Snow, scapegoats and getting real on Kyrgiakos, Paul Butler and Colin West

Sixer by Jake (the Soapbox is hidden)

Pete Sixsmith set out his stall with his ‘sorry guys, you’re being a bit harsh on Kyrgiakos’ message after Man City. Here, he reinforces his cry for rather more fairness and a greater sense of proportion …

There was a heavy fall of April snow last night, leaving parts of County Durham looking like a very late Christmas card. Local games were off and the Chester-le-Street Town v Whitehaven game was abandoned in blizzard conditions. No doubt, training at Cleadon will be interesting this morning, seeing as we don’t yet have the indoor training barn.

Tomorrow, the County Cricket season starts. Durham don’t play until next week although the fixture planners seem to think that Headingley and Derby’s Racecourse Ground will be ideal places to sit with your thermos and sandwiches for four days, as players struggle with umpteen sweaters and Thinsulate sales go through the roof.

It takes me back to Tuesday 13th. April 1999 when I was looking for a notable double; the opening of the cricket season at The Riverside and a promotion party at Gigg Lane. I got 50% of it.

The cricket was snowed off after a heavy fall the night before. Durham were due to take on Worcestershire and welcomed hard drinking Aussie, David Boon as captain. He was the man who held the record for the most tinnies on a flight from Oz to the UK and had been tempted over to Durham by the promise of good cricket, excellent ale and fine weather. He may have got one of them.

I drove up to the ground on that morning just to say that I had been to a game where it said; No play today due to snow. Not quite as bleak as Buxton in June 1975, where the Derbyshire v Lancashire game was called off due to a blizzard and Farokh Engineer and Clive Lloyd had a snowball fight, but still pretty impressive for collectors of sporting oddities.

Then, after a quick dash home to warm up, it was back in the car and over the M62 to Gigg Lane, Bury, to celebrate a well deserved promotion. I got that part right, as we won 5-2, with Kevin Phillips banging in four and Quinny getting the other on one of the most enjoyable evenings I have had following Sunderland.

That was a night where congas were danced on the terracing, the Paint Your Wagon song surfaced and there was a feeling that we would never again suffer the ignominies of relegation. The future looked bright. The team that clinched promotion that night was Sorenson; Makin, Butler, Melville, Gray; Summerbee, Ball, Clark, Johnson; Phillips, Quinn. Subs; Dichio, Williams, Holloway

Not a bad line up and one that, with the exceptions of Clark (for wearing an idiotic Tshirt) and Johnson (for being badly advised by idiotic agent) went on to do very well in the Premier League.

However, there were players in that line up who incurred the wrath of some of our support and were hardly given the lickings of a dog. Danny Dichio was one; never the most graceful of players, but one who always gave of his best and if his best wasn’t good enough, that was hardly his fault. Another was Paul Butler, a limited central defender, but one who never went out there to lose a game on purpose and who tightened up our back four and stopped us giving away daft goals.

Unfortunately, we have some fans that are never happy unless they can find one of our players to slag off. It spreads like a virus and I am sure that there are folks who read it and take it as fact. Kyrgiakos comes on at Eastlands when we are 3-1 up, we concede two late goals, ergo Kyrgiakos is to blame.



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The RTG message board, which sometimes resembles a home for the terminally insane, had a far too high number of correspondents who made this assumption. Quite simply, it wasn’t true, but because Kyrgiakos was on the pitch, it must be his fault. So far he has been blamed for defeat at Blackburn, our exit from the FA Cup, losing two goals to the leagues highest scorers, failing to have the Elgin Marbles returned, the collapse of the Greek economy and the failure of Leonidas to hold out long enough against the bloody Persians.

In short, he is the perfect scapegoat. The fact that he looks a wee bit like Andy Carrol can’t help him, but to listen to some people, you would think that he would struggle to play a part in The Dog and Duck Team in the Chipping Camden Sunday League. He is not the best player I have ever seen, but he surely does not deserve the opprobrium that is thrown at him.

And remember, he doesn’t pick himself and nor did he sign himself – that is down to Martin O’Neill. He is entirely responsible for signing him on loan, picking him against Everton and sending him on to replace an utterly exhausted Kilgallon on Saturday. Surely it is the manager who should be criticised and not the player.

Many years ago, stood in the Clock Stand Paddock, I was giving a young Colin West some stick for not yet being a mature centre forward. A wise old head stood behind tapped me on the shoulder and said, “He didn’t ask to play you know. The manager picked him. If Durban sees something in him that you don’t, I would back Durban’s judgement against yours. Keep off his back, it won’t make him a better player”.

