Meanwhile, in a parallel Sunderland universe…

Stephen Goldsmith writes, Well I have finally managed to find the log in details that were stashed away in an offline safe, following the site being hacked by our Iraqi friends. In a new monthly feature, the returning and permanent Gareth Barker explains what may well have been if those little game changing-incidents had panned out differently. So we bring you…

Meanwhile, in a parallel SAFC universe…

Sunderland started the month with a tricky trip to Anfield. Liverpool just seemed to be gathering steam, with the controversial striker Luis Suarez in top form coming to the game.

Liverpool started the game well and took a deserved lead early on when Rahim Sterling raced clear and lobbed Mignolet. But Sunderland battled back and somehow grabbed an equaliser through James McClean following some nice link up play between himself and Steven Fletcher – he could hardly miss a chance like that, could he?

The game took an extraordinary turn though in the 26th minute. When another long ball caught Sunderland napping, the diminutive Sterling out-muscled Sunderland’s defensive colossus Matthew Kilgallon and created an opportunity for Suarez who raced clear. Staring down the whites of Mignolet’s eyes all seemed a bit much for the Uruguayan, who threw himself to the ground under no pressure whatsoever. As Suarez rolled around in the box clutching his shin and waggling his right arm in pain, Sunderland cleared.

Sunderland came under severe pressure for the rest of the game, but managed to survive and come away with a credible 1-1 draw and a point to start the year.

Liverpool’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, confirmed the club were going to make a “formal complaint” to the FA about the referee, after Suarez was denied a “clear and blatant penalty”. “There was definitely contact at some point this season,” fumed the ex-Swansea gaffa.

A comfortable 3-0 home win against West Ham was sandwiched between two cup ties.

The victory was celebrated throughout the city, with revellers taking part in an inaugural ceremony in which live chickens are beheaded and disembowelled en masse.

Fortunately, Sky didn’t move the game from a Saturday meaning all chickens were put to good use the next day, producing bountiful Sunday lunches across Wearside.

An uneventful 0-0 draw at the Reebok Stadium in the 3rd round of the FA Cup meant Sunderland would go head to head with Bolton again on a cold Tuesday night at the Stadium of Light.

Bolton had a penalty shout turned down in the only real action of the entire game. Colback deemed to have just nicked the ball away from an onrushing Darren Pratley. The game petered into extra time and then, inevitably, penalties.

The outstanding form of Simon Mignolet has been a real bright spot this season, and he didn’t disappoint when it came to the shootout. He saved all but one of Bolton’s spot kicks, producing some incredible saves.

However, with Sunderland not having had a penalty for 27 years, the players were about as potent as Pelé in an erectile dysfunction advert. They missed every single spot kick, with Kilgallon being the prime culprit. Having a chance to tie the shootout with the final Sunderland penalty, he attempted his audacious signature Rabona kick. It was poorly executed with him tumbling to the floor like a damp biscuit, and the ball trundling 5 yards wide of the post. Boos rang around the SOL and Kilgallon was subsequently pelted with rejected chicken carcasses as he left the pitch.

 

The FA Cup defeat was followed by a good 3-2 away win at Wigan. The game that followed was one to forget though.

Sunderland faced Swansea at the Stadium of Light. The game had added interest, with a reported Sunderland target and boyhood Toon fan, Danny Graham in the Swans squad. Much had been spoken about the Gateshead born hit-man before the game, especially speculation regarding the kind of reception he would get with a potential move to Sunderland appearing all but done.

A diabolical game ensued, but livened up late on when Graham emerged from the substitutes’ bench. There were a fair few boos from certain areas of the ground but this only seemed to motivate Graham who looked dangerous immediately. He then went on to punish the home side in the last minute, receiving the ball from a Michu knockdown and sliding the ball past a despairing Mignolet.

The boos got louder, the songs more hateful, too, as the Swansea striker wheeled away in celebration and condemned Sunderland to a poor home defeat. To make matters worse, Steven Fletcher collapsed to the ground after turning awkwardly late on in the game – rupturing his cruciate ligaments and ruling him out for the rest of the season.

This left Sunderland with Connor Wickham as the only fit striker on their books, and with just one day to chase down a new striker before the transfer window slammed shut.

Disaster struck when Graham decided the hostility of the reception he received at the SoL meant that he clearly wasn’t welcome at the club, so subsequently decided to sign for his first club Middlesbrough upon realising nobody in Tyne and Wear or County Durham cares about them. This left Sunderland chasing down secondary targets and they just couldn’t get the deals done in time.

The window closed, and Sunderland were going into the final 5 months of the season with just one fit striker.

Earlier in the window, O’Neill did manage to strengthen in much needed areas with Alfred N’Diaye and Kader Mangane arriving on Wearside. Both players possessed the stature and strength the squad desperately needed and fans had high hopes for the two relatively unknown quantities.

Gareth in a dugout somewhere
Gareth in a dugout somewhere

The most surprising saga regarding the two players occurred a few days after Mangane signed. Scientists descended on Wearside after a 50/50 tackle in training between N’Diaye and Mangane was reported to have been so strong that their clash created a “big bang”.

A tiny galaxy, which scientists are calling ‘N’Gane’, was discovered and further studies are being carried out at the University of Sunderland. What could be the greatest scientific event of our time surely means the Mangane and N’Diaye transfers are the biggest of the window.

In other news…

Sky Sports News presenter, Jim White, was rushed to hospital with severe internal injuries after an incident on transfer deadline day.

Emulating Jimmy Kebe’s Twitter joke, in which he announced he was to sign for Newcastle United on the basis he was French, many other footballers took to tweeting on deadline day in order to get one over on the SSN crew.

Professionals up and down the country announced false deals via the social networking site leading to bedlam in the Sky studios.

The tipping point for White came when Carlos Tevez announced he was going to join his fellow countryman Sergio Torres down at Crawley Town. This startling news sent White jack-knifing across the studio in excitement with such force that the presenter sustained a ruptured spleen. Salut! Sunderland sources understand that White is recovering well in hospital.

And Finally…

The Daily Mail lead with the controversial front page headline “F**k O-Hee-Ho-Hee-Off” after a serious influx of French immigrants infiltrated the North East of England.

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