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.
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.
I thought I’d take a look at their finances. Nothing detailed, just a skim through any entries at Companies House and a quick perusal of a search engine, enough to kill some time I have and satisfy idle curiosity. My idea was to divide the twenty into two and cover 10 clubs each time. After that matters should have moved ahead with the Lancashire Bs and Sunderland’s takeover and I should be able to revisit these four.
Monsieur Salut writes: by tradition, Salut! Sunderland reproduces the Who are You? interview that has won our top HAWAY award. There is a twist, and a much-appreciated one. Doug Shields, a Bristol Rovers fan and the author, said he would prefer his prize to go to ‘a decent charity in Sunderland’. The runner-up, Richard Hall (Walsall), immediately made a similar gesture, asking for a replica top to go to an inner-city Sunderland school, perhaps as a prize for its summer fete. There you have it: football’s antidote to the shame brought by lowlife hoodlums running amok in Portugal in pretence of supporting England.
I shall offer an Art of Football print – the Sunderland range can be seen here and is superb – to the newish Sunderland fans’ museum and am open to suggestions as to the school. If I receive more than one approach or recommendation, I shall draw a winning school at random (provided it broadly fits Richard’s geographical preference). Thank you, genetlemen …
The season is over and Sunderland couldn’t quite get across the finishing line. But there were positives, says Monsieur Salut, despite the failure to achieve what everyone wanted and the club needed.
Salut! Sunderland‘s modest contributions to the season’s brighter aspects included a good deal of fine writing for which credit is due to Pete Sixsmith, Malcolm Dawson, John McCormick, Wrinkly Pete, Rob Hutchison, Bob Chapman, Paul Summerside, Bill Taylor, Lars Knutsen, John Marshall and whoever I have overlooked.
And then there were the Who are You? interviews, in-depth interviews with fans of opposing teams before each game.
Our fellow League One clubs proved a tremendous source of wit and wisdom as the interviews mounted up. It is now time to offer some rewards to those responsible for the best of them.
It has become a bit of a stuck old gramophone record, Salut! Sunderland‘s pride in a tremendous season of Who are You? interviews with opposing supporters.
Judging is at an advanced stage for our HAWAYs – annual awards for Highly Articulate Who are You?s – and with only a couple of sets of votes still awaited, front-runners are emerging.
League One has been a goldmine for the series (not forgetting our cup-game interviewees from other divisions)
As Monsieur Salut put it when writing to the judges: “I could have put them all in a hat and drawn three at random, so good have so many of the interviews been.”
View From the North West Corner
(or in this case behind a very wet goalmouth at Bristol Rovers)
It is 290 miles from my home to the Travelodge in Weston Super Mare where I’d based myself for the Checkatrade semi final against the blue and white Pirates of Bristol. The drive down on Monday was straightforward enough and fortunately not subject to the ten mile stationary tailback that I saw stretching down the southbound carriageway from J25 to 23A on my return two days later.
Travelodges are OK if you just need a place to rest your head and for a couple of nights it served its purpose, though you only get 30 minutes free WiFi which is a bit mean these days, especially when you’re trying to register with Ticketmaster along with 30,000 others, the morning after the night before. I am a bit paranoid about missing out on Wembley tickets after the play off game with Charlton, despite having been to 43 games that season whilst living in the East Midlands so I was desperate to make sure I would be in line this time.
I had decided to combine my trip to the semi final with a visit to RSPB Ham Wall and so spent Tuesday morning and the earlier part of the afternoon, looking at great white egrets, marsh harriers, both of which were almost impossible to find in the UK twenty or so years ago and a small flock of sand martens, which are always the earliest of the hirundines (swallows and martens) to complete their northerly migration but the first week of March is still early.
Despite stopping frequently my arthritic knees were beginning to play up as I just beat the rain and made the shelter of my car to head for the Gloucester Road in Bristol. How could I not go to the Drapers Arms after Sixer’s recent recommendation, but first sustenance of a more solid kind was required. Getting into Bristol at 4.00 pm meant finding a parking spot in the side streets near the ground was easy enough and crossword to the ready I went into Jean’s Bistro. Run by a Brazilian and his Thai wife, this is a no frills, cash only bring your own booze place, which has a limited but interesting menu. Spicy battered whitebait, veggie Thai curry with sticky rice and a milky coffee set me back around fifteen quid and more than adequately filled a hole as I waited for the shop/pub next door to open, where I had arranged to meet an old mate from the Heart of England Branch for a pre match bevvy.
It was not long after opening time when I wandered in and the place was already pretty busy but the first face I saw was Paul “Sobs” Dobson, sitting with Stan of the Durham branch and several others of our ilk. I wandered up to the counter, ordered a pint of porter and started chatting to a Rovers’ fan, who was having a pre match pint before setting off to the ground to do a bit of stewarding or programme selling or something. He didn’t say exactly what it was he was doing but did say he would probably only get to see the second half. There was a good range of ales on sale and chicken and chips for £1.50. Despite my appetite being sated from my hour in Jean’s I was tempted, but if ever you find yourself in the Drapers their version of chicken and chips consists of a pickled egg and a packet of crisps all crushed up. Mmm yummy as the Weight Watchers community would say.
The pub was beginning to fill, but wasn’t uncomfortable as my marra Jon turned up. He is now living in Monmouth and looking after 8 acres of wildlife friendly small holding, with it appears a wide range of mushrooms. Well he always was a fun guy. As the weather tried to emulate that which I had experienced at Accrington, Pete and his brother arrived and Jon and I gratefully swapped our standing tickets with the Twelvesmiths – ostensibly to save my tired knees but with the added bonus of saving us from the deluge.
It’s fair to say we were impressed with the side that JR had elected to turn out. I felt a bit for Robbin Ruiter and Alim Ozturk who I don’t feel have done much wrong in this competition but by the same token, as a fan I want to see us look to win every competition, even if that means fielding the strongest team and risking injury to key players.
Pete has covered the game in his Soapbox so I won’t go into too much detail. Grigg took his goal well and showed us what he is capable of. An excellent ball from Power played him in and Max had a good night, playing higher up the pitch, knowing Leadbitter was behind him.
Hopefully he will also start to recover some of the battling qualities he showed before that sending off at Walsall.
Morgan had a decent game too and took his goal well following up Gooch’s shot. Too often in recent seasons we have had no-one on hand to snaffle up chances when a keeper has failed to hold onto the ball. McLaughlin took a bang on the head when he did just that but recovered to grab the ball at the second attempt and keep a third successive clean sheet.
This may not be the most prestigious of trophies in the football calendar and a fixture requiring two nights in a hotel and 580 miles worth of driving may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I had a great time. I’ve said it before I’m loving the whole experience of this season. Unfortunately I won’t be in the Royal County of Berkshire (or even Buckinghamshire – thanks Eric) on Saturday and prior commitments mean I have to miss that important game at Oakwell, but I will be back to see if we can beat Walsall at the fourth time of asking a week on Saturday, when the chances of automatic promotion may be somewhat clearer.
Ha’way the Lads.
Monsieur Salut writes: you might struggle to believe it but Doug Shields, a Bristol Rovers diehard, did an excellent and amusing Who are You? interview here before the game at the SoL. This offering also has its entertaining moments.
But he doesn’t seem to have enjoyed his brief acquaintance with our fans the other night.
A lot of what follows is about food and I do wonder whether sour grapes might have crept into Doug’s dietary programme.
Or perhaps all Gasheads are gentle, indeed genteel souls whose idea of letting their hair down is to have two sweet sherries, not one, to wash down their crustless cucumber sandwiches while mistaking ‘Ha’way’, meaning come on, for ‘away’. Little wonder us ruffians from the north seemed so uncouth. Let Doug, a self-confessed lager drinker, take up the story …
As we all now know, the Checkatrade Trophy has assumed an importance the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Carabao can but envy. The semi-final win at Bristol Rovers, courtesy of Will Grigg’s first goal for Sunderland from open play and a second from Lewis Morgan, leaves us Wembley bound.
There is still much work to do in the league as we strive to take a top-two position. But for now, we can savour the moment and look forward to the March 31 final against Portsmouth. Two grand old clubs at Wembley = a sell-out crowd and a memorable occasion. More from Pete Sixsmith and/or Malcolm Dawson, both present at the Memorial Ground, will follow in due course but may have to await their return from the West Country. So let’s deal with other business …
— stewart donald (@stewartdonald3) March 5, 2019
John McCormick writes: I thought we never looked like losing, and I like the way this club is shaping up for the end of the season. That doesn’t mean anything’s done and dusted yet, but as Pete Sixsmith’s post game seven word text makes clear, we have at least one pleasant diversion to look forward to as well as a growing sense of belief