Sixer’s sojourn: Newcastle lose and Edinburgh rocks as Hearts beat Dundee United

Malcolm Dawson writes….. Well a trip to Hampshire may not have been on Pete Sixsmith’s plans as a build up to Christmas but he’s not a man to let a deluge deter him from finding some football somewhere. The rain may have thwarted his plan for a Northern League double as both Spennymoor (KO 1.00pm) and Shildon (KO 3.00pm) found their pitches suitable for subs – but only of the Captain Nemo, Nautilus variety – but a plastic pitch and a cheap day return to the capital of Scotland allowed him his regular fix of weekend footy. Pete writes….

Pete on his travels
A PLEASANT WEEKEND FOR ONCE.

That was a good weekend for Sunderland fans.

Three points at Southampton, defeats for the bottom three and a real hammering for Villa on Sunday, gives us a breathing space in the perennial struggle against relegation.

It may all have changed by next Sunday – for the worse if we take nothing from the next two home games, for the better if we can avoid defeat, for the infinitely better if we are six points better off at 4.55pm on Saturday 29th.

I had never intended going to Southampton. There was no Durham Branch coach, meaning a potentially expensive and possibly uncomfortable train journey. I have been to St Mary’s twice and it is a fine example of the Middlesbrough/Derby County/Leicester City small but beautifully made new stadium. And I’m getting grumpy about Premier League football in general and our form in particular. So, I gave it a miss.

If missing a game means that we will win, I am prepared to spend the rest of the season watching non league football. It was an excellent victory, one that all the independent sources I have seen say that we thoroughly deserved and that the qualities of Fletcher and Johnson will keep us out of the mire.

I spent the afternoon at New Ferens Park watching Durham City play Newcastle Benfield in the company of several other irregulars. One of them, Keith Scott, is a Sunderland supporter par excellence, a man who was taken to Roker Park by his dad in the 1950’s and who has seen all the ups (not that many) and downs (far too many) of the last 50+ years.

Like me, he is not a radio man. It is difficult to focus on the game you are watching while listening to commentary from Southampton. In addition to that, I took the wrong radio; Radio Newcastle broadcast the home games on DAB and away games on FM. I took the DAB. Not very clever.

So, I got the flashes from 5Live, including the winning goal as I dipped in every ten minutes. With ten minutes left at St Mary’s and the game at New Ferens Park meandering to a very satisfactory end for Durham City, I said my good byes and made for the trusty Mazda.

What to do? Put Barnes and Benno on and tempt fate or listen to the closing stages of Manchester City v Reading on the national station? I opted to leave the radio off until 16.57, by which time it would surely be all over. And it was. As I pulled off the motorway at Bowburn, I picked up an excited Gary Bennett praising the hard work that the players had put in and rejoicing in three very important points.

So a good start to the weekend football wise, and it got better as Fulham were dragged into the melee at the bottom. We need to continue to take points from those around us; the only team in the bottom third to have beaten us is Villa. They may take a while to recover from the shellacking they got at the Rich Man’s Playground yesterday.

The likes of Abramovic at Chelsea, the Emirati’s at Citeh and the Kuwaiti’s at Paris St Germain would think nothing of splashing £24m on a Torres, a Balotelli or an Ibrahamovic. For a similar figure, they could buy one of Britain’s most splendid clubs in Heart of Midlothian F.C.

I spent Sunday at Tynecastle watching their SPL game with Dundee United. The man behind me said that they feared liquidation before the end of the season. Their Lithuanian owner, Roman Romanov has lost interest, players have gone unpaid and the Revenue are after them. They really do fear that this could be the end. After all, if it could happen to Rangers, it could happen to anyone.

The Wheatfield Road Stand at Tynecastle is a brilliant place to watch football. It’s a very steep structure and you almost feel that you could reach out and touch the players from Row 26. I have seen two of my all time favourite games here; a 4-4 draw with Hibs, with Hearts scoring twice in injury time and an absolute classic where they beat Kilmarnock 5-3 in 1997. That game was remarkable for a Pat Nevin master class for an hour before he ran out of steam and a superb hat trick by French centre forward Stephane Adam for the Jambos.

