Sixer’s Sevens: SAFC 0-1 Chelsea. Good, not quite good enough

Jake: 'the wretched Courtois'
Jake: ‘the wretched Courtois’

Monsieur Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith returned from Santa duties to Salut! Sunderland duties, expected little by way of Ho Ho Hos and – after praising a competitive approach – rued the ‘shambles’ of the defending leading to the Fabregas winner, well taken as it was. Sunderland had chances – two to an improving Januzaj – and PvA was within a whisker of snatching a last-ditch equaliser, a great shot superbly saved by Courtois. We missed Anichebe ……

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

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The Devil’s Advocate: stop squealing, stick together. And Eric Roy agrees

Rob as seen by Jake
Rob as seen by Jake

Rob Hutchison keeps it short and, well, you can judge the sweetness … and our much-admired former midfielder Eric Roy tells us to be patient with the new or newish players …

‘Tis the season of peace and goodwill to all men, the season to be jolly, full of glad tidings and merriment.

Not in Sunderland it’s not. Martin Bain has spoken today about past failings, and the general squandering of of millions of pounds.

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Eric Roy’s Sunderland return: can he inspire class of 2016 vs Chelsea?

Eric Roy, as you may have read on these pages, returns to Sunderland – where he played briefly but with such class that one faithful reader, David Miller, commented that he’d walk into today’s side – for tomorrow’s game versus Chelsea.

Take a quick look above at how his run and pass to Niall Quinn opened up the Chelsea of 1999, a team that had humiliated us on the opening day of that season after our return to the Premier League in glory as second-tier champions.

We destroyed them in a scintillating first-half display that put us 4-0 up, the same scoreline as at the final whistle at Stamford Bridge. Quinn scored twice as did Kevin Phillips. SuperKev very nearly completed his hat trick in the second half but we allowed the characteristically self-assured Londoners a consolation goal instead of adding to their embarrassment.

Eric and I have spoken a couple of times in recent days as well as communicating by text messages and emails, and one further conversation is planned that may produce a little interview. He had hoped to stay on for the Watford game, too, but must return to France – where he is a TV football pundit – on Friday.

But can his presence at the Stadium of Light for the tough challenge of nine-wins-in-a-row Chelsea inspire the Lads of today to emulate the achievement of the team of 17 years ago?

Salut! Sunderland has interviewed Eric once before. It is worthy of a repeat appearance so here goes. But remember as you read the interview that it was conducted six years ago

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Chelsea Who are You?: ‘Sunderland’s great escapes belong to national fabric’

Ray Knight, Chopper Harris and, between them, the sort of object Monsieur Salut understands is presented to your team if it wins something
Ray Knight, Chopper Harris and, between them, an unidentified object. Our best guess is that such items are presented to your team if they win something

Monsieur Salut writes: Some people are welcome to return time and again to the ‘Who are You?’ hot seat and * Ray Knight is unquestionably one of them. His support for Chelsea can be seen as a rare flaw in the make-up of a witty, heart-in-right-place sort of fellow most of us would happily have a pint with. I love his description of Sunderland’s annual flirtation with relegation but suspect his scoreline prediction is unlikely to come true …


Salut! Sunderland: Top of the league, by three clear points and with the best goal difference. Is this going to be Chelsea’s season again?

Ray Knight: So far it has reminded me of Lewis Hamilton’s season – a good start, a dodgy patch then a long winning streak, though obviously I hope for the gold medal spot rather than the silver which young Lewis achieved this year. I used to work with his dad 30 years ago – a very nice chap, which is why, despite knowing nothing about F1, I do take an interest in his career.

Antonio, and such stand-out players as the three scorers at Man City – Costa, Hazard and Willian – may take the current limelight but who else has been crucial to this season’s form?

It would have to be N’golo Kante, our very own Duracell bunny. If the other three represent the Lord Mayor’s Show, then he is the one who sweeps up the horse droppings. Victor Moses has proved to be a revelation as well, having spent two seasons away on loan as the Special One did not seem to like him much. Nor did he like De Bruyne and Lukaku either, which leads me to wonder about the Special One’s specialness. Did you notice that last week, while we had Moses, Man Citeh had Jesus – you could call that a victory for the Old Testament.

Here's one Jake made earlier: 'as big an ask as they come'
Here’s one Jake made earlier: ‘as big an ask as they come’

Without further ado, this season’s top four in order even though the last time I asked, you wouldn’t go beyond predicting the winners of Northern Ireland’s NIFL Premiership and cup?

In 2004 I predicted that the next Chinese new year would be the year of the Camel. How so, my baffled friends asked me? Because the Premier League top five in 2005 at the end of the season would be Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool, I replied. And so it proved. And did I put a bet on it? Sadly no. For next year I predict it will be the year of Calm – Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City. Or maybe the year of the Clam. What do I know?

And the bottom three (in the Premier League, not that it isn’t heartening to see Portadown So Down)?

I’ll go for Swansea, Burnley and West Ham (and poxy Portadown as well).