Since then, I have seen Sunderland fans take against the likes of Kevin Kilbane, Darryl Murphy, Gareth Hall and Carl Robinson and more or less force them out of the club. I would not expect to see Sotirios Kyrgiakos in a Sunderland shirt next season, but I would hope that some of our support would be a little less quick to condemn and a little more quick to support.

Good looking game on Saturday and it would be grand to roll over Good ol’ ‘Arry. Ha’way The Lads!!!

Jake previews a tough but winnable game
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28 thoughts on “Snow, scapegoats and getting real on Kyrgiakos, Paul Butler and Colin West”

  1. I defended Krygiakos on here after the Everton game,but it does seem alarming that at 3-1 up we end up 3-3 after his arrival. I’d call that a litlle worrying.

    At fault once is an accident, twice a coincidence,if it happens a third time I d start to feel that we have actually do have a problem here.

    I have never liked negativity to Sunderland players but some are just so bad and managers do have their blind spots at times,how else do the fans convey their disappointment?Football and life can be brutal at times.

    Ask any Gunner what they think of Bendtner and then stand back a few feet to avoid the spittle.

    The only player that ever riled me to madness, and one not mentioned here, was a player called Paul Lemon…if you are reading this,Paul please accept my apologies,I did a check and found that during 1984 to 1989 he made 107 league appearances scoring 15 goals for the club(compares to Kilbanes 113 appearance with 8 goals)…Killa WAS worse.

  2. Actually, IIRC, Colin West DID ask to play! Wasn’t there are soul-searching session towards the end of 1981/2 when Colin West said he was the best centre forward on Sunderland’s books and merited a recall?

  3. I watched an England game at Sid James a few year s ago, sitting next to some lads from London. WHen Kieron Dyer got the ball, the crowd booed, and these lads asked me, as I had a “local” accent, why they were booing. “Because he plays for Newcastle”

    “Aren’t we in Newcastle?” they said
    “yep, that’s why they don’t like him” I replied

    Happens at every club, Nowt wrong with howling your disapproval at a player for a particular moment, but booing is just not on. Whoever it is in a red and white shirt, as soon as they get on that pitch, they are playing for Sunderland and should be supported

  4. Down at my 2nd team Woking (one is allowed one of those on this site?) they have “Moaners Corner” You have to be a bit perverse to stand there as it offers really restricted views, when you could be standing anywhere along the far touchline with an excellent view. Keeping this lot in one place isn’t a bad idea as they can give the Lineo a really bad time. Not much scapegoating going on this season though as we are top of the table. Never did understand the Kilbane thing myself.

  5. I also could not understand the boos Kilbane got. Booing a player on your own team! That would cause him to play worse and discourage the rest of the lads. Just illogical.
    Very strange. I asked my dad at the time, “why are they doing that?” He didn’t know but said, “perhaps he plays better for Ireland than he does Sunderland and the fans resent that.” But, it’s still a puzzler.

  6. This is all so subjective Kilgannon put in a huge performance for us against City and is a vocal player very helpful when organising a defence against one of the wealthiest and talented teams in the world.

    Certainly Kyrgiakos has had mixed games but then he has not had time to settle either, perhaps indeed not one for us but MON saw something in him.

    One aspect that I have never understood with players such as Shack, Pop and others flitting backwards between us and the unwashed is why does it matter a fig whether a played was born, lived in, or played for Newcastle. All that should matter is if he is good enough for us. That should be the be be all and end all otherwise you are simply acknowledging that the Mags are able to influence us.

    They have performed their socks off this season and all credit to them and their manager, but would you have wanted Carroll no? OK would I have wanted She Ra, too bloody right I would?

    It is who and how good that matters and where they came from should be irrelevant. The best players play their hearts out for their team because they love the game.

    If and when Sess leaves, as he probably will, he will be welcomed back, I wonder who feels the same about Bent and Gyan. We love the best of them for two things, their loyalty and what they give to the club, it shouldn’t matter if they have Geordie or Greek written through them like a stick of rock

    If Ji goes on a scoring spree he will find a place in our hearts, we forgive all sorts of foibles in return for winning. Disloyalty and failing to try are not amongst them

  7. All clubs have “professional moaners” in their ranks, and we are no different. I once sat beside one at a pre-season match in Holland – where I lived at the time – who started the minute Kilbane touched the ball and it brought back memories. With all seat stadia it’s more of a problem as you get stuck with them – perhaps for a whole season.

