As mentioned here last Saturday, there may be no need for weekly digests throughout the close season, when good people ought to be turning their thoughts to holidays, picnics and Durham County Cricket Club (top of the league when last I checked).
But this has been an unusually busy week, more so than many during the football season.
We concluded a great set of end-of-season reviews, eight well-argued verdicts on what it was like to be a Sunderland supporter in 2010-2011.
There were the “Who are You?” awards to dispense – Arsenal the winners – plus musings on North-eastern footballing allegiances, Liverpool’s reported bid to lure Jordan Henderson to Anfield, one last look at the game in France … and the demolition of Manchester United by Barcelona. As always, click on the sub-heading if it makes you want to read more …
If this doesn’t get hypersensitive Arsenal supporters off my back, what will? Tom Watt, the Arsenal-mad writer and broadcaster, won first prize for the terrific read he gave us with his answers to questions posed prior to the 0-0 draw at the Emirates. He refuses to be called a Gooner or a fan, and has strong views on all things to do with Arsenal and football generally.
Yet judging was close. With minor shifts in the voting, the award might easily have gone to either the second or third placed contenders or even one of the nominees who ended up outside the top three.
Bravo Tom, but please get in touch to arrange details for the prize (a year’s sub to When Saturday Comes, or goodies from the magazine’s online shop). It may not change your life but will determine what the Man City supporter in second place receives.
Still not in Arsenal supporters’ good books? Maybe the next item will do the trick …
Has the time come to move on from references to Arsenal players in the “Who are You?” question posed to each interviewee on the matter of cheating in football? It was all coincidental. No vendetta against a team we respect. All the same, it was initially the Eduardo Question, a choice that outraged those convinced the dive against Celtic was in fact a model of Corinthian virtue. and probably all the fault of Dan Smith anyway.
And then it became the Walcott Question in recognition of Theo’s candour and even courage in publicly admitting, with apologies, that he had tried to con a referee into giving him a penalty. But what do we call it next season? Are we entering the age of the Barca Question?
OK, most of us thought Barcelona were superb against United. An impertinent (Newcastle-supporting) Facebook friend, Terry Pattinson, said they bore passing resemblance to Sunderland (just the passing, Terry?). Pete Sixsmith was certainly enthralled.
So many lessons to learn. Of course, the likes of Messi and Villa are fabulous individual players and clubs like ours can never attract that kind of quality. But what we can do is to start to think like Barcelona: “if we have the ball, the other team haven’t. Don’t give it away.” A staggering performance that will live long in the memory. I expect to see it replicated at Turf Moor on the July 30. Or it’s “Bruce Out” from me.
However, Mike Allcock, over at the Blackcats lists, detected a game plan that relied on falling over a lot. In other words, to cheat. It led to lively debate which was reproduced here.
… a purely calculated move to get a free kick and it was repeated countless times throughout the game. This isn’t to take away from a lot of the superlative play that they did come up with, that stands on its own. Most teams wouldn’t be able to do that even if they tried. But they very much build the stage upon which they perform so well with the falling over ploy. I hated this when Chelsea tried to play this way (without the brilliance on top of it) a couple of seasons ago and I dislike it in Barcelona too.
Sir Lawrence Olivier and Liz Taylor didn’t rely on Laurel and Hardy as their opening act. When Barca can perform at this level (and again, I must stress, I do think they’re way over halfway there, it’s not all cynical) without the comedy falling over then I’ll concur. Until then, I’m going to stick with the AC Milan side of Guillit and Van Basten in the early 90s, Liverpool of the mid-80s or the pre-Lions of Lisbon Real side. All of them played mesmerising football without resorting to turf-collapsing damage control.
Pete Sixsmith closed the series with a masterly display of even-handedness, casting an authoritative eye on the ups and downs of the season. “Well done Pete. A great assessment,” wrote “Michael”. “Wonderfully well-balanced,” said Ken Gambles. “Couldn’t have put it better myself Mr Sixsmith,” was Gary Maughan’s verdict.
And if you want to see contrasting views, take your pick from each of the other seven reviews, all listed with links at the Essential Guide to the Series.
The season is barely over and already fevered transfer speculation has begun. A flurry of reports suggested Liverpool were preparing to bid £13m for Jordan Henderson. We want to keep him, or most of us do, and even if it does come down to having to talk, the figure quoted is laughably low if Andy Carroll is worth £35m. Over to you Messrs Bruce, Quinn and Short.
An offbeat take on Wear-Tyne rivalries … and finally:
* French Fancies: Monaco’s royals pay price for not inviting M Salut to the wedding
Almost forgot: we naturally covered the final weekend of the French season. Nothing of huge interest at the top since Lille’s commendable exploits as Ligue 1 champions had already been noted. Good news, though, for two former Sunderland players now managing French clubs, Eric Roy – Nice stayed up – and Patrice Carteron, whose promoted Dijon side will be, er, keen as mustard for a shot at the top flight.
Thanks yet again to all Salut! Sunderland readers, whoever they support. The hit rate this week has been extremely healthy by our modest standards, exceeding 3,000 on each of three days and nudging 8,000 on Tuesday. Not bad with the season over.
The site is open to all, and that is especially true with regard to the Comments section. All I ask is that remarks are kept within the bounds of decency and the law. That does not exclude strongly expressed views though first-time posters should expect delay before publication (principally an anti-spam filtering measure).