Hark Now Here, The Sunderland Sing

A new year, time to reminisce. I went to my first Sunderland game in the early 80s. I was 3 years old. It was a 7pm reserve match and I was taken home at half-time as we lived a quarter of a mile from Roker Park and my Dad went back and watched the second half. I’ve no more information that that. No idea of opposition, time of year, or the result.

Those things were not important. The key was at 3 years old my Dad had made me a Sunderland fan. I was forced to go to Church as a kid but when given the choice sacked it off and became an atheist. With SAFC that luxury is not there no matter how hard you try. And I’ve tried. Even moving to London did not help due to the infamous London Branch – I even ended up playing sports I’d hardly played before (cricket) as well as ending up with a season ticket. Moving countries makes it worse. SAFC reels you back in during the good times and the bad.  

Fast forward 37 years. As we were in the 80s we’re back in the third division. As in the 90s we are protesting about the Chairman. And as every decade, perhaps since time immemorial, we’re calling for the managers head. The names change (Cowie out, Murray out, Donald out) but the issues remain largely the same: exquisitely inept footballing decisions made by people with limited financial clout and seemingly a only a modicum of footballing nouse. 

Cowie recruited ‘McManyMoney’ as he was known in our house and great SAFC historians have poured over those days. Suffice to say it’s almost universally accepted that he was the wrong man, at the wrong club, at the wrong time – great appointment aside from that. Murray was a more complex figure. A faux ‘vote’ to claim a mandate for leaving Roker Park. If you disagreed with leaving Roker you cast a  vote. If you did nothing you were counted as being pro the move.

Obviously history has looked kindly on Murray and his vision of a decent stadium, expanding the fan base, and doing so within the financial means of the club now appears a masterstroke. Murray was many things but you could never accuse him of wanting to be liked. He saw the value of Netflix before Netflix was invented by inviting the cameras in to film Premier Passions. The first disaster documentary about our wonderful football club.  

Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven. No insurance policy against not either gaining promotion or flipping the club quickly. Piss-takingly bad PR and party to our lowest league position in our history. Fan engagement goes along way in the north-east. They followed the Fat Mike blueprint of pints with fans and as far as I am aware did not quite go the whole hog with replica shirts in the away end. Methven did wear some rank red trousers at times mind.

These guys were populists without the bus. The antithesis of Murray and whilst Short was prone to turning up at the odd branch social he was not publicly on social media nor did he feel the need to massage his own ego. His recruitment of footballing management personal was as if he was a US billionaire with no clue about football.

Anyway, back to the Oxford pair who took a punt on SAFC. The pair (Sartori largely anonymous these days) undertook a gargantuan task and being an exile I’ve witnessed this from afar aside from a handful of glamour ties such as Wimbledon and Gillingham away and Accrington Stanley at home to name but a few last term.

People follow great leaders although do not always agree with them or even like them. People like the fun boss who says yes to everything but don’t respect them. The PR party visibly stopped after two Wembley defeats – Methven even made some comments (rightly or wrongly) about the atmosphere in the stadium in the play-off final v Charlton. I was not there. One Wembley defeat proved enough for me – on top of the previous 3 I had attended. I was too young to go in 1985 and watched with my Nana and Grandad in Grindon.

Methven had just about got away with calling fans parasites months earlier. He’d end up walking away when his Thatcher-loving veneer fell away and his garbled messages became nonsensical, the pressure of financial scrutiny became too much, and Donald ducked Twitter. Public relations were now at an all-time low. They’d made their pod and would need to lie in it. And lie they did claimed some. As we go to Fleetwood today, you wonder did we as fans want to believe their stories of 100 points. “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies” anyone? Interestingly on the valuation Wikipedia cites Sartori as saying 3 million for 20%. If Peter Jones were grilling our owners on Dragons Den the basic maths of our current rumoured valuation would not be hard to destroy. 18 months ago Sartori bought into a venture that was valued at 15 million.  

The Jack Ross sacking was to appease a minority of fans and Donald made his gravest mistake to date in my opinion. First up, I believed from afar it was time for Ross to go. However, as fans we are not privy to the day-to-day goings on. If Donald believed that Ross could do the job he should have a) backed him properly in the summer and b) given him the January window. He showed himself to be man who wanted to be liked and not a leader. My caveat to Ross going was a leader coming in who could unite the fanbase. Parkinson has managed the latter, sadly. 

The Doncaster result gave everyone a lift and no fans I know are taking any crumbs of comfort from that performance. The traveling fans enjoyed the win and that was it. Nobody feels a corner has been turned and we are suddenly on the march up the third tier of English football. Class atmosphere though by all accounts.