And now, it could all be coming to an end. The fans have raised a staggering £1m in a matter of days to stave off immediate closure and the players have clearly bought into it as they gave their all to defeat Dundee United. The crowd responded to cup final hero Rudi Skacel returning as a United player by giving him a standing ovation in the 51st minute. Skacel wore 51 as a reminder of what must have been a wonderful day for those of a maroon persuasion when they beat city rivals Hibs 5-1 in last seasons SFA Cup Final. We know what it is like to be gubbed like that by the local rivals!!!

The current Hearts team is a mixture of journeymen pros and promising youngsters. There is no Craig Gordon to flog off to England, although I was impressed with sub Callum Patterson when he came on. He’s part of Ricky Sbragia’s Scotland Under 19 squad, so he will benefit from some excellent coaching.

No more football until Boxing Day and hopefully a double header. Spennymoor v Shildon and Us v Manchester City – two wins for the underdogs would be a perfect Christmas present.

A Merry Christmas to all our readers.

See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC:http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739

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Sixer’s Soapbox – Southampton 0 Sunderland 1: the view from the subs’ bench

He’s been threatening to cut back for weeks and with the prospect of a Northern League double header with Spennymoor and Shildon kicking off at 1.00 and 3.00 pm respectively, Pete Sixsmith decided against the long trip to Hampshire so we are grateful to Bob Chapman for filling Pete’s boots, so to speak. As it turned out the floods which affected so much of the country, devastated the non-league programme and disrupted the rail network, but the plastic pitch at New Feren’s Park meant Pete still got a game in and Bob made it safely to the South Coast to witness a welcome Sunderland victory, although that had nothing to do with artificial turf.

Here’s Bob’s take on the game.

Pete, not Bob but both were smiling at 5.00 on Saturday

It’s been hard work following Sunderland this season.

I honestly thought a top 10 finish would be achieved easily with the signings of Fletcher and Johnson. To be languishing towards the foot of the table is certainly disappointing, which made getting out of bed early Saturday morning, for a trip to Southampton very difficult. Well at least I didn’t have a 600 mile round trip to contemplate, only a mere 250 in the company of Mick and Andy and their two sons, Luke and Tom. Certain defeat can always be tempered when you are in good company.

Delayed at Bedford station, waiting for a driver for our train to London, didn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm. However my spirits were raised when a steam engine hauling a Christmas excursion roared through. I have a passion for steam engines and have even travelled to India a number of times to photograph them. Sadly, they are no longer with us, so the sight of a preserved one always brightens my day. To all you other ‘gricers’ the locomotive was A4 Pacific 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’. This loco was built at Doncaster in 1937 and will certainly have carried Sunderland supporters south on many occasions. Suddenly the day was getting better. Maybe the 1937 built engine was a sign. I remembered my Dad who always talked about that pre war Sunderland side and Raich Carter in particular as the best he ever saw. Maybe certain defeat could be avoided after all?

Despite floods and train cancellations we made good speed and in no time met up with Stew, (Sidcup branch chairman) at Waterloo. As usual with train trips the banter is engaging but always the same – predictions for the day, away trips, greatest players. By now I was beginning to think a draw could be possible.

Arriving in Southampton at midday, finding a pub with something to eat was a priority. Tom, Andy’s 12 year old son, suggested that we eat in ‘that lesbian restaurant over there’ but as the Lebanese restaurant had no beer Stew directed us to the Encore where we met up with John Marshall and his mate Mark. With a few pints inside my prediction had gone full circle within a few hours and I was now going for a 2-0 Sunderland win in the group sweepstake!

As for the game itself I always thought that Sunderland were the better side. We started so brightly with a tremendous strike from Sessegnon in the first minute. Had that gone in it may have been a different story, as if we attempted to defend the lead for 90 minutes we may have ended up drawing just like at West Ham. Fortunately we scored at exactly the right moment. It obviously had an impact on the Saints as they never really looked a threat in the second half.

However it was one of those games that I felt we could so easily lose had they managed to score. Although Southampton had good possession at times, they didn’t pose much of a threat up front. For once the defence looked solid with Cuellar and O’Shea both outstanding. Let’s hope we are able to keep Danny Rose for the rest of the season. Once again he had an excellent game. For such a small player I am always amazed by how much he wins in the air. It would be great to get him signed this January. Leave it longer and Spurs will want him back, as by the end of the season he could well be a part of the full international squad.

