Soapbox: the day the balloon went up


Give the lad a break. OK, he shouldn’t have done it. Yes, his rightful place was probably outside offering to “mind” people’s cars. But at a game when much else from Liverpool was nasty and snarling – read on for mention of Carragher but Rafa and Benayoun ought to be ashamed of their vile responses to serious injuries), he at least brought something we could all ( or most of us) laugh about. Pete Sixsmith describes the day footballing history was made ….

In 45 years of watching football, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was an absolutely amazing occurrence and I doubt I shall ever see anything like it again.

The 47,000 who were there will be able to tell their grandchildren that “Yes, I saw it…….. a full 90 minutes from Steed Malbranque.”

Steed had a tremendous first half, a decent first half of the second and then faded away as the game drew to its close. My friend Pete Horan summed him up perfectly by saying that he uses so much of his lower body strength with his probing runs and his ability to retain the ball in tight situations that he is bound to tire. He had a very good game on Saturday.

So did Lorik Cana. In 11 years’ time, secondary school teachers will be taking registers in Sunderland and the class will no longer have three kids called Jack, two named Demi and one with a proper name like Peter, Colin or Joan. Half the boys will be called Lorik and half the girls will be Cana, if he maintains the level of performance he turned in yesterday.

He was brilliant in midfield, winning the ball and using it in a very safe and secure away despite another early (and entirely justified) booking. When he lined up in the middle of the back four for the second half, I was worried that his shortcomings might be exposed. Nothing to worry about! He was brilliant, particularly in the last quarter of an hour, where his towering headers and crunching tackles saw off a wretched Liverpool side.

I could go on – and I will. Ferdinand coped very well at left back, Bardsley had a blinder and Turner never missed the opportunity to rattle a passing Red (or dirty chocolate as they were on Saturday). How about him being a wild card for South Africa?

Cattermole was excellent, winning tackles for fun and using the ball far better than I ever thought he could. He has made me go back on my reservations about signing him. Clearly a master stroke by The Brucester, which exposes me as a complete and utter know nothing, compared with the genius that is Steve.

Reidy was as good as ever and was always looking to open up the game. How Liverpool could have done with someone with his flair and imagination instead of the pedestrian dossers who made up their midfield. He (Reid) let himself down a wee bit towards the end by giving the ball away too easily, but here is another player flourishing under the new regime.

Bent and Jones combined really well up front and look a partnership. Kenwyne did remarkably well, considering that he had Skrtl pushing, shoving and hanging on to him like Laurel and Hardy trying to get a piano up a flight of stairs. Bent is the hardest working forward I have seen in a long time. He never stops, causing defenders to make errors by his incessant movement.

Jordan Henderson showed what a fine player he could be while Bolo Zenden showed what a fine player he has been and continues to be when they filled the centre of midfield. I would imagine I wasn’t the only one who was worried as Cana dropped back and Cattermole departed on a stretcher, but these two did a splendid job.

So did Fraizer Campbell when he replaced a clearly fading Kenwyne Jones twenty minutes from the end. Good to see Jamie Carragher showing those traditional Scouse qualities of fair play and honesty by suggesting to Mr Jones that our Caribbean King was putting it on. And they wonder why we don’t like them.

Oh, and don’t forget the crowd. Maybe we don’t sing or clap in a choreographed way like some clubs, or take our shirts off and flash our beer guts as others do, but a Sunderland crowd will back its team if it sees effort, commitment and a desire to be at the club. We got all three of those on Saturday and we roared the players’ home.

At the end, there was a communion between the red and white shirts on the pitch and the red and white bedecked men, women and children on the terraces. It augurs well for the future.

And what about Liverpool? To call them awful would be mild criticism. Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley must be looking down and shaking their heads at an expensively assembled team who showed little craft, little heart and little resemblance to the Liverpool teams of the past, who would roll over Sunderland. We’re making progress, they are going backwards.

The beach ball incident did not cover up the fact that they should have been beaten by 2 or 3. Benitez, to his credit, did not seek to hide behind it and accepted that Liverpool were not good enough to beat Sunderland. I don’t think I have ever heard those words before; sound great don’t they!!!

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9 thoughts on “Soapbox: the day the balloon went up”

  1. So did I, I’m wondering if we are on the end of a bit of fraud. Did WHU transplant Macca’s face onto a Donkey. Or maybe Roy knew about the ground breaking operation and he was part of a BOGOF and came with Anton?

    If you check Sunderlands books, spending on Carrotts and Sugar Cubes has almost tripled, mmmmmmmm?

  2. Sorry but ‘ Bardsley had a blinder’ goes no where near describing his contribution to the game! Who saved our bacon on at least two occasions and was aware that McCartney is still down in London, somewhere, god knows where and was covering for him, the alleged left back!

    We need to run an ad “Good home needed for two lovely Irish Lads. VERY high maintenance but oh that brouge will make it worth you time, honestly”

    I also though Steed had a quiet first half, improving before the end before he really came to life during the second period (before he needed his deserved ‘feet up’ only to have to go the duration). I sit in the North end behind the goal so maybe I didn’t see any off the ball work he was doing during the first?

  3. Looking forward to our trip to Birmingham, the pre match pint and scratchings in the Queens at Lichfield, home of that great philosopher, err……….. Tony Christie.

  4. At last! Not only do we have a team containing some top quality premiership players who actually play as a team – but for the first time, we are getting the breaks. Until Brucie’s Bonus season, that ball would have struck the beach ball and rebounded 100yds back into our own net and then been shown at the start of every Match of the Day for years to come (like that goal scored against us by Blackpool goodness how many years ago) or Yeovil or Tranmere etc etc. We are actually getting the lucky breaks.

  5. No worries about Cana playing central defender at the end, he does that for Albanian national team every game he plays and still is easily the best player of Albanian national team by a light year even though not playing in his natural position. Lucky Mackems to have a player of his stature in your team….

  6. Brilliant!

    We are playing like a team rather than the clueless individuals of last season. Bruce proves that the game is not rocket science, and Pete, I too take back my comments on Cattermole limited talents as he and Cana have formed a formidable pairing.

    Best strike force in the league, clear positive goal difference. International standard subs. Happy days – so far, but a sober reflection after the Christmas break will tell us where we really are.

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