Malcolm Dawson writes………I gave some serious thought to going down to France for the pre-season friendlies but in the end never got my act together soon enough then other commitments intervened. Our ace match day reporter Peter Sixsmith also gave serious thought to making the trip before failing his medical and settling like me, for the SAFSEE link.
But Salut! Sunderland and Shildon are represented by the presence of Peter Horan who sends us this brief account of events so far via the wonders of modern technology. So not technically a French letter but French i-phone e-mail doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Anyway – over to Pete H.
THE WATER CARRIER CAME TO EVIAN
Wherever you go, these words are used as a ‘thank you’ for visiting France. Despite a national state of emergency with the army patrolling the streets, the French nation remains determined and welcoming.
And so it was that three lads from Ferryhill and one from Shildon arrived at their first destination, the French resort of Evian Les Bains via an unfortunate detour into Switzerland, courtesy of a dysfunctional Citroen Picasso satellite navigation system.
The Stade Camille-Fournier, the venue for the first two games of the French pre-season, overlooks the lovely town of Evian and Lake Geneva. The facility was the base for the German National team during the Euros. An excellent choice by Big Sam who as things turned out preferred to take himself off to Burton on Trent, home of the FA’s new training facility and where sparkling spring water is converted into beer!
The first game against a modest Swiss team, FC Stade Nyonnais, offered opportunities for many of the development squad (with a sprinkling of established first teamers) to impress the new manager. Two Watmore penalties made it a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Lads in pink and purple, but let’s leave the field of play and concentrate on the antics of the bench.
Scissors, Paper, Stone was popular with Borini, Khazri, van Aanholt and a young skinny thing called Joel Aroso. Keep an eye on this lad. The half time warm up consisted of keepy-ups with a forfeit for failure. Khazri was stitched up several times, the forfeit being a finger flick to the ear.
Paper, Scissor, Stone continued after half time, then Aroso came on and he impressed us all with his pace and touch. I think he also impressed the new manager who was getting his second glimpse of his inheritance, having turned up at Rotherham within hours of his official appointment.
On the second match day, the County Durham lads planned a ‘cultural tour’ of Evian. Our hotel was close to the training complex and to reach the funicular railway, the start point of our tour, we had to walk past the training area. Our timing was perfect. The squad had just arrived via the funicular from the five star ROYAL HOTEL. What a wonderful opportunity for a scoop but no chance as they skulked onto the training area and immediately set to with another session of Scissor, Paper, Stones with one exception – Jermaine Defoe who appeared wearing boxing gloves and proceeded by sparring with a club physio. According to a club source the gloves were a penance for a hotel room incident.
The second game was against Dijon FCO and the starting eleven contained ten regular first team players and Joel Aroso. He must really have impressed the manager on his first appearance! He showed his gratitude by scoring a goal and then creating one for Khazri. Borini scored a third from a penalty. Kirchhoff managed 90 minutes as did Kone. The three ‘K’s’ continue to impress.
The bench consisted of development squad. Not to be outdone by the previous game’s substitutes’ antics, Honeyman and Greenwood had a proper scuffle as to who sat where In the end they had to be separated and spent most of the game sulking.
As I pen these words we are in Switzerland, returning to Aix Les Bains for the final game against Montpellier. Well, that’s the plan. We may yet end up in Montenegro if we take advice from Sat Nav Picasso which like its namesake sees the world in peculiar ways.
Ha’way les Garcons.