Ultimately the difference between the two sides could be summed up in two words- Steven Fletcher.

Jake says "Gerrin'"
Here is a quality player and a bargain at £ 12 million. Strong in the air, two good feet, holds the line, runs the channels; he has the lot. He has scored 8 goals this season despite having indifferent service. Personally, I feel he would get more scoring opportunities if Johnson played on the left and Larsson on the right. I know you get a tremendous defensive work rate from McLean but his offensive work has been patchy all season. Currently I think he would make a bigger contribution as an impact player coming off the bench.

Anyway what does it matter? Martin O’Neil and the team got it right. So, it was back to the Encore for a celebration pint before the journey back, happy in the knowledge that we are beginning to play better and have a chance of achieving a top ten finish. Ever the optimist me.

See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC:http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739

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Observing Sunderland – Pete Sixsmith’s mid term review

Salut! Sunderland is the website that others increasingly turn to for opinions and analysis and once again the Observer newspaper asked Pete Sixsmith for his thoughts on the season so far. Here’s what he sent them but you’ll have to buy the paper to see if they print them.

Pete dreaming of watching his club at Wembley. That would be Shildon then.

IT’S BEEN A REAL STINKER SO FAR.

Performances have been well below what many of us hoped for and we are involved in a relegation struggle. The football has been dull and the home game with Queens Park Rangers reached new depths for unimaginative, turgid football. We have rarely imposed ourselves on a game and once we go a goal behind, the result is a foregone conclusion. A charitable mark would be 3/10.

Simon Mignolet has been the one bright spot. Our Belgian keeper has rarely made an error, despite playing behind a defence that appears to love giving opponents a goal start. Should the unimaginable happen, there will be a queue of top notch clubs looking to add him to their squads. Danny Rose has been another player who has triumphed in the face of adversity – but he’s not ours.

On the other hand, Adam Johnson has been a major disappointment and has not made the transition from occasional player at the League Champions to regular player at a (I wish) mid table club. He needs to show that he can have some influence on a game – we haven’t seen any evidence of that yet. James McClean is struggling to recapture last seasons form. Carlos Cuellar and John O’Shea are creaking at the back.

Jake celebrates Jimmy Mac finding his goalscoring touch against Reading

Martin O’Neill was a popular choice twelve months ago and still retains the backing of most fans but 5 out of 10 is about the score he would get. He needs to bring in an authoritative centre half and a midfielder with a bit of pace. Michael Dawson, perhaps? Maybe James McCarthy? A Ukrainian or Belgian keen to make an impact?

As for football losing its soul, I would wholeheartedly agree. Terry, Suarez, Serbia, huge inequalities at the top, Blatter, Barton et al push me more and more towards Northern League football and Rugby League. You just get the feeling that the top end of the game has become a huge sewer – what you put into it is what you get out of it.

Colin Randall disguised as Monsieur Salut, by Matt

See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739



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Sixer’s Soapbox: Sunderland’s visit to Man United was a real fairytale – grim!

Malcolm Dawson writes

It’s the pantomime season and Sunderland’s defenders had obviously rehearsed long and hard as they totally ignored the cries of “he’s behind you” that echoed around Old Trafford throughout the afternoon. It was difficult to decide whether it was Bramble, Cuellar or O’Shea who was playing the back end of the pantomime donkey as they were all out of step at some point, and just like Cinderella they were too often too late for the ball. There was no genie either, although Frazier Campbell did provide one fan with a moment of magic. We’ll let Pete Sixsmith explain.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE – VOLUME 5

Pete's grim fairytale afternoon in Manchester!

Seeing as we haven’t won at Old Trafford since Bruce Stuckey was a Sunderland player and Brian Statham and Noddy Pullar were plying their trade down the road at the cricket ground, I don’t go to the self styled “Theatre of Dreams” with any great hopes.

There have been some decent performances over the years and some shockers. There was a 4-1 mauling in the 19 point season, a memorable debut for Paul Williams in 1990 when Lee Sharpe destroyed his career and the Cantona game, which must have Dickie Ord hiding behind the sofa every time it appears on some compilation programme that fills up the schedules.

