Why has Pete Sixsmith abandoned non-league football, the paqes of Salut! Sunderland, his cat Samson and – just days ahead of Bolton away – the intensive psychological training considered essential for those planning to attend SAFC games?
What are we to read between the lines of a mysterious text message sent from what was meant to be a secret location detached from the British mainland?
Salut! Sunderland can reveal that Sixer is on a mission.
Forget world conflicts, the euro crisis, Liam Fox and the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor. You’ve had the Arab Spring. This is the Mackem Autumn. After years of loyal if at times critical support, Sixer has travelled undercover (under cover, that is, of thermal underwear, several layers of clothing and waterproofs) to Orkney.
His task: to find a safe haven for Steve Bruce whose exile from the Stadium of Light is reported by mischief-makers to be imminent.
Orkney consists of 70 islands. Even so, it has not been easy finding somewhere suitable.
Not everyone wants a deposed dictator around. Will enemies pursue him to the islanders’ peaceable community? Will he spend his time there scheming a comeback? What about the need for impenetrable vaults to accommodate the Payoff, a traditional reward for underachievement in English football.
Can Orkney pass these tests. And will Bruce he contented enough, far from home(s), to pose no threat or nuisance? Do television signals for Newcastle United games reach Orkney?
When last seen, Sixer was heading northwards from the “frenzy of North-eastern football” and had under his arm a copy of Great Expectations.
He has already checked library shelves for any sign of Bruce’s three novels, Striker, Sweeper and Defender ( a fourth, No Striker, is due out soon and speculation about a possible Scottish islands hideaway grew when literary sources said the author might choose a pseudonym derived from the origins of the Bruce clan, de Brus or de Bruis).
Sixer’s solitary subsequent SMS, thought to have been written in code, said only: “Horizontal rain in Kirkwall.”
But insiders say his researches will take him to any or all of the following small islands: Shapinsay, Gairsay, Stronsay, Wyre, Rousay, Egilsay, Eday, Sanday, Westray, Papa Westray, North Ronaldsay, Graemsay, Hoy, South Walls, Burray, Flotta and South Ronaldsay.
To throw off suspicion, he’ll resurface in time for the Reebok and offer polite applause as Bruce takes his place in the dugout. He may not be able to suppress an angry reaction at 10 to 5 but this, too, is seen as part of an elaborate plot to act normally.
Only time will tell what will happen after that.