Not for the first time, Pete Sixsmith’s seven-word summary captures the reality of the game he has just witnessed: in today’s case, a valiant 3-2 defeat at the Emirates.
The measure of how much better we are than the last time we were in the Premiership, or the time before that (for most of two seasons) is that at 2-2, the second half barely begun, Arsenal fans had cause to worry that they might be dropping at least two points.
As Kenwyne Jones ran towards the Sunderland supporters to perform his spectacularly athletic goal celebration (see my picture, sadly after the somersault), how many of the 60,000-odd people present would have been willing to bet very much against an improbable away win?
It didn’t happen, and after hitting the woodwork two or three times, Arsenal snatched a latish winner before Paul McShane’s challenge reduced us to 10 men and ended any realistic chances of the Lads producing another last-ditch escape act.
From a long way away, it looked a reckless rather than malicious lunge, but still a straight red – though Rob Styles was hardly slow in producing cards against our players while disgracefully letting off Van Persie and Flamini the clearest of yellows for their bad fouls on Wallace and Collins.
Despite the suspicions of others, I do not suppose he did it with premeditation. But with those important decisions, and one or two others, Styles did give every indication that he saw his role, in part, as protecting the “big” home team and punishing the “little” away one.
Yet Sunderland played with great spirit. While Arsenal fans in my part of the queue for the Tube afterwards claimed theirs had under-performed, they recognised that we were streets ahead of Derby County, another of the promoted sides but hammered 6-0 without a whimper when they went to the Emirates.
A week today, having caught the disappointing game against Blackburn (though we were only beaten by two defensive errors) and a display packed with pride at Arsenal, I will be flying to a new job in the Emirates, Middle Eastern country not north London football stadium.
Salut! Sunderland will continue. And I hope that by the time I am heading overseas again, you will have had the chance to profit from Pete Sixsmith’s willingness to start contributing a more measured assessment of games.
Thanks to a 3am rise to enable him to catch the Durham branch of the SAFCSA’s coach trip, he was at the Emirates today, with plenty of time to find a full English breakfast and decent pre-match pint along the Holloway Road.
Pete’s first report should appear here by Tuesday.
* Flared Hicks, a subscriber to the Ready to Go SMB forum, has been having trouble counting. After some other kind SMB soul alerted a wider world to Salut! Sunderland, the Flared one suggested that poor old Pete Sixsmith’s summing up of the game stretched to eight words, not the target seven. Never argue with a teacher, pal, even if Pete’s subject is not maths. Just look at Sixer’s Sevens and start doing the mental arithmetic: “Some pride restored after disastrous first 20.”