Donald has gone into mute mode since leaving Twitter and has not publicly responded to the campaign led by fanzines and backed by a big number from the fanbase. The BBC reported he’d sell up with a “heavy heart” which everyone will have an opinion about. Was Donald the saviour or just a salesman? Did Sunderland AFC get under his skin? He certainly made time for fans. Cynics say they were PR stunts. I’d like to think he meant well and enjoyed some of his time in the north-east.  

Where do we go from here? That’s something for another blog. Time will tell. Safe to predict that the wheel will come full circle and we’ll be back in the top flight some day. I just don’t know how and I don’t know when…and until that day we suffer the ignominy of Fleetwood Town away on January 1st 2020. Hark now here, The Sunderland sing…  

It’s a New Day, a New Dawn and We’re Feeling Good

While there are nerves in taking over a well established SAFC fans site, there is a huge pressure to not only maintain the standard but also add to the 6k+ posts that have been created by Colin and his team over the past 13 years.

Why the acquisition?

Colin had posted back in November that the site was to disappear, with so much content created and the countless; probably thousands of hours in creating that content i just couldn’t let that happen, so i made Colin an offer and with a promise to preserve the content untouched. When i did dig into the site i found a lot of technical issues that has taken me a few days to fix, not easy fixes and some i found challenging. Out of the other side of that is the new theme you see now and a reconfiguration of the backend of the site.

What’s the Plan?

You may have already noticed the new addition of the SAFC stats subdomain, we’re planning to build that out to a lot more than is currently there to include where data is available: cup games, manager stats, player stats and a lot more. While there is already an amazing stats site in the The StatCat we’re approaching it from a slightly different angle.

The New Authors

While the outgoing owner, editor and authors will continue to have access to the site we’ve brought in a new team;

All passionate SAFC fans. If you too want to contribute by all means drop me a DM on twitter.

As more of the techy geek in the background my posts will be few and far between, i’ll be building out new features for the site and concentrating on optimising what already exists to bring the Salut! Sunderland archives to new readers as well as pushing the newly created content.

Thank You

As a closing note I want to say a personal thank you to Colin for giving me the opportunity to take care of everything he and his team created, i know it’s a wrench to let something you’ve been dedicated to go, it’s in good hands mate.

Salut! Sunderland bows out, SAFC.blog breezes in

Colin Randall, as once captured by the star cartoonist Matt and enhanced by Jake

On January 16 2007, Salut! Sunderland drew its first breath, writes Monsieur Salut, aka Colin Randall.

Almost 13 years later, today is the last day of the site in its present form as I relinquish ownership and editorship.

The metamorphosis into safc.blog is well advanced. Although it technically replaces Salut! Sunderland from tomorrow, it is already accessible as a “clone” of this site.

Read moreSalut! Sunderland bows out, SAFC.blog breezes in

Malcolm Dawson: the final view from the West Stand

 

Colin Randall writes: Malcolm Dawson has been my trusted deputy editor throughout the best years of Salut! Sunderland. He explains below how we came together for site duty and I am deeply grateful that Joan, his sister, suggested he’d be an ideal right hand man. Malcolm is a demanding editor,  demanding of himself and of others.  He is as fussy as I can be on questions of grammar and taste. And he also happens to write like a dream, as anyone who has seen his reports from games, and his more general thoughts, can testify.

It  has been a privilege to work with him and, sadly only occasionally because of geographical distance, enjoy his company before, at or after matches. Thanks, Malcolm, The site could not be in such good order to hand on to new ownership and editorship without all you have done …

 

It will soon be a quarter of a century since Bob Murray’s vision for the future of SAFC took the club from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light. My sister was living in London at the time and involved in the editing of the London Branch’s newsletter 5/5/73 which was later to be renamed Wear Down South. It was through that involvement that she met Colin Randall and his mate Pete Sixsmith and was asked by Colin to help with his new website when it was up and running some years later.

Read moreMalcolm Dawson: the final view from the West Stand

McCormick’s Craic: 2020 beckons and a star of Salut! Sunderland bids farewell

Colin Randall writes: 

John McCormick’s contributions to Salut! Sunderland have been immense, as writer and editor. Despite the serious health issues that have confronted him, he has continued in his tireless way to post articles and research and write his own exemplary work, often analytical and backed by meticulous statistical date, all presented with far more technological nous than I can muster. He has been a great mainstay of this site and deserves the rest he has now prescribed for himself.

John McCormick introduces his own farewell:  regular readers will know I was told I had a malignant tumour in December last year and was given a scan to see if I had secondaries just before Christmas 2018. That scan revealed a lesion on my liver but couldn’t determine whether it was malign or not. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I received final confirmation that it wasn’t, which closed a sequence of tests – all clear – and ensured that this Christmas would be merrier, and this New Year happier, than the last.

