Thank heavens for Pete Sixsmith‘s willingness to keep tabs on Sunderland from Busty Bank in Shildon – or, as in this case, from up in the wilds of Howden-le-Wear. Here are his thoughts on the final preseason friendly.
It’s a beautiful August morning in County Durham. The dog has been delivered and the papers have been walked. The sun is shining over Sixsmith Towers, the sky is as blue as a patch on a Dutchman’s trousers and there is a positive feeling as I sit in the library, surrounded by leather bound copies of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly and Soccer Star.
The mood is positive. We earned a good draw against a team who finished behind only Bayern Munich last season, we have made our first signing of the summer and poor old Newcastle slumped to a defeat at Craven Cottage last night. But there are metaphorical clouds in the metaphorical distance of which more anon.
Let’s start with the game in Altach, home of Austrian Bundesliga club S.C.Reindorf. This neat 8,500 stadium is close to the border with Germany and it drew a crowd of 5,800 to watch one of Europe’s mightiest and best loved clubs take on Borussia Dortmund.
David Moyes turned out his first team squad – all 11 of them. The bench (apart from Jordan Pickford) was made up entirely of youngsters and I am sure that I saw kit man John Cooke handing out Haribo’s to the likes of Gooch, Honeyman and Embleton in case they started sulking and went home early.
It was an interesting game. Dortmund attacked and we defended and defended in a well organised and disciplined way. Jack Rodwell, a man who needs a good start to the season as much as Donald Trump needs a zip across his mouth, filled in at right back and was quietly impressive. The midfield tracked assiduously, with John O’Shea fulfilling the Kirchhoff role and Lee Cattermole showing the cultured and refined Bundesliga Boys that tackling in the English Premier League was, shall we say, a tad agricultural.
Don Fabio worked hard up front as he has done for the entire pre-season. At this rate he will either burst the heart rate monitor they are all wired up to or he will be clapped out by October. He was aided by Duncan Watmore who showed his pace but who needs to work on his touch and composure.
Jeremain Lens had an effective game behind them. His work rate is the complete antithesis of Don Fabio’s but he has quality touches and an eye for a pass. The cross that he put in for Lamine Kone’s second half equaliser was an absolute gem, leaving the Dortmund defenders dithering as they tried to work out where it was going.
They actually strengthened after the break, bringing on the likes of Aubameyang, Gotze and Schurrle, but we continued to thwart them. A special mention here for Josh Robson, on at half time in the right back position who kept the speedy Schurrle well under control. Promising!
I watched the game up at Dawson Grange on Malcolm’s super-duper 40” internet television which was infinitely better than the trusty Toshiba. I watched the Montpelier game on it and it resembled an episode of Trumpton (minus the riots) as the picture was so jumpy. The idea of an internet TV is quite attractive. Someone talk me out of it please.
On my return to the stately pile, I was delighted to see that Moyes has made his first move in the transfer market with the signing of Papy Djilobodji (that one will fool a few spell checkers). He has a good pedigree after several years at Nantes and three months at Chelsea. The French game seems to have a conveyor belt of quick, strong central defenders – with Valentin Roberge being the exception that proves that particular rule. Papy seems pleased to be back in England after he single handedly kept Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga and he should fit in well with Kaboul and Kone.
The cloud is Kone. There is strong talk of Everton moving for him when they finally cave in and allow Stones to move to Manchester City. According to the papers, Koeman is “close to” Kone’s agent so we can but hope that Lamine loves Wearside so much and wants to be part of the new manager’s hopes and dreams.
The sun was restored with the news from Craven Cottage as our Friends From The North slipped up at a team who finished just above the relegation places last season. Lots of excuses from Rafa and Colback was hauled off on the hour. Ah well, 45 games to get it right……….