Last game of the season means last of the 2016-2017 ‘Who are You?’ interviews. We have not one but two from Chelsea supporters (a consequence of Monsieur Salut panicking unnecessarily and fearing we might get none). Mark Williams* comes to us via a Sunderland supporter, his friend and occasional Salut! Sunderland contributor Jim Minton. If you ever need to catch the pair of them and there happens to be an African Cup of Nations tournament on, that’s where to head. They make it each time but be aware the next one is not until January 2019. Book now for Cameroon … and thanks Mark for a splendidly thoughtful set of responses …
Chelsea secured the Premier League title by beating West Brom a week ago. On the day of the 38th and final Premier League games for each club, the Blues will meet Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. Several football predictions go with a victory for the home team.
With apologies to the late Lesley Gore and the writers of her pop classic – it took no fewer than four of them: Walter Gold John Gluck Jr, Herb Weiner Seymour Gottlieb, and their song of teenage betrayal was elevated to new heights in the 1981 version of the non-Eurythmics, non-Sunderland Dave Stewart and Barbar Gaskin – Sunday afternoon is party time. Chelsea fans will be en fete, ours will make the most of their day, too, before taking their leave of the Premier League.
To adapt the song’s best couplet: Everybody knows where my Sunderland have gone/ But Judy (David Moyes?) left the same time
And here’s is a special prize edition of Guess the Score …
Monsieur Salut introduces our annual HAWAY awards, with thanks to the supporters of all clubs played by Sunderland in league and cup this season who contributed to the series …
Cinema does it with Oscars, BAFTAs, Cannes and the rest. Pop has the Brits and Grammys. Salut! Sunderland brings you the HAWAYS, honouring the best interviews with opposing fans – the Highly Articulate Who are You? awards.
We are delighted once again to have a trio of generous sponsors. The rough-and-ready shortlist is with judges but I shall extend the process this year to allow a popular vote, using the same criteria including the fact that my suggestions are intended as no more than a guide.
Nathalie Randall, daughter of Monsieur Salut, rues the collapsing act of the team she disloyally supports, Liverpool, predicts an Arsenal place after all in the top four and says Hull are going down with Boro and us …
There will be no “little” team winning the Premier League this year.
Normality seems to have been restored with Chelsea more or less certain to win the title once more (hands up anyone who actually likes them though!).
Arsenal have had their usual flirtation with the top four, and it remains to be seen if they manage to scrape into a Champions League place, as they always seem to do.
The future of Arsene Wenger is yet to be revealed as well as those of players such as Ozil and Sanchez.
Liverpool had their usual great start to the season, lauded as potential champions before going on a dismal run which may yet land them outside the top four, with points dropped against lesser teams (even including Sunderland in that 2-2 draw in January).
Man City are finishing strongly but they will be disappointed that they weren’t able to make a challenge for the title.
Man Utd have been disappointing in the league but are flying high in the Europa League so could yet qualify for the Champions League by winning that.
Tottenham, as last year, got themselves in great position but seem to be pipped at the post for the second year running.
The usual mid-table teams have cemented their places there again, the likes of Everton, West Brom and Southampton.
Leicester caused uproar when they sacked Claudio Ranieri after he had guided them to an unprecedented Premier League title the previous season but have recovered [egg on Monsieur Salut’s face, maybe, for suggesting the dismissal was an example of corporate obscenity]
Sam Allardyce looks to have performed his miracle survival act once more with Crystal Palace although they aren’t safe yet [see my ESPN piece showing they are still in danger depending on final results – Ed].
As for relegation, Sunderland could not repeat previous seasons’ escape acts and ensured their drop to the Championship recently after a woeful season. It is not known yet who will join them except that it will be any two of Hull, Swansea or Palace.
So my predictions for the final two weekends are:
* Chelsea to win the title (no big surprise there)
* 2: Tottenham / 3: Man City / 4: Arsenal all qualifying for the Champions League.
Relegated: Hull to fill the final place.
* My dad to give me some pocket money for writing this
Salut! Sunderland gets big hits for “Who are You?” interviews, the Q and A sessions with opposing fans that we publish before every game, writes Monsieur Salut.
And at the end of each season, we present the Haways – Highly Articulate Who Are You? awards – to those our judges deem to have been the best.
It is entirely subjective but a spot of fun. If any reader who follows the series wishes to have a say, please just leave a comment (using your correct e-mail address, which is not shown but I can see) and you will be contacted.
After a season devoid of impact or excitement, Sunderland are in the relatively unusual position of having a major say in who else goes down – and a glance at the odds at 10bet homepage suggests the bookies don’t expect us to stand in Swansea’s way on Saturday.
Our rare win at the weekend, with goals from Billy Jones and Jermain Defoe to beat Hull, did the Swans a power of good. But they were also doing what we used to do when we took survival battles more seriously: they won an important game of their own.
Monsieur Salut wrote: the old ones are not always the best, but our current plight – described with melancholy beauty in Pete Sixsmith’s report of Sunderland 0-4 Southampton – and the poor health suffered by a friend prompted me to dig out this piece, first published in November 2008.
