We have been wanting a chat with Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett for a while. In some ways an unlikely pair, the tweed-loving culture vulture with a passion for the countryside and a former player and manager, fondly remembered for the sheer commitment he gave in red and white, who eschews tweeds in favour of the heart he wears on his sleeve …
The judges have spoken. We have winners in the HAWAYs, Salut! Sunderland’s annuals awards for best interviews given by opposing supporters in the Who are You? series. HAWAYs, as you will have worked out, are otherwise known as Highly Articulate Who are You?s.
Another season produced another crop of excellent contributions. And we are again indebted to our prize sponsors, the friendly folk at the famously half-decent football magazine When Saturday Comes and the purveyors of fine football tops at Classic Football Shirts.
For 2015-2016, the voting ended with a runaway victory in first place and a tight battle for second.
Dawn Astle, daughter of the late WBA legend Jeff, was the clear winner, our voting system giving her 38 points, 16 ahead of the nearest rival. Dawn wins a subscription to When Saturday Comes and her interview will be republished here tomorrow.
“An outstanding piece,” said John McCormick, associate editor. “For me, this was WAY ahead of the rest. “Well written and heart warming,” added Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete. Both had her in first place, as did Monsieur Salut while our deputy editor Malcolm Dawson placed her second, with Pete Sixsmith including her in his “highly commended” group.
“Another excellently scripted piece from a true football fan,” said Malcolm. “That her dad was one of the greats just adds to the relevance and her tireless work for the Jeff Astle Foundation deserves as much publicity as possible.”
Scant consolation for relegation but Gary Gowers pipped the Tottenham Hotspur-supporting Richard Littlejohn, unrivalled master of Mr Angry columns in the Daily Mail. He collects a £25 voucher towards any purchase from Classic Football Shirts.
For Sixer, who chose him for first place, Gary “sums up the ‘niceness of Norwich’ which will be missed next season. He fully understands the difficulties of keeping a (relatively) small club with no major financial backers in the top level and supports the manager who almost kept them up, but not quite. Lovely quote about Defoe and his entourage – ‘Norwich is a small city and would struggle to accommodate them all’. Just good writing from start to finish.”
Malcolm’s winner would have been Littlejohn: “Well written piece as you would expect from a professional journalist. Realistic and humorous. Liked the Wayne Bobbitt reference but, like Sixer, you won’t catch me buying a Daily Mail.”
Richard will win a suitably designed mug, which is unlikely to change his life.
If another of our usual sponsors responds belatedly and positively to our cap-in-hand approach for prize sponsorship, we will find another worthy candidate for a special late award. Contenders in that category would be Sam Myers (Everton), who won marks from Wrinkly Pete for declining to name any player who should never have been allowed to wear his club’s shirt; the Exeter City pairing of Paul Sussex and Neil le Milliere and Watford’s Ben Clarke.
Paul “Sobs” Dobson, the star A Love Supreme chronicler, was on his own in selecting Ben in any position and had him first for his interview, “a good appreciation of how their recent achievements have been accomplished and not getting too rose-tinted about the future”. Of Gary Gowers, Sobs said: “Realistic to the point of … well, I’d never be that realistic about a Sunderland team!”
Our thanks to the sponsors and to the judges, but also to all – or almost all – the interviewees we found during the season. There were honourable mentions for both Swansea City “Who are You?” candidates, Newcastle United’s Adrian Darnell and one fan from each of the Manchesters, United’s Chas Banks and City’s David Mooney.
We had perhaps better not adopt Sobs’s idea of an additional award for the most irritating interview of the season, and there are no prizes for guessing which two (this and that) he may have had in mind.
* Each of the top three interviews will be reproduced in the coming days. All interviews in the 2015-16 series can be seen at https://safc.blog/category/who-are-you-2015-2016/
It is that time of year. Salut! Sunderland is preparing to make its annual HAWAY awards, honouring the best of our “Who are You?” interviewees among opposing supporters. The interviews ahead of each match often reach the highest standards (the answers, I mean with due modesty, not the questions) and we are delighted to offer awards to the best as voted by our panel of judges.
The defeat of Exeter City, with a quirky scoreline, had Salut! Sunderland delving into murky territory. The introduction to Sixer’s Sevens wondered whether Pete Sixsmith ‘enjoyed a nine-goal thriller, in a sadomasochistic sort of way’ and his e-mail this morning talked of the ‘pain and pleasure’ of the occasion. Let Sixer, aka Mr Whiplash, explain …
Malcolm Dawson writes…..we would all have been happier with 3-0. Dick too by the sound of it in his post match e-mail to M Salut and the rest. A three goal margin sounds comfortable and in the end it was – but not before the defensive collywobbles took hold. The rest of the Premier League must be looking at our back line and rubbing their hands in glee. O.K. so JD got to keep the match ball and JR might be finally going some way to showing what it was that got the big spenders of Man City excited and him into the England side, but 3-0 would have been a much more satisfactory result. Watmore and Gooch got a run out too and have maybe given the coach something to think about.The Exeter support was a much bigger proportion of the total attendance than that of Swansea and they will probably be enjoying their long trip back, thinking of what might have been. One crumb of comfort from this evening is that our next opponents needed extra time to finally overcome their lower league opposition 5-3. Saturday’s game looks like it could be 7-6 so what odds on a goalless draw?
We scored six goals but gave some easy goals away.
With all respect I’m happy with 6-3 but I can’t be happy with the performance.
Jack [Rodwell] is getting better and I was also very pleased with the young guys who came on.
They did well and Duncan scored a good goal.
Jermain scored some excellent goals, as well. The goals we scored were good, but the ones we gave away can’t happen at this level. Jermain could have had five goals and when he is in front of goal you can see he is a goalscorer. I was very pleased with the six goals we scored.
I’m not sure on the injuries at the moment – maybe tomorrow we will have an update.
Thanks for your support,
There are different ways of looking at this. Good news: we’re through to the next round, we scored six, Defoe grabbed a slick hat-trick, Watmore and Gooch got most of a half each and were bursting with enthusiasm, Exeter fans had a great night out.
Then there was the bad news. The half time verdicts of Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett were not heartening to those listening on the radio or via the club website. Indispensable to the absent fan – absent as in everyone except just under 14,000 home supporters, since Exeter took 495 seats – B&B were unimpressed. A HT scoreline starting Sunderland 3 is excellent, says Barnes, except that Exeter had 3 as well. ‘You think the defending sounds grim,’ said one of the 14,000-, Pete Sixsmith . ‘It looks even worse. Three times in our box, three goals.’ Then the second half came, Rodwell nodded home strongly from Larsson’s corner, Watmