But that is partly a result of Monsieur Salut’s own international break, a long weekend in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, a port with a momentous history and home to one of our own Pete Sixsmith’s younger brothers, Phil, and his charming Greek wife, Veta.
Delicious food streamed to the table, along with plentiful wine, at a taverna run as a cooperative by people the Greek Sixsmiths know well. The taste of steak cooked in truffle oil will linger for some time. Phil was to regret just how plentiful the wine had been when he joined his cycling club’s Sunday morning ride and had to fight uncommon bodily resistance to the steep concluding climb (Pete has much the same problem with Busty Bank in Shildon).
With PAOK’s jarring black and white stripes unworn at the weekend, there was no football there either – unless you count the raw sense of national shame felt after the 1-0 home defeat at the hands of the mighty Faroe Islands which led to the former Chelsea boss, Greece’s manager Claudio Ranieri, being packed off on “leave of absence” for the rest of the year. I did find myself chatting to a shopkeeper about Sunderland’s lesser-spotted Charis Mavrias and we agreed the poor lad would probably have to move on to get a game.
Days from now, once the international friendlies and assorted other midweek fixtures are out of the way, normal business resumes and Sunderland visit Leicester City, hoping to build on a decent recovery from the Southampton debacle and home defeat by Arsenal by snatching at least a point.
Will it be a draw, though? Will we go two points better and win? Or will SuperKev have his forwards fired up to send our team, once his, away empty-handed?
We have a double-header of a Leicester “Who are You?” to come as the week progresses but for now, just have a go at guessing Saturday’s score.
A Sunderland mug from the competition sponsor, Personalised Football Gifts, awaits the reader who is first to guess the correct score, necessarily doing so before kickoff. Leicester fans are warmly invited to join in; the prize would be suitably modified for such a winner.
M Salut’s decision, as ever, will be final.
Ha’way the Lads, with any luck safely back from international duty to do what’s expected of them at what was the Salt ‘n Vinegar Walkers crisp bowl and is now, as horrendously, Vichai Raksriaksorn’s King Power Stadium.