The original article began with some references to racist behaviour, happily rare and irrelevant to today’s situation, so I will skip them here. The rest seems all too applicable now, though I have slightly edited it.
Fill in the gaps from your own experiences (mass walk-outs, instant social media responses etc have become features of some supporters’ lives since this posting first appeared) of following SAFC through thick, thin and thinner. And please get better Graham Noble, friend, former colleague and the subject of the final anecdote …
Malcolm Dawson writes……..there was a bloke in a Chelsea shirt cleaning the headlights of his van, parked in front of us as I got back to the car last night and as I usually do when I see an opposition fan after the game, I asked him what his thoughts were. My past experiences of Chelsea fans have not been great. On the whole I have found them arrogant and unpleasant but on first impressions this bloke seemed like a decent, genuine football fan who just happens to support Chelsea. We had a short conversation about the match and the state of the roadworks on the motorways at night and he said that in his opinion, this had been the hardest game they had had for a while.
Personally I thought that a stranger to English football would never have guessed this was top v bottom. They were better but we weren’t outclassed to that extent. They had more chances but not many clear cut ones and we had a few of our own. Pre-match I was pleased to see Borini and Kirchhoff fit enough to start but three of the regular Under 23s on the bench (including as the scoreboard would have us believe George Hooneyman) and Donald Love a possible fourth, shows that Moyes’s injury ravaged squad is still threadbare.
On the whole and unlike Moyes, I thought we were playing OK until the mix up that led to their goal. Djilobodji is no longer looking the liability he was at the start of the season and to concede the goal was disappointing. I wasn’t expecting anything from this game but we had chances to snatch a point. It’s performances such as this that makes the Swansea result so frustrating. Pete Sixsmith had given the reindeer the night off and was there to bring you his view of last night’s proceedings. Over to him….
This was the game that we feared.
After a dispiriting performance in the depths of South Wales on Saturday, the last thing we wanted was a visit from a side that are on a real roll, having won nine games on the trot. We get excited if we can manage two wins in a row, so excitement levels would be in the stratosphere should we ever be able to emulate the Pensioners. As it happened, we put up a decent performance, albeit not decent enough to stop Chelsea from making it ten in a row. It was good enough to keep people in their seats until the end and had Thibalt Courtois not produced the kind of save that we are beginning to take for granted from Jordan Pickford, we might have dented the Blues title hopes and put ourselves in the dizzy heights of 18th.
A neutral observer might have been of the opinion that Chelsea spurned several chances in the second half, but might also have thought that Sunderland did well to hold them in the first half. Indeed, Fabregas (a player I have never liked – he’s sneaky) scored with their first shot on target. That it came after we had given the ball away in midfield allowing them to stroke the ball around as if it were made of velvet was all the more galling.
The team that Moyes set up mirrored that of the one that the excellent Antonio Conte has used recently. There were three central defenders, two wing backs who were told to push forward, a holding midfield player, two wingers, a central midfielder and a forward. Chelsea could boast Azpilicueta, Fabregas and Willian. We had Jones, Denayer and Januzaj. Not that those three played badly.
Jones is a redoubtable plodder and can be caught out. Fortunately, neither Pedro nor Moses were really able to hurt him and he improved as the game went on. His replacement, Donald Love, also did well and put a couple of excellent balls into the box. Like another Donald, he may grow into the job.
Denayer spent the first twenty minutes chasing around like a dog let loose on moorland. He rarely touched the ball or made a tackle but he was there, filling in space and proving a nuisance. He is another young player who could improve given a decent run in the team.
Januzaj is the subject of some scepticism from certain fans. One acquaintance said pre game that we were playing with ten men and that Moyes should be sacked if he persists in playing the Belgian. Others sarcastically applauded when he made a tackle. Most of us thrilled when he used his pace and trickery to get into the box which he did on at least three occasions. Two of his attempts whizzed across the face of the goal, the other forced a fine save from Courtois. If we use Januzaj wisely, he could prove to be a genuine asset. His strengths are his pace and his ability to keep the ball at his feet. It doesn’t always come off and Chelsea realised how important he was by making sure that they doubled up on him in the second half. He is a gamble worth taking at the moment.
The sums of the parts don’t quite add up at the moment. Kirchhoff looked tired before half time and his replacement by Larsson added little to the midfield other than the endeavour we have come to expect from the Swede. There is still not a midfield player on the club’s books who can pick out a pass like Kante or (and it grieves me to say this) Fabregas. There seems little possibility of anyone coming in during January although I gather that Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert are both available.
Watford are up on Saturday and we have to win that one. The Guardian described them as “timid” at Eastlands last night. We can but hope that they arrive at on Wearside in a similar frame of mind.
In reality David Moyes, unlike his predecessors, does not start his post-match e-mails with a salutation. ‘Dear Colin’ is therefore a made-up device on the part of Monsieur Salut. What was there to say about the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea – a logical outcome of bottom versus top, boys against men, honest endeavour overwhelmed by sheer quality? Moyes tells us how he saw it …