View from the NW Corner: Sunderland playing catch up before kick off

Malcolm Dawson writes….each year is the same or at least it seems to be. We end one season and I am convinced we will improve the next. Over the past few years new signings have created a feeling of optimism which has quickly dissipated as early season results brought home the reality that things weren’t really any better. This year has been even worse because that optimism was even greater in May but from the events off the training ground this close season it would seem the club is in freefall. There’s still time of course but with every hour that passes the outlook seems bleaker.

(What follows is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Salut! Sunderland.)

View From3I can’t help but feel (not for the first time) that I have been conned somewhat by those who run the football club I support. I don’t know if you noticed, but this year the date to get a discount on season cards was about six weeks earlier than last year. I still renewed mine, even though economically it didn’t make sense, as there are generally two or three games moved for TV which I can’t get to because of other prearranged commitments and last year I didn’t make the Watford game because a heavy fall of snow around midday caused chaos on the roads around Crook.

Viewed objectively over the whole year, I questioned the wisdom of forking out the best part of four hundred quid when after at least half of those games I left frustrated, disappointed and thinking there were more entertaining ways of spending my cash. Look back at all the Sixer’s Soapbox columns for 2012/13, 2013/14 2014/15 and 2015/16 if you need persuading.

But the way the team played in the second half of the season convinced me that better things lay ahead. I would have renewed anyway (well you just do don’t you and I like my seat) but here was a team on the up. We may not have been title contenders but we were set fair for entertaining football and a steady rise up the table.

We had seen the influence of Big Sam in the fitness levels, the organisation and the fighting spirit of the team. The January signings obviously had a massive effect, but the improvements in the performances of Yedlin and van Aanholt were as a result of defensive drills which Allardyce clearly insisted upon and eventually he found a way to get the best out of the players he had at his disposal. Rather than try and mould the players to his predetermined system he found a system which got the best out of his players.

We want him and he wants to come. His club doesn't want him yet still no sign he's returning.
We want him and he wants to come. His club doesn’t want him yet still no sign he’s returning.

I was hopeful that M’Vila would be signed quickly and that Yedlin or a similar wing back would be brought in and we would begin this campaign with a settled side, full of players who had bought into Sunderland AFC.

The inept performance of England at the Euros and the subsequent managerial turmoil at Sunderland which resulted from that, has distracted somewhat from a fundamental failure to build on the momentum that was generated as relegation was avoided and the team and its supporters ended on a high. The fact is that with less than four days to go until the start of the new season we are in a far worse position now than we were three months ago.

No M’Vila, no Yedlin and reports that Kone is on Merseyside for talks and pictures of him posing with an Everton fan. As I write there are 104 hours until kick off at The Etihad and so far we have brought in one untried player who managed less than two minutes playing time for Chelsea in a League Cup tie. He may prove to be as an astute a signing as the three Ks were in January, but not having seen him in action I’ll wait and see.

Jake's new graphic. Whether or not it gets used again will reflect the club's intent.
Jake’s new graphic. Whether or not it gets used again will reflect the club’s intent.

And so it seems that the clubs with the biggest financial clout are impacting on the rest of us. Manchester City offering a ludicrous £50 million for John Stones gives Everton the resources to offer Ellis Short the chance of a massive profit on one of our top performers and though he hasn’t gone yet the fact he has travelled for talks does not bode well.

I’m happy Moyes was appointed in the aftermath of Allardyce’s departure who I don’t think will prove to be England’s saviour. Not because he couldn’t be, but the players at his disposal just aren’t good enough and he will only have limited time to work with them.

But like the majority of Sunderland fans I am bitterly disappointed in the way this summer has panned out so far. I understand the need to balance the books and we keep hearing positive statements from Martin Bain and David Moyes but they are working to a remit. Despite their fine words we have seen precious little evidence that this is a club that is building for the future on the pitch and plenty that priorities lie elsewhere.

I just hope I’m wrong.