This one wasn’t too bad as bad goes. It could have been 5-0 and it could have been 3-2 – and had it been 3-2 who knows what might have happened.

But it wasn’t. In fact, when Tom Cleverley scored the second, I thought there was a chance that the hiding administered to Ipswich Town a few years ago (9-0) was on. That it wasn’t was due to a combination of strong goalkeeping, careless finishing and a general United feeling that they just couldn’t be bothered.

To go two down in twenty minutes means that there is precious little chance of getting back into the game. That both goals were due to woeful defending didn’t help.

The first one was a feeble attempt by Cuellar and Johnson (a right wing combination which would struggle to terrorise the likes of Penrith) to “tackle” Young. His cross was shinned out by O’Shea, straight to van Persie, who could have walked over to the errant Eire international and shook his hand before dispatching it into the net. Had Shildon Sunderland Supporters F.C. done something similar, buckets would have been kicked and water bottles would have been scattered to the four corners of whatever pitch we were playing on.

United then scored a lovely goal, although the fact that Cleverley was allowed so much room by our “defence” contributed to it. We really must try to tackle opponents. It does help.

By this time United were playing some silky football
, but apparently it wasn’t good enough to rouse the crowd from their slumbers. I gather that Fergie has been quite critical of them and I can see why. Do they not exult in the quality of their players? Do they only wake up when they play City or Liverpool ? The ground was almost as quiet as Highbury used to be and Ashburton Grove is now. I know that United fans can be passionate, but they seem like the family who have over indulged on the turkey, sprouts and chocolates and who can’t appreciate a beautifully made Christmas Pudding.

Puddings describes us for the remainder of the first half. Fortunately, Rooney, Evra and van Persie all decided that it was more fun to pick off people in the crowd rather than add to our embarrassment and we trooped off at half time looking like a well beaten side.

Fletcher did not re-appear after the break and was replaced by Connor Wickham, who continued his progress by barging about and unsettling the previously settled United defenders. He is beginning to look like a real prospect. It would be interesting to see him paired with Fletcher at Southampton next week.

However, any hopes of a revival were snuffed out when Cuellar and Bramble allowed van Persie to wriggle between them and set up Rooney to finish the game. Cuellar is patently not a full back and would have been better employed in the centre of defence instead of the woeful Bramble, who is surely heading for a Championship club in January.

This is the area that MON must to strengthen in the upcoming window. We don’t have a centre half that dominates, talks or clears the ball. Michael Dawson’s name has been mentioned. He can’t be any worse than the current crop; O’Shea and Cuellar lack mobility, Bramble is incredibly slow and lacks concentration while Kilgallon is not strong enough. This is the area that will drag us down in 2013.

United’s pace and sheer ability made our midfield look as pedestrian as ever. Gardner worked hard as did McClean, but any thoughts of playing Larsson in the centre of midfield must have disappeared by now. He can’t do it and I expect David Meyler to be in the middle next week. He scored again for Hull and, according to the Football Echo, O’Neill has spoken to Bruce about re-calling him.

We did pull a goal back, which showed the weaknesses that United have at the back. However, when they go forward so effectively, they can cover up these deficiencies. They fell asleep as Sessegnon’s deep cross was headed in by Campbell and were rattled a little as we pushed forward in search of a second that might have had sphincters squeaking in the quiet seats – all 73,200 of them.

Jake's take on Frazier

Once again, we came back reasonably well in the second half, but we were already 3 down – just like we were to Chelsea . All this does is paper over the cracks and partly alleviate the awful defending that had put us in this position. Since the West Bromwich game we have conceded a number of totally avoidable goals which have sent us sliding down the table and which have also worsened our goal difference. Not great, is it?

At least there was one happy Sunderland fan. A group of Dutch fans were sat behind me, one of whom was attending his seventh Sunderland game and had never seen us score. When Frazier’s header hit the net, he was mobbed by his mates and spent the rest of the game with a huge smile on his face.

A consolation goal at Old Trafford – that just about sums us up at the moment. I hope that Southampton score a consolation goal next week – but I’m not holding my breath.

