Peter Sixsmith is as die hard a Sunderland fan as you are likely to find, such a resolute red and white that he won’t watch anything on telly featuring Ant and Dec, won’t listen to a Jimmy Nail record and won’t eat cod and chips from Fields at Esh Winning if he thinks Robson Green might have been off the coast of Iceland with his 12 foot pole and keep net. He hardly misses a match and Sunderland AFC occupies a major part of his non working, and much of his working, life. He has followed the team for over fifty years so he is no stranger to disappointment and unfulfilled expectation but this season has seen him sink into a trough of despond that has him hankering for a simple life in the Home Counties, where the only concerns in life are having an intruder throw a toaster into your bath, or an eccentric septuagenarian widow offering you a glass of home made cordial, laced with deadly nightshade.
What follows is his take on last night’s news from Norf Laaandan …
ANOTHER PREMIER SEASON BECKONS
Should that be beckons or looms? After last night’s events in North London, the club and we supporters can begin to prepare for a seventh consecutive season in the top flight, which is a reasonable record and indicates some form of stability.
Since we came back up under Roy Keane, we have experienced major changes in the boardroom, with the likes of Cheerful Charlie Chawlke being superseded by a much more ruthless Ellis Short and a number of managerial changes – Keane, Sbragia, Bruce, O’Neill and now Di Canio.
A huge amount of money has been spent, some wisely, (Mignolet, Fletcher, Bent) some not so well (Angeleri, Chopra, Diouf) plus an awful lot of mediocrity (Graham, Taino, Gardner). And we are still faffing around at the bottom of the league, always looking over our shoulders and rarely launching any kind of decent challenge for the upper echelons or the two Cup Finals we could play in.
This season, we survived because over 38 games we were marginally better than Wigan Athletic, a club which attracts crowds that are less than half of ours and who have a defence as porous as the roof that covers Sixsmith Towers. We failed to ensure our own safety with two dismal home performances against sides around us, meaning that thousands of red and whites were glued to Sky TV or 5Live as the drama at Ashburton Grove unfolded.
I looked at the text at 8pm, saw that Podolski had scored and then put the remote control well out of arm’s length before settling back to wallow in the Englishness of Midsomer Murders and the dystopian (and exclusively white, bourgeois) world that is the Cotswolds.
As Doctors (Simon Callow doing pompous and randy) and former Travellers (Scotsman with drink and aggression problems) were murdered and skeletons tumbled out of family cupboards, I was oblivious to the fact that Shaun Maloney had equalised and Aroune Kone had missed an excellent opportunity to put the Pie Boys ahead.
It was not until John Nettles was about to arrest the gardener (too nice, too caring – had him worked out early on) that a text from John Penman told me Arsene did deserve the trust that we and many thousands of Gooners have in him and that Wigan had lost and were down, so we had survived.
There were no whoops and cheers in the living room, more a shrug of the shoulders and an acceptance that I will be up at 5am.on Sunday to see the Lads at Tottenham and wave goodbye to what has been the most disappointing and least satisfying of the 49 seasons that I have been a regular Sunderland supporter.
Maybe we will put on a show at White Hart Lane and make the watching world see we have mental strength and no little skill. I do anticipate a rousing final game, but fear that most of the rousing will come from the Lilywhites and we will be left bruised and battered but still a top flight club.
Maybe I can smuggle a Midsomer Murders DVD on the coach and sit and watch it while the ritual disembowelling takes place inside WHL. Inspector Barnaby for manager anyone?