Transfer breakthrough finally – Salut! Sunderland welcomes Papy Djilobodji

Check out details of this, the new away strip, at the SAFC club site: http://www.safc.com/news/club-news/2016/august/new-away-kit-unveiled
Check out details of this, the new away strip, at the SAFC club site: http://www.safc.com/news/club-news/2016/august/new-away-kit-unveiled
Malcolm Dawson writes….I turned on my new internet enabled telly last night to watch the Lads play the final warm up match against the might of Borussia Dortmund, more than a little worried by the starting line up. Worried because it seemed that the team had picked itself. No Larsson, no Kirchhoff, no Jones, no Defoe. A bench comprising academy players and Jordon Pickford. The absence of N’Zogbia hinted that there was no desire to offer him any sort of contract and as Pienaar wasn’t there it didn’t seem as if he was going to be added to the squad in the immediate future.

We all knew that the squad was threadbare but if proof were needed that we are in a poorer state than we were a year ago, it was here on the teamsheet. Having said that, the new kit looks good and the team played well I thought. In typical Sunderland fashion they struggled to keep possession for any meaningful length of time but kept their shape well and looked comfortable against last season’s Bundesliga runners up.

O’Shea played in Kirchhoff’s position and did well. Cattermole was Cattermole and let the opposition know he was there and Borini, Watmore and Khazri all had chances. Not a bad outing but with only a week to go still no signings. Then shortly after the game I logged onto safc.com and there it was. Our first signing of this window.

our new man - courtesy of safc.com
Papy Djilobodji our new man – courtesy of safc.com
I must admit I know precious little about Papy Djilobodji except what I’ve read which is probably what most of you have read too, but Salut! Sunderland offers him a warm welcome. One of M Salut’s acquaintences, who happens to support Chelski rather cruelly described him as “think Gareth Hall but without the talent.” How anyone can reach that verdict when he played less than a minute for the London club is more than a little harsh I feel. Loaned out to Werner Bremen the Senegalese international effectively saved them from relegation with his defensive performances and his goal late in the season against Eintracht Frankfurt condemned them to the relegation play offs instead.

With Younis Kaboul’s injury record and John O’Shea’s advancing years centre back is an area that needed to be strengthened and hopefully Djilobodji will provide cover and competition for that position, just as long as it doesn’t mean the club is seriously considering offers for the goal machine that is Lamine Kone. So one signing and rumours that M’Vila is ready to put pen to paper on a four year deal is a start. Yedlin left out of Spurs’ overseas trip may be another hint that things are moving in the right direction but the club is keeping its cards close to its chest and we’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, welcome Papy to the emotional rollercoaster that is Sunderland A.F.C.

A cut above: Borini, Fellaini and Salut! Sunderland’s tonsorial team selection

Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson has too much time on his hands these days. With transfer business still at an impasse, reports that Moyes might be interested in bringing Marouanne Fellaini to Wearside to join new look Fabio Borini, got him thinking about selecting a team based purely on the awfulness of their hairdos. It was reported a few years back that David Beckham paid £1000 to his personal coiffeur for an all over number two skinhead that he could have got for £4.50 up the Chester Road and it seems that some of today’s highly rewarded stars will splash the cash to achieve The Look [the French president Francois Hollande was revealed a couple of weeks back to be spending 10,000 euros a month of Monsieur/Madame’s taxes to no obviously compelling effect]. Now I’m sure Erin likes Fab’s restyle and no doubt she’ll let us know when she pops round to Sixsmith Towers for the cuppa and goss that she promised us last year via Twitter. Meanwhile here is Malcolm’s Bad Barnet XI. (He’s not keen on body art either – watch this space – Ed)

_38321449_seaman11. David Seaman: Tough call this one. David James has had some shockers but the Seaman ponytail takes the number 1 jersey. What were you thinking David – tribute to Francis Rossi perhaps? Or maybe the Pussycat Dolls?

Bacary_Sagna_2955418b2. Bacary Sagna: With Billy Jones our only recognised right back at the moment, what would I not give to see the Man City and former Arsenal defender on Wearside? I think I’d manage to put up with the plaits. Mind you Yedlin has interesting locks too and he may yet return.

abel3. Abel Xavier: No doubt who slips in at left back. The ex Liverpool and Everton man has had a range of dreadful dreads. This one typical.

marouane-fellaini-manchester-united_33849964. Marouanne Fellaini: I shouldn’t think this man ever rides a motorbike. Even with a swimming cap on I wouldn’t have thought he’d be able to cram this lot into a crash helmet. He is actually six inches shorter than his officially listed height but I’d not be unhappy if the rumours are true and he reunites with Moyes. Rather have a recognised centre back first though.

