View from the West Stand: did the tide turn as the Blackpool Seasiders came to Wearside?

Jake: ‘is this called the start of a revival?’

Who’d have thought not long ago that we would be feeling happy with another one all draw? It may not be ideal but at least it represents an improvement on recent results. Pete Sixsmith was off on Santa duties but Malcolm Dawson was in his usual seat. How did he see things? Read on…..


Jake does his bit for the seat change

The weather first thing seemed promising yesterday but I’ve lived in the North East long enough to know that’s no guarantee that it’ll stay that way. Accuweather may have been telling me it was 10° and I may have gone to school with no coat whatever the weather, but it was on with the thermals before I set off and what a good decision that turned out to be. It was freezing and despite my layers I was never that cold last February when I was in Norway, high above the Arctic circle being taken for a trip on a Reindeer sleigh by members of the Sami community who had decided that cashing in on tourism was probably a more preferable lifestyle than following their herds across the tundra in 22 hours of darkness.

Might have felt at home on Wearside yesterday

Twelve months ago Blackpool was a club in turmoil and many of their supporters were only going to away games. They’re going back to Bloomfield Road again but still had a good turn out yesterday, who out sang the mostly quiet home support for much of the game. The impression I was getting from those of a red and white persuasion, on the Park and Ride and in and around the ground was subdued but not overtly negative. There wasn’t an overwhelming feeling of confidence, but nor was there an air of despondency before kick off. More of a “here we are again, what’s today going to bring?” sort of feeling.

Phil Parkinson decided to stick with five at the back with Flanagan Ozturk and de Bock forming the central three. With O’Nien and Hume as wing backs there was potentially more pace on the flanks than there had been at Gillingham. Power and Dobson were the midfield two with Watmore and Maguire playing off Charlie Wyke, starting for the first time in ages. Wyke is a big, physical hard as nails character who might well have linked up well with Roy Race at Melchester Rovers. Marco Gabbiadini did the half time draw and how we could do with someone who can stick it away like he used to do at the moment.

Is the 70 year old still playing?

Blackpool had a big tall, soft as clarts centre forward in the Cotes d’Ivoire, Frenchman Armand Gnanduillet who was to make significant contributions in contrasting ways throughout the game.

We started off as we so often do, attacking the Roker End and within the first two minutes had won two corners and seen Charlie Wyke head just off target. But as seems to happen quite often having failed to convert an early chance we end up on the back foot when the visitors take the lead immediately afterwards.

From the resultant goal kick Blackpool keeper Jak Alnwick pumped the ball forward to their right wing where de Bock brought down the aforementioned clarty bloke. It was probably a foul (though from where I sit it looked as if de Bock might have actually played the ball around the legs) the linesman flagged and a foul was given. The subsequent rolling around, clutching his ankle was unwarranted, but obviously something the man whose surname reminds me of a particularly unsavoury French sausage, considers a legitimate tactic. We’ll return to that later.

M Salut is known to eat these!

But free kick it was and the ball was sent high into the box, past the outstretched leg of Alim Ozturk beyond the far post. A player in a blue stripy shirt hooked it back in front of goal, clarty French bloke headed towards goal and this time Ozturk headed it out to the edge of the box. From there it was played back out to the Blackpool right, swung back in, cleared by de Bock but only to Matthew Virtue-Thick who curled a lovely shot into the top corner from outside the box. McLaughlin, preferred to Burge for this one had no chance but once again our failure to clear our lines quickly had cost us a goal.

It soon became apparent that we did not have a great official in charge of this game. Both Wyke and Maguire were on the wrong end of some physical manhandling yet nothing was given. Then he would blow for the most innocuous of challenges. Sometimes a push in the back would be penalised then other times an arm around the neck and a judo throw deemed acceptable. If we are going to have poor referees at least let them be consistent please. Add to that linesmen who seemed to lag behind play and then give offside decisions based on guesswork, having failed to spot players getting behind defenders after the ball had been played and even I was getting animated.

We still have a preference for the slow build up and sideways and backward passing, rather than going for the quick attack, but a quick interception from Max Power found Charlie Wyke who tried to backheel it into the path of Watmore on the edge of the box, but it was well defended by an alert Jay Spearing. Watmore had another chance a little later after Hume’s cross made its way to O’Nien on the opposite side. His dink back across goal found Watmore but he was only able to head it over from the edge of the six yard box. McLaughlin made a decent stop from Gnanduillet and the follow up drive across the face of goal pinged harmlessly out to the touchline.

On thirty five minutes we got another corner as Hume again looked for O’Nien. Our first efforts with the dead ball had come to nothing but this time Maguire sent in a hard cross at around knee height and Wyke managed to get ahead of his marker to stick a side foot volley firmly home.

First goal since August

Wyke’s celebration seemed to be more one of relief than ecstasy but at least we were back in the game.

Unlike the Burton game we didn’t immediately concede this time but we nearly did as the ball broke to Husband but with McLaughlin nowhere near his shot hit the big clarty Frenchman on the knee and went wide. He was standing on the goal line and clearly offside but had he been able to get out of the way the goal would probably have been given.

Not long after Watmore and O’Nien linked up. O’Nien was brought down but the referee waved play on, probably correctly, though it was the kind of tackle where despite the player playing the ball, it is often deemed a foul. Anyway it broke to our French friend and George Dobson tried a similar tackle, brought the player down and was rightly penalised and booked. Gnanduillet obviously took exception to this and forgot about falling down and rolling around and grabbed hold of Dobson and gave him a shake. He also got a yellow for that, again probably correctly, though I’ve seen the red card shown for less. Mind you he might have got a second yellow straight away for dissent as he purposefully walked away when the ref was calling him for a talking to. Later he was to get Dobson sent off after our man appeared to win the ball cleanly. The ball bounced into Gnanduillet’s legs and he did his rolling around in agony act. The ref fell for it and produced a second yellow. Dobson couldn’t believe it and several Blackpool players appeared to console him as he made his way to the dugout. This was later in the second half. Wyke had headed against the bar and Grigg only just failed to get a foot on a hard low cross from O’Nien but the stats will show that Blackpool had more shots than us and we only managed two on target all game.

This was a better result but over the entire 90 minutes not a lot better than the Burton game performance wise. It’s easy to let the result cloud one’s judgement but we actually had a decent spell against Burton without making it count. Yesterday there were positive signs but also areas of concern. There seems to be a lack of attacking intent and a passing game that seems more intent on keeping possession than finding ways to threaten the opponent’s goal. There are still too many misplaced passes (Flanagan being especially culpable yesterday) and an inability to clear our defensive areas quickly. No more games until after Christmas and the prospect of a transfer window which may allow Parkinson (or whoever is in charge then) to address some of those issues but at least the home crowd was generally supportive, if subdued yesterday.

The official attendance given out was 30,595. Yeah right! There is a difference between tickets sold and bodies through the gate. To my eyes 23,000 would be nearer the mark as presumably a considerable number of season card holders decided they had better things to do and gave our last match before Christmas a miss. Judging by the atmosphere in the ground yesterday, these might well have been those types who seem to feel that anything other than an easy victory is sufficient to induce acts of aggression – physical and verbal.

Twelve months ago we appeared to be a club in a good place. We had a new triumvirate of owners who appreciated the place a football club holds in the lives of those who show their allegiance to it. They had gone out of their way to reconnect with the fans, on social media and in the flesh. Interaction with supporters on Twitter and in the media, regular attendances at supporters’ group meetings, invitations for fans to join them in the boardroom and turning up in local pubs and in the fan zones pre-match were just some of the ways in which they showed they got what football is all about.

They had also taken a firm stand on those players who had shown no desire to be at the club, installed an enthusiastic young manager and brought in a recruitment policy which brought along a whole load of players who, although limited in ability, were players who could do a job at the level we found ourselves, were happy to be paid League 1 wages but who, most importantly, wanted to be at the club. Things were good in the run up to last Christmas. Despite the fact that his team selections had been hampered by injuries, Jack Ross had seemed to find a system that made us favourites to get out of this division at the first attempt.

Then it started to turn sour. After the Burton game I wrote that I wondered if I wanted to endure many more evenings and afternoons at the Stadium if they were going to be like that. What I perhaps didn’t make crystal clear was that it was the toxic atmosphere created by the boo boys and girls and the negativity I was encountering when going to away games. Wrinkly Pete echoed my feelings and I am in no doubt that whilst not directly responsible for team selection, tactics or performances on the pitch, these vociferous and frankly unpleasant types who vent their spleen at any opportunity, are in danger of destroying the very thing they claim to love.

No more Tweets from Stewart Donald, no more Charlie Methven visiting the Branches or popping into the pub before away games. Apparent discord in the dressing room and an already beleaguered manager, who is probably only there because of the impatient minority who cannot see the bigger picture. As a player, manager, coach or owner, how enthusiastic would you feel if, despite your best efforts, people were gesticulating in your direction and telling you to eff off? Add to this a proliferation of websites, presumably run by these types or possibly Mags, who dominate the News Now Sunderland pages with critical headlines drawn from negative social media types and it all gets into the subconscious and inhibits maximum efficiency.

Hard as it sometimes is the Lads need us behind them.

This wasn’t a great performance yesterday but on the whole the crowd stayed behind the team, without getting too carried away. There were a few half hearted boos at the end, but the majority were in the direction of the referee who had not endeared himself to the home support.

Rant over.

I shan’t be at the Bolton game as I will away for the Christmas period but Peter Sixsmith will be to bring you what may well be the last Salut! Sunderland match report. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and wishing us all good fortune and success for our club in the future.

Ha’way the Lads

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As readers know, we have been unable to publish comments for some weeks and this seems likely to remain unresolved as we wind down the site (which will remain visible until the hosting period, already paid for, expires).

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Sunderland’s lengthening list of promotion rivals: Ipswich, plus Rotherham, Peterborough, Portsmouth and Doncaster (or Wycombe, Fleetwood, Blackpool and Coventry)

Another weekend without football, another weekend providing space to keep our readers – and pundits – up to date with our chosen clubs. If you think as far back as the start of the season you’ll probably recall six clubs being selected by our readership as the most likely to finish in the top six slots come the end of the season.

Sunderland made the cut but would have been selected regardless. The other five clubs were Ipswich Town, Rotherham, Peterborough Portsmouth and Doncaster. Ipswich apart, they haven’t done as well as expected. In fact, they haven’t done as well as Sunderland who, as the first two graphs show, haven’t done as well as they did last season

Read moreSunderland’s lengthening list of promotion rivals: Ipswich, plus Rotherham, Peterborough, Portsmouth and Doncaster (or Wycombe, Fleetwood, Blackpool and Coventry)

Portsmouth then Sunderland, Ipswich, Rotherham, Peterborough and Coventry top our poll. But where are Lincoln?

On Friday we had over 3,000 visitors, followed by a quiet weekend. Not everyone took part in our top six poll  but over 1200 votes (not voters) have now been cast. That’s not bad, I suppose, for a League One fans’ site but I am expecting a few more will chip in before the season kicks off.

Early results suggest the headline I used then – for which I visited a couple of betting sites to find the promotion favourites – was on the right lines. Of the six clubs I named five are in the top spots. Lincoln (currently lingering in 8th place) are the exception with Sunderland, unsurprisingly, replacing them. There’s a gap – slight but quite evident – between the top three and the next three,  after which numbers drop off, so Lincoln and Doncaster, who made last season’s playoffs and now lie seventh, have quite a bit of ground to make up.

All of the clubs in the League received votes, which I’m taking to signify that we  managed a wide reach. It will be interesting to see if enough fans of so-called smaller clubs, which are predominantly towards the bottom of the poll, visit in large enough numbers to move their favourites upwards. Crowdwise, numbers are against them but we have only small numbers voting so you never know.

Read morePortsmouth then Sunderland, Ipswich, Rotherham, Peterborough and Coventry top our poll. But where are Lincoln?

Ipswich or Portsmouth? Rotherham or Peterborough? How about Lincoln or Coventry? It’s your choice

Last season our punters got it more or less right and correctly predicted most of the top six. Luton were missed but that was mainly down to the Coventry Ninjas, whose hijack of last year’s poll pushed them (Luton) out of the top places.

Maybe the ninjas or another club’s fans will do the same again this season. As far as I’m aware the polldaddy vulnerability that allowed multiple voting still exists and all I can do is disable the ability of readers to see the results in real time. That might change how the poll coding works (it’s built-in and can’t be changed) but it takes something away. A pity, but there we go.

I’ve got a lot on for the next few weeks so I won’t be conjuring up a novel method of tracking and displaying our chosen clubs’ progress or the lack of it. All I’ll be doing is monitoring the accretion of points for now, though I might come up with something different later in the season.

As always, your comments are welcome. We hold posts for moderation but they do go up eventually, subject to meeting commonsense rules of decency, manners, libel etc.

Read moreIpswich or Portsmouth? Rotherham or Peterborough? How about Lincoln or Coventry? It’s your choice

From Morecambe to Blackpool, Blackburn, Bolton and Bury, then Liverpool, Everton and Tranmere. It’s an Historic Lancashire Ramble

WordPress seems happier with Win7 than Win10, and a change of computer has let me add more content and repost the report I did a few hours ago:

It was January 2017 when I last reported on this side of the Pennines, which is not surprising, given the season(s) – and close seasons – we’ve had recently. it’s a bit quieter now, so I thought it a good time to revisit before things get lively again. Some of the clubs I visited have improved their circumstances, others have seen their situations worsen and quite a few of them are now sharing a division with us, not all in the best of circumstances.

Indeed, some will make you wonder why all the fuss about us finishing fifth and missing out on promotion against Charlton, who themselves are not in the best of circumstances, given the owner is looking to sell and appears to have already given up on promotion, although he hadn’t ruled it out completely yesterday.

Charlton fans are welcome to post their thoughts but Charlton are not the issue today, the focus is firmly on the historic County of Lancashire

Read moreFrom Morecambe to Blackpool, Blackburn, Bolton and Bury, then Liverpool, Everton and Tranmere. It’s an Historic Lancashire Ramble

Luton then Barnsley, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Charlton and Doncaster? Who knows

This will be my last visit to our “ones to watch* series before the end of the season.

You’ll have to judge for yourself whether or not our readership, ably assisted by the Coventry Ninjas**, got it right at the beginning. For my part, with three of the five – Portsmouth, Charlton and Barnsley – fighting for second place and another two still with a chance of the playoffs I’m inclined to think they didn’t do too badly.

The problem is that the sixth club is Sunderland, and that’s who they are all fighting with.

Read moreLuton then Barnsley, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Charlton and Doncaster? Who knows

Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: more of a damp squib than fireworks against Blackpool

Jake: ‘bloody hell, man. Thay’s 13 now’

The current spate of fixtures which are coming thick and fast means an increased workload for Pete Sixsmith so Malcolm Dawson relieves the pressure by borrowing his soapbox to give us his view of last night’s game at the Stadium of Light.

Still undefeated at home, only two games lost all season, the only team in the top four flights of English football to have scored in every game so far, comfortably in the play off positions and just off an automatic promotion spot with games in hand on the sides above us.

We were informed by Simon Pryde of BBC’s Total Sport before the game that this is Sunderland’s best ever start to a league campaign since 1963/64 which itself was the best ever start the club has made. So another point last night against a side which hadn’t lost since we beat them ourselves on New Year’s Day shouldn’t be seen as a poor result and yet it is. Two points dropped, rather than one point gained.

Last week I was up inside the Arctic Circle staying in the Norwegian city of Tromsö, a hotspot for those who wish to see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. I travelled there in hope that I would get to see this natural phenomena, caused by the interaction of particles brought into the Earth’s magnetic field by the solar wind, but fully prepared to be disappointed which is rather like the majority of times I am when setting off for a Sunderland game – hoping for a good performance and a win but never taking anything for granted, knowing there are no guarantees in football.

Aiden McGeady

On the way in I put my latest theory to Pete which is that since Aiden McGeady has been fit and an automatic starter, the team has been less fluid and therefore easier to defend against and that while one of his great attributes is his ball control and dribbling, the number of early crosses we get into the box has diminished and we seem much more laboured in our build up play. It’s hard to argue against his stats and leaving him out of the starting XI might be difficult to justify in those terms but maybe Jack Ross and the coaching staff might encourage him to look to play the ball into the box earlier, more often.

M Salut knows my reasons for not involving myself in social media and I can imagine that many of those tweeting and instagramming their disgust at last night’s performance would be the same as those who had been full of praise pre-match for the team selection. I was certainly happy with the line up. Blackpool tend to set up in a diamond formation so I saw the choice of O’Nien at full back, with Gooch ahead of him, with Watmore alongside Grigg as an opportunity to exploit space down the flanks and test the Seasiders’ defence with a bit of pace.

And we started off brightly. Within two minutes Watmore got behind the Blackpool defenders and forced Ben Heneghan into conceding a corner. Leadbitter whipped it in from the left and the Blackpool keeper looked a little unsure as he palmed it away at the near post for another corner. Leadbitter and McGeady combined, allowing the Fence Houses born Sunderland supporter to fire in a shot from outside the box, which this time Mark Howard held firmly. Two good opportunities in the first three minutes and encouraging signs that the Lads had come out full of attacking intent.

Then a long ball forward, saw Will Grigg put the Blackpool defence under pressure and he blocked the attempted clearance and almost got there before the keeper who did just enough to get the ball away to Watmore on the right wing, but he couldn’t capitalise. We had other efforts with Honeyman and Dunne both having decent shots and whilst Blackpool were impressing in patches it was the home side who looked the more likely to score in that first quarter of the game.

But opposition teams deserve a bit of credit when they play well and it wasn’t long before Jon McLaughlin proved his worth yet again getting down quickly at the far post to palm away a decent header from Harry Pritchard.

Lively enough in the opening period

Immediately afterwards Will Grigg had a great chance to open his account when a swift passage of play down the right wing, started by Jimmy Dunne who had collected the ball from that save and involving McGeady and Honeyman, set Watmore away. As he bore down on the penalty area he played a neat pass to Grigg who took a touch and drove a firm left foot shot on target, but Howard made himself big and held on well. Credit to him for a decent stop.

It was all looking good but as is so often the case a near thing at one end was followed immediately by a goal at the other. From where I was it looked as if Baldwin was weak in his challenge on Armand Gnanduillet but a quick glance at the Sky Sports highlights confirm what Pete told me in the car after the match, that the man in orange had actually controlled the ball well, showed some strength to hold off and turn Baldwin before taking a couple of touches into space and rifling a shot from outside the box, across McLaughlin and into the bottom left corner. A cracking goal and whilst at the time I thought Baldwin was at fault I’ve revised my opinion. This was just a quality goal.

The home crowd however, reacted as they had when we went behind against Charlton on the first day of the season and roared the home side into a reaction. A minute after going behind we were on the attack again, O’Nien burst into the area and was clearly tripped. I thought so. Those around me thought so. O’Nien thought so, Jack Ross thought so but the referee and his assistant didn’t. It could so easily have been one all.

And two minutes later it almost was as a curling McGeady free kick just caught the wrong side of the post with the Blackpool keeper static on his line. Three inches to the right and it was in but as it was it went behind for a goal kick.

So we were in the game, but there were still too many occasions when we gave the ball away too easily. There were also, for my liking, too many times when the players bring the close control, once touch drill they do in the warm up into the game, when a quicker more direct flowing approach might pay dividends. That style of play almost got Will Grigg a goal and was more apparent earlier in the season.

As half time approached Blackpool were controlling the play well and certainly hadn’t come to let us have things all our own way. They might have gone into the break two goals to the good as the scorer Armand Gnanduillet , whose name sends my spell check into overdrive, missed the target with a header from a decent position. He will feel he should have done better.

The visitors also started the second period brightly and after seven minutes Jack Ross made his first tactical change replacing the ineffective Lynden Gooch with Charlie Wyke. It was noticable how much bigger the visitors were and this at least gave us a bit more of a physical presence. Things started to change and later the introduction of Tom Flanagan at left back for Reece James also evened things up size wise.

We once again began to get more of a hold on the game and I wondered if a repeat of that Charlton performance was on the cards. Watmore went close, Wyke went close and then on the hour mark, the manager decided it was time to put my theory to the test as Aiden McGeady was replaced by Lewis Morgan.

Will Grigg not quite on fire

Then came the best chance of the game as Jack Baldwin played a quick long ball out of defence and found Will Grigg who got between the two centre backs, took the ball round the onrushing keeper and passed the ball into the side netting. Only inches wide but success and failure is often defined by the smallest of margins and this was just the wrong side of brilliant. Of course it will lead to many of the social media warriors branding Grigg as a waste of space and those websites that like to use terms such as slated, howler and shocking the opportunity to once again air those sensationalist headlines. It was a poor miss but at least it shows that he can find the space and hopefully when he is a bit more up to speed he will be more clinical.

From this point on Blackpool faded and once again we started to show the fight and determination that had stood us in good stead at the start of the season. Eventually we got the equaliser when Baldwin headed home from a corner with 15 minutes left and we finished the game the stronger of the two sides, though unlike in the Charlton game we weren’t able to finish the game with a winner.

It would have been harsh on the Seasiders who gave a good account of themselves, apart from the cynical time wasting that is.

I thought we just about deserved a point and I would have taken three but in truth we just weren’t clinical enough and made too many unforced errors. We need to retain the ball better and when we pressed the opposition in their own half late in the game we began to look more dominant. We did that earlier in the season and perhaps it is another thing the coaching team should think about in the latter stages of the season.

Last Tuesday I spent four hours on a boat which cruised the fjords in search of the aurora, but a thick cloud cover meant the lights were not showing, which was a disappointment but next day a trip out into the Norwegian countryside produced a great show and made the trip worthwhile. After last night’s disappointment, which still gained us a point don’t forget, let’s hope the team can respond on Friday and next Tuesday to put on a great display and give us all a bit of a psychological boost as we get into the crucial last third of the season.

Ha’way the Lads.

Match highlights are available here at the SAFC website.

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Sixer’s Sevens: Sunderland 1-1 Blackpool. Drawing conclusions

Jake: catch Sixer’s instant seven-word verdicts throughout the season

Pete Sixsmith was there to witness the first of three successive home games that could – like it or not – define our season. The first proved a disappointment, yet another draw. And this time we had to come from behind even for that. Monsieur Salut’s headline suggests the obvious question pending our fuller analysis of the match …

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Sunderland 1-1 Blackpool. Drawing conclusions

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: Blackpool at Sunderland

Pete Sixsmith

Monsieur Salut writes: in this edition of his marvellous twin series describing first encounters with Sunderland opponents and – if an away game – their grounds, Pete Sixsmith offers illuminating thoughts and memories on Tuesday night’s visitors from Blackpool. Interestingly, he remembers the same occasion in the 1970s described by our Seasiders’ Who are You? interviewee, Phil Corbett – a Roker Park clash between the two sides that ended not only unhappily for Blackpool, seeing a lead overturned and promotion hopes shattered on the last day of the season – but also violently. Those were grim times of frequent outbreaks of football hooliganism, and we had our share of idiots (and worse), as Phil relates.

Pete had a good friend, plus his dad, in the away end that day but concentrates on the football and what was a not very convincing victory – he calls it undeserved – courtesy of a late Bobby Kerr winner. At this stage of the 2018-19 season, most of us probably would settle for another while naturally hoping for better …

Read moreThe First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: Blackpool at Sunderland

Blackpool Who are You?: ‘Roker misery, Stadium of Light joy’

The Yorkshire Seasiders on a trip to Portugal. Click the photo for all the Who are You? interviews this season

Monsieur Salut writes: Phil Corbett* is one of Blackpool’s seriously disgruntled supporters, left frustrated and worn-out by the ‘calamitous’ ownership of Owen Oyston. But it doesn’t stop him being a fan. As he explains ahead of Sunderland’s home game against his side on Tuesday night, this means avoiding home games so as not to spend money on the club. Away games are considered OK provided fans can pay on the gate and not have to purchase tickets via Blackpool FC.

It is a wretched state off affairs that makes Newcastle fans’ loathing for Mike Ashley seem more like a passionate if occasionally turbulent romance. Let Phil, chairman of the wrong-side-of-the-Pennines Blackpool supporters’ group known and the Yorkshire Seasiders, take up the story, recall an unpleasant encounter with Roker Park (and the much later compensation of a winning day out at the SoL) and offer an unwelcome scoreline prediction …

Read moreBlackpool Who are You?: ‘Roker misery, Stadium of Light joy’