Morecambe Soapbox: banana skin avoided, now on from Shrimps to Swans

Jake's first winning Soapbox image of the season

Pete Sixsmith reports from our satisfactory win over Morecambe and discusses Martin O’Neill’s options for the trip to freescoring Swansea on Saturday …


Twelve months ago,
we sat in glum silence at the Amex Stadium in sunny, downtown Brighton as Steve Bruce’s bits and pieces team lined up in a 4-6-0 formation and went down to a feeble 1-0 defeat to M Salut’s home town (ouch – ed) club, a defeat that many regarded as the beginning of the end for the Geordie Martyr.

A year on, with Bruce now a distant and fading memory, we sent out a very strong side to take on Morecambe in what is now the Capital One Cup, and finished up comfortable winners. We gave two recent (and hopefully future) internationals debuts and sat back and watched some enjoyable and expansive football.

We clearly needed a game under our belts after the postponement on Saturday and it was a strong side that turned out against opponents who had deprived us of a chance to say farewell to Kevin Phillips by winning at Blackpool in the previous round.

Having ended his pursuit of Steven Fletcher successfully and then persuaded Adam Johnson to throw in his lot with his local club, MON fielded them both, with Johnson starting on the right and Norman Stanley being the apex of the attack, with Johnson and McClean wide and Sess just behind him.

Cattermole and Larsson patrolled the centre of midfield, Bramble partnered O’Shea and Gardner and Colback, last seen as a full back pairing against Abu Dhabi City in January, resumed their defensive duties, such as they were.

Westwood had an outing in goal, although I imagine that he anticipated a quiet evening judging by the deckchair and portable TV he set up in his goalmouth.

There was no sign of Kieran Richardson and the news filtered through that we had accepted a bid from Fulham and that he was discussing terms with them. More on Kieran later in the week.

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In truth, it was as comfortable win as you will see at this stage of the season. Johnson showed some excellent touches as Morecambe doubled up on him. He has quick feet, and puts in a very good ball from wide. The first goal came from a well taken corner and the second after a mazy run and a good pass. James McClean was the recipient in both cases and finished with a good header and a firm shot.

Fletcher’s debut was always going to be more difficult. His pre-season was virtually non-existent due to an ankle injury and his dispute with Wolves. He lasted for 65 minutes and showed some decent touches and a willingness to chase back and tackle. He will need more games before we see the best of him, but he left to warm applause as he was replaced by the more explosive Louis Saha.

Of the rest, Sess started well but faded and probably tried to do a little too much. He laid a couple of superb passes through, but he is a far better player when he brings others in rather than trying to do it all himself as he did at times last night.

Larsson and Cattermole worked as a combination in the middle. Larsson pushed forward and the skipper sat in front of the back four and looked imperious at times as he picked the ball up and moved it around with confidence.

However, there was a first booking of the season for a totally unnecessary foul on a Morecambe player, a foul committed after he had had a chunter at the referee for not giving one on him.

The red mist came down and some refs might well have seen the “tackle” as a piece of retaliation and have taken an even stronger line. He may get away with it in a low key game such as this, but it would be inadvisable to do the same in front of a baying crowd at the Sports Direct or The Britannia.

It’s difficult to know what to say about Morecambe without appearing to be patronising. They never really threatened but they kept their shape and their manager, Jim Bentley, would have been satisfied with their efforts. There were no stand out performances, but they were a well drilled and well organised side who played the right way. The ball was passed rather than lumped up to the forward, where Sunderland fan Richard Brodie, a former Northern League player, ran his proverbials off.

I thought their turnout was very impressive – until Joan Dawson reminded me that home fans were now housed in the South Stand and that the Shrimps were tucked away in the top right hand corner of the Upper North. They supported their team well and I am sure that, at times, they were comparing us unfavourably with Port Vale who had beaten them at home on Saturday.

The team selection for Saturday will be interesting. Does he retain Colback at left back? Is Fletcher fit enough to start a tricky game at Swansea? Cuellar or Bramble against a side who move the ball around well and who, under Michael Laudrup, seem to be more incisive than under Brendan Rogers?