taribo-west5. Taribo West: Speaking of centre backs this ex Inter and AC man was an automatic choice. He played 42 times for the Super Eagles and 4 times for Plymouth Argyle. Maybe that explains the green.

raul6. Raul Meireles: Fenerbahce midfielder Raul Meireles spent time at Liverpool and Chelsea, two teams whose supporters have had more than their fair share of tonsorial nightmares to endure. Perhaps that’s where the Portugese picked up his penchant for perms. (OK I know it’s not a perm but I was getting all alliterative!)

fabio7. Fabio Borini: Sorry Erin. Now I know you are a model, a fashion icon no less and I’m someone who still thinks loon pants are trendy, (Google it!) but I’m not enamoured with Fab’s Vera Duckworth inspired bleaching. Maybe if the eyebrows and beard had been done too it wouldn’t have been so bad but then you wouldn’t want him looking like the next name on the list.

djibril-cisse_2456729b8. Djibril Cisse: Ex-Sunderland man The Lord of the Manor of Frodsham upset the local Cheshire hunt when he refused them permission to go tally ho over his land. Some of his hairstyles got the locals chuntering too when he was out in public.

BobbyCharlton_hi0063945979. Bobby Charlton: Couldn’t leave out the king of the comb over. Sir Bobby looked 50 even when he was 25. What a player though. So good Hetton-le-Hole born legend Ralph Coates copied the look.

simeone10. Giovanni Simeone Baldini – River Plate striker whose father was an Argentinean international. What does he think of his son’s barnet I wonder. A cross between Kung Fu’s Grasshopper and Little Britain’s Andy. Fabio I take it all back – your hair looks absolutely fabulous.

waddle11. Chris Waddle – Ex Sunderland winger Chris Waddle’s mullet was truly dreadful. Twice as bad when his Diamond Lights partner Glenn Hoddle stood beside him. Still I’ll forgive anything after his brilliant free kick in the last league game at Roker Park. Glad it wasn’t a pelanty though!

Bench:

rene
balotelli
jason lee
download (1)
joe cole
vidal
carroll
Jason Lee – think Baddiel and Skinner and pineapples.

Mario Balotelli – where to start and will it ever end?

Rene Higuita – the not so blonde bombshell with the Shirley Temple curl.

Arturo Vidal – Ex Juventus and currently at Bayern Munich, the Chilean got his barber to create a scale model of the Andes to remind him of home.

Joe Cole – a Hammer with a ham fisted topknot.

Javier Margas – favourite shirt – haircut 100? Maybe not but nice to see them co-ordinated.

Andy Carroll – I know he’s an ex Mag but what was he thinking?

Our best defenders: part 2, in praise of John O’Shea

Lies_player
Jake’s take

We started our season at Leicester with a line up that included Seb Coates and Costel Pantsilimon. Substitutes included Adam Matthews, who came on for Billy Jones.

By the time we got to the final game Seb Coates, Costel Pantsilimon and Adam Matthews were no longer at the club. Billy Jones, subbed 12 games previously and subsequently dropped, came on for the final fifteen minutes, replacing DeAndré Yedlin, who hadn’t featured at Leicester.

They weren’t the only changes. Our manager had long gone, as had Danny Graham, Stephen Fletcher, Emanuelle Giaccherini, and Liam Bridcutt, all subs for that first game.  Our new manager had made room for players who could bolster a leaky defence and strengthen a porous midfield.

They were Lamine Kone, Whabi Khazri and Jan Kirchoff.

And the rest is history

Read moreOur best defenders: part 2, in praise of John O’Shea

Our best defenders: Part 1, individual comparisons

Lies_player

When I did my analysis of our midfield I said it would probably be one of two posts but there was so much to collect and compare that I decided to split the second part into two.

To begin, I’m using stats from  hosted stats.com, Squawka.com and my own sums to look at individual performances.

Who do you think is better – Coates, Kaboul or Koné? How do they compare to John O’Shea?

And would you rather have Billy Jones than DeAndré the Throw-in Slayer?

Read on, and all will be revealed.

Or maybe not.

