Soapbox: it’s those end of season blues

Soapbox
London has only just voted in its new mayor, and already there is a broken promise. Pete Sixsmith‘s not Boris’s. Having vowed to boycott the capital if it voted for the white-haired one, famously described as “neither as nice nor as stupid as he seems”, Sixer is already making plans for a return to Craven Cottage….

And so another season comes to an end, if not with a bang or a whimper at least with a rousing farewell to this year’s team.

It seems strange going into the final game with nothing resting on it, but I would not have wanted to be like the Blues of Birmingham or Reading knowing that the whole thing was out of their own control. Been there, done that and got several T-shirts.

So, a pleasant end to the season, with both sides giving lads a run out. Arsenal were good. Their movement was exceptional, their pace at times blistering and their strength in depth impressive. It’s not every day you see the captain of Brazil having “a run out”.

From our point of view, it was much better than the non-football fest at Bolton last week. Passing was sharper and crisper and the overall shape of the side looked decent.

Yet again, we left Kenwyne up front on his own and it turned out to be his least impressive performance of late.

But Wallace, Edwards, Reid and Leadbitter worked hard and it was a lovely performance from Dwight Yorke on what may well be his last game in a red and white shirt – unless Billabong Athletic play in them.

His control, passing and tackling were a pleasure to behold and he showed what a good player he is, has been and still could be. His presence on the coaching staff and a playing contract could make him a continuing asset to the club as we (hopefully) move into the Premier League’s next level..

The back four looked sound but poor Danny Collins was struggling when Walcott ran at him. Fortunately, Walcott fades in and out (mostly out) of games so the threat was not consistent. He is a frustrating player but he has great potential at League and International level – Walcott, that is, not Collins.

Fulop had a good game in goal and I can sympathise with his situation. As a former goalkeeper for Shildon Sunderland Supporters circa 1980, I know that keepers thrive on playing and the Hungarian needs to play or his career will come to the same ignominious end as mine did with someone taking him outside and gently telling him that “we need a proper keeper, so hang your boots up”. I did.

Finally, the Jonny Evans situation is interesting. Should he stay or should he go? That could apply to both Manchester United or Sunderland.

It has been fascinating watching him grow into the Premier League and realising that we could have a player here around who we could build a team. Teams need a strong spine: Gordon, Evans, AN Other and Jones could move us onward and upward, but will Ferguson sell him? Does Evans want to see if he can force himself into a Championship-winning side? Can Keane convince him that Sunderland is the place to be? All this and more will be answered in the next few weeks.

My attention kept wandering a little as the man behind me had a radio and I have to say that I was more interested in what was going on at the bottom rather than at the top. I had written Birmingham off before hand but was rooting for Fulham over Reading, purely because I will be able to visit the White Horse at Parsons Green next season.

Now I know that I vowed never to visit London again if they elected the idiotic Johnson as Mayor, but if the choice comes down to a good day in Putney with real pubs, an old fashioned ground and charming river views or three hours in a retail park on the edge of a nondescript town in Berkshire, then forgive me for not sticking to my principles. Anyway, beer always comes before politics.

I thought that all three managers in the spat at the bottom retained their dignity and showed that they are decent guys but I can’t see any of the three doing anything next season.

Reading will probably lose their manager and some players (possibly to us), Birmingham look like they are going to implode while Derby are beyond description. We were bad two years ago, but nothing like as mind bogglingly awful as the Rams have been this year. Some people say that Stoke may beat their 11 points but I think they have a lot more heart than Derby. Mind you, it’s an awful place to go to, best summed up by Stuart Maconie in his excellent Pies and Prejudice as “a town that always seems that it is looking for a fight”.

So, season 45 comes to an end. My first saw us lose 1-0 at home to Chelsea in the final game to mess up what had looked like a bang on promotion and things haven’t moved on a whole lot since then. Those were the days of Stan Anderson, George Mulhall and Peter Wakeham and if you will permit me, I will share a few of those memories with you over the summer. Keep the Faith and FTM.

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