In my ESPN report – http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/3106?cc=5739 – on the spirited draw at the Etihad, I wrote this:
Improbable as survival remains, with the club three points adrift at the bottom and six short of a position of safety with just five games left, Poyet’s own self-respect has to make him want to summon superhuman powers of motivation. Until relegation is mathematically conclusive, he needs to drag every scrap of effort and passion from his team.
He can start by digging out a video recording of a recent Chelsea vs Sunderland Premier game. Not the 7-2 home win in January 2010 that might well have been 12-2, but the same fixture of the following season just 10 months later. Without top scorer Darren Bent, given no hope by pundits, Sunderland waltzed to a 3-0 victory, easily the best result of Steve Bruce’s short managerial reign. And when Poyet has finished drumming into his squad how that game was won, he can produce more recent footage of the 2-1 League Cup win in December, on Sunderland’s road to Wembley.
Salut! Sunderland content may be all over the place in the run-up to the Chelsea game. Sixer’s Etihad Soapbox (yes, he went in the end) arrived early and has been posted but there’s still Keir’s Player Ratings, Guess the Score and goodness knows what else to fit in. First, and maybe therefore out of sequence, let’s welcome back – after a few seasons’ absence, if memory serves – Ray Knight*, a solid London trade unionist, good bloke by all accounts and possessor of just one character defect. He supports Chelsea. It’s a great read all the same, with some priceless gags …
Salut! Sunderland:The Etihad restored pride, but we still look doomed. Good riddance despite the mutual Poyet link or sad to see us go?
Having suffered three relegations during my 49 years of following Chelsea, I know the heartbreak it can bring, so I try not to gloat over the misfortunes of others. Apart from Leeds. Oh yes, I musn’t forget QPR. And Reading too for their attempted assassination of Peter Cech.
And Chelsea bask in unaccustomed warmth. I expected you to get the 2-0 or better vs PSG but it must have been a marvellous feeling. Were you there?
Yes I was there but I’m not sure how many more of these occasions my ticker can take. At my age (63) after the initial explosion of joy, and the euphoria has died down, I have taken to squeezing my balls, just to make sure I am still alive.
Your club is not everyone’s cup of expensive Russian Earl Gray tea but would you agree that you attract much more friendly neutral support when you do well in Europe?
Naah, everybody hates Chelsea now. It has also become compulsory to love Liverpool this season (see most papers and Match of the Day), so if we do pip them for the title, I can see Patrick Barclay and other esteemed columnists calling for a stewards’ inquiry.
And how will the climax to this season pan out at home? Top four in order, pertinent to your interest, and bottom three (ouch!).
I believe in no deity of any kind (other than the holy trinity of Drogba, Zola and Charlie Cooke) but I am extremely superstitious regarding football predictions. No matter, here goes – top four will be Cliftonville, Linfield, Crusaders and those scumbags Portadown, while bottom three will be Ards, Warrenpoint Town and Ballinamallard United. And of course the mighty Glenavon will win the Cup Final on May 3rd.
Until Liverpool’s impressive form took hold, it had broadly been you or City all season. What is your assessment of how well the Special One has led the club and what do you feel lies in store?
One thing I have learnt over the years is never to underestimate Chelsea’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, even with the Special One running the show, but however the season will finish, Jose has shown that since the retirement of Sir Fergie Rednose, he has no equal other than Tony Pulis in getting the best out of whatever players he has at his disposal.
Are we witnessing the end of the Terry/Lampard era or do you see more to come? Assess their contributions to Chelsea and England football.
Even Frankie and Johnny have to call it a day some time. They have been the essence of Chelsea for so long now, though I suspect his supreme Specialness will seek a backroom role for them, as motivational speakers or as goal celebration choreographers perhaps. If only they can find a way of bottling their spirit!
The 20 per cent off promotion is available on all goods at www.camporetro.com until midnight on Monday. Don’t forget to use the code SALUT20 at checkout
Who have been the stars this season, notwithstanding Mourinho’s leaked doubts about strikers, and where are you still vulnerable?
For me Eden Hazard has to be our player of the season. He combines consistency and physical strength with the most outrageous vision, with all the skills needed to turn that vision into tangible results. My wife bought a new Dyson cleaner recently, one of those little ones that you pull behind you. The trouble is, it falls over too easily, so we have named it Torres. Other than that, come back to me on Sunday and I’ll answer the last part of the question.
What do you make of Sunderland’s dreadful season? Easy to predict or a real surprise?