  8. I have just obtained the keys from the Town Clerk at Durham. Look forward to pelting you!!
    I don’t think he is a particularly good player and if he had had two nightmares I would probaly not be defending him. But he hasn’t. He may have been found lacking, but remember, it was O’Neill who signed him. Why jump on players backs?
    I know it happens in all clubs – Fletcher and Carrick got it at United, Arsenal fans have little time for Chamak or Arshavin and even our friends from Tyneside can turn on the likes of Perch, Guthrie and Ameobi (except when the beggar plays against us!!). I suppose it is the nature of the game; I believe that Major Carruthers-Smyth was the butt of the Royal Engineers supporters in the 1870’s.

    • Would that be the same Carruthers-Smythe who ended up playing for Old Carthusians and invented the self locking carpet slipper as a boy, whilst fielding at long off at Lords in the Eton v Harrow match? I remember he was excommunicated by the FA because, being a former pupil of Harrow, he had no right to play for Old Carthusians.

  9. I’m puzzled by your motivation to defend Kyrgiakos Pete. Your rallying to the cause of his defence seems disproportionate to the negative comments meted out about him following the Man City game. As Plan B (who remarkably thinks he looks alright!), points out, most of the comments were relatively light hearted, or at least intended that way. I’m not in the least surrprised that you mention such lumnaries as Butler and Dichio in this piece as they both provide suitable comparisons, although I would consider Butler to be Beckenbaueresque which measured against Kyrgiakos. Dichio may have tried hard, and was up against it because he was favoured ahead of Michael Bridges and was completely and utterly useless. Effort alone does not a footballer make.

    I don’t like Kyrgiakos. I don’t blame him for the goals against Man City but I have seen enough of him for Rangers and Liverpool to know that under no circumstances is he going to be an asset to our defence. His performance against Everton was cringeworthy and he made mistakes that were they made by 10 year olds would not make me cringe less. Kyrgiakos is garbage Pete and you know that as well as I do. I don’t want to see him play for us again because he is up there (or should I say down there) with the likes of Hall, Saddington, Hetzke, as well as some of the other names you mention. He’s probably taking home 30 a week for what he has produced so far. I wish I was so bloody lucky. For that sort of money you could put me in the stocks in Durham market place.

    Rant over.

    • No I just said I didn’t think he was that bad against Everton, and certainly wasn’t as bad as others that night. Overall you may be right; O’Neill may have decided already he’s not wanted and would rather have Kilgallon; in fairness to our gaffer he brought him in when Kilgallon was injured.

  10. I always quite liked Kilbane. The years he tortured us as a West Brom player made me think “I wish he played for us”. Then he did and I was happy with his signing. Possibly influenced by his screaming shot (cross) that went in at the last days of the Dell. Honest player, never hid on the pitch and poorly tret by fans.

    A journeyman who made a decent career in the game and I never understood the vitriol he received.

    But he wasn’t alone in our history.

    • Kilbane was scapegoated, and treated so badly I almost stopped going to games altogether – I couldn’t stand the crowd’s reaction. His success after he left us showed that he didn’t deserve it.

  11. I took the comments on here after the city game to be mostly light hearted about kyrgiakos, despite that i pointed out that if anyone was to blame for the two late goals it was our keeper. I know you disagreed pete but i was actually sticking up for the greek fella and felt his presence, despite phil’s last excellent point, is not an excuse for mignolet. Nor am i looking to slag him, i wasn’t even upset that we drew. The treatment of kilbane at the start of his career with us was one i never understood, no matter his limitations some of our fans never gave him a chance.

    • Kilbanes basic problem, which I noticed on his debut (and hoped was a one off) was that he could not run with the ball at his feet.

      Instead, he would push it a few yards in front of him and then try to catch it up which, obviously, meant that any half decent defender found him “easy meat”.

      What, probably, did not help his cause was that this was in direct contrast to Allan Johnson, memories of whom were still, relatively, fresh!

      • Kilbane on debut against Southampton, beat his man on the left wing and sent over a perfect cross for SKP to head in, having come on as a sub. It was if I remember rightly his first contribution in a red and white shirt. After that I think everyone expected him to do it everytime and as the team played rubbish after that match he got the blame. I never thought of him as the most skillful but I won’t knock his endeavour and commitment.

