Birflatt Boy and Sutton: what is the true value of pie?

Malcolm Dawson writes… is ages since we heard from the Birflatt Boy but today he makes a welcome return to the pages of Salut! Sunderland with his thoughts on Monday’s events at Gander Green Lane where off field events have overshadowed those of the match itself. Over to you Birflatt.

Birflatt Boy weighs up the controversy

Is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake? All of my family love them. Personally, I hate them. Too soggy to be a biscuit and too dry to be a cake. It all comes down to personal taste. Well, it would do were it not for the fact that our concept of cakes and biscuits, extends to taxation issues. McVities have always maintained that their product is a cake and so benefits from the zero rate of taxation on cakes, which does not apply to biscuits. This debate has run for years and was the focus of an article on BBC News Magazine earlier this week. Link is here;
This is perhaps a suitable preamble to the debate which has followed in the wake of Sutton United’s substitute goalkeeper, Wayne Shaw sparking controversy after consuming a savoury produce during his side’s valiant defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Tuesday. I say “savoury product” because Wayne himself has declared that he ate a pasty and not a pie, although other sources say that it was a meat and potato pie. Wayne’s delectation for pies or pasties has landed him in a lot of trouble. It’s probably safe to say that pies and pasties are not unfamiliar to him. Unfortunately this pastry fetish has landed the big fellah in trouble due to FA betting rules. As anyone following this story even casually would know, Sun Bets offered odds of 8/1 on Wayne Shaw being shown on live TV during the game consuming a pie.

During the closing stages of the game, when all Sutton’s subs had been used and the game was to all intent and purposes over, Wayne got stuck into his snack. He clearly enjoyed it, but I doubt if the same can be said for the media melee and fuss which ensued. Wayne was forced to resign and his manager described his actions as making the club look unprofessional etc. Wayne himself said that he scoffed the pasty because the canteen had no pies left and that it was all done for the banter. Listening to his comments he did seem to be aware that there was a betting matter involved somewhere. What is the problem and who is to blame for all the fuss?

We are inundated with betting advertisements and all sort of betting permutations where bets can be placed at any time during a game and on all sorts of bizarre events which in many cases have little if any bearing on the outcome of a game. Number of throw ins, the cumulative total of the shirt numbers worn by goal scorers in a game etc. Gary Lineker has defended Wayne Shaw and says that football is losing its sense of humour. I didn’t think Wayne Shaw’s actions were particularly amusing. As a bloke in his mid forties I’d have thought he was old enough to know better. At 23 stones and in his mid forties I’d also have thought he was in no fit state to be considered as a goalkeeper either but that’s a different matter. He may have looked unprofessional. I thought he just looked a bit daft but who has suffered in this case? Arguably Sun Bets is the loser if they have to pay out. It serves them right to engage in betting offers which have no impact on the outcome of a game but which have led to a man losing his job. It seems to me that there are several issues or factors being confused here.

· What are the limitations on betting on football matches? The issue of ‘inside knowledge’ has been raised in this matter.
Inside knowledge on what exactly? Anyone could have seen the Sun Bets ad. Was it players or staff at Sutton Utd who placed
bets on Wayne’s pie munching?
· Why has he had to resign if he ate a pasty?
· Would he have had to resign and would there have been the same furore if he had scoffed a burger or a hot dog?
· Has anyone stopped to think that this is nothing to do with betting on football?
· Were the BBC complicit in this? Did they know about the Sun Bets offer and if so why did they broadcast images of a bloke
eating a pie/pasty during the game?
· Does Wayne normally munch his way through a pie or two during the game? His previous dietary habits had clearly not caused
his manager any concerns.

Not Wayne Shaw but a look a like former Tow Law keeper

The response to this nonsense and indeed it is nonsense, is very sad I feel. Wayne Shaw is no footballing superstar. He’s a larger than life character in so many ways and has been swept along with Sutton United’s remarkable FA Cup adventure. He started his playing career at Southampton alongside the likes of stars such as Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer who both had wonderful football careers. Wayne didn’t. The last thing he probably expected was to become any sort of celebrity at the age of 45 yet that is what happened. He got his few minutes of fame. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol predicted several decades ago but a few days of infamy, which will probably be remembered for years to come. Sutton United’s amazing story will be overshadowed by the story of a middle aged bloke eating a pie. That’s how ridiculous the world has become. There are more serious matters to consider in the wake of this however.

