Most weeks, the view from Abu Dhabi on the latest contentious refereeing or linesman’s decision to cost Sunderland points is as quick and reliable as that from the Stadium of Light or the assorted away grounds where we have under-performed all season.
That’s because I get to see most games live, courtesy of the Showtime sports channels here. I would normally expect to know the truth of each incident very soon after it happened. I’d rather be at the game, but it’s a useful consolation prize.
Pete Sixsmith, pictured above, thinks Michael Chopra was “probably not” offside when denied a goal close to half time at Derby. I cannot shed my usual light on the matter.
On Friday, the highly efficient Sue, bar manager at the expats’ club where I see most matches, rang with bad news. “I know you like to come here to see Sunderland games, and that we are advertising Derby v Sunderland for this weekend,” she said. “Unfortunately there’s a clash of channels and we cannot show if after all.”
This should have been the cue for a spirited protest. What other Premiership game or sporting event could possibly take precedence over this clash of footballing giants?
But I didn’t object. I had already accepted the offer of a free dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant of a plush hotel. The reason for the freeness of the dinner need not detain us here, though it had nothing to do with work. I would STILL rather have been “at the game”, as it were, but there were domestic issues, too, since Mme Salut was returning to the UK next morning and would not have understood.
The text messages from Sixer were necessarily sparse. There was no mention of Chopra at that stage, for the very good reason that Sixer rarely resorts to blaming dodgy calls by officials for the comprehensive failings of SAFC, especially on the road. He raises the odd protest when Styles or whoever seems to be taking the Mick, but generally leaves that sort of thing to me.
So I am delighted to welcome visitors to this site from the <a href=”
http://my9.statcounter.com/project/standard/camefrom_activity.php?project_id=2197985″>Observer, my favourite UK national newspaper and now enriched by the same Pete Sixsmith who has been writing his socks off for Salut! Sunderland for months. This, for those who take other papers or none, is his match verdict:
Pete Sixsmith, SalutSunderland.com
It was disappointing not to win. At least we tried to play football – Derby seemed to have given up on that. We showed again that we don’t really have the quality to break teams down. The first half was all right, but several of the players just coming back from injury ran out of steam and we resorted to pumping long balls. Jones was the real disappointment – he looked tired and could do with having a proper strike partner. Murphy kept drifting wide and Chopra was out on the wing. Richardson looked good and Reid tried to use the ball properly, but we lack confidence away from home. All in all, it looked like a moderate Championship game – which it very well could be next season.
Fan’s player ratings Gordon 6; Bardsley 7, Nosworthy 7, Evans 8, Higginbotham 7; Chopra 6, Whitehead 5, Reid 6 (Leadbitter 6), Richardson 7; K Jones 5, Murphy 6 (Stokes n/a)
Thanks to that, Observer readers online and in print had a fan’s punchy analysis, one that summed up pretty much what I expect to see if and when the match is replayed here. The only thing I’d say to my old colleague Brian Oliver, the Observer sport editor, to whom I commended Pete: jobshare we can live with, but steal my star writer altogether and there’ll have to be a transfer fee, say a substantial sum upfront with more to come based on appearances.