Colin Randall disguised as Monsieur Salut, by Matt

See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739



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Martins Musings from Manchester United 3 SAFC 1: taking heart in defeat

Malcolm Dawson writes...with M. Salut at the pantomime (no not Old Trafford) he has forwarded MON’s post match personal e-mail to me. More of the same I’m afraid, just like the performance! No good the manager taking part in Radio 4’s “Just a Minute” as he regularly commits the cardinal sins of deviation and repetition, whilst his team provides the hesitation. Still here are his words of wisdom…..

Read moreMartins Musings from Manchester United 3 SAFC 1: taking heart in defeat

Sixer’s Sevens: Manchester United 3 Sunderland 1 not unexpected but still disappointing

After the rhetoric and posturing that resulted from a bit of mickey taking at the end of last season no doubt the supporters of Manchester United will be celebrating their revenge. We can expect more than a modicum of gloating and worse but to anyone coming on here to tell us “we told you so”, let me state that this result came as no surprise. That’s not to say we didn’t have hope, but it was in hope and not with expectation that we travelled to Old Trafford this afternoon.Pete Sixsmith‘s seven-word verdict gives the synopsis; come back for Sixer’s full assessment …

At least we got one

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Manchester United 3 Sunderland 1 not unexpected but still disappointing

Sleeping with the enemy: Pete Sixsmith tells Man Utd fans how it is!

Scott the Red, the driving force behind the Republik of Mancunia website certainly provoked reaction from the Sunderland faithful with his reaction to last season’s Poznan. Pete Sixsmith is perhaps less provocative when reciprocating with his responses to the questions put to him for publication on their site. What follows is the set of questions and Sixer’s answers.

Peter Sixsmith

1. Why have Sunderland been so poor this season?

We have never got going. The first home game was postponed, there were two international weekends, the new players (Johnson in particular) took time to settle in, some of the others had a poor pre-season and have not found form. There is no single reason. Most of the players are good enough and the manager is as good as anyone a club like ours can get. Hopefully, we are on the up now – just in time to meet the league leaders.

2. How highly do you rate, O’Shea, Brown and Campbell?

Jake's take on Frazier

Campbell has been very unfortunate with injuries and will be leaving at the end of the season when his contract ends. Brown has been out for 12 months and is, apparently, close to a come back. Hmmm. O’Shea is a good player but his distribution is awful and is reminiscent of the central defenders that Mick McCarthy brought to the club. There is always room to hide at Manchester United; there is nowhere to hide at Sunderland – we don’t have the players who can cover up any deficiencies.

Kieran Richardson by Jake

3. Were you sad to see Richardson leave?

Like O’Shea, he was a good player, but had a tendency to flatter to deceive. He will never be forgotten for rattling home a free kick that beat the Mags four years ago.

4. What do you make of Sunderland fans celebrating City winning the league on the last game of last season?

I saw it as quite funny. I am sure that you know that MUFC is not universally loved and that the manager, although admired, does annoy many opposition fans. The reaction was as much to the incredible turn of events as anything else.

On a serious note, I spent the last 10 minutes of that game watching Paul Scholes, who stopped playing and wandered around, finding it hard to believe that he was likely to win a League Championship medal after coming out of retirement.

And remember, we did take 4 points (should have been 6) off your “noisy neighbours”. I mean, if you can’t win at Wigan…………

Man Utd fans fail to see the funny side

5. If you could have any United player at Sunderland, who would it be an why?

Where to start. A fully fit Vidic would settle us down at the back, where we have started to give away silly goals. He is a beast of a player. I can’t think of any supporter who wouldn’t love to have van Persie. If Steve Bruce were still manager, he would probably sign Bebe.

6. What would realistically make this season a success for Sunderland?

The ideal position for me would be 17th with Newcastle United 18th by a point – we sneaked one off them in October thanks to Demba Ba deflecting a John O’Shea header into the net. Even better if they had Shearer back as manager. An old man can dream………

7. Prediction for the weekend.

I saw us win at Old Trafford 2-1 in 1968, the day that City last won the title prior to 2012. We nearly did it a couple of years ago and the chances of doing it this year are about as good as those of Sooty failing to cover Harry Corbett in ink or water. I am pretty sure you will win, but I travel in hope.

Bye bye everybody. Bye bye.