On the same day as “Piegate,” the story of Cowdenbeath defender Dean Brett emerged. Brett is currently being investigated by the Scottish FA over allegations that he placed over 2700 bets on over 6000 football matches, 8 of which were against his own team. He has been suspended by Cowdenbeath the only club the 24 year old has ever played for. “Deserves nothing better!” “He should never play football again,” I can hear people say. Well, wait just a moment. Dean’s partner, Gemma died of cancer just over two years ago at the age of 22. This happened just a few months after Dean and Gemma’s prematurely born daughter Mollie passed away. Dean was left alone to look after Mollie’s twin sister Mia. It’s virtually impossible to imagine how difficult facing each day must be for this young lad. Dean Brett’s footballing future is in serious doubt now. He admits that he had a gambling problem before these terrible events but they can scarcely have done anything to assist him coming to terms with his gambling. He even scored in one game which he had bet on his team to lose, and says the money doesn’t matter to him after all he has been through.

It’s a strange world we live in these days. The focus on what’s right and wrong has become confused so often. Both Wayne Shaw and Dean Brett have done things that they regret, and wish they could change, but situations and circumstances can impact on how people respond to situations which range from unprecedented attention to earth shattering bereavement. I hope that Wayne and Dean’s situations can be treated with some consideration and particularly in the latter case some degree of sympathy.

It really doesn’t matter whether a Jaffa cake is a biscuit or cake, they are all the same inside, just like the rest of us.

Message to Rangers, Celtic and Scotland: keep your Wee Bit Hill and Glen British

Birflatt Boy adding weight to the argument
Birflatt Boy adding weight to the argument

Birflatt Boy emerges from his customary shadows to rue the possible departure of the Scots from the UK. Has Fletch let on as to where he stands? What do George Herd and Billy Hughes make of it all? We cannot honestly imagine Phil Bardsley having a view one way or the other. The headline reference to Celtic is naturally tongue-in-cheek with no intention of offending people who believe a big chunk of the west of Scotland is already a fifth province of Ireland …

The devolution debate and upcoming referendum on Scottish independence has got my mind racing.

By the end of next week we may be facing the prospect of a genuine border crossing as we head north. Who can say which way the vote is going to go. Alex Salmond claims that Scotland is on the brink of history. The same might have been said about all manner of eye-watering historical blunders too.

Read moreMessage to Rangers, Celtic and Scotland: keep your Wee Bit Hill and Glen British

Birflatt Boy: comings and goings herald new dawn at Sunderland AFC

Birflatt Boy sees all the summer transfer activity, with more than a few words of gratitude to a former manager, as a potential pivotal point in Black Cat’s history. The Di Canio revolution he argues, backed by, or more likely galvanised by our American owner, can be the catalyst for a change in the way in which the club, its fans and the world perceive Sunderland Association Football Club.

Birflatt Boy adding weight to his argument
Birflatt Boy adding weight to the argument
There’s really only one word to describe the transfer activity at Sunderland this close season, and that’s “breathtaking.” Players seem to be arriving almost on a daily basis. Well, alright, that might be something of an exaggeration but for this summer at least it’s clear that we are able to get a lot of the players we want, when we want. Beneath the headlines which alert us to another new arrival there are probably a good few more that we haven’t quite been able to get to sign, for a host of different reasons. The rumour mill keeps on churning them out, but for once in living memory there does appear to be more than a hint of truth in what we read and hear.

The “comings” and perhaps more importantly the “goings” which naturally receive a lot less attention have been really sweeping. Bramble and Kilgallon were sent packing at the end of their contracts. Elmo’s permanent future has been resolved in a reunion with Cribbins in East Yorkshire. You would have thought that signing this player once would be enough for any manager, even Bruce, but twice, really? Bruce clearly has a conscience, spurred by his failings at Sunderland he seems hell bent on repeating the same failings on Humberside taking Danny Graham on a season long loan. Hull are also being linked with Cattermole and also the B52, although Bruce has been quoted as saying that Mr Bendtner ‘is probably going to cost too much.” That’s not quite a euphemism for “not cheap enough.” Bruce may turn out to be the best manager we ever had managing someone else. Not only is he happy to relieve us of the rubbish he signed for us, but he is happy to take some of the dross acquired by his successor. Long may this continue and we may hope that Graham’s taxi comes straight back for Cattermole, if rumours are to be believed. Dare we hope he returns yet again for McClean? The prospect of that remains a Birflattian dream.

