Pete Sixsmith has been following Sunderland for 50+ years. Sometimes, a single season seems like 50 years. Rarely, but not so much so as to be unheard of, one half of a game can get close, too (step forward SAFC v Hull City). Here are his highs and lows of 2014, plus a hope or two for 2015 …
So, here we are at the end of another year.
The first half of it was probably the most exciting one I have had watching Sunderland since 1973; the second half can best be described as, er, adequate.
Here are some highlights and lowlights of the last 12 months.
Most fun had at a Sunderland game
A toss-up between the 3-0 at the Sports Direct in February and the 1-0 win a couple of weeks ago. I’ll go for the February one, even though we were rubbish for the seven games after it. The look on their fans’ faces as a certain ginger haired midfielder slotted home the third goal was priceless. Even Jozy Altidore played well.
Least fun had at a Sunderland game
There are a few contenders, most of them coming this season – Hull at home, Burnley away and Southampton away spring to mind. Villa at home on New Year’s Day was a stinker thanks to Wes Brown gifting Agbonlahor a goal, while the FA Cup tie at Hull was no fun whatsoever despite a pleasant pre-match session in the Wellington. I’ll go for the Villa game – dull, boring and we lost.
Best performance by a Sunderland team
Probably the 2-0 win over West Brom in May, which made relegation impossible. We played so well – slick, easy on the eye – and scored a couple of splendid goals. That level of performance has rarely been seen since.
Worst performance seen by a Sunderland team
Southampton was dismal, the second half at home to Hull was equally so, but the way we played when Tottenham put us to the sword in April was truly awful. And it rained.
Best performance I missed
Chelsea away when we stunned them and saw how wretched Mourinho is. We beat ‘em fair and square and boy didn’t he moan and twist. I spent the last 10 minutes of the game walking around Birtley Town’s ground with fingers, toes, arms, legs and testicles crossed in the hope that we would hang on. We did and we stayed up.
Worst performance I missed
The 2-0 defeat to Arsenal wasn’t great and it was made worse by Shildon failing to win their FA Cup tie at Norton United – which is where I was that day.
Best individual performance by a Sunderland player
Lee Cattermole at home to Chelsea was tremendous – although Mourinho would probably call him an assassin. Wes Brown was awesome in the 3-0 at the Sports Direct. Vito Mannone became a hero in the penalty shoot-out at Old Trafford. But I am going for Connor Wickham in the 2-2 draw at Eastlands, where he looked the complete centre forward. Wouldn’t we all love to see him repeat it on Thursday?
Least good individual performance
Far too easy to give it to Jozy Altidore (poor lad), so I won’t. Andrea Dossena was clueless at Liverpool in March and Scocco (remember him) had a stinker at Hull. But the award goes to Valentin Roberge for his truly awful performance at The Hawthorns on the opening day of this season.
Best pub visited with Sunderland
Some good contenders here: the Whippet Inn at Lichfield, the Platform Tavern in Southampton, the Station Bar in Bury, the Wellington in Hull and the Uxbridge Arms in Notting Hill were all gems. But the one I enjoyed the most was the Duke of York in Salisbury. Great beer, great whisky and a crazy landlord. And he had a Watney’s Red Barrel pump on; alas none of this outstanding beer survives.
Best away trip
Either of the two to Old Trafford – probably the win in the pelanty – (c) Chris Waddle) = shoot out. It was worth it to see Rob Mason’s face when he got back on the coach. I also enjoyed Burnley, not for the football but for the chance to meet up with an old mate, sample some splendid beer and make contact with proper football again. Turf Moor may have its detractors but not at Sixsmith Towers.
Phil Dowd, at home to Cardiff, where he waited before awarding a clear penalty and then sent the Cardiff defender off. Brilliant.
Andre Marriner, who is to refereeing what Jimmy Clitheroe is to basketball ie entirely unsuited.
Most objectionable person in football
A choice here between Rui Faria, Mourinho’s chum who made a complete git of himself after Borini’s winner at Stamford Bridge and John Carver, Alan Pardew’s assistant and a man who makes Jeremy Clarkson appear pleasant and well balanced. I’ll give it to him because he is a Mag through and through; he might even be their next manager. Now that would be entertaining.
What we hope for in 2015
Some decent football at the Stadium of Light, lots of home and away wins, Newcastle to crash and burn (the first two are likelier) and Mourinho to retire to a monastery on Mount Athos in Greece to contemplate the rubbish that he consistently spouts. Not asking for much is it!!