See the MUFC v SAFC ‘Who are You?’: https://safc.blog/2012/12/the-manchester-united-who-are-you-go-down-sunderland-for-poznan-stunt/

Jake asks: 'greatest mismatch in history or a shock in the waiting?'

Colin Randall disguised as Monsieur Salut, by Matt

See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739



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Colin Randall disguised as Monsieur Salut, by Matt

Sixer’s Soapbox: Sunderland boys pass their Reading test

Malcolm Dawson writes …

It was cold last night at the Stadium of Light, when Reading came into town. It began like a dream, when our own James McClean put the visiting side one nil down. After such a great start, the defence played their part and Mignolet seldom looked troubled. Before very long, with our wide men on song, Sunderland’s lead was doubled. Young Danny Rose as his confidence grows, gets forward more and more. It was his measured kick and Fletcher’s deft flick, that effectively slammed closed the door. There was more of the same as we went through the game, Reading rarely looked in it. And how the crowd roared when Sessegnon scored again in the ninety third minute. So with a win to our name, we can face the next game, with hopes and ambitions anew. Our hiccups now cured, three points are assured – after all it’s only Man U.

Sixer smiles again

Peter Sixsmith, whilst delighted with the result is however, not going overboard…

THE BEGINNINGS OF A REVIVAL OR PAPERING OVER THE CRACKS?

It was a pleasure to get up this morning and select a white shirt for work. That, along with a Sunderland tie, is my usual apparel after a win. They have been lingering at the bottom of the shirt draw since March, making only fleeting appearances.

As are Reading in the Premier League if last night was anything to go by. They were as poor a side as they were the last time they visited us and they went down at the end of that season, while we finished 15th. I can see the same happening this year.

Our performance was good enough to beat Reading. We scored three goals for the first time since Manchester City away last season. (except for Fulham - thanks Sobs for pointing that out - ed) That all three came from players we expect to score is a bonus. No own goals or spectacular attempts from full backs, but solid goals from McClean, Fletcher and Sessegnon, names that should be appearing regularly on the scoresheet, gives some grounds for optimism.

McClean took the first one well, courtesy of some wretched goalkeeping from Federici. He should have caught the corner from Johnson and should have reacted quicker to the Derry man’s shot. He didn’t, and that gave us a perfect start.

Fletcher’s goal was a real striker’s goal. He reacted quickly to Rose’s through ball and finish was a sublime flick that left the keeper standing. At 2-0, it would have taken a Herculean effort by our defence to allow the Biscuitmen anything but crumbs.

Jake says: 'What about Danny Rose eh? Can you be called a colossus if you're only five foot eight?'

We did help them by giving the ball away with regular monotony. It is infuriating to watch the players retain possession by playing it sideways and backwards and then, when the killer ball is required, giving it back to the opposition. All four midfielders were responsible for this and they were aided by O’Shea, whose distribution is on a par with Gary Breen of the fondly remembered 15 point season.

The back four were rarely threatened by a limp Reading attack and this gave Rose plenty of opportunities to move forward. He really does look a good player and my initial doubts about him are disappearing rapidly. He tackles well, goes forward effectively and excites the crowd – something that the likes of Gardner, Colback and Larsson rarely do.

Rose - a thorn in Reading's side

I am sure that MON would like to put him on the permanent staff in January, but that depends on Spurs willingness to sell at a reasonable price and if Rose is willing to come to a club that still has a relegation battle on its hands. His Northern roots will hopefully pull him towards Sunderland rather than any other London club.

However, the real priority is a midfield player who will energise us. The current centre midfield pairing of Larsson (who had a good game last night – but he should have scored) and Colback, does not play at a high enough tempo. A player who can seize a game and score a couple of goals is required – from where I know not. It’s time for Pop Robson and Gordon Chisholm to rack up a few air miles to find us a Ukrainian or a Belgian who can do it.

Our rhythm, what there was of it, was not helped by injuries and subsequent reshuffles. Adam Johnson failed to reappear after half time due to a mean and unpleasant tackle by Jodi McAnuff, who put his leg across Johnson to stop him moving sideways.

