It may seem an odd thing to juxtapose final words of encouragement to the Lads, hours from tonight’s potential season-saver, and richly deserved honours about to be bestowed on two of Sunderland’s finest.
But think about what Jimmy Montgomery and John Hays have done for the club, the city and the region and it becomes the most natural mixing of themes imaginable.
First, the game. It’s another sell-out, Jermain Defoe is urging teammates to keep a collective foot on the pedal to ensure the win needed to make relegation impossible and Sam Allardyce is telling everyone to get there early and make the SoL a cauldron.
I’ll do my bit with as much blowing and sucking as I can manage from France to get the ball into Everton’s net and keep it out of ours.
Everton will be no pushovers. As Tony Gillan put it at the Sunderland Echo, they may have been playing poorly but that is not the same as having poor players.
‘They can do better as they proved in their FA Cup semi-final.No one needs to be told this, but let’s just get into the Stadium of Light and make as much noise as your hands, feet and larynx will allow’
And now the honours. As I also learn from the Echo They city council will tomorrow award the Freedom of the City of Sunderland to:
* Jimmy Montgomery, still a tireless ambassador for his hometown club 43 years after helping it win the FA Cup final with a marvellous display that was not even his best in a Sunderland team (Monty agrees with me that a clean sheet in a 3-0 win at Huddersfield years before even that was the pick of his games for us).
* John Hays, a lifelong SAFC supporter who, as the founder of Hays Travel, is also a long-standing supporter of the Sunderland (and NE) economy, employing more than 1,000. He served as vice chairman after the Drumaville takeover and has been a kind donor of prizes for Salut! Sunderland competitions. I still bump into him at occasional games and am proud to call him a friend.
I hope both Monty and John are smiling for all the right reasons, and not just their own pride, when they collect their awards. I have only Kate Adie’s word for it but, as I mentioned here the other day in a different context, the privileges may include the right to drive their flocks of sheep across Wearmouth brigade.
If so, the bridge could start getting a bit crowded and not only on match days. The Echo reminds us that among other recipient are Niall Quinn, Joël Batteux, the mayor of Sunderland’s twin-town St Nazaire, Nissan’s chief performance officer Trevor Mann, Kate herself plus some Armed Forces holders – 4 Regiment Royal Artillery, 3 Rifles and the crew of the RN’s biggest warship, HMS Ocean, Sunderland’s adopted naval vessel.