Whether you support Sunderland or Chelsea or neither, Guess the Score. You could win a great print from Art of Football: Have a go at

You’ve shared your best and worst Chelsea moments before, but if you were able to attend only Premier games or only Champions League games, what – leaving aside the numerical difference – would you choose?

In my very first contribution to your esteemed site, I mentioned that we fans are driven as much by hate as by love. You think of the zebra-skinned ones as dearly as I think of Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man U. So can you imagine having to hate Sparta Prague, Paris SG, Bayern Munich or Barcelona? (Actually I can make a case for the last one). At the end of the day we are defined by our insularity and local rivalries, as proved by the Brexit vote.

And have you become blasé about the huge amounts of dosh sloshing around the upper echelons of football, or is it a cause for concern? Cuba’s more interested in baseball but I cannot think Fidel would have approved.

Having turned 65 back in April, to my delight the price of my season ticket was reduced by a whopping 53 per cent so I would rather have our oligarch than your transatlantic billionaire.

When the Premier League started it seemed that it would forever be Man Yoo versus the rest, so it has taken vast fortunes to break that monopoly, to the extent that all clubs now seem to be owned by billionaires/oligarchs/sheikhs to achieve a certain level of equality. The TV moguls know that the one of the main selling points of the Premier League is a certain amount of unpredictability, so what they don’t want is a copy of the Spanish League (only three clubs have a chance of winning it) the German League (one club), the French League (one club) or the Italian League (three clubs). I would argue that successful clubs have always been the richest – the Mears family that founded Chelsea back in 1905 were the oligarchs of their day. They founded a football club because they had a sports ground with no team to play in it.

Chelsea: still the club everyone wants to hate, or in danger of becoming more lovable if only the toerag and racist elements can be eradicated?

I read on the internet just the other day that according to some kind of survey Chelsea are currently the most hated Premier League club. But these may be the same people whose surveys confidently predicted that Hillary would now be choosing new curtains for the Oval Office.

But can you imagine being a supporter of Hartlepool?

Where is that? Is it a Caribbean tax haven or something? Ask me another one.

Sunderland: three wins in four (writing before this weekend’s clueless display at Swansea made it three in five) lifted us briefly from the bottom and seemed to give us a sporting chance of moving uptable. Were you surprised more by our wretched start or the recent mini-revival?

I hate to break this to you, but I see Sunderland’s wretched start and miraculous escape from relegation as part of the fabric of British society – they always happen every year, like the State Opening of Parliament, and judging by your pink away kit, both events are commemorated by people dressing up in ludicrous costumes.

Is there a single player from our squad who you feel would be fit to warm your bench?

I’ll cheerfully take your goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, thank you.

Any other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, David Moyes, even the old Durham coalfield on top of which – OK, just a bit of it –  our stadium stands?

Maybe I will visit your ground one day, as soon as I can find a thick enough overcoat to brave the North Sea gales that I am told are part of the local charm. A special weapon you ought to develop is David Moyes’s scowl, looking as he does when prowling the touchline, like the very last person you would want to meet on a Saturday night in Sauchiehall Street. Get someone to wind him a bit more and you might get the linesmen and fourth officials more willing to consider the Sunderland point of view when confronted with controversial incidents.

Jake gets arty and scary when Moyes was our nemesis. Can he now do to others what he once did to us?
Jake gets arty and captures Moyes in the scary mood Ray recommends

Can I just say the finest answer given in the Who are You? series was yours.
Q: How did you persuade Peter Reid to buy Gareth Hall?
A: Peter Reid was under the impression that it was a property deal – he’d been told that Gareth Hall was in fact an old Mormon church behind Sloane Square that, with the right amount of investment could be turned into a highly profitable concert venue.

So go on: who is Chelsea’s more-Gareth-than-Gareth Hall, the worst you’ve seen in blue?

On our post-match journeys home Sid [David ‘Sid’ Millward, nicknamed after his bandleading uncle and an occasional visitor to these pages – Ed] and I soon tired of “Pick your best or favourite Chelsea eleven” games in favour of “Our worst Chelsea XI”, a much more entertaining pastime, and always the first name on my sheet was David Mitchell, allegedly an Australian international bought by Bobby Campbell, on the recommendation of his son. His name should rank alongside that of Ali Dia, formerly of Southampton and Blyth Spartans, with regards to footballing skills.

By the way, Gareth Hall has since been renamed Cadogan Hall, and is a very successful concert venue, where I saw John Mayall perform a couple of years ago.

Diving: a dead issue because every club had divers and other kinds of cheats (see the appalling Snodgrass dive above), or still worth hammering away at?

The only way to do anything about it is to highlight it on Match of the Day, and give points for artistic impression. It would give the “Should Diego Costa have been sent off” correspondent something else to do.

Best ref, worst ref (Premier League, not the Guildford & Woking Alliance)?

The best referee is the one you don’t notice so I can never remember their names. Today’s ref, Jasper Carrott lookalike, Mike Dean often has me frothing at the mouth. For the Champions League, no-one can surpass Tom Hennings Ovrebo from Norway, who denied us a place in the 2009 Champions’ League final. For him, I was prepared to do severe damage to the Norwegian embassy on the night in question, if only I knew where it was.

