Each month, if we remember, we make a modest award to the supporter of another club who has impressed most with his or her answers to the “Who are You?” questionnaire …
Salut! Sunderland likes to cause the odd surprise.
Looking back over the “Who are You?” contributions from opposing supporters in February, we were – as often – spoilt for choice.
There was deep knowledge and an anecdotal gem or two from our Chelsea previewer David Harding; solid analysis from Tottenham’s Jim Duggan;
wit and wimsy from our Everton-supporting musician from Derry, Frank Gallagher … and controversy from Stoke City’s Mark Eltringham.
But the controversy with Mark came after the match, when Sunderland and Stoke fans disagreed on the nature of Stoke City’s – how shall we put it? – combative style of play. Mark, in particular, took exception to the charge of thuggishness levelled at Mr Pulis’s team of misunderstood artists.
We think he was over-sensitive, but it is true that the discussion did become uncharacteristically aggressive.
And the fact remains that Mark’s original answers to our questions presented an excellent read and for that reason alone, though M Salut also admired his dogged defence of his team, he gets our “Who are You?” feature’s equivalent of the manager-of-the-month award.
Here is a highly relevant extract from the piece:
Q: Annoying, dirty, negative are among the adjectives I have seen recently to describe Stoke City. Water off a duck’s back or really quite wounding?
A: It’s just a bit dull. Some of the critics aren’t saying anything many of us haven’t said ourselves at some point, but it’s different when other people say it. I don’t think we’re particularly dirty. Even the infamous Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey wasn’t malicious, just clumsy and daft. He’s a good English centre back and clumsy and daft is what they sometimes are. What I don’t like are the managers who try to make the reputation stick to influence officials. I can see why they do it though. Because it works.
I don’t think we’re negative either, just a bit one dimensional and that is changing. The style of play is often based around something the manager refers to as The Cage, which involves a very flat back four, two holding midfielders and a withdrawn target man. But we don’t always stick to it, it’s been changing and in any case the manager has been vindicated in his use of it by the fact we’ve stayed up for what looks like three years when we were expected to get murdered in our first season.
As for being annoying to other people, when it comes to Arsène Wenger that is a good thing. Not only does he appear to believe he gets to have a say in how other teams should play, he gets himself into witchhunts against other clubs and players ignoring the fact that his own players are no different, and in the case of Cesc Fabregas, worse. The more we annoy them lot, the better.
Mark wins a choice between five vouchers for 10 per cent off the cost of staying at hotels linked to the Football Supporters’ Accommodation network – they can be used for non-football stays too – and five folk and roots CDs randomly chosen from the vast Salut! Sunderland collection (the latter may not seem like a prize at all but the musical style is open to limited negotiation). I’ll be in touch with him.
This was Mark’s interview in full.
And the decision in his favour is in no way an attempt to wind up Alec, another Stoke supporter, who rallied to Mark’s aid during the post-match debate and admonished Salut! Sunderland in these terms:
“This site’s self-congratulation for its objectivity – and, my word, if you were chocolate you’d eat yourselves – would reek a little less of hypocrisy if one of you could compose a sensible response to Mark’s reasonable point …”