Pete Sixsmith casts an expert eye over the SAFC retained list … he offers broad approval for the decisions made and hopes for a few more exits, as well as signings, before long ..
Many years ago, when Monsieur Salut and I were nowt but lads, the announcement of the retained list was an exciting event.
Who would be staying? Who would be leaving? What might our team look like for next season? Who had Alan Brown/Ian McColl/Alan Brown (again)/Bob Stokoe decided would be the men to take us forward in the next nine months?
Anticipation was great as we awaited the arrival of the next morning’s Echo or heard Frank Bough/George House/ Mike Neville/Tom Kilgour read the names out on Look North.
Nowadays, with Twitter, Google, gossip columns on the internet and message boards we know which players are leaving at the same time as they do and in some cases before them.
A few weeks ago we knew the younger players who were leaving. Martin Smith was hoping to get fixed up at Carlisle United, Liam Agnew ditto at Bradford City while Mikael Mandron and Dylan McEvoy have faded away completely.
Subsequently, Smith has been offered a contract at Kilmarnock, managed by Lee Clark and looks likely to accept it. He and Clark have similar playing styles – box to box and with the ability to make a telling pass.
Alas, he is no relation to Martin Smith, the frustrating midfielder of the Peter Reid era and a man who was booed unmercifully by the crowd at The Sports Direct as he made his England Under 21 debut against Ireland in 1995. Andros Townsend, eat your heart out……..
Now we have the senior players who are free to find alternative employers and there is as much surprise in this short list as you would expect from a Michael McIntyre show. Danny Graham, Steven Fletcher, Wes Brown and Stephen Harper will no longer be representing Sunderland AFC next season.
Harper never played a first team game and was there as cover for Mannone and Pickford and, although he was gainfully employed as part of the coaching team, he may well be able to pick up his quite impressive media career with 5Live and BBC Championship…. sorry, Newcastle.
He always comes across as a decent cove and, being from Easington, is probably a Red and White at heart – unless he was a friend of that rat Billy Elliott. The only time I wanted the police to beat up a striking miner/minor was when he put that black and white scarf in his suitcase at the end of that travesty of a film.
Danny Graham was never good enough, something that was made perfectly clear two days before we signed him and he missed a sitter for Swansea at the Stadium. By all accounts he was a generous man (he made a large contribution to help a Gateshead player have a foot operation that saved his career), but his lack of confidence in front of goal was equally generous to opponents. His one goal was a fluke at Goodison Park which gave us a vital win and led to those who were there being asked round to supporters houses to tell the assembled children and grandchildren what it was like to see Danny Graham score a goal.
Steven Fletcher was a major signing from Wolves and one that Martin O’Neill wanted to build his team around. He started well but then picked up injuries, saw O’ Neill depart for Di Canio and, after that, was never really part of the team.
He scored some important goals – one at Cardiff in The Great Escape (Volume 2) season led to us dragging a vital point out of the Blue/Red Birds and there was that splendid third against the Mags in October. And let’s not forget the part he played in the opening penalty and subsequent dismissal of Fabricio Coloccini. For that, thank you.
But all in all, his career at Burnley, Wolves and Sunderland may have brought him a shed load of money but not too much love and support from the fans of those clubs. I know what I would rather have. Pass the key to the shed please……
Finally, Wes Brown. He has hardly played this season and his whole time at Sunderland has been blighted by injury.
But he has been a very good employee and it is to be hoped that younger players will have learned from him as a player and as a man. In the various (successful) battles to avoid relegation he has been there for Sunderland and he will always be assured of a warm welcome if and when he returns as a coach or a manager.
I have two abiding memories of Wes. First of all, there was a game at Loftus Road, just after Martin O’Neill had taken over where we had thrown away a two goal lead and he sneaked up from the blindside to score a scarcely deserved winner in the last minute. This was the game where Jarvis the Dog appeared on Match of the Day, displaying his parts to the nation – a never to be forgotten night.
The second one came at The Sports Direct in that wonderful 3-0 win just before the League Cup Final where he tackled Shola Ameobi. The noise of the tackle silenced the baying hordes and Ameobi nipped off for a little cry and to tell Pontius Pardew that a big boy had taken his ball away from him. A classic moment.
Wes is now free to continue his career on Who Does The Dishes and other intellectually challenging programmes with Mrs Brown.
All we have to do now is say goodbye to Liam Bridcutt, Will Buckley, Jordi Gomez, Adam Matthews, Seb Coates and Santiago Vergini and we may be able to bring someone in.
We could start with Yann M’Vila.