John McCormick writes: outside the clouds have rolled in and the rain is sheeting down. It’s a grey day. Inside only the heating system is keeping the cold out. Normally an e-mail from Pete Sixsmith would mean a post bringing cheer and warmth, good feeling and heartiness. So the one that arrived but a few minutes ago was more than welcome.
Alas, some times it’s better to travel than to arrive:
John McCormick, associate editor, writes in the latest of Salut! Sunderland’s end-of-season reviews (see all contributions here):
I only made it to three games.
The first saw us exit the League Cup at Goodison, where a weaker than usual team in a struggling club had no trouble in dispatching us. Rodwell played that evening, in what I think was his last game for us (other than as an unused sub at Brentford), but other than that there was nothing of note in the game and it has no bearing on the rest of the season, so I’ll ignore it.
We continue our end of season reviews with Wrinkly Pete, aka Pete Lynn, who – in his second contribution to the series; click here for the story so far – asks one of the questions which will be on a lot of minds.
Of course, being Wrinkly Pete, he has to do it in a musical way, and he has to ask it a number of times …
Malcolm Dawson writes…….well the Men and Women’s curling both proved to be a huge but not unexpected disappointment. I am becoming a bit fatalistic now in my sports watching and rarely expect those I want to do well to come up with the goods anymore. In my continuing refusal to actually spend any money following Sunderland, whilst the current owner remains, I didn’t go to yesterday’s game. I had listened to most of the Barnes and Benno commentary, but resigned to another defeat I missed the last minute and thought we had lost until I switched on Final Score. Like Wrinkly Pete I have no sympathy for the multitude who walk out early then miss the pulsating climax, yet here I was doing the auditory equivalent yesterday. Still whilst a point is better than nothing it’s not as good as three. (I’m stating the obvious in the hope that someone will notice and offer me a job as a TV pundit.)
Snatching a point in the dying minutes of time added on is much more uplifting than having the lead hoiked away, but did it leave Pete Sixsmith feeling that it had been a grand day out? Let’s find out…….
As we trooped out of the Stadium at about 9pm due to all the added time, the general consensus was that Callum McManaman’s welcome equaliser was “too little, too late”. Points wise, it just about kept us in touch with the other potential Checkatrade Trophy entrants in the relegation zone and it took the smirk off the faces of the Middlesbrough supporters, but it was another opportunity lost to drag ourselves into the heady heights of 22nd in a league that is competitive but not very good.
At least there was fight and spirit (although Jake Clarke-Salter took that a bit far) and after the last two wretched home defeats against mid table teams, we gave one of the so-called “better” sides a real scare. Ultimately, our appalling defensive habits let us down again. We have scored three goals four times this season which has earned us four points. That’s not very good is it!
There are some positives to take from this. We looked solid in the first half. Asoro took his goal well and looks a good player. Premier League scouts will have been alerted to his potential. We may make some money out of him to help pay off Ellis Short’s personal debt.
Paddy McNair had an impressive 41 minutes before limping off. Injured by a tackle from Lee Cattermole. He had been a very influential figure in the centre of midfield. He got about the field well and made some telling interceptions and some lung bursting runs. Should he tire of football (as I am doing) there is a career for him in the second row at Leeds Rhinos. It is to be hoped that his injury is not deep seated.
Cattermole showed that there is still some life left in the old dog. The legs are struggling at times and some of the passing leaves a little to be desired, but he and McNair blotted out Besic, Downing and Grant Leadbitter up to half time. Our former captain still found time to spray some decent passes around and even had a couple of on target shots blocked by desperate Boro defenders as we lay siege in the closing stages.
Williams and McManaman made positive impressions when they came on and both scored. Williams celebrated with the support while McManaman decided to continue his feud with Tony Pulis and gave the impression that that was more important than salvaging a point for his team. Pulis’s comments after the game were interesting – “I didn’t pick him, Sheffield Wednesday didn’t pick him and he’s not getting picked here. Maybe he has some problems.”
But there are the usual negatives. The defending for all three goals was truly awful. Kone (who did actually strengthen the back three/four) stood too far off Bamford and allowed him to turn and equalise. There was a lack of communication between keeper and defenders for the penalty that put them ahead for the first time and John O’Shea miscalculated for the third one, allowing the impressive Bamford to put the Smoggies ahead again.