Read moreOur best defenders: Part 1, individual comparisons

Euro 2016: Sixer on England yobs, warlike Russians, reckless Cana and (elsewhere) Yedlin

Sixer looks forward to days in the sun
Sixer looks forward to days in the sun

Monsieur Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith makes 10 points from the opening sequence of the Euros but I seem to have reduced them to seven. I began yesterday in a rage against the moronic English ‘fans’ who, as I have witnessed at first hand, are as obnoxious a group of people as you’d hope not to meet. But if they – and of course I mean the sizeable minority of trouble-seeking louts – had already behaved atrociously in one of my favourite French cities, Marseille, their lowlife thuggishness was more than matched by an evil bunch of Russians, in particular, and by some French ‘fans’.

Pete fears there will be trouble wherever England play, even when the English are not wholly or even mostly to blame. As for the football, disappointment for England, a dark start for a man with SAFC pedigree – Lorik Cana, who must have even Lee Cattermole tit-tutting – not to mention another red, albeit away from the Euros in the Copa America) DeAndre Yedlin – and a great opener for Wales. Now let Sixer admire French stadiums and French midfielders …

Read moreEuro 2016: Sixer on England yobs, warlike Russians, reckless Cana and (elsewhere) Yedlin

Sixer’s Everton Soapbox: banishing the blues on Wearside (part 2)

Jake - "for goodness sake let me celebrate" - edited version
Jake – “for goodness sake let me celebrate” – edited version

Malcolm Dawson writes………if Saturday was immense then Wednesday night was immenser! The first part of the job was completed at the weekend with victory over the Blues of Chelsea. The crowd was there to see the team complete the job against the Blues of Everton and my word were they up for it? What an atmosphere, what a noise! This was the best home support ever at the Stadium of Light, even eclipsing some of those fantastic games we saw in the Peter Reid era. We can truly say the Roker Roar is alive and well.

Chicken or egg? There’s no doubt in my mind that a positive mindset within the crowd spurs on the players, but Big Sam has engendered an ethic and workrate in his team that motivates the crowd. Last night every single player, not for the first time, gave far more than their utmost. Man of the match? For me Kaboul but only by a whisker. Everyone deserved a 10 last night, from Manonne who looked so assured and made some cracking stops, to Wahbi Khazri who ran around all night like (to quote Pete Sixsmith) a Yorkshire Terrier on acid. We have to give the manager credit for that and he revelled, quite rightly, in the adulation he received. We have all seen players who have bought into the club, Bennett, Gates, Hurley, Ball, Quinn, Arca, Gabbiadini etc. and I sense that there are some in the current squad who we can add to that list. Let’s get M’Vila signed on a permanent deal. Let’s make sure that Jermain Defoe entertains no thoughts of moving back to the south coast. Let’s turn over Watford on Sunday and take the momentum into next season. I can’t say we’ll do a Leicester but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect Big Sam to move the club into the dizzy heights of mid table security. The downside of that will be not having times like last night to savour.

Of course Pete Sixsmith was in the sell out crowd enjoying it as much as (if not more than) anybody. Now, after getting up early to do his paper round and walk next door’s dog, writing his bit for one of the nationals and doing his bit for the Northern League he still finds time to bring us his take on last night’s proceedings.

SOAPBOXeverton

Everton (H)

And so it came to pass that the Good Lord/ Supreme Being/Call Him What You Will allowed us to pass on the Pirelli Stadium and cancel the visit to The City Ground. Once again, for the tenth successive season, we will be trudging off to Eastlands and Ashburton Grove, while our avian friends can have days out in Wolverhampton, Ipswich and Wigan.

This time, as we have done for the last three years, we saved ourselves. Not by a backs to the wall draw against a washed out Arsenal side or a steady win over a West Bromwich Albion squad who couldn’t wait to get to the beach, but with a rip-roaring, rollicking, rambunctious win over the poorest Everton side I have ever seen. We scored three goals for the third time in five games with these three coming from defenders, ably assisted by an opposition goalkeeper who would have looked out of place in the Brandon and Byshottles Sunday League Division Three.

But that is nothing to do with us. We turned out a team that was determined not to mess up and send us into a potentially buttock clenching last day of the season. Jobs were allocated and jobs were done. The build up was patient, nobody panicked and there was a feeling that the goals would come.