I thought the Di Canio episode was a total shot in the foot – it did little for the club’s PR or their performance, and Sunderland are paying the price for his public humiliation of his own players. Was he a fascist or was he just pointing to all his uncles, who just happened to be sitting I the top tier? I had expectations that Gus would turn it around, but he now seems to be suffering from the curse of the League Cup – shades of 1984-85 maybe, when your boys went down with winners Norwich (in our case, already relegated by the time we reached Wembley – ed!
And if the worst comes to the worst, have we in us to bounce straight back or is it a Notts Forest/Sheff Wed/Wolves scenario in the making?
I think Gus has the makings of a decent manager, but I don’t think we ever got to the bottom of his Brighton sacking – maybe there are some inherent flaws yet to be revealed. If he does go however, you have to ask yourselves whether there is enough in the club apart from the solid support to attract a seasoned and experienced manager. I can’t answer that one.
What have been the high points of your own Chelsea support? And the lows?
The highs – obviously the trophies, which at first came less frequently than my local 377 bus. The 1997 FA Cup was special, coming as it did after 27 barren years (apart from the day out in Grimsby in 1984 when we clinched the 2nd division title), as was the Cup Winners’ Cup the following year, another fabulous day out, this time in Stockholm. I remember watching us clinch the 2005 Premiership, sitting in a pub on the Isle of Wight, that was pretty special, but nothing will top the Champions League victory in Munich 2012. The Munich fans displayed a large mosaic that read “Our city, our stadium, our trophy”. I don’t why they were so downhearted afterwards, they were two thirds correct. And don’t believe all you read about German super efficiency. Not only did they lose the penalty shoot-out but the train home left 70 minutes late. The lows? Only one – Moscow 2008 Champions League final. I have never touched Stella Artois since.
And who are the greatest players you’ve seen in blue (or wish you had been old enough so watch)?
The greatest players have to be the aforementioned Holy Trinity of Drogba, Zola & Cooke, and neither can I forget Osgood and Bonetti. I remember once watching Desailly and his telescopic legs pull off another outrageous tackle, and having to pinch myself – here is probably the world’s greatest defender, and here he is playing for MY club, in MY home city. Then of course there’s Frankie and Johnny.
How did you persuade Peter Reid to buy Gareth Hall?
Peter Reid was under the impression that it was a property deal – he’d been told that Gareth Hall was in fact an old Mormon church behind Sloane Square that, with the right amount of investment could be turned into a highly profitable concert venue.
Thoughts on any other links between our clubs? Porterfield, Poyet of course, Flo?
Flasher Walker in the League Cup Semi Final 2nd leg, 1985, but he has completed his rehabilitation, and has served his debt to society. If I remember correctly, he was played onside by the police horse on the pitch for the third goal.
Does any aspect of modern football truly inspire you?
Eden Hazard in full flight, just when you think you know what he will do next, he goes and does something that appears to defy the laws of physics.
And what appals you?
Those that run the game, particularly FIFA. The ideal scenario is that there is some kind of boycott of the World Cup, causing FIFA to go bankrupt, and old Slack Bladder to be imprisoned in Qatar.
Following on from that, if not already dealt with: I know you’re a trade unionist. Does the gulf between top and bottom, between moneybags clubs and football’s working class roots, bother you?
It bothers me just as many other aspects of capitalist society bother me, but not as much as it would if I supported Darlington. Where would Chelsea be, I wonder if the USSR had not so spectacularly imploded? Maybe playing in the Spartan league, groundsharing with Woking, who can say?
Brazil: really excited or too much of a club man to care?
As everyone knows, football is a highly addictive drug, and I will be getting my fix of course, though it will be interesting to see if the Brazilian people have a say in how it all pans out, vis-à-vis strikes and stuff.
Will you be at our game and what will the score?
I fully intend to occupy my usual seat, and yes, there will definitely be a result.
* Ray Knight on himself:
I am a born and bred Londoner of 63, 40 years a railwayman, mostly at Kings Cross and an RMT activist. My late father took me to Chelsea when I was 13 and I was hooked immediately. He was worried that at the onset of puberty I might veer towards tendencies he considered unwholesome and unnatural, such as White Hart Lane and Highbury. I went to a school where these things were rampant, and he was constantly on the lookout for my moral welfare; for that I have to thank him. I have a season ticket in the old East Stand, but I rarely get to away matches except those at Wembley and other exotic locations like Munich or Amsterdam. Good luck with your quest for Premier League survival – I hope Gus is the right man for the job.
Interview: Colin Randall