Malcolm Dawson writes…..all change at Sunderland AFC on Saturday morning with the official appointment of David Moyes but one thing remained constant. Pete Sixsmith took the trip down the A1 to see the latest game in the club’s pre-season preparations and provide us with his unique take on events. Still no new faces to beef up the squad but nevertheless things look to be on track with the new manager quick to take stock of his inheritance.
ROTHERHAM UNITED (a)
“The King is dead, long live the King” is a fitting French proclamation as we set off for France and a seven day training camp with a new man in charge. It’s an ideal opportunity for David Moyes to look at his squad, weigh up their strengths and weaknesses and find out what type of people they are – and vice versa. He would have gained a few insights at the impressive New York Stadium on Saturday. This was a half decent friendly which gave the majority of the Sunderland players a good work out after the canter in Hartlepool a few days earlier.
The Merry Millers are no longer from Millmoor, but they offered a tougher challenge particularly in the early stages of the second half. There may well have been some tired limbs in the away dressing room at full time as they had to work hard to challenge and eventually overcome a side who are at least a week ahead of Sunderland in their preparation. The Championship season starts in two weeks’ time and Rotherham had been away on a week-long training camp in Poland as they limbered up for games against Aston Villa, Burton Albion and Newcastle United.
The two men in charge for this game – Messrs Bracewell and Stockdale made a couple of alterations from Wednesday with Billy Jones and Lee Cattermole dropping out to be replaced by Josh Robson and Charles N’Zogbia. Robson struggled at times, allowing his winger to turn him, but he grew in confidence as the game progressed and he got forward well in the latter stages of the game, combining well with Duncan Watmore. A good loan placement in Divisions One or Two for either 4 months or a full season, would help him.
N’Zogbia, who was barely involved at Victoria Park, looked far better here. His wonderful pass set up Borini (whose hairstyle is reminiscent of a large white egret) to score the opener and he won the game five minutes before time when Gooch and Robson (J) played him in and he placed the ball very effectively past Lee Camp in the Millers goal. He has a week and three more games to show Moyes if he is worth a contract and he certainly did his chances no harm with a thoughtful performance in the centre of the pitch alongside a quietly impressive Jack Rodwell.
The others did well enough. Defoe nearly scored in the first half with a good shot, Khazri buzzed, Lens showed some delightful touches but was in and out of the game, while the back four was well in control in the first half.
United stepped the pace up in the second and levelled after 19 seconds due to some sloppy defending, although Jerry Yates did well to beat Mannone. As a no nonsense centre half, Moyes will demand that the defending is tighter and that balls are not watched as they zip across the back four.
It was a decent day out at a very fine example of new ground building for a smaller club. It is close to the town centre and, unlike Millmoor, is not surrounded by scrap yards. The area of Rotherham is called New York and the stadium was built on the site of the Guest and Chrimes Brass Foundry which specialised in all sorts of Cocks , Stop Cocks, Fire Cocks, Sluice Cocks – although the biggest cock on display was the man at the end of my row who was so drunk that he had to be taken to hospital by the ever patient St John’s Ambulance workers.
It was a good piece of PR for David Moyes to come on to the pitch at the end and acknowledge the Sunderland support. A shame the departing manager had not done the same on Wednesday; let’s assume there were still a few i’s to cross an t’s to dot on his contract.
And I wasn’t enamoured with the pink third strip; but what do I know about fashion and design.