Patrick van Aanholt

The first one came from Patrick Van Aanholt, a candidate for the most improved player on the club’s books. A defensive liability for last season and the first part of this, he has listened to advice from Allardyce and has responded positively. His fourth goal of the season, following on from ones against Spurs, Swansea and Stoke City was a well struck free kick which caught Robles wrong footed on its way into the net.

There was a mixture of jubilation and relief at this and like London Buses, another one came along a few minutes later – this one thumped home by Lamine Kone, nearly knocking the goal over in the process. Kone has been a sensation since he arrived from L’Orient in January. Big, strong and an inspirational character, he made his mark with the winning goal against Manchester United and then sealed his name in SAFC folklore with two in this stirring victory. Had we taken the plunge, there would surely have been a host of clubs enquiring about his availability. (Don’t forget his flattening of Yaya Toure – Ed)

Jake: 'two goal hero in a team full of heroes'
Jake: ‘two goal hero in a team full of heroes’

His partner at the back, Younes Kaboul was, quite simply, magnificent. Up against Romelu Lukaku, he dominated the Belgian international to such an extent, that he spent as much time in the Sunderland penalty area as Mick Jagger does in Britain – Jagger might have got nearer to the goal. It was an immense performance by Kaboul who started the season off being compared unfavourably with Sylvain Distin after that dismal defeat at Dean Court. Since building up his fitness and building a partnership with Kone, he has looked impregnable. Only Jamie Vardy has got the better of him since January.

Jake:solid as a rock and nearly scored
Jake:solid as a rock and nearly scored

The other stand out performance came from Yann M’Vila who produced a perfect example of what mid field play should be. Not for him the Shelvey approach of standing in the middle of the park and pinging the ball to the linesman. M’Vila reads the game, rummages around and is there wherever he is needed. He would be a great miss if he were not here next season. Sign him up Sam.

All of those who played last night covered themselves in what passes for glory in our corner of the world. We don’t ask for much but we do ask for effort and each and every player gave us that, from Mannone with a couple of excellent saves to Defoe, who worked the feeble Everton back four throughout the game.The atmosphere at the start was tense. Once Van Aanholt and Kone made the game safe, it was excitable and when Kone wrapped it up was a joyous celebration of our safety and the relegation of the Tynesiders. Of course it was parochial. Of course it was malicious. Of course it was great fun.

“Lock up your horses, there’s going to be hell” warbled the crowd. “The Mags are going down” and “We are staying up” followed. The splendid young man from Toronto sat next to me asked what they were singing. His grandparents were from Jarrow. This was his third game of the season. He got the horses reference – a true red and white. He had been over for a family funeral and this had made up for the sadness of that.

Now is not the time for looking at the whys and wherefores of the season. It hasn’t been a great one (surprise, surprise) but we have come through and have retained our place in the top league. We will be one of the first visitors to The Olympic Stadium and we shall be booking into Webster’s Guest House at Salisbury and supping in The Duke of York again. Shame we have to go to Middlesbrough.

The manager and the players have done well in the last ten games and very well in the last five. They do it for money but also for the supporters. Anyone who has listened to Mannone, Defoe and Borini this last few weeks knows how much they care.

And they also did it for those who are no longer here. Stuart Green would have been beaming after this. Steven Wilson would have been ecstatic and would have ribbed his best mate Brian Neil about the Geordies going down. And Suzi Horan would have absolutely loved it. Those three typify what our club – any club- is all about – the supporters.

Pete Sixsmith: 'sir, you look just like a real author!'
Pete Sixsmith: ‘sir, you look just like a real author!’

Ha’way The Lads!!!!!!!

The Yedlin debate and poll: good, OK or awful vs Crystal Palace?

DeAndre Yedlin:
DeAndre Yedlin,
By IIJ Events, via Wikimedia Commons

[polldaddy poll=9330731]

Rob Hutchison’s one-word, one-mark verdicts after the draw against Palace had this for our right back: “Yedlin 7 enduring.”

In my ESPN FC match reflections, I also gave DeAndre 7/10 and this made him my man of the match for us (Rob had him joint first with Borini; ESPN’s style is not to award a rating to players used after 70 minutes).

Read moreThe Yedlin debate and poll: good, OK or awful vs Crystal Palace?