  12. Regarding Andy Carroll I was sent a text that said under FA guidelines anyone passing the ball to Andy Carroll was to be booked for time wasting.

  13. I can, definitely, see where you are coming from (especially, regarding RTG), where I think many appear to be rugrats on speed!

    However, since I watched my first SAFC game, at the beginning of 1963, I’ve learnt to do a little more than to just rely upon the judgement of supporters, or the manager.

    Instead, I look at the “comfort levels” of the other players in the side – please don’t forget that they train alongside “whoever” on a daily basis and either respect his talent, or do not as the case may be.

    Going back to 1963, at that time there was a fan’s favourite (Hooper) who had been, firstly, replaced by Davidson and then by Usher who, in turn, became targets, if only because they were not Hooper!

    More recently, Jeff Whitley (a very limited footballer) was berated by our supporters BUT trusted by his manager AND his teammates, who knew what he could do and trusted him to do it.

    With Kyrgiakos, however, he does not seem to pass the “teammates confidence test”, because every time he is inserted into our defence everyone playing alongside him appears to be nervous.

    That, to me, is not the sign of a player being made a “fan’s scapegoat” but, rather, a telling indictment by his fellow professionals.

    • I just don’t recall that level of trust being implemented on Whitley by his team mates at all. Arca and Lawrence used to run past him, taking the ball with them as they moved. They didn’t even ask for the pass, they went and got it.

      • I think, though, you may have (inadvertently) made my point for me.

        Whitley was in the team to do two things, win the ball and then give it to/let a more talented teammate take over.

        No more, no less!

        I cannot recall ever seeing another SAFC player worry about him doing his job and being drawn out of his own position because he did not have confidence in JW’s ability to do what was expected of him.

        Pele he, certainly, was not but, for me, he had the confidence of his teammates to do what they expected him to do.

      • Understand your point. Mine is that the players didn’t even let him drive forward in any capacity, not even five yards due to their apparent lack of confidence in him. A typical ball winner should be trusted to move the ball out to his wingers or midfield partner without them coming and practically shoving him out the way for it, or without him slowing it down to counter productive levels. Anybody could go and put that effort in and do the same.

        As the initial article points out though, he didn’t ask to play, fair enough. For the record I never sat and booed anybody, ever. More a groan or instinctive noise that may have been added to by others reflecting annoyance. This is human nature. Guess we all see things differently and that’s one of the reasons we all love football. 🙂

  14. I thought Carl Robinson was a decent player, though he did play alongside Jeff Whitley. I won’t apologise for scapegoating Whitley but i agree with you on this subject, generally.

    None of the two late goals Man City scored on saturday were his fault yet twitter exploded with hatred aimed in his direction. ‘He’ and ‘him’ being the Greek bloke of course. I cant be bothered to copy and paste his name constantly.

    Football is a game of opinions and the manager can have one that is astonishingly different from ours at times but it is his that counts. Not going to lie though, i have let rip at a number of players down the years and sometimes being vocal in your dissatisfaction just can’t be helped if the player is constantly having his mess mopped up by other players,whether it be a covering team mate or an opposition player capatilising. Step forward Gareth Hall.

  15. Never understood the boo-boys. By all means have a moan and groan in the pub after the match, but surely any audible stick given to players during the game is counter-productive. Another player who took a lot of home abuse was Gordon Armstrong, not a bad player in my opinion but some people decided he wasn’t a trier (which I never agreed with) and the fact he came from Newcastle didn’t help the poor lad’s cause either.

  16. A very wise article Mr.Sixsmith.There is absolutely no doubt that people over-react yet very seldom admit they were wrong.I can remember writing off Richie Pitt after a poor game at Ipswich.Surprising how most folk would clearly have made the ‘good’signings but wouldn`t have gone near the `bad`ones.I must say though that after watching `Killa` for over a 100 games for SAFC,I remain unimpressed.

    • I cannot remember any other player who seemed to undergo such a transformation.

      When Pitt first came into the team, as a seventeen year old (IIRC), his was supposed to be the next Charlie Hurley but,instead, he appeared to be weak and easily brushed off of the ball.

      Indeed, it should not be forgotten that one of the first things that Bob Stokoe did was to transfer list him!

      Exactly when the “penny dropped” I can’t quite remember but the strength and aggression that he then added turned him into some player!

    • He would have been, really, appreciated.

      A great all rounder, who could switch from being a “no nonsense” defender, who took no prisoners, to someone who gave any attack a cutting edge!!

      Wonderful chocolates as well!

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