Salut! Sunderland was going to run a series called Wembley and Bust. That was then. This is now. It will instead be Wembley and Safe, reviews of one of the most extraordinary if also nerve-wracking seasons in the history of Sunderland AFC.
It will not all make for easy, feelgood reading. There is a plenty of anger out there still, and this is reflected in contributions already received. It does not seem quite the right time to start running negative reviews, but there will be no censorship; people are entitled to be cross about what happened between August, cup runs and derby wins notwithstanding, and April.
Catch Salut! Sunderland on tour at ESPN: The exhilaration of survival as Sunderland breeze past WBA
For now, though, let us wallow in the muddy glory of survival. I have dug out a few quotes. Add your own and I will copy and paste them into the following item.
* Father Marc Lyden-Smith, priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Newcastle, chaplain to Sunderland AFC was the man who had the wonderful idea of popping over to the Vatican and asking Pope Francis to arrange divine intervention when things looked desperate.
Now Fr Marc tweets
“What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad”. – Psalm 125
* Gus Poyet, quoted in the Daily Mail::
I believe in miracles now. I am absolutely delighted and so proud. I was brought in here to do one job, and that was keep us in the Barclays Premier League. We have done that in a certain style, and it will be remembered for ever. It is historic. People will talk about the season Sunderland did it after being seven points adrift with six games left.
* Gary Smith, Newcastle-supporting journalist, writing at nufcfans.co.uk on being happy we stayed up:
‘Before I’m castrated and hung out to dry, let me also state that while I want to see Sunderland stay in the Premier league, I would hate to lose the Tyne/wear derby.
I am a massive Newcastle fan and love the club, city and the people. However, If the derby was taken away from us it would leave a big void in the North East.’
* Football.fr website in France:
* French betting accumulator: win €302 on PSG, Monaco and Sunderland all winning on Wednesday. M Salut is delighted to report that moneybags PSG lost, 2-1 at home to the newly beaten French cup finalists Rennes, while the cup-winners – little Guingamp – drew at moneybags Monaco to keep their own survival hopes alive.
* L’Equipe (after his runs of five goals in three games):
Connor Wickham = Monsieur Miracle
* Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor, SAFC nut, very occasional Salut! Sunderland contributor:
Sunderland up to 14th, could finish 12th. Will look a good season in the history books with Wembley too
* Paul Roberts, SAFC fan, posting to the Blackcats e-mail loop on April 23:
A dreadful season. One embarrassing defeat after another, against the likes of West Ham, Stoke, Swansea and West Brom. Hopeless in front of goal, with a particularly poor goals-for record, and the big-money striker signing, so prolific in other leagues, failing dismally with a paltry two goals. The home record dreadful.
There had been the odd good moment, including surprise wins over the likes of Everton and Man City, but mainly it was all doom and gloom and with Easter approaching the Lads were looking dead and buried, cast adrift at the bottom.
In desperation, the manager, in his first season at the club but rapidly running out of ideas, turned to youth in the form of CW. He had scored regularly at lower levels, but in his limited first-team opportunities hadn’t really looked like achieving much.
It proved to be an inspired move. CW burst onto the scene, full of confidence, and scored the goals which effectively kept us up in a miraculous escape after everyone had written us off.
Sound familiar? Well done to those of you who recognise the references; the season: 1981-82. The manager: Alan Durban. The failing big-money striker: Ally McCoist. The young gun: Colin West.