Sixer’s Man Utd Soapbox: new boys show their class

Jake: We did win, we did....
Jake: We did win, we did….
Malcolm Dawson writes……….before the game they were showing highlights of the 6-0 win over West Ham in 1977 on the big screen. The two lads who sit next to me, both under 20, commented that they weren’t even born when that game was played. Cue a history lesson as I told them how after a record run of games without a goal, we scored 6 in consecutive games against the Wests – Brom and Ham and that following on from the 4-0 demolition of the Smogmonsters of Middlesbrough. I told them how by the second week of February we had only won two league games but went on to win another nine and draw another five. Of course it ended with the farcical affair of Highfield Road and I told them how after a delayed kick off, the late Jimmy Hill contrived to get news of our defeat at Everton on the last night of the season put up on the big screen and announced over the tannoy, allowing Coventry and Bristol City to go through the motions for the last twenty minutes and settle for a 2-2 draw, knowing that defeat for either side would see them relegated instead of Sunderland. Well we have to do what we can to educate the young folks and keep our resentment festering. It’s only 39 years – far too soon to forget. Of course the point I was really making was that during their time watching Sunderland AFC they have become used to seeing “The Great Escape” on a regular basis but that sometimes a massive turn round in form isn’t enough to keep us up. Wonder if they’ve asked to move seats yet! On the drive in, Pete Sixsmith and I agreed that a win was essential to our survival hopes but that it was achievable against a faltering Manchester United. And so it turned out and yet again history repeats itself because having resigned ourselves to relegation, we sense the shoots of optimism spring up to give us hope. West Ham’s two late goals, Chelsea’s demolition of the Mags, Watford’s victory at Selhurst Park and The Saints’ win at Swansea did us no harm either. And Liverpool’s six nil thrashing of the Villa today How did Sixer rate yesterday’s performance? Read on to find out.

SOAPBOXmanu

MANCHESTER UNITED (H)
Fifty plus years ago, when M Salut and I were first starting on this lifelong odyssey of following Sunderland, the taking of a corner was a great thing at Roker Park. Up would step Harry Hooper or Brian Usher or George Mulhall to knock the ball to the area around the penalty spot, whereupon a huge crag of a man would scatter opposition defenders as if they were confetti blowing in the wind and thump the ball with his mighty forehead into the net. This happened several times a game.

When he wasn’t doing this, he was heading the ball clear at the other end and as far as I can remember, no centre forward ever scored a headed goal at Roker between 1961 and 1966. He even protected the younger players in the team, once throwing a particularly dirty Leeds United centre forward called Ian Lawson, over the Main Stand and into the car park of The New Derby pub.
Of course, this Desperate Dan figure was Charlie Hurley, a man whose name has the same impact on Sunderland supporters of a certain vintage as Randolph Scott’s does on the citizens of Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles.

It may be that memories are somewhat exaggerated as I slip into my dotage, but we have never had a centre half since who has come near The King for sheer physical strength. There have been some good ones – Jeff Clarke, Shaun Elliott, Jody Craddock – and some very good ones – Dave Watson was a better footballer than Charlie and John O’Shea is of a different generation – but none had that raw power and determination that the Dagenham born Irishman had.

Until Saturday that was when Lamine Kone gave the closest I have seen to a Charlie Hurley tribute act. Not only in defence, where he tackled and headed with an intensity that if he had been with us since July, would have had us sitting comfortably in the safety of mid table and thinking of whether we could catch Southampton or West Ham, but also in attack where he scored the winner and had a tremendous shot pushed over the bar by De Gea. But more than that, it was the goal he scored. He powered his way through a crowded penalty area, gave Chris Smalling the slip (I wonder how Roy Hodgson felt about that) and powered a downward header which beat De Gea for pace and frightened Anthony Martial so much that he kicked it on to De Gea’s back rather than try to stop it.

The crowd, already noisy, erupted and George In Front turned to look at me and we said in unison “Charlie Hurley.” It took us back to the days of standing on the terraces, black football boots and players who stayed at clubs for years, as well as Waggon Wheels, “peanuts, tanner a bag” and a pink Football Echo.

