A warm welcome from Salut! Sunderland to another writer.
Harry Burrell, who this morning finds himself part of a squad that’s growing almost as big as Steve Bruce’s, encountered a classic slice of corporate football discourtesy (from Leicester City) as he prepared for his day out. As for Sunderland, he saw plenty to please him, but also signs of lingering weaknesses …
We had moved to the West Midlands in the early 50s and then across to the Leicester area in the early70s. I can’t exactly remember which match I first watched at Filbert Street, but it must have been during the early to mid 60s.
I don’t recall much detail of these early games, except for one of Jim Montgomery’s fabulous saves. One of the Leicester forwards powered in a header, from just inside the six yard box, which was heading for the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The arms of the Leicester spectators were rising above their shoulders; from their throats came the cry “goa…” At that instant Jim hurled himself at the ball, deflecting it onto the post and away to safety. The arms dropped and the cry was stifled.
Harry, with a cousin’s daughter and her son outside the pub Bobby Kerr then ran
In the opposing goal, Gordon Banks must have been wondering if his save against Pele had really been as good as many people had said it was. Would our pre-season friendly produce
anything to match that?
I have somewhat mixed feelings about pre-season friendly matches. On the one hand, it’s a nice relaxed way to break into a new campaign. But the lack of importance of the result means that you know that most of the players won’t be fully committed and there will be no elation or despondency at the conclusion of the game.
The other thing that put me off going was that Leicester City had twice completely ignored my e-mails asking if they would include a short article about the local branch of the Sunderland supporters’ association in the match
programme. I would not have complained had they refused; that’s their decision, but to not even reply gives them nought out of 10 for manners and customer relations.
Still, I’d bought the tickets, we were less than five miles from the ground and with our bus passes, transport was free. So I kissed the wife goodbye and bundled my 87-year-old mother, complete with gammy knee, into a number 85 bus and off we went. Inside the ground we met a couple of members of the local Sunderland Supporters’ Association and chatted over a drink until it was time to find our seats.
The new stadium is a big improvement on Filbert Street, particularly for away supporters. There are better facilities
and a much improved view, but be warned that on a sunny day, particularly later in the year, you need a cap and or sunglasses. Apart from seating the away supporters facing into the sun, my only other complaint is the lack of a decent screen.
I haven’t met a PA system that can contend with our supporters, so without a screen there is virtually no means of knowing who the starting IX are.
During the game there were plenty of chances created. Most were missed, but there were a number of decent saves made. Mignolet skilfully claimed one ball from the feet of Dany N’Gussan, made two good blocks and turned two fierce shots over the bar. The rest of the team were a bit of a mixture. Ferdinand only lasted about 20 minutes, due to a hamstring pull. Richardson celebrated his new contract by playing at left back and I thought he did OK.
I know he’s not everybody’s cup of tea in that position, but he didn’t get caught defensively and went forward with purpose. Bramble looked solid enough, as did Turner, but they don’t look as if they are tuned in to the same wavelength yet. We are still not defending set pieces very well, particularly at the back post.
The whole of the team, but these two in particular, are going to have to get a better understanding before we play the likes of Blackburn, Bolton and In central midfield, Cattermole and Henderson played reasonably well, but failed to fully impose themselves on a championship side. Fingers crossed that Riveros gets his paperwork sorted quickly. Al Muhammadi gave a good account of himself on the right. He’s quick and works hard, but I’d like to see him against Premier League defences before deciding how I rate him. Malbranque on the other flank was his usual tidy and creative self.
Bent had a poor game. He was either getting caught offside or not quite getting to balls. Those he did get to in an onside position, he failed to control well enough to lead to an end Campbell, quick and active, scored one and apart from missing a good chance to lob the keeper, he had a very good game. He’s looking a better player this year, so Jones and Bent will have some real competition.
There were too many substitutions, particularly in the second half, to go into detail, but three are worth a mention. Jones came on after 75 minutes and looked up for it. His control was good and he attacked the balls coming into the box. Zenden’s contribution was some tidy build up work, a couple of good crosses and a thumping shot from 25+ yards that tested their keeper to his limits. He could only push it back out in front of goal; we had no-one there
to take advantage.
Waghorn came on to a great reception from both sets of supporters. He was full of running, controlled the ball well and was only thwarted from rounding off a good display with a goal by a last-ditch tackle on the six yard line.
In this sort of game, the result is not the major consideration, but this is how the goals came.
In the sixth minute, Campbell was put through by Henderson and finished from close range. Leicester equalised ten minutes later. Cattermole got on the wrong side of a City player, who broke free and two passes later Andy King was slotting the ball past the advancing Simon Mignolet.
In the second half, Henderson’s well struck shot from about 30 yards seemed to take a slight deflection. Chris Wheale was not fully behind the ball and proceeded to do a good impersonation of Rob Green, allowing the ball to squirm from his grasp and trickle into the net. It was such a bad goal that, excluding times when I’ve been in the home supporters’ section, (should I be saying this?) it’s probably the only Sunderland goal that I’ve not jumped
It’s starting to look a bit better. We’ll know how much better in two weeks time.
* The pages of Salut! Sunderland are open to any official of Leicester City who wishes to explain the rank lack of good manners shown towards Harry.