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.
Gareth Barker introduces the latest edition of the Salut! Sunderland podcast created by those fine lads, Gareth and Goldy, in the appropriate guise of Wise Men Say. It’s fair to say we haven’t had the kind of start to the season we had hoped for and Saturday’s visit of Arsenal is the first in a run of tough home fixtures, although in hindsight the run started with Fulham. Is it more doom and gloom? Scroll down, hit the link and find out …
As there was no game to review this week, we set about predicting our fate for the upcoming Premier League encounter with Arsenal. With Wenger finally splashing the cash and bringing in the brilliant Ozil, it gave us even more cause to worry about another possible defeat. I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom, but this week’s pod is tinged with that air of pessimism that seems to sweep in with alarming regularity. Maybe it’s something to do with the sea breeze?
Stephen and I were joined by Michael Graham from the Roker Report in the studio and we were privileged to have Amy Lawrence of the Guardian and Observer on the phone, to give us an Arsenal perspective.
We also hear from Paolo who talks about formations. This man ain’t for changing! Oh, Stephen also talks about a three man midfield. Again.
It’s another 45 minutes of misery, moaning and questionable name pronunciations So sit back, relax and enjoy….. Kind of!
Salut! Sunderland’s Pete Sixsmith can remember the time when the transfer window was just an empty space covered in an old potato sack. Now the latest window has been closed, Peter gives his thoughts on the last minute activity that brought a further three players into the club …
The great day has gone and Sky Sports can put Jim White back in the cupboard until the end of January. The gossip columns go quiet for a couple of weeks before the next batch of rumours start, while the Football League loan market opens next week. And to think that I once thought that the transfer window was a good idea!
A trip to South Norwood was a trip too far for the intrepid Sixer. Having had a few days in the deep south before the Southampton game, followed by three days watching Durham revive their County Championship hopes at Scarborough, Salut’s Pete Sixsmith chose to watch his local Northern League team take another step along the road that leads to Wembley followed by Sky’s coverage of the latest counter revolutionary action at Selhurst Park. It had the makings of a good afternoon but alas the real ale bars of Darlington took a hammering on Saturday night. At least Durham CCC won!
Malcolm Dawson writes….Is PDC’s hard line approach to discipline making life tough for himself? Few of us have been overawed by Stephane Sessegnon’s performances this season, but most of us would have preferred him hungover to the ineffective Ji. The manager was also evasive when asked about Gardner’s absence and despite signing 11 players over the summer today’s starting line up contained 5 of last season’s old guard and in Westwood, Wickham and Ji another three who were on the books but rarely featured. So only Giaccherini, Celustka and Diakite of the summer signings were on the field at the kick off. Fair to say the first half was dreadful but we started the second period brightly. The returning Norman Stanley did what Norman Stanley does and another fightback looked to be on the cards. Then O’Shea did what O’Shea does and it wasn’t. Paolo thinks we were OK in his e-mail to M Salut but truly this is not the start to the season we hoped the revolution would bring.
We conceded from the first corner – the opponent didn’t even jump or challenge, but the ball is two yards from goal and finished at the opponents’ feet. There was a little deflection but it was a very poor goal.
We came back but you can see that to score a goal we have to build up good play, otherwise it’s difficult.
We can only analyse the individual behaviour…because in general, to be honest, talking about football we did well.
They were down when we scored and we were on top, but we kept the ball without trying to do something to hurt the opponent.
Steven Fletcher proved today that even at 40% of his fitness he gives us something.
We didn’t have Jozy [Altidore] today and he’s one of our best players with quality so it’s difficult for us – you can create but it’s difficult to score.
We had four or five chances to counter but we gave the ball away too cheaply.
Today we have brought in Ki Sung-Yueng from Swansea. It’s obvious that he has quality, physical presence and he’s young.
The fact that he has played for a few years already in British football made me happy that he decided to sign for us.
Sessegnon’s drinking spree and Altodore’s hamstring provided both Ji and Wickham with the opportunity to silence their doubters at Selhurst Park. This and another poor first half performance saw an early return to action for Steven Fletcher. He scored of course, but to no avail. As is usual Peter Sixsmith sums up our day in only 7 words….
