Salut! Sunderland has news of its own to announce …
It seems somehow fitting that as the appointment of Martin O’Neill ushers in what we hope will be a successful new era for Sunderland AFC, Salut! Sunderland should also present its new face to the world. It should, with luck, make its blushing debut tomorrow (Tuesday Dec 6).
As a reader of newspapers since childhood, and as someone who has written for them for far too long (without ever once thinking of hacking anyone’s phone or bribing a cop), I have lost count of the times I have frowned or worse at redesigns.
Usually, as in the case of The Guardian, I end up approving; sometimes, with apologies to The Times, I do not. Brought up on the old Daily Herald, I would have been appalled had it gone tabloid. I was appalled enough that it developed into the old and later new Sun..
Equally, I realise not every Salut! Sunderland reader will take to the new look of the site. My hope is that any doubters stick with us, slowly accepting and – with luck – ultimately welcoming the makeover. It is a work in progress with further changes planned, in particular with a view to making the banner more colourful and relevant to the dominant subject matter: ie Sunderland AFC. But I wanted to get on with it, not keep waiting for everything to fall into place before relaunching.
The process will be one of trial and error. I’d be delighted if readers played a part, suggesting innovations that might be considered, tweaks that need to be made, aspects they like or dislike about the changes.
Was the old design broken? Did it really need mending? That is a matter for debate. I felt it had become old-fashioned and disliked the way postings simply fell off the home page or forced people to scroll down farther than they’d like. The new arrangement of several items on the home page is more attractive to my eye, but also more functional. I hope it makes more people bookmark the basic site address rather than always waiting for a prompt from newsnow.co.uk or elsewhere.
None of this could have been done with the patience and enthusiasm of Sam Haseltine, owner of Golbox.com, a welcoming home for football bloggers. He may follow West Ham but is a smashing bloke and has been a tower of support and strength throughout the redesign process.
Salut! Sunderland has grown considerably in the five years, near enough, since it was a launched as an offshoot of Salut!, the site I created after being booted out by The Daily Telegraph, for which I had written with some success (clearly not enough!) a blog from Paris.
The incomparable Pete Sixsmith, star of yesterday’s TV screens (caught shaking his head crossly at 1-1), has been in on it from the start. His one-line matchday verdicts, Sixer’s Sevens, have become an institution and his fuller analysis of each game, opinion pieces, football travelogues and previews are must-reads, up their in terms of quality, knowledge and wit with the work of Louise Taylor and George Caulkin.
In more recent times, Jeremy Robson and Bill Taylor have chipped in with thoughts from Canadian exile while Luke Harvey, Malcolm Dawson, Ken Gambles, Martin Robson, Bob Chapman, Peter Allen, Andrew Curry, Eric Sweeney, Neil Ruttley, Tash and Derek Scott, Bernard Ramsdale, Martin Emmerson, Owen Lennox, Lee Nicholls and even young Phil Sixsmith have written articles. We’ve often raided the literary treasures of the Blackcats list for the words of such astute commentators as Ian Porter, Ian Lynch, Mike Allcock, Ian Todd, Jim Minton, Geoff Bethell and Andy Humble. Even once I have mentioned the mysterious Birflatt Boy, aka Mr Angry, there are bound to be people I have missed out (let me know and your names will be inserted).
When M Salut is away, Joan Dawson – who did such a great job as co-ordinator of the SAFCSA London and Southern England branch newsletter Wear Down South – has held the fort admirably.
I hope the new changes do appeal to you, immediately or in time. I also hope the site, having got its first millions “hits’ under its belt some months ago, goes from strength to strength. We have tried to set high standards; now we must work hard to maintain and improve them.