Rick Haswell-Cohen* is a lucky lad. Fell in love with and married a Mackememoiselle, then woke up one morning to news that the team he’d always supported was suddenly mega-rich. Salut! Sunderland is deeply grateful to Rick, creator of the North-eastern branch of the Manchester City Supports’ Club, for stepping in despite huge pressure of work when the original volunteer had to withdraw. The goodwill has its limits: he doesn’t think the Etihad will be the start of our process of getting over cup disappointment…
On the eve of the Abu Dhabi takeover, it did something it rarely does there, absolutely bucketed down (in Sunderland, that is), and you beat us 3-0 at the Stadium of Light. Did you really need all that money?
Well, we sold Wright Phillips for 21 million and bought him back for 8 million. I think it was just fate that he’d announce his return in style. Unfortunately, the Fair Play rules are anything but that and we can all blame Mr Platini for preventing more teams from breaking through the glassing ceiling.
And do you feel the widening of competition at the top of the EPL is good for English football?
It’s good in as much that it makes it more interesting as teams like City and Spurs have managed to infiltrate the traditional top 4
What is your assessment of Mancini’s work for the club and has he achieved anything that would have been beyond Mark Hughes?
I think he has taken us to the next level and delivered our first trophy after 35 years of hurt. I also believe that if he cannot bring the best out of Balotelli, then no other manager ever will.
Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop
Any nostalgia for City of old even if they didn’t often win 6-1 at Old Trafford?
I bumped into Mick McCarthy a few years ago at Newcastle Airport. He was flying down with squad shortly after they achieved promotion. He was delighted that one of his rare goals was in my top three of all time – a bullet header in the Manchester Derby. He was still bitter though 20 years on that Chris Turner pulled off a fine save to deny him a second.
I believe you live in the North East. Have you developed an affection for any of the clubs in the region?
Well, I’m married to a Mackem so make up your own mind. I was at the last ever game at Roker Park and I’ve learnt that Mary Poppins was not just a Disney movie.
And do you have any special memories- good, bad, amusing – of games between City and Sunderland?
Well, I stupidly took my wife in the away end for the first league game at the Stadium of Light. She was out of her seat celebrating the first goal. She wisely stayed in her seat for the second. By the time, the final goal went in, half the City fans were already on the A19 so she ‘stretched her legs’ again. I was not a happy bunny that night.
What do you make of Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city?
The fans are passionate and I loved the way they celebrated when the dark side were relegated. I worked on Fawcett St for a year and the I found the people warm and friendly.
There are many links between our clubs: Niall Quinn, Peter Reid, Tony Coton, Reyna, (Stephen) Elliott and, going back, Dave Watson, Dennis Tueart, Tony Towers … do any have particular meaning for you?
Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants. I think it’s great that there’s a common respect for a great servant of the beautiful game.
Hand on heart, what will be the top four in order?
Heart….City, Trafford Red Sox, Arsenal, Spurs. My head says United will win it if referees keep denying opponents penalties due to Trafford byelaw 1.34 ‘thou shalt not give away teams any cause for optimism’.
Where will SAFC finish and who will go down?
9th and i think Bolton, QPR and Wolves will go down.
What form of cheating annoys you most, who is/are the worst culprit/s and must it now be accepted as just another part of the modern game?
Simulation to get a fellow professional booked. Luis Suarez is the finest exponent. I think players should receive retrospective bans.
Club v country. Which comes first and why?
Club because it means far more to me. I think England would fare better if they bury the ‘spirit of ’66’ philosophy once and for all.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
I will and I think City will win 3-0. Our home record speaks for itself and if Sunderland come and park the bus, there will only be one outcome.
Rick Haswell-Cohen on Rick Haswell-Cohen:
I’m a 3rd generation Blue from Manchester and I attended my first match aged six against Coventry in that classic brown away strip of theirs. My philosophy always has and always will be “City ’til I die” and I can’t stand the gloryhunters. When I see someone wearing a Man U top in the Metro Centre, I just shake my head because that person has no concept of loyalty and what it means to actually support a team. I moved to the North East in 1997 and love it up here. I have had a season ticket since 2001 and gradually got to meet more and more exiled Blues over the years. I finally decided to form an affiliated branch of the Supporters Club in 2008 and we now have 50 members, 30 of whom are season ticket holders. So if you ever see a North East MCFC flag on TV, look closely and you might just spot the Penshaw monument! (Branch details at this link.)
** Who Ate All The Pies ran the Alan as Mary image as part of its 10 Great Football Insults
Interview: Colin Randall