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) 2
Outplayed, 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
Malcolm Dawson writes: to me yesterday was a microcosm of life as a Sunderland supporter. The mood around the ground was one of excitement and anticipation of a new season ahead. The early signs were positive. It was apparent that the new players had qualities their replacements lacked and the attack minded approach was refreshing after the dross of recent seasons. As the half time whistle blew there was nothing to dampen the optimism, except perhaps that despite the pressure and dominance the Fulham goal was rarely threatened. That those hopes were dashed by an opposition snatch and grab and that the subsequent resignation of those around me that defeat was on the cards summed up my 49 years of following The Lads. But I was encouraged by the approach and what is undoubtedly a stronger squad than the one that finished last season. Peter Sixsmith can appreciate my view but asks the readership whether this is justified or just more false optimism …
Yesterday a disappointing SAFC side lost 2-0 at home to an energetic, workmanlike Crook Town who showed flair when needed and took their chances well, making light of a disorganised defence. To cap it all their keeper saved a potentially game changing penalty which would have made it 1-1. Peter Sixsmith was there watching the Railwaymen of Shildon make a less than impressive start to the season and the discussion around the ground amongst those who follow the other SAFC focused on what kind of season was in store for the revamped Sunderland team. Hoping no doubt that the Fulham defence might be as kind to our new American striker as were the Bosnians (see clip in footnote*)…
Malcolm Dawson writes: As far as I am aware none of the Salut! Sunderland contributors made the trip to Denmark for last night’s 1-0 win, which explains the lack of a Sixer’s Seven and Soapbox. I did think of going, if only to continue my search for Europe’s best beer and sausage combo whilst watching SAFC. Denmark and Germany (slipped over the border from Arnhem) are just ahead of Holland, France and Portugal in this gourmet contest, so another visit to Scandinavia would only have served to add weight to my argument and waistline. I had already made several commitments to other people this week, including an appointment for a fasting cholesterol test, when the fixture was announced and I couldn’t be fashed to alter my plans. Danish sausage and beer would have meant delaying the blood letting for at least a month and getting back in time for the start of the Test Match at Chester-le Street would have been a rush.
But in the true spirit of fandom, two of the regulars did take in a Sunderland game last evening, travelling independently to a famous North Yorkshire spa town, where Agatha Christie once went missing, I made a speech to the NUT conference (though that might have been Scarborough) and my brother reckoned he had his first ever haddock whilst on a stag weekend (I know my imagination’s running riot too!)
Declining to taste the vile tasting Spa waters of this most attractive of Yorkshire towns, I opted for a very impressive pint of White Rose Bitter in the equally impressive Old Bell Tavern, in the company of my cousin and her husband, both long time Harrogate residents. Kevin is a Leeds United ticket holder and was still rejoicing at the departures of Messrs. Warnock and Bates, one because of the dire football played and the other because he really is one of the things that all football fans dislike. I have yet to hear anybody say a good word about Bates, dating back to a former work colleague who is a long standing Oldham Athletic fan and who remembers him from the 60s when he strutted around the boardroom at Boundary Park.
An enjoyable hour was spent in the company of my 90 year old Aunt, an indomitable lady with an immaculate Irish pedigree, who reminisced about the Leeds that she grew up in during the 1920’s and 30’s and who was still mentally alert enough to discuss the merits of Development Squads playing at Conference North clubs. Well, maybe I made that up as she couldn’t really understand what Sunderland were doing playing in the rather genteel town where she had lived for the last 13 years. But Harrogate seemed a preferable destination to Denmark, particularly as my pint of White Rose came in at £4 less than the Carlsberg being consumed by those who had departed for the Viking lands.
It was a pleasant night at Wetherby Road and a good crowd (over 600) had assembled to watch Town take on the Development Squad. It was a strong Sunderland team as well, with Phil Bardsley continuing his tour of non-league grounds, Billy Knott hoping to impress and Duncan Watmore returning to the ground where he scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win for Altrincham last season.