The latest speculation is that a Turkish club have now made a serious offer for the other January acquisition Alfred N’Diaye. West London, and Martin Jol’s Fulham seem contenders to end Phil Bardsley’s stint in rolling around in used bank notes. It’s a disappointing end to a player, who unlike many of his peers never seemed to hide. Not the most gifted of players, he appeared to give his all and was our Player of the Season, not so very long ago. It’s a pity that fact has been forgotten already. Perhaps I am being too charitable about an average footballer who is earning over 30 grand a week. I hope he enjoyed playing with the U21s the other day. (And in a 3-2 win v Darlington at Bishop Auckland yesterday – ed)

Having digressed so completely, from the intention of this article, which was about how “breathtaking” the personnel changes have been, what is most impressive is not only the speed at which dead wood is being cleared, but that the intentions of our management team have been made loud and clear. PDC has wasted no time in marking the cards of players who don’t fit into his plans. There will be more departures in the next few weeks, and quite possibly a few more arrivals. We have never previously signed a current Italian international with two Serie A titles to his name; a player in his prime, yet we have done that. It’s not all down to the manager of course, and without the sheer guile, commitment and conviction of Ellis Short we would be sitting here with O’Neill at the helm and looking forward to trips to Barnsley and Yeovil. There were a significant number of our supporters who were happy to accept our fate, refusing to embrace the required changes back at the end of March. The transfers both in and out over the course of the summer have been rapid and show a real conviction, but it’s really been the behind the scenes events, and the initial recruitment of a well connected scouting team which has made this all possible.

For decade upon decade we have not been taken seriously as a football club, and that has had to change. The persona, the public face and character of Sunderland AFC had to change, and my goodness, has it changed. This is not to say that the season ahead will be without its challenges. There are a lot of new players who are going to have to settle and adjust. The tried and failed methods of old have gone in one fell swoop. The way in which we are perceived by the wider world has changed, and that is long overdue and welcome. That too has been “breathtaking” but perhaps the most significant change is yet to come, and that is in the way that we perceive ourselves and our club. For the first time in most of our lifetimes we look like we are serious about all of this and that’s got to be the most “breathtaking’ of all. We might even stop harping on about 1973.

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Birflatt Boy: go, Steve, go. But he means Blackburn this time

Birflatt Boy called often enough for Steve Bruce’s head. Now he’s pushing for Steve Kean to be the next managerial casualty. The Rovers support certainly seems to have turned hostile; David Moyes said he left the Bolton game at half-time in disgust at the abuse aimed in Kean’s direction …

Read moreBirflatt Boy: go, Steve, go. But he means Blackburn this time

Pizza for nothing and your chicks for free (2): the Bendtner apology

Image: Wonker

Here is the statement released by a very contrite sounding Nicklas Bendtner. He’s obviously been reading Birflatt Boy’s headmasterly strictures.

Three players, not two, involved in the Newcastle car vandalism allegations? Martin O’Neill has more work to do than any of us imagined.

Read morePizza for nothing and your chicks for free (2): the Bendtner apology

Pizza for nothing and your chicks for free

Titus Bramble, Nicklas Bendtner, Lee Cattermole and any other individual – famous or not, but suspected of criminal conduct – remain innocent until courts decide otherwise. Nevertheless, Birflatt Boy is alarmed at what a lot of highly paid footballers consider acceptable behaviour …

It’s remarkable to find some people who still expect footballers to be role models.

Read morePizza for nothing and your chicks for free

Birflatt Boy: end the agony, Mr Short

One of Monsieur Salut’s regrets is that although certain readers have taken a strongly pro-Bruce – or anti-kneejerk – line none has recently accepted the open invitation to put such thoughts into a full-sized posting. Yet there’s no shortage of hostile comment, as the latest Birflatt Boy offering demonstrates …

Let’s not beat about the bush on this issue.