As they used to say in the sitcom Soap, these and many other questions will be answered in the next week. Here’s hoping for lots of positives from South Wales.

The journey home was enlivened by the news from Doncaster as the Geordie Martyr’s team slumped out of the cup. The sound of sharpening knives on Humberside can be heard. He should never have gone to Cleethorpes for his holidays in 1975.

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7 thoughts on “Morecambe Soapbox: banana skin avoided, now on from Shrimps to Swans”

  1. Good friend of mine has a 6 year old who is with Boro. Sunderland and the other lot are also wanting him now. Boro have got their act together with this and John Parnaby is doing and has done a phenomenal job with their academy. His knowledge and contacts within local football will have helped considerably. The Parnabys are a football family. I used to work with his brother Alan in my youth and he was a good player himself. Smashing lad to boot and I was shocked and very saddened to hear that Alan had passed away a few years ago in his early 40s.

    It goes to show that you don’t necessarily need ex pros but someone with a knowledge of the game and locat contacts in abundance.

  2. You’re right, though my point was wider observation that players from here don’t make it as much. Probably got my thoughts tangled a little.

  3. And Teeside and Tyneside put Sunderland to shame with the standard of coaching available from a young age. Have nothing to rival it here. Walk in Wallsend Boys Club and observe the photos of all their graduates. Who do we have? Micky Gray and Jordan Henderson?

    • Very few if any Wallsend Boys Club Players end up at Newcastle. Shearer went to Soton, Beardsley to Carlisle, Bruce to Gillingham, carrick to West Ham, it does appear their are glaring gaps in the scouting procedures as pointed out by yourself above

  4. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned (sarcasm) but I do a spot of coaching. Interesting regarding the Johnson question. My players are Under 9’s.

    Firstly, scouts from all North East clubs attend tournaments and leagues searching for these players and it’s not always as straight forward as the kid playing for who they support. One of my players is a season ticket holder at SAFC and mad on them but as he enjoyed training with Newcastle more than Sunderland for different reasons. You can represent both until you officially sign which is around 8 year old. He had been playing for SAFC, NUFC and Boro since he was 6. He loves Sunderland, hates Newcastle but both he and his Grandad preferred it there to the others. So it may not be as simple as letting him slip through net……but I also have evidence to suggest it also could have well been that.

    The said player is now at Hartlepool, his Grandad disillusioned by the big twos’ lack of communication and direction- but more importantly- their lack of human touch and attention. He done so after consulting a parent of a player from a rival team ours who had been impressed by how much Hartlepool had wanted him and moved him there from Sunderland; the team he supports. So 3 of our players and 3 from this rival team have started to play for Hartlepool…..their was no contact or querying from Sunderland (or Newcastle) regarding the players’ absence from their academy.

    The player from the rival team is developing into a frighteningly good player- at an equally frighteningly rate. As Hartlepool Under 9’s beat SAFC 2-1 with a side predominantly consisting of players from Sunderland and Hetton, he bossed the game in impressive fashion. So impressive was his performance that the SAFC coach – the kid’s former coach- commented on his performance and asked where on earth they had found him from. Disillusioned and unhappy playing for the team he supports is the answer.

    The mentioned kid from my team played impressively against Newcastle the following week prompting them to get in touch and request his return. there had been no such request previously to this game, or any indication that they were aware he had stopped turning up.

    Both players are staying at Hartlepool, where they feel wanted.

  5. Simple, Keith; Middlesbrough’s scouting network is even better. The irony is that the man who runs their Academy set up is a Sunderland fan whose idol was Jim Baxter and who was turned down for the Sunderland job in favour of Ian Branfoot.
    Now that is a mistake!!!

  6. A debut for Adam Johnson, his family are there by the bus load having prepared for this day since the first time little Adam kicked a ball. The question must be asked, how did Johnson miss the Sunderland scouting net, we have a fabulous academy and a record( although not as good as yester year ) of bringing youngsters through the ranks to stardom. 10 million could or should have been saved. We have always believed in bringing talent through, Colin Todd, Colin Suggett, Gary Rowell Kevin Arnott Henderson Colback. A player who had the obvious talent and Sunderland as first choice was missed. What was the reason?

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