The lack of cohesion between goalkeeper and back line is a real worry. Lee Camp is an experienced player who was brought in to restore some stability but looks no better than Ruiter or Steele. He was slow off his line when he gave away the penalty, ignored Cattermole’s indication of where Grant Leadbitter was going to put the kick (Catts was right, Camp was wrong) and does not inspire a great deal of confidence in the support. Coleman has a dilemma here; stick with Camp, restore Steele or take a chance with Max Stryjek. I suspect he will choose the first option.
He also has an option at the back now that Clarke-Salter is out for three games. His tackle was a straight red and as I protested (more in anger than conviction), the quiet, thoughtful man who has the misfortune to sit next to me said, “The referee was given a decision to make.” He got it right. Coleman now has to decide whether to restore Browning to a back three or stick with O’Shea and Kone until one of them implodes.
Flash Gordon had 14 hours to save the universe and, aided by Brian Blessed, managed to achieve it. Chris Coleman and his disparate band of loanees, free transfers, young up and comers and grizzled old pros has 12 games to save us from another relegation and what could be the closure of large areas of the Stadium of Light as crowds below 20,000 would be the norm next season. Fleetwood and Gillingham won’t bring many with them.
I targeted a possible seven points from these last three games. We got one. I’ll target one point from the next three. We may end up with seven. Or none…………
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For his second contribution to the pages of Salut! Sunderland, Martin Crow compares and contrasts – favourably – the Chris Coleman way with words, when talking publicly about Sunderland AFC, with the mix of gibberish, gallows humour, boorishness, beyond-the-pale philosophy and heavy gloom that has gone before …
Monsieur Salut writes: I asked Pete Sixsmith to cast a critical eye over the ins and outs now that the transfer window has slammed shut – shattered? – on us. I did not expect to find him absent from duty running in sheer joy up and down Busty Bank (which takes the envious souls of South Church up to Shildon). I didn’t fear we’d need to drag him from celebration drinks at whatever they call the Surtees or Red Lion these days, shouting all the while in praise of our saviours Ellis Short and Martin Bain. I sort of expected the cool, measured, underwhelmed appraisal that follows …
Monsieur Salut writes: Martin Crow* is a welcome addition to our ranks of contributors. He is an aspiring freelance writer and hardly unknown among Sunderland fans (check his work for ALS). In his first offering to Salut! Sunderland, he provides an astute appraisal of Saturday’s performance that properly complements Pete Sixsmith’s brilliant Soapbox, and concentrates on the generational aspects of Chris Coleman’s (OK, patchy so far but think what went before) revival.
And on a day when any proper football supporter will be mourning the death of Jimmy Armfield, a quite magnificent voice of radio, Martin starts and ends with reminders of the folly of another player-turned-broadcaster ..
When Alan Hansen delivered his infamous and dismissive verdict on Manchester United’s class of ’95 following an opening-day defeat to Aston Villa, I doubt Sunderland could have been further from his mind.
Monsieur Salut writes: Chris Coleman has been effusive in his praise of the young stars of his third victory in charge of Sunderland, the 1-0 win against Hull City on Saturday. But this writer suggests there are other prospects possibly available for loan deals – as well as the targets who have necessary experience – who might help Coleman lead the club away from the relegation zone and complete the groundwork for a brighter future …
The uplifting victory against Hull City does not disguise the painful fact that this has been another disastrous season so far for Sunderland since the drop from the Premier League.
The new era that was set to begin under Simon Grayson faltered, the team has consistently looked disjointed and out of sorts while Chris Coleman’s arrival in Grayson’s place has yet to produce a convincing turnaround in performances – and above all consistency.
We have been this way before. Early activity in a transfer window seems positive and our hopes rise accordingly, only to be dashed by a combination of factors: the questionable SAFC managerial merry-go-round, an imbalance of expectation and delivery and the air of thick gloom hanging over the club.
But Chris Coleman’s first move really does look like a sound one. Jake Clarke-Salter, a ball-playing central defender brought on loan from Chelsea, “is supposed to be rather good”, says a Chelsea-supporting friend.
Back in November, the Sunderland Echo‘s thoughtful columnist Tony Gillan posed the interesting question: “Are Jan Kirchhoff’s legs so wonky that he couldn’t be offered a rolling contract?