Salut!’s week: a Chelsea build-up and a Newcastle putdown


Another of those retrospective looks, for the reader in a hurry, at what has been served up in recent days …

Breaks for internationals act a little like “slow down” signals for Salut! Sunderland.

Occasional contributors do not think of tossing anything our way. M Salut was away in Rome in any case, for a long weekend devoid of football unless you count a look round the Colisseum, a model – in terms of the building rather than original purpose – for the stadiums of today.

And for once, not even Pete Sixsmith could be trusted to return from some non-league backwater with flashes of entertaining prose. It remains to be seen whether he chooses to write about his own trip, a few days in Antwerp.

All was quiet, too, on the Sunderland front ahead of today’s return to proper football, at home to Chelsea. We all look to the team to prove it can rise to the challenge while sensing that it is a game we could probably have done without at this stage of the season when we are still looking for a first win.

Rather than dwell on last season’s result in the equivalent fixture – a 4-2 defeat to rob us of a smidgeon of the glory from that magnificent 3-0 romp at Stamford Bridge – we could perhaps look back to the rein of Peter Reid and remember two notable victories, 1-0 in October 2000 but, especially, the 4-1 of the season before.

To match either result today, we need a tip-top performance or a spot of luck, or both.

What else to report? Well, there is a postscript to the curious affair of Steed Malbranque, already missed by many at Sunderland, and the tearing up of his new contract at Saint-Etienne.

We looked in midweek at the origins of those false rumours that he had decided to give up the game, for now or for good, because his son was suffering from serious illness. The story was repeated in the French and the UK media, producing well-meaning tweets from players and supporters, before turning out to be bunkum, Steed not having a son and both his daughters being in fine health.

Steed initially said nothing, except via his agent and lawyers, but then decided to talk at some length about his decision.

In the version I saw, a question-and-answer interview in the Var-Matin, he said it was a simple case of realising soon after his move that it was wrong for him. He was not enjoying training or the atmosphere at the club – though he would not go into detail on this – and was unwilling simply to “sit in a corner and pick up my pay cheque each month”.

There had been no family problems except with his father, but their long-term estrangement had nothing to do with what happened at St Etienne. He was unwilling to talk about the father-son rift beyond saying he was just one of many thousands in France dealing with such issues.

Steed said he might give up football or look at other Ligue 1 options. The interviewer mentioned Valenciennes but he insisted there had been no contact with any club and said it was far from his mind to leave St Etienne and walk straight into another side. Was he missing the Premier League? “Perhaps, yes,” he replied without reference to Sunderland.

In a separate interview, with Le Progr├Ęs, a newspaper based in Lyon, where Steed began his career, doing well enough to captain the French under 18s, his father showed himself to be an embittered man.

He said his son had always done stupid things and his conduct at St Etienne was another example.

And he claimed Steed had failed to make the most of a talent that could have brought him full international honours. On a rather disheartening note, he also said they had been en rupture for 10 years: “I get on with life without him, and don’t miss him. The proof: I never watched a single match of his in England on the television.”

How depressing, as one Sunderland supporter put it elsewhere, that with life so short, neither seems able to see the pointlessness of such conflict.

Salut! Sunderland‘s week continued with the Chelsea Who Are You?, Denise Hone fromt The Chelsea Blog giving an interesting set of answers in which she spoke of having seen last season’s defeat (or victory, as we’d put it) coming, if not the three-goal margin. She declined to share any visionary powers she may have concerning today’s game.

Portsmouth and Southampton fans flocked here to read a piece about the decline and fall of Saturday night “Pinks”, the football specials that now survive only in those cities, Sunderland and Sheffield (though Sheffield’s is green).

There was also a critical look at a Newcastle supporter’s portrayal of Sunderland as a boring, ugly town barely worth visiting.

I suggested that the writer, Dave Eadevic, had wasted a good idea by producing such a desultory account based on a fleeting and apparently limited look. Mischievously, I said I was not looking forward to his first book.

Only later did I spot this exchange, at his site Tyne Talk:

Dave: You know its just occurred to me that I have done loads of these city things for this site down the years (most away trips) and I have never done Newcastle.

Reader: Looking forward to it! Turn ’em into a book…

Dave: I have several books out should you wish to purchase them and fund more trips I will be grateful (worth saying I suppose they are actually my translations not my books, I do however receive money which is the main thing).

And that was about that. I expect the coming few days to be a lot livelier around here.

Monsieur Salut

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