It was a nasty challenge, totally unnecessary and reminiscent of one that I made on Barry Thompson in the school yard circa 1967. Barry picked himself up and punched me hard, three times, before saying “You won’t do that again, will you?” Had we a Kevin Ball or Jimmy McNab in this team, McAnuff would have spent the second half hiding in the showers. We are a bit of a soft touch at times.

So, we are out of the bottom three and trail our (allegedly) illustrious neighbours by a point. There is still a long way to go and we must start to pick up points between now and the end of January.

We go to Old Trafford on Saturday. I don’t think the white shirt will be needed on Monday.

Colin Randall disguised as Monsieur Salut, by Matt

See also: Monsieur Salut at ESPN FC. Click on extract for full article:

“In no sense can O’Neill dare to believe the corner has been fully turned. Indeed, he could do worse than invoke that Churchillian mixture of spirit and realism, which can be trimmed for these purposes to ‘not the end, not even the beginning of the end but perhaps the end of the beginning’.”



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Martins Musings from Sunderland 3 – Reading 0: specialist subject – the bleeding obvious

Jake's imagination
Malcolm Dawson writes,

for only the third time this season Martin O’Neill can celebrate a Premiership victory in his personal e-mail to Monsieur Salut but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who feels that there is little there that we couldn’t see for ourselves. Still on a freezing cold night, when McClean’s early strike calmed the beating hearts of the nervous and multiple layers kept the chill at bay we’ll forgive him for that. With a tricky set of fixtures in the offing let’s rejoice with the Boss.

Read moreMartins Musings from Sunderland 3 – Reading 0: specialist subject – the bleeding obvious

The Robson Report: Martin O’Neill’s best man speech

There were a variety of views about just why the team’s performances and results this season have been less than satisfactory in our mini series MON One Year On. Whilst most of our contributors were still behind the manager, Jeremy Robson was not so sure. Now, after the interview on MOTD when his self belief was questioned, our manager has gone public, telling the world he is the only man for the job. Jeremy wonders just why he felt the need to express his opinion so forcefully.

Jeremy Robson

I don’t want to sound wildly boastful, but not only am I the best man for the job, I am actually the only man for the job. We will steer it through, we will get calmer waters ahead – it might take us a few months to do that – and then we will see. If we are continuing for the next couple of years to be in this position, then I will certainly question it then.”

This is the direct quotation from the Sunderland Echo’s interview with Martin O’Neill. Sunderland supporters the world over must, like me, be wondering what to make of these comments.

The consensus appears to take the view that anything other than 3 points against fellow strugglers, Reading will cost him his job. However, Sunderland’s tenure in the Premier League is more important than the manager’s job and far more important than just a single game. There are no “6 pointers” at this stage of the season but that is not understating the significance of this game and the opportunity to manage a win.

There are two ways to interpret his comments. The first is that he has the stalwart support of Ellis Short, and has been told in no uncertain terms that his position is secure. The second explanation is that he is trying to convince himself that the corner will be turned.

The only man for the job?

The very idea that Ellis Short will have made any such assurances to his manager now seems completely absurd. No caveats? No “ifs or buts?” With the team in freefall that is really very difficult to take seriously. If this is the case, will Mr Short be telling Martin the same thing on Christmas Day if we are bottom?

Putting all of the above aside for just a moment, the most puzzling thing is the remark that “it might take us a few months to do that.” Do what exactly?

Does he mean get us relegated? Is he suggesting that we will languish in the bottom 3 ready for the drop until the end of the season, suddenly performing a miraculous escape in the final minutes of the last game of the season, and that we are going to have to simply endure the agonizing torment of another relegation roller coaster?

Relegation dogfights have two possible outcomes. At Sunderland, our dogfights tend to be lost rather than won.

There is a third explanation which is that Martin has just lost any sense of time and the consequences.

We cannot endure another couple of years of this, regardless of what he might be saying here. He seems convinced that he is the best man for the job, despite a string of results that my grandmother, God rest her soul, could have easily achieved with the same group of players. Twelve months ago most of us thought that he was the best man for the job, but how times can change in football.

It doesn’t really matter what I think, or indeed what Martin thinks and he should be in a position to be the better judge. It’s what Ellis Short thinks that is really important. Surely he must have spoken to Niall Quinn about our plight but whether he has or not we may well find out what Ellis is thinking sooner than later.



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