Monsieur Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith is a proper football fan. Prawn sandwiches may be an odd thing to call posh (copyright Roy Keane) but you wouldn’t catch Sixer eating one at the game all the same. Nor should you look out for him in the East Stand on Sunday and expect to see him with a happy plastic clapper. Here’s his rather appealing, if reactionary, rant …
Some of the readership may have noticed that I passed my 65th birthday recently. I am now in receipt of the state pension, thanks to that nice Mr Lloyd George and am also entitled to stand in the Post Office on pension day and grumble about all and sundry.
There are few things more gratifying than a good grumble. I can grumble about the demise of bus conductors, the passing of Saturday evening football papers and the state of modern footballers, not one of whom can hold a candle to Johnnie Crossan, Charlie Hurley or Jackie Overfield.
I can also grumble about how the top division has changed from a league where there were solid, middle ranking, predominantly northern clubs like ourselves, them up the road and Aston Villa, while the likes of Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City planned journeys to Hartlepool, Barrow and Bristol City.
Now, with the entirely possible departure of the two Wear and Tyne rivals with the Villa, the likes of Burton Albion, Brentford and Ipswich Town will be anticipating some seriously wounded opposition descending on their towns and grounds, while local publicans will be torn between making money or preserving their pub fixtures and fittings.
Meanwhile Dean Court, Vicarage Road and, possibly, the Brighton and Hove Community Stadium, while continuing to attract genteel football fans to their home games, will do their best to create some kind of atmosphere. They are in towns where football is an adjunct to life, not actual life as it is on the banks of the Wear and the Tyne.
Let’s have a look at our next two opponents. First up on Sunday are Leicester City, followed six days later by Norwich City.
What do these two clubs have in common? They both have the suffix “City”. They have both been in the third tier of English football relatively recently. They both have stadiums that take round about 30,000. And both have beaten Sunderland quite convincingly this season.
But there is one other thing that unites the teams whose stadiums are near those two mighty rivers, the Soar and the Wensum: plastic clappers.
Last seen at Craven Cottage when Fulham slid into Championship obscurity, both of these clubs have distributed plastic clappers in club colours to “create an atmosphere” in their grounds. And what a row they make …
It looks like a paper fan and makes a noise when you wave it. Every Norwich supporter who took his or her seat last Saturday when they beat Newcastle was given one.
It must have been the fearsome did they make that prompted Check Tiote to give away a needless free kick that led to the first goal and for Steven Taylor to play like a complete ass throughout – although he rarely needs an excuse to do that.
Watching on Match of the Day, I saw grown men (and Stephen Fry) sitting there waving these blooming things when they should have been up on their feet urging their team on with a huge roar. But maybe that is just a bit too rough for these sweet Norfolk types.
Leicester City have been using them since September when the club made it policy to distribute them at their newish stadium. City said that “when we don’t use them the stadium is relatively quiet, even when we are doing well”, which is a staggering thing to admit.
Can you imagine that happening at Sunderland or Newcastle or Villa – the quiet stadium, rather than any of the teams doing well?
If an atmosphere has to be drummed up by sitting there banging bits of plastic together, things really have come to a pretty pass.
I remember the Roker Roar when we beat Everton in the FA Cup in 1964 and the noise when we won promotion at the end of that season.
I was there on that ear splitting night when we beat Manchester City in ’73 and the atmosphere when Sheffield United were beaten in the playoffs in ’98 was the best I have experienced at the Stadium – almost matched a couple of years later when we scored twice in the second half to draw with Newcastle.
There were no plastic clappers at any of those games, nor were there at Villa Park in 2008 when a huge away following roared the team home after Michael Chopra (now at Alloa Athletic) had put us ahead.
Villa wilted because of the sheer noise that 5,000 Sunderland fans created and Villa fans said afterwards that that was what support was all about.
I really think that the FA and the Premier League should step in here and make it perfectly clear that they will not sanction the entry of any club that uses plastic clappers to play in European competition or the Premier League next season. I can think of many thousands of Mackems, Magpies and Villans who would give them unbending support if that were to happen.
I won’t be holding my breath……..