Read moreMcCormick’s Craic: 2020 beckons and a star of Salut! Sunderland bids farewell

Salut! Sunderland’s farewells: Jake the illustrator on Monty, Toddo and doing his bit

The man himself
Colin Randall writes: I always worried about images for this site. Without access to professional databases, without – mostly – the nerve to grab photographs from elsewhere unless we had permission or a good excuse –  the arrival of Jake was manna from heaven. For eight or nine of our 13 years, Jake – John Clark, a solid Sunderland lad exiled in Spain – has supplied a . wonderful stream of illustrations to preview a match,  or record  its result, or often enough just to capture a moment, a mood. Salut! Sunderland has been greatly enriched by his presence and I cannot find truly adequate words to express my admiration and appreciation.
Now – though not for the first time as he reminded me this morning (see this) – John/Jake finds words of his own that are not just the witty captions to his own images and banners and those priceless comments he’d sometimes post…

Read moreSalut! Sunderland’s farewells: Jake the illustrator on Monty, Toddo and doing his bit

Sixer’s Sevens: Doncaster 1 Sunderland 2, and Gooch is back

A couple of days from now things will be different and Pete Sixsmith will not be a feature of these pages. But that’s for the future and he’s here today.

Actually, he’s in Doncaster, from where he sent a number of texts keeping us up to date on the progress of our team, including the seven words below, which arrived shortly after the final whistle.

And don’t you wish you had been there with him?

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Doncaster 1 Sunderland 2, and Gooch is back

Salut Sunderland’s 13 years and Sunderland’s 13 managers: Jack Ross

John McCormick writes: I started to put this up not long after Pete Sixsmith sent it, then had to switch off and do other stuff before I could add an introduction. In between I put some music on, courtesy of a USB stick I think my brother-in-law Ed must have left behind.

First up came The Small Faces and “Sha La La La Lala Lee”, which was released in 1966 and echoed round our World Cup venue in honour of the goalkeeper who had helped us gain promotion and who would go on to help us win the cup. Ed, currently a season-ticket holder in the North Stand, Pete, Jake, Malcolm and Colin will no doubt fondly remember those days, as do I and probably many of our readers.

Second up on Ed’s playlist came something from 1982. We were still a first division club then, and would shortly revisit Wembley before enduring a single season in the Third Division. But endure we did.

Now, perhaps, that song is more appropriate. The name of the group -The Jam. The title of the song – “The bitterest pill (I ever had to swallow)”. Step forward one last time, Pete.

Read moreSalut Sunderland’s 13 years and Sunderland’s 13 managers: Jack Ross

The Last Post: after the Bolton shocker, Sixer bids farewell

Pete Sixsmith: as long suffering as it gets

Monsieur Salut writes: even in these grim times for Sunderland AFC,  it is always a pleasure to be able to present the writing of Pete Sixsmith to a wider audience.  In the dying days of Salut! Sunderland in its present form, we have lost our newsnow link, severely curtailing our reach and readership. That appears to be an unintended by-product of the transition to safc.blog so this piece from Sixer may attract a smaller audiece than in the past. It deserves better, as do all SAFC fans..

For however many still see it, here are Pete’s gloomy thoughts from the last home game he will cover for our site …

 

THE LAST POST

Well, that’s it. Twelve years of writing about Sunderland AFC [nearer 13 – Ed] which have included ups, downs and okays and, for my last game, I get an absolute shocker.

This was a game between two clubs that have had far, far better days and that both seem in permanent decline, never to reach the top echelon of the game while I am still on this mortal coil.

Read moreThe Last Post: after the Bolton shocker, Sixer bids farewell

Sixer’s Sevens: Bolton’s Happy Wanderers finish a dark year for Sunderland at the Stadium Of Light

John McCormick writes: if anyone asked what my worst Sunderland game ever was I’d have to say it was the 1-0 loss at Bolton when we were last in the championship.

Pete Sixsmith was there, so he’ll know how bad it was, but judging from a text sent just before the ed of today’s game he appears to have found this one even worse, although we did manage to keep a clean sheet this time. In his judgement today’s game was “undoubtedly the worst game of the decade”

That wasn’t his final word, though. Pete looks forward just as much as he looks backward and his post match seven words send a January message to our owners, our new directors and our rapidly-ageing manager.

 

Monsieur Salut adds: listening to Barnes and Benno describe what seems to have been an apology for a football match, it was impossible to miss the loud and edgy singing of songs about Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn. This was not because Super Phil Parkinson doesn’t scan very well however you compress the syllables.

I used to love attending Boxing Day games. Ones like the debacle at Bramall Lane two years ago, which I watched with Sixer, and today’s, to which I effortlessly gave a miss, make me grateful Dec 26 offers options. Salut! Sunderland‘s days are numbered as we prepare to hand over to the new regime on New Year’s Day. We’d rather hoped the last Sixer’s Seven from the Stadium of Light would not coincide with SAFC’s descent to another low point in the 140-history of the club: an unthinkable 15th place in the third tier …

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Bolton’s Happy Wanderers finish a dark year for Sunderland at the Stadium Of Light