept. There are lots of opinions already on the sending off, it’s national news. I don’t understand it to be honest with you.
I just want to have a normal game away from home and be able to compete and get points on the board. I feel bad for the fans; they travel so far to back their team, believing in what we are doing and then they find themselves watching a team of 10 against 11.
Valentin [Roberge] wasn’t in the squad last week because he was injured, today he was on the bench and then we called upon him after 40 minutes. He showed that he was ready today and if he plays like he did when he came on he will be a very important player for us. It’s a great credit to him for taking the opportunity to show us what he’s capable of doing.
Before Stoke scored, [Steven] Fletcher had a massive chance to put us in front, one of the best we’ve created so far. When you pass the ball and you believe in the game you are playing and make it difficult for the opposition, you will create more chances. Even with 10 men there were spells where we were dominating the game, I’m very proud of the players. Maybe we just need that extra bit of luck in games – a lucky goal or something to go in our favour – and the sooner the better so we can win games.
It’s important that we keep working on things and try to improve as a whole squad.
It all started as brightly as the yellow shirts which the Lads were wearing. The Poyet approach had seen some crisp passing moves and it is fair to say that Sunderland were beginning to outplay the team in red and white before the home side took the lead against the run of play. The influence of Wes Brown since his return from injury cannot be underestimated and he was showing his quality in this game until a preposterous decision from referee Kevin Friend to show the red card for a perfectly executed tackle, saw him off down the tunnel to test the waters of the Stoke City showers.
This was the second away game in a row where Gus Poyet’s half time team talk was directed at a depleted side. Against Hull the nine men came close to salvaging something. It was the same today when Begovic’s challenge on Fletcher might have been a penalty, but our “Friend” the referee didn’t deem it worthy. Eventually Stoke got a second and at the risk of sounding like Arsenal fans we are left bemoaning the performance of the man in the middle. Pete Sixsmith was there and as usual sums up the day in just seven words …..
It’s fair to say that recent results have brought about increased hope in the minds of Sunderland supporters the world over. We know there’s still a long way to go if the club is to get out of the mess in which it finds itself but where, only a few short weeks ago, there was nothing to be seen but the withering flower of certain relegation, the green shoots of optimism are poking through. Martin O’Neill’s sacking, Paulo Di Canio’s appointment, player revolts and Di Canio’s subsequent dismissal have provoked debate amongst the red and white faithful about just who is responsible for the precarious position which Gus Poyet inherited. Through it all the club’s owner Ellis Short has, by and large, escaped unscathed from criticism but never shy to vent his opinions, Salut! Sunderland’s Birflatt Boy has a question him.
The Three Stooges
It’s time for Ellis Short to answer a few very simple questions. In fact he needs to answer only one simple question. What the bloody hell is going on at our club?
Paulo Di Canio has eventually spoken out about his time at Sunderland, brief though it was. Our former “coach” has revealed that he didn’t want any of the players that were signed during the summer. In fact he went on to say that he thought 80% of our players should be English. To the mind of a simple Birflattian, this is only confirming what most of us thought, and assumed was the basis of SAFC’s “new model.”
As we know, the early models of any car are more likely to spend considerably more time at the dealership with a whole host of glitches and problems than later models. This SAFC hot hatch was no exception. Back in the summer PDC made it clear that he wanted a playmaker. He “has to be English.” It was widely assumed that the player he was referring to was Tom Huddlestone, who went to Hull City. In retrospect it’s even more apparent that Huddlestone was the man he wanted, but PDC didn’t get him. Instead he was provided with a Korean loanee by way of Swansea. Our scouting is being led by two Italians who knew nothing (hopefully they know a little more now), about English football when they were given total responsibility for player recruitment. Significantly, Gus Poyet commented earlier this week to say that he wanted more input to player recruitment than his predecessor. Let’s bloody well hope so Ellis, because this model has become the Ford Edsel of the footballing world, and it needs to be overhauled right now.
PDC has carried the can for this whole mess and become the scapegoat for the failure of the team. Responsibility doesn’t rest solely with him. In the fullness of time, PDC may become a very good coach. He is possibly too honest and open about what he thinks, although few of us would argue against most of his opinions. Against that are serious questions about his judgment and approach to players.
At the top of this article I suggested that there was one question, but in reality there is another. If the two remaining Italians are responsible for player recruitment, then who is responsible for deciding which players are sold and when? Is this also the role of the scouts (and former agent), or is this Poyet’s job? Thoughts and opinions on a postcard please?
Malcolm Dawson writes…with Halloween just gone it may have been assumed that the time for waking nightmares had passed, but the visit to Hull proved it hadn’t and with Guy Fawkes night fast approaching, provided Sunderland fans with a pair of dummies to throw on the metaphorical bonfire. Listening to Gary Bennett’s increasing frustration as the first half wore on and with Westwood injured, I speculated on potential changes which might turn things around in the second half and get us the vital three points. Ki, Johnson and Giaccherini were all options who might cause the Hull defence problems and with only three minutes to go until the turn round I was hopeful that the manager would come up with a plan to wipe out the deficit and push on to victory. And then I heard the big man, not once but twice almost break down in disbelief as not one, but two of our players decided to show a total lack of control with stupid (and in Dossena’s case downright dangerous) tackles that gave the ref little option but to show the red card. Sandwiched in between the manager almost got one of his own. That the nine men of the second half not only didn’t concede another goal and came close to equalising demonstrated that this had started as a game where three points was achievable. Once again Pete Sixsmith was there and once again, like many other Sunderland Supporters, he left wondering why he bothers. Thank goodness for Sam Smith’s! CATTERMOLE’S LAST STAND.
As I walked into the Dog and Duck in the lovely town of Beverley, one of the locals, with a distinctly antipodean accent, asked me what I thought the score would be. The Sage of Shildon replied “2-2 as we are in the middle of a good run”, a comment which provoked a hearty chuckle from Messrs Burnip and Scott, stalwart fans of my vintage, who were sat at the other end of the bar. Irony being lost on the Humberside Aussie – a Chelsea fan, so his afternoon would have been more miserable than mine – he went on to tell me and the rest of the pub that he thought that Hull would win “because they have some good players”. He was right on one count.
Indeed, the highlight of the day was the 150 minutes spent in Beverley, a gem of a town, which I have praised to the skies in the past. The White Horse was as it has been since the 1920s – stone flagged floors, gas lamps, copious rooms and Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter at a staggering £1.80 a pint.
The day had started well and had included a tour of the flat lands of the Humber estuary as the coach driver attempted to cover all the B and C roads that criss-crossed the flatlands between Goole and Market Weighton. A couple of pints in East Yorkshire’s county town and then on the road, passing the splendid “Bridge to Nowhere”, catching a glimpse of the redundant floodlights at The Boulevard, former home of Hull FC and then along the once proud but now run down Hessle Road, home to generations of Hull trawlermen and the fearsome Big Lil Bilocca and on to the shiny newish KC Stadium, complete with white telephone box.
Team selection was bold. Three forwards, with Johnson on the bench in favour of Borini. A strong bench with Wes Brown ready to make a comeback and Cabral back in the fold. It looked promising especially when the Tigers lined up with a tight 4-5-1 formation. It was there to be won. It wasn’t. The first 35 minutes were dreadful as we gave the ball away, failed to put together anything resembling a decent move and contrived to conjure up a goal for Hull out of nothing. A poor header by O’Shea from a Livermore free kick (given for a foul by Cattermole – who else?) could have been cleared twice but wasn’t. The ball came in and Cuellar beat Sagbo to it, diverting it past Westwood and into the net. It was the kind of goal that wins a game as poor as this one.
As the game trundled on and Hull weaved pretty patterns without actually doing anything, thoughts turned towards the second half and the possible changes that could be made. Ki for Cattermole perhaps, as the Teessider was not having a great time against opponents who passed the ball round him. Maybe the pace of Giaccherini to replace the lumbering Altidore, who may score before the end of the season but probably won’t.
Then, it all went wrong.
Cattermole, who had cut an increasingly frustrating figure, lunged at Elmohamady, right in front of Andre Marriner. He knew straight away that a red was going to be produced and walked before it was out of his pocket – probably the only decision that Cattermole got right in the game. Thus he collected his sixth red card as a Sunderland player and lost any respect he might have had from the fans after his sterling performance last weekend.
Minutes before his latest act of lunacy, Keiren Westwood had left the field as a result of a clumsy challenge by Paul McShane to be replaced by Vito Mannone. So, down to 10 men and a new keeper in situ, there was a need to play out the remaining three minutes and then regroup.
And then, just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did as Dossena hurtled into Meyler, both feet off the ground and studs up. Off he went, completely ruining Poyet’s plans for his half-time talk. What makes professionals do things like this? Both had had poor first halves and both were probably frustrated by Hull, but to jump in as they did is unforgiveable. That Cattermole fouled Elmohamady shows you what kind of person he is. Would he do that to Gerard, Barry or Osman? Absolutely not – they are tougher and harder than he is. Like the bully he is, he picks on someone he knows is not as “hard” as himself.
As for Dossena, he has a poor disciplinary record in Italy and his dreadful challenge on David Meyler suggests that, like Cattermole, he does not learn. Do we need players like this? I would emphatically suggest that we do not.
The second half was a gutsy performance and saw Wes Brown return to the first team and Mannone make some flying saves. Colback did well, probably because he did not have Cattermole running into him every two minutes and the others got their heads down and played for the shirt – 45 minutes too late!! We even created a good chance with Adam Johnson, a half time replacement for Altidore, foiled by a good save from Harper. Other than that, we defended gamely, tackled properly and resisted the temptation to go down to six on field players thus causing the game to be abandoned.
Another winnable game lost. Three more points thrown away to a team who will, in all probability, be looking over their shoulders come the closing weeks of the season. For all their clever passing, they failed to open us up and the goal was totally avoidable.
In successive weeks, Poyet has seen this group of players at their best and their worst. Both sendings off are indefensible and both players should be told very firmly that they are playing for their futures. In a perfect world where things are well ordered, neither would pull on a shirt again, but sometimes needs must. However, any extended contracts for both of them are out of the question and if we go down by one or three points, they should be defenestrated.
The day epitomised life as a Sunderland supporter; optimism on the way there and in The Dog and Duck; pessimism on the way back. Another good run comes to a premature end!!!!!
In his post match e-mail the manager concentrates on the second half, finding plenty to admire in his nine man team. What he thinks of the first forty five minutes and the actions of the missing two he doesn’t say. I’m pretty sure he’s thinking the same as the rest of us but unlike the previous incumbent it looks like he plans to keep his criticisms in house. Over to you Senor Poyet…
It’s very difficult to analyse [the second] 45 minutes but I would say that tactically it’s the best 45 minutes we’ve played this season by far.
I had to make tough decisions at half time and I needed the players to understand what I needed from them. They reacted superbly, it was an unenviable task.
They needed to do something different and respond and they were outstanding.
When you play like that you’re always going to create a chance or two – and what a chance we created.
On another day maybe we would have left the stadium with a point.
The things that we did with only nine men on the pitch were incredible – there was an unbelievable level on concentration from the players, as well as belief.
We had the right mentality – sure, you need to run around, but you need to believe. If you are weak mentally that’s when you concede.
Three weeks ago we were weak and we collapsed. Maybe you can’t compare the two games, but today I am a proud man.