The overwhelming majority of Sunderland fans not only want him gone after the debacle of losing at home to Wigan. Not only do the fans want him gone, they expected him to be gone already.

Read moreBirflatt Boy: end the agony, Mr Short

Salut!’s week: Newcastle Matty gets his say, Bruce’s rocket

Another review of the week has Salut! Sunderland looking back over the past few days – and, for ruby-tinted reasons, a little bit forward, too …

This, my friends, is how the young and trendy of the North East dressed and did their hair back in 1971. Or not, as the case may be.

Trendy or not, it is how the Anglo-French couple who were soon to become Mr and Madame Randall looked when the Stanley News and Northern Echo sent a photographer (just one: both papers belonged to the same company) to get some pictures. I think they were taken in Lanchester.

The wedding was on November 16 1971, in the city of Le Mans where Stéphane Sessegnon played for a couple of years, which means that the ruby anniversary is looming. So we’re off to Bali to mark the occasion; it is for you to guess whether this is being done on the proceeds of the millions of Salut! mugs sold.

What this means is that for the next fortnight, until just before the Wigan game, M Salut will have little or no access to the site. These things are beyond Pete Sixsmith so Joan Dawson will handle what needs to be done as best she can and I have excellent “Who are You?” interviews (actually, one of them is an article in its own right, and a very special one) already in the bag and ready for use before the forthcoming two games.

Now, we should look back over the past week.

Starting with the most recent, the aforementioned Sixer had some fun – click here to see it – with the fuss being made about the St James’ Park name change. It brought in large numbers of Newcastle supporters, whose mischievous reminders of our respective positions in the Premier wiped the odd smile from face.

Only one of the Mags wishing to post comments, someone going by the name of Matty, tried the foul-mouthed approach before realising this really isn’t that kind of site. He made two further attempts and both were free of abuse; they were also very similar, suggesting he desperately wants us to hear his view so here it is:

Mags 15pts up on the mackems u thought this would of been a bigger talking point ???

The week had begun with lots of Sunderland supporters reflecting on the defeat at Manchester United. Ian Porter’s Defeat not the whitewash I feared was a very fair appraisal and this was followed by Sixer’s own analysis in which he also mocked the dynamics of penalty calls at Old Trafford.

This all prompted Ken Gambles to cast his mind back to some of the refereeing howlers – the reversal of the penalty decision last week was, of course, 100 per cent correct – that have tormented us in the past. Read it here and you’ll probably think, as I did, of those he missed out.

M Salut found a Ghanaian website’s interview with Asamoah Gyan which got very close to an admission that he moved for the money. No great surprise there, but to have it – nearly – in the horse’s mouth was a departure from the usual nonsense about these things always being done for footballing reasons. Click here for the full article.

To Birflatt Boy, it had clearly seemed an age since anyone had demanded Steve Bruce’s head on the executioner’s block. A silence he shattered into a thousand pieces with a strident rebuttal of the Postivos’ case. It drew the usual heavy postbag, as you can see by clicking here.

Pete Sixsmith took an affectionate look at the lives of Jimmy Adamson and Florian Albert, recently departed.

There was more, notably Sixer’s Sevens and Bruce’s Banter.

But now it’s time to go. Please let us be three points better off by the time I get back.

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Colin Randall

Birflatt Boy: stairways to hell and the cauldron of negativity

Originally used here to deplore the anti-Steve Bruce sentiments expressed at Salut! Sunderland, while overlooking the strong voices raised in his defence, cauldron of negativity is a phrase that has stuck. The shadier and shadier Birflatt Boy, a fully paid-up member of the “Negativos”, invokes the debuts of Led Zeppelin and long-forgotten German urban terrorists in support of an assault on the loose band of “Positivos” and fencesitters, M Salut among them, holding out with varying degrees of conviction against dismissal …

Over the past four decades it would be hard to find a time when Sunderland’s support has been so sharply divided into two distinct camps.

Read moreBirflatt Boy: stairways to hell and the cauldron of negativity