Will you be at our game? I know its pointless asking for a score prediction!

Sorry, I still don’t have that thick overcoat. I predict a 9-0 victory for Sunderland, with Borini, van Aanholt and Djilobodji each getting a hat trick against their old team. By the way thanks for not pooping Drogba’s leaving party in 2015.

Jake: 'check out this season's previous Who are You? interviews at
Jake: ‘check out this season’s previous Who are You? interviews at this link

* Ray Knight on himself: I am still a railwayman at Kings Cross, now 65 and expecting to retire soon. I am lucky in the sense that, having worked for British Rail, I will retain my travel concessions after I cease working, unlike the poor sods who work in today’s new, exciting, entrepreneurial, privatised railway, who will not. That will leave me plenty of time and wherewithal while I still have my marbles, to attend away matches at such exotic locations as Roker Park, Ayresome Park, the Dell and Highbury.

Ray Knight: ‘an old railwayman in Munich, on that glorious evening. As I said to my wife, it was the happiest…..errrr I mean, the second happiest day of my life’
Ray Knight: ‘an old railwayman in Munich, on that glorious CL Final evening in 2012. As I said to my wife, it was the happiest…..errrr I mean, the second happiest day of my life’

Interview: Colin Randall

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Prize Guess the Score: cock-a-hoop Chelsea, rock bottom SAFC and Eric Roy

Jake: 'here's hoping only Chelsea have cross words after this one'
Jake: ‘here’s hoping only Chelsea have cross words after this one’

Can Sunderland make a nonsense
of the somewhat contrasting league positions and return to winning form?

No one who saw our performance at Swansea, whether at the Liberty Stadium or watching abroad or on dodgy streams, would give us the slightest chance of ending Chelsea’s run of nine straight wins.

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From France with love: for Chelsea, Arsenal but Sunderland and Burnley too

Remi Carlu:
Remi Carlu: ‘maybe Sunderland need to go down’

It came out of the blue.
A message from a Twitter user plugging Heristage, ‘the only French-language site dedicated to English football’. The message directed me to a long and superbly detailed analysis (in French but at this link) of Sunderland AFC’s ‘Bank of England’ era, that period of the 1950s that older supporters identify as the trigger for our decline.

Heristage turned out to be the work of Rémi Carlu*, a young, half-French/half-English lover of the game as played here, the country of his mother. He’s currently studying back in the UK and happily agreed to explain himself. Rémi doesn’t support Sunderland – he favours Chelsea (mmm…) – but cares enough about his chosen project to have researched us thoroughly; he also thinks, I’m afraid, that we should accept relegation in return for rebuild …

But all his views are fascinating, all the more so coming from a semi-outsider. I commend this to you as a great read …


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Un peu d’oeuf sur le visage as U23s drop point v Chelsea

Malcolm Dawson writes….the pre-match talk yesterday as Pete Sixsmith and I made our way to the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground was just who was Lynden Gooch’s dad? As we listened to TMS and bemoaned the fact that England was sliding inexorably to defeat, we decided that it couldn’t have been the moustachioed former Essex and England batsman. “Never mind what it says on Wikipedia we would have heard about it” we agreed.

We also agreed that following on from a decent Premier League debut Gooch would not figure for the Under 23s in the revamped competition that raises the upper age limit from that of previous seasons. Would there be run outs for Gomez, Bridcutt and Mavrias in an attempt to up their fitness levels while the club tries to off load them? Well no as it turned out and unless they are moved on soon the club could easily find itself with a Valentin Roberge situation times three, on its hands.

It was a decent enough game with two soft goals which left both defences with a little egg on their respective faces. Too much perhaps because as the French would say “one egg is un oeuf.” I’ll get me coat and leave Pete to bring you up to speed.

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Beyond belief: mountains to climb if Koné goes to Everton or Chelsea

Lamine Kone: will he get to keep the shirt?
Lamine Koné: would he get to keep the shirt as a souvenir (photo courtesy of SAFC)?

The loss of Lamine Koné would not only be a huge blow to Sunderland just as we were all hoping for a much better start to the season. If the fans’ worst fears are justified, it would also threaten to bring David Moyes’s honeymoon period to an abrupt end …

STOP PRESS UPDATE: Fans spoke to Koné after training today and the player said he had been “promised a new contract”, reinforcing his agent’s comment that none had been offered. When asked if he would like to remain at SAFC, he replied: “Yeah.”

While thanking Sunderland AFC for kindly sending an image of the new, rather impressive away top, I added a postscript: “Seeing who is wearing it makes me want to cry!”

It was only the slightest of exaggerations.

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Not quite Real Madrid, not quite Barcelona. But better than Swansea and Stoke

John McCormick:
John McCormick. we’ve come a long way, some way yet to go.

It’s been a few years since I’ve done a timely review of Deloitte’s “Money League”, which usually comes out in January or February (it was January this year).

But when there’s a battle to be fought there’s not much room, time or inclination to give some thought to a little piece of meaningless self-publicity, which is what the Deloitte Money League is, entertaining though it may be.

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