Sixer’s Burnley Soapbox: Hart’s chocolate hands help but all-round quality sees Sunderland through

Ole: Jake shares Sixer’s joy

Pete Sixsmith cannot believe his luck. Another trip to Lancashire and another Sunderland win, this one the most impressive of all results this season as it was against Premier League opposition. Sixer thoroughly enjoyed his evening at Turf Moor and you probably won’t find a better account of a splendid win ..


Another midweek, another trip across the Pennines to the red rose county and another enjoyable trip back after seeing off yet another of the Lancashire town clubs who have formed the backbone of English football since 1888.

After seeing off Accrington Stanley and Rochdale in the previous two weeks, it was Premier League (or “Premier League you’re having a laugh” as the old song goes) Burnley, who fell to the swashbuckling swords of Jack Ross and his merry band of buccaneering players.


On a day when the news of Bury’s demise and Bolton’s eventual salvation were superseded by the most outrageous piece of political chicanery since Richard III (allegedly) bumped off his two nephews, our win showed that there is life in Step Three, that we have players who can play and that, when the gods smile on you, as they did here by convincing Sean Dyche that he should select Joe Hart instead of an elderly wheezing arthritic with milk bottle bottom glasses and a walking frame, then nothing is impossible.

Both sides made changes from Saturday. We gave Jack Baldwin his first start of the season, released Lee Burge, Conor McLaughlin, Tom Flanagan, Dylan McGeouch, Elliot Embleton and Will Grigg from bench warming duties and mixed the new bench up with resting first teamers and four promising youngsters.

The Clarets switched keepers, brought in the likes of Phil Bardsley and Ben Gibson at the back, Aaron Lennon in midfield and Jay Rodriguez and Matej Vydra up front. They took this game as seriously as we did. This is a competition that Burnley have a faint chance of winning. We don’t.

We settled well and knocked it about. Nice to watch – for about five minutes.

Then Jay Rodriguez, Burnley born and bred, returning home after spells at Southampton and West Bromwich Albion, started to weave his magic. He is a player I have admired for a number of years. Big, strong, a decent goal scorer, his career has been a frustration due to injuries which have prevented him from realising his full potential. This was his first start in his second spell at Turf Moor and he showed in the opening half hour that he still has it. Clever runs, subtle flicks and strength on the ball caused Baldwin and Flanagan no end of trouble and when he opened the scoring in the 11th minute, tucking in a firm shot from an incisive Aaron Lennon pass, the mood behind the goal was “let’s make sure this isn’t a humiliation”.

It might have been over when Lennon hit the left-hand post and Vydra’s follow up hit the right, but we had a chance to equalise immediately, the tireless and heroic Luke O’Nien shanking his attempt wide.

However, we did level in the 35 th minute when Danny Drinkwater sliced Denver Hume’s low cross to a lurking Will Grigg who thumped it into the net to claim his first goal of the season. He had a good all-round game, working hard, pestering Long and Gibson and looking like a decent centre forward.

Long may it continue.

Half time came with a nascent feeling of optimism. If we could hang on, hit them on the break towards the end, we might just win this one we thought.

Enter Joe Hart.

His once stellar career is now coming to an end. He is no longer first choice at Burnley and his collection of England caps will not be added to. I first saw him as a 17-year-old playing for Shrewsbury Town in a game at Wrexham (those two don’t like each other….) and was not surprised at his rise through the ranks at Manchester City into the national team. Over the last few years, he has gone from being a proud leader of the pack of lions to the moth-eaten one that small boys called Albert Ramsbottom poke in the ear with sticks in zoos. His demise continued here.

We worked a short corner. O’Nien to McGeouch to Gooch and the no longer quite so young American attacked the considerable space that the nice Burnley defenders had left and unleashed a shot. Hart, showing exactly what the phrase “chocolate hands” means, parried it upwards and Tom Flanagan, alone and unmarked, headed it in to give us the lead.

Three minutes later, we did it again from a short corner. Gooch, much improved on his Saturday showing, played it to O’Nien who laid it off to George Dobson. His firm, low shot beat Hart as the Burnley defence stood back and admired the gall of a Division One side playing short corners against a Premier League side. How dare they? I imagine Sean Dyche’s croaky voice was even croakier when he dissected this one after the final whistle.

At 3-1 up, there was always that nagging doubt that they would get back into it. They were nowhere near doing so. Burge made a couple of decent saves, they sent on Wood, who achieved little and they resorted to the kind of tactics that can best be described as “alehouse football” not really befitting for a team in the top 20 of the nation’s footballing hierarchy.

Take nothing away from us though.

This was a fine performance with the finest individual one coming from Dylan McGeouch, who showed what an excellent footballer he is by prompting, organising, tackling and hardly ever giving the ball away. He has found it hard to keep his place in the team but everyone I spoke to was well impressed with him last night and he showed that when given a bit of time and space, something as rare in Division One as hen’s teeth, he will dictate games.

The other 12 players all did well and I particularly enjoyed Charlie Wyke’s cameo where he terrorised his old Middlesbrough colleague Ben Gibson, into getting rid of the ball as quickly as he could. Nice to see us having the confidence to do that.

The draw takes us to South Yorkshire and Bramall Lane and a reunion for Messrs Donald, Methven and (maybe) Maguire with their old manager, the excellent Chris Wilder. It’s a decent trip and the 1,500 who made it into deepest, darkest Lancashire should be at least doubled as we head for the south of England’s finest county – always assuming that the full police state has not arrived and freedom of movement has not been curtailed.

Ha’way the Lads as Ben Stokes says.

Highlights via

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Sixer’s Sevens: Grigg’s off the mark and Burnley are turfed out of the cup

Pete Sixsmith gets to a lot of Sunderland games home and away – though he’s introduced a ban on matches south of Lincoln this season – and whizzed across the Pennines to show solidarity with Bury and Bolton and watch the Lads at Turf Moor. Only the Carabao Cup. But up against Premier League opposition again.

In his instant seven-word verdict – a full account of the game will follow – Pete didn’t say that we have three more scorers this season, or that Will Grigg got the first. Instead, he just happened to express a little bit of pleasure at yet another win across the Pennines, then an even more pleasing summary of a game that went our way and set up another test against Premier League opposition, away to Sheffield Utd in the next round:

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Grigg’s off the mark and Burnley are turfed out of the cup

Burnley vs Sunderland: how important to them is winning on Wednesday?

Burnley fans who recall straying here in the past may also remember we would preview each game between our clubs with comprehensive question-and-answer interviews with one of their fellow supporters.

That has changed, not because we are now two divisions lower than the last time we met but because we have introduced a simplified version of Who are You? this season.

Instead off hunting down Alastair Campbell, as we did once at this link, or another Burnley fan and firing off questions at him (or her), we now – as with all other games – post a shorter list of questions here and invite responses in the Comments below.

Answer as many or as few as you wish. Sometimes the new way (and indeed WAY) works, mostly – it’s early in the season but on the evidence so far – it doesn’t but we’d welcome responses from as many Burnley fans as possible …

Read moreBurnley vs Sunderland: how important to them is winning on Wednesday?

Burnley vs Sunderland: a useful test against Premier League opposition

Sunderland’s record against Burnley was at best patchy even when we were also in the Premier League. Now two divisions separate us and we travel to Turf Moor for a Carabao Cup tie.

There are different ways of looking at the game. Chris Maguire’s fine hat-trick in the 3-1 win against AFC Wimbledon will have done team confidence a power of good as did the notching up of four wins in a row. A fifth would be welcome, especially in this test against a much smaller club that has a rather bigger team just now.

But losing – narrowly by preference if it has to happen – would not be the end of the world in a season where promotion is the priority over all other matters.

Tell us how it will go.

Read moreBurnley vs Sunderland: a useful test against Premier League opposition

Test Matches and Sunderland playoffs. Part one: Gillingham and Newcastle United

Jake prepares for the play offs

John McCormick writes: I had a taxi booked for this morning. It arrived late. Apparently, there were fewer on the road than usual and those that were there were being driven by Evertonians. It would have been a fine night in the city centre.

All this season and last, Pete Sixsmith has brought us his twin series of reminiscences recalling the first time he visited the homes of upcoming opponents or the first time he saw them on be that on Wearside at Roker Park or the Stadium of Light, or occasionally at places like Darlington or Hartlepool.

Before he started on this epistle from the past he had this to say on last night’s game at Anfield.

My seven-word verdict on last night’s Champions League turnaround would have been: Bottled it and beaten by Farringdon’s finest.

I rarely watch games on television – and never when Robbie Savage is “summarising”- but I did watch this one and revelled in a wonderful team performance by Liverpool. At the head of it was our former player, Jordan Henderson, who never stopped running and tackling, who set up the opening goal for Origi and who was a fine captain deserving of all the success that is coming his way. I’m not a great lover of the club or some of its self-satisfied fans, but I do like Jurgen Klopp.

Read moreTest Matches and Sunderland playoffs. Part one: Gillingham and Newcastle United

Ten Years After: when Carlos Edwards and Keano warmed Sunderland hearts

Monsieur Salut writes: it seems an awful long time ago. Then, BBC Radio Newcastle’s brilliantly excitable Simon Crabtree had produced the Mother of all Goal Commentaries with his description of Carlos Edwards’s scintillating winner against Burnley to push us closer to promotion (achieved as champions with the 5-0 away win at Luton in the final game). It’s in the superb YouTube clip you see above.

But Ten Years After – OK, a little more than 10, since the Burnley  match was on April 27 and the Luton game on May 6 – we all need to have our spirits lifted. Then, we were in the hands of the Drumaville consortium, a group of Irish businessmen led by Niall Quinn as chairman and Seaham-born John Hays as vice chairman. I have seen the message Niall sent Drumaville’s surviving veterans after our relegation was confirmed this season; it was a model of dignity and pride.

Can the memory of that astonishing bottom-to-top transformation inspire whoever, ultimately, accepts the job of managing Sunderland and whoever is subsequently the club’s owner(s). We shall see. But here is how we reported on promotion 10 years ago …


Read moreTen Years After: when Carlos Edwards and Keano warmed Sunderland hearts

West Brom, Watford safe. Palace, Bournemouth, Burnley relaxing, ‘Boro, Hull, Swansea sweating. Sunderland propping them up.

John McCormick: We're not bottom, so is it a Happy Christmas?
John McCormick

Another empty weekend unless you’re a groundhopper like Sixer or a local league fan like Malcolm, which means it’s time for a relegation review. With six games to go in a compressed framework and a holiday coming up this is probably the last one I’ll be able to fit in.

It has been a long and tedious season (as have been the last four apart from that trip to Wembley,  only three years ago although  it seems like a lifetime, those six wins in a row, a sequence of wins against Citeh and wins at places like Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge *[see below]) and while some of our chosen teams have reached safety we haven’t and are still awaiting a conclusion.

And according to my calculations, as if you needed them, that conclusion isn’t good for us.

Read moreWest Brom, Watford safe. Palace, Bournemouth, Burnley relaxing, ‘Boro, Hull, Swansea sweating. Sunderland propping them up.

Sixer’s Burnley Soapbox: no plan, no guile but at least a Chuck Berry payoff

Jake’s verdict was ‘not enough’ and David Moyes felt unable to disagree

Monsieur Salut writes: normally, our deputy editor Malcolm Dawson introduces Pete Sixsmith‘s unfailingly compelling reflections on Sunderland matches. I have become quite proficient at following each match by internet streams and Barnes and Benno but Malcolm and Sixer both attend most home games and the lame 0-0 draw to Burnley was no exception (the interviewee for our first-class Burnley ‘Who are You?’ Duncan Sutcliffe joined them in County Durham yesterday to complete his journey from Lancashire to the Stadium of Light).

Sixer suggested that for once I should post his piece because, talking over the disappointment of the game by phone this morning, we both found bleak humour in my oversight, when sending my usual report to  ESPN, in inadvertently omitting Jack Rodwell entirely from my ratings. It was therefore, until quickly rectified, as if we had started with 10 men. Mmmm. Over to Sixer to ponder this Freudian slip and other striking features of a match that may prove decisive in our latest bid to survive in the top flight, and see if you can improve on his closing reference to the newly departed and truly great Chuck Berry …


Read moreSixer’s Burnley Soapbox: no plan, no guile but at least a Chuck Berry payoff

Moyes on the boys v Burnley: ‘unfortunately the point we’ve got today isn’t enough’

Moyes on the boys

John McCormick writes: Two weeks ago we started positively against Man  City and we showed fight. Our manager found things to praise.

This week, despite a couple of positive comments, he’s not as upbeat. Nor  am I or, I suspect, anyone who went to the SOL as a home fan. We are just not good enough for the first division.

Read moreMoyes on the boys v Burnley: ‘unfortunately the point we’ve got today isn’t enough’

Sixer’s Sevens: Sunderland 0-0 Burnley. Unimaginative and wasteful

Jake: ‘Benno got it right – just not enough’

Monsieur Salut writes: another wasted chance to keep in touch with anything remotely resembling safety. First half was abysmal, Burnley poor but often threatening whereas Sunderland were just poor. Very poor. Second half? Four or five excellent chances to score so it was undoubtedly better, but still so far short of being good enough. On his birthday, Pete Sixsmith had to field questions on social media about what could possibly spoil his day. His seven-word verdict, later modified a little and on which he will gloomily expand, tells it all …

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Sunderland 0-0 Burnley. Unimaginative and wasteful