A story of ifs: how this weekend might have been ours*

Let us hope that by about twenty past three this coming Saturday, as the referee blows the final whistle after the early fixture at Barnsley, those of us following events on radio will be treated to a happy-sounding Gary Bennett.

Bennett was always my kind of player when he wore red and white: whole-hearted, fearless and able to show real skill and vision as well as a capacity for solid hard work.

* Heavily modified post taking account of disappointing – for us – result of Norwich v Derby.

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Stick-in-the-mud SAFC fans

It’s what the French call gagnant gagnant, a win-win situation for Salut! Sunderland.
Either the matchday programme for SAFC v Derby County put on sales because I tipped off readers that I’d written an article for it, enabling me to claim credit for the circulation rise. Or sales slipped because you boycotted it, having heard that the mean-spirited bods who stalk the corridors of power at the
Red and White programme HQ had refused to print the tiniest reference to this blog.

But I jest.
As I admitted when R&W somewhat belatedly gave a firm No to a request I thought they had already granted, I am so daft about the club that I’d have written the piece for them anyway.

If you missed it, and have a soft spot for other people’s hard luck stories, read on. You’ll learn about a Big Match day out that sticks nastily in the memory for members of the London branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association.

It is bad enough being dumped out of the FA Cup after reaching the 2004 semi-finals and a game against Millwall that we all expect to win.

But you know it’s not your day when you are then dumped in the mud near Derby – sorry, County fans, nothing personal about the location – on your way home.

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You’re welcome here, kind stranger

Sorry, that’s the folkie in me coming out – a headline lifted straight from The Lakes Of Pontchartrain, a great American song made greater by Paul Brady and nothing whatever to do with Sunderland, except that Paul’s Irish, too.

But since I couldn’t help but notice a surge of interest today in Salut! Sunderland – best viewing figures so far…thanks – I felt it right to say hello.

There’s generally a reason when something unusual happens, of course. I rejoined the Black Cats chat forum today after nearly three years away, added a link to the blog on the Wikipedia site and generally tried to put some word about. The increased traffic is likely to be the result of that drum-beating – and I hope you like what you find enough to come back for another look.

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Spring in the step

Pryde From Wearside to the Amazon and Antipodes, locations mentioned by BBC Radio Newc**tle’s Simon Pryde (left) during his commentary from the Stadium of Light on Saturday, people will be going back to work with smiles on their faces today.

If, that is, they are Sunderland supporters and witnessed, heard or just heard about the last-gasp but phenomenally important win over Derby County.

The result even makes it possible to appreciate the superb skill by Giles Barnes that brought Derby their equaliser. But if you prefer passion to slick footage, read on.

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Poll’s apart

Listening to French whinges about the quickly taken Giggs free kick against Lille, and hearing Juninho’s scathing criticism of Mike Riley as the man in the middle for AS Roma vs Lyon, I began wondering about the worst refereeing performances I have seen in a Sunderland game.

It goes without saying that I am thinking only of matches where we were the victims of atrocious, costly decisions. I am honest enough to admit that I more quickly forget referees whose incompetence (or bad luck) helps us out.

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Point made, points untaken

The text messages from Pete Sixsmith had me worried before the game started. He just seemed too cocky for a lifelong Sunderland supporter.

“Sat in great pub in Lichfield,” ran the first. “Ha’way the Lads.”

Then, just before kick-off at St Andrew’s, it was: “Fabulous following.”

The realism – in other words pessimism – you acquire as a red and white then made me seriously afraid that the next two texts would be 0-1, 0-2.

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On our way, we’re on our way……..

What better way to break into the top six at last? The word from the Stadium of Light, whether it came from live commentary – what a boon for the exiled fan – and Sixer’s Sevens or match reports was as encouraging as it could be.

Here – yes, have another look – was a slick home performance when four goals somehow seemed a poor reward for the quality of play. The trick now, or course is not to get carried away………

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Stoking those home fires…..

Looking back at the earlier posting Burst Bubble?, maybe a slightly harsh headline after one poorish result at home, I decided to add an answer to my own question.

What, I originally asked, would it take to get the home fires burning again? The attendance of under 27,000 for that midweek visit of Palace had disappointed me enough to raise negative thoughts

In my after-thought, added today, I mention that a stonking away win would do no harm. And that, following a respectable 2-0 dismissal of Coventry a few days after the Palace draw, is what we got.

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