In which Monsieur Salut decides to keep the Guess the Score competition running, with prizes, until the final whistle sounds at the end of the home banker against Wolves on May 6 to bring our glorious Championship campaign to a close …
The season began with Derby County on a Friday night. Now that so many of us have written off the season, it seems almost academic that the final spurt to, er, deserved relegation/improbable escape (delete according to choice) should start with Derby on a Friday night.
When it comes to Guess the Score, I’ll adopt the words of Bamber Gascoigne from an earlier television age: I’ve started so I’ll finish. [Update: oops, CSB corrects my memory: it was Magnus Magnusson’s catchphrase on Mastermind]
Despite thoughts of withdrawing the modest prize in protest at the appalling betrayal by Sunderland AFC of its supporters, we shall rise above such pettiness. The mug manufacturers of Weardale – our suppliers, Personalised Football Gifts – need not fret after all. Eight more games = up to eight more mugs to be ordered and delivered.
One or two readers are waiting for recent wins in the competition to be followed by receipt of their prizes. Somehow, it has felt more like a chore than usual, doubtless a function of most winning predictions reflecting losing Sunderland performances. But I shall get round to a little catch-up exercise today. Sorry Phil, sorry Steve, sorry anyone else I’ve overlooked.
On to Derby. Our failure to beat them in the first game probably didn’t have the alarm bells clanging too loudly. I do recall feeling a shudder of apprehension given that we were at home and had plenty of experienced, supposedly Premier-standard players still in the squad, but Derby were at that stage fancied as potentially a top two side and Sunderland did not play badly.
That draw was also the start of our only undefeated run of more than three games, followed as it was by a League Cup win at Bury, and a win and draw at Norwich City and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.
Quick quiz: what do Canaries and Owls have in common apart from being birds? Answer: both visit the Stadium of Light in April and will be expecting to fly home with three points apiece.
So what will happen at Pride Park? We can humour ourselves that a win for SAFC accompanied by defeats that day or on Saturday for Barnsley, Burton and Birmingham City would keep Sunderland survival hopes flickeringly alive. Otherwise, it will look even more like and-pigs-will-fly territory than it does already.
Have a go all the same. You might do something Sunderland have rarely managed for a while and win something. Be first with the right scoreline, post it before kickoff, have a UK delivery address and – whoever you support – you will be sent a mug.
Ha’way the Lads.