Kone joins a select band of players including Harry Hood, Clive Walker and John Mullin, who have scored the winning goal against The Red Devils in a home victory. This was the first win over United at The Stadium of Light in a league match (we regularly beat them in the Football League Cup) and was by the best performance and by far the best win of Sam Allardyce’s time on Wearside. We had pace and verve and control on Saturday, things that have been missing for ages in our first team. The pace and verve came mainly from Wahbi Khazri who scored early on from a free kick (when did we last do that?) and who marauded down the wings to great effect. He can defend as well and looks like an excellent acquisition who may well prove to be that little bit of extra that we need to begin to climb away from the relegation zone. He seems keen to establish himself in the team and to make a real name for himself and if we can do a Southampton and get a couple of good seasons out of him before making a healthy profit on the deal, we will all be well pleased.

He was one of 14 players who gave their all for the club on what turned out to be a good day for Sunderland. De Andre Yedlin came in at right back and seized the initiative from the first minute. His enthusiastic forward running was always a threat to United and he handled Martial well enough, refusing to be drawn into a careless tackle inside or outside the box.

As seen by Jake
As seen by Jake
He was aided by a massive performance by John O’Shea in the middle of the back four. What a very good player he is and what a very good leader. Watch him talking to players – although whether Kone or M’Vila have a clue what he is saying is a moot point – and it is all encouragement. His tackling and heading were outstanding and he thoroughly deserved his man of the match award.

Losing Jan Kirkhhoff was a major disappointment and the arrival of Jack Rodwell was hardly welcomed with great enthusiasm by the crowd but the former England man did a very solid job alongside Cattermole. M’Vila dropped into the anchor role and Rodwell spent the second half picking up Juan Mata, United’s sole creative player. The Spaniard faded in the second half, mostly due to Rodwell’s persistent nagging away at him.

Jake - "Jan having a break in Dubai to sort out his hamstring"
Jake – “Jan having a break in Dubai to sort out his hamstring”

The other home debutant was Dame N’Doye, who took the Danny Graham default position on the right wing and did it far better than Danny (yet to score for Blackburn I notice). When he moved into the middle after Defoe went off, he looked much more comfortable and could, perhaps should have scored, when he was played in. But he too looked interested and kept on going until the end.

We have lost Fletcher, Graham, Coates and Johnson and replaced them with N’Doye, Khazri, Kirchoff and Kone. And we lost the transfer window………….?

The win was so important for us and we now have some hope (insert “It’s the” before hope and “I can’t stand” after) especially as the other results could not have been much better – maybe if West Ham had got a winner, but that is being greedy. There seemed to be more self-belief in the players and that transmitted itself to the crowd who encouraged rather than groaned and who gave rousing ovations as players went off and came on.

However (there’s always one of those) we need to remember that we were playing a Manchester United side that was one paced, lacked a genuine forward and was shaky at the back. Even the usually very impressive keeper had a poor game. Their fans were quiet by their standards and they seem to know that Van Gaal’s time is up. He has built nothing in his two years, something with which we are all too familiar. He won’t be there after May.

The day was rounded off as we all chuckled at the spectacular capitulation of Steve McClaren and his Merry Men at Stamford Bridge. There’s another one who will be gone by May – it could be even earlier.

We have a chance now. I thought that if we lose this one and away to West Ham, that’s it and Burton Albion here we come. I now think that, if we continue to play like this, we could win another five games and draw a couple which would give us sufficient points to start next season in the self-styled “Best League in the World.” This was the kind of game you want to see – and hopefully in fifty years’ time, supporters will be hailing a new Lamine Kone and fondly remembering the man who led us to back to back Premier League titles. Now where is that medicine Nurse?

Cheer up, Tottenham’s DeAndre Yedlin: lots of us had bad school reports

Monsieur Salut’s school record is littered with stern, sarky or downright contemptuous remarks from teachers and headmasters. ‘Could do better’, ‘doesn’t concentrate’, ‘not good enough for this school’. That kind of thing. So DeAndre Yedlin should take heart and learn from what follows, Charles Richards of The Spurs Report’s Q&A with Pete Sixsmith on how he’s done on loan at Sunderland. Mind, M Salut never took heed of the school reports so maybe that’s a big ask …

Read moreCheer up, Tottenham’s DeAndre Yedlin: lots of us had bad school reports