It was Town who took the lead when former Shildon player Alan White bundled a corner over the line after some less than impressive defending and some poor goalkeeping from 18 year old Max Stryjek. A well taken goal from Duncan Watmore levelled the scores and then an excellent free kick from Billy Knott put us ahead. Watmore and Adam Mitchell missed chances to put the game to bed before the interval, but the general consensus among the Town cognoscenti was that this was a good side.
The second half saw fewer chances as Harrogate tightened up at the back and pushed forward down the flanks, thanks to a nippy winger called Dominic Rowe. He gave Liam Marrs a tough time but there was nobody sharp enough to get on the end of his crosses and we held out for a win. Kevin Ball was in charge, still limping after an operation and the imparter of good advice to his young charges. His mastery of the rhetorical question was evident here in this conversation with full back Scott Ferguson; “Did you see to pick up that winger, Scotty?” Pause. “No you bloody didn’t. Make sure you do next time”. He did.
Gordon Armstrong was also there and he passed on a complimentary ticket to me and another Sunderland fan standing in the queue to get in, which was very kind of him. He is a players’ agent now and looks after the affairs of some of the Development Squad. He may well be looking to get at least two of the names he mentioned loan moves to Football League clubs in the next few months if they are to progress.
It was a pleasant drive home, made more enjoyable by Stuart Maconie’s People Songs on Radio 2, focusing on Northern Ireland in the 70’s and 80’s and built around Paul McCartney’s “Let’s Give Ireland Back to the Irish”. Fine sentiments, but an execrable song.
In a most competitive, enjoyable contest Sunderland U21s ran out 2-1 winners against Conference North side, Harrogate Town on Wednesday evening, before a crowd of just over 600.
In lovely conditions for football, sunny and windless and on a good early season surface, Sunderland played a high tempo, short-passing, attacking game constantly looking to put the opposition under pressure. Despite one or two alarms we largely controlled the match with Harrogate having to work hard to stem the numerous attacks.
It was good to see Kevin Ball once again in charge of a young team with the addition of out of favour Phil Bardsley. Bally seemed to have a pronounced limp which I hope isn’t serious. We lined up as Stryek (with Pickford doing his goalkeeping stuff on loan at Burton Albion) Mars, Ferguson, Agnew, Harrison, Bardsley, Watmore, Gorrin, Lawson, Knott and Mitchell. On the bench were: Honeyman, Talbot, Holland, Cartwright and McNamee.
Harrogate took the lead after about six minutes following some defensive indecision with the keeper apparently at fault, but two quick fire replies from a skilful Watmore finish and a Billy Knott free-kick saw Sunderland back in the ascendancy by the quarter of an hour mark. Watmore had an excellent first half – pacy with good control and fine decision-making. He looked a genuine prospect. Bardsley played with energy and enthusiasm seemingly enjoying himself. There was no further score but it was a proper game throughout, rather than a mere ‘friendly’.
The Harrogate ‘keeper made two smart saves in the second half which was generally lacking the excitement of the first. Overall Billy Knott was the star player, always involved and looking to be creative and seeking the quick pass. Adam Mars had a noticeably good second half and honourable mentions need to be given to Alex Gorrin in mid-field and Adam Mitchell on the left wing.
During the game I got talking to a Hibs fan and we had a good old reminisce about Neil Martin, Joe Baker and of course Steven Fletcher, whom he rated very highly. I don’t know how the game came to be arranged but Sunderland gave a great account in all areas and conducted themselves in the most professional way that Paolo seems determined to encourage.
Malcolm Dawson writes: we are used to hearing managers make excuses and tell us to take the positives from defeat so it comes as something of a surprise to hear the current incumbent tell us he is not happy with a win. It was, as Spurs fans will be quick to point out, only a pre season friendly but it tells us something about the personality of the man in charge that he is taking every game seriously. Ten days to the opening game of the new season. M Salut will be expecting some interesting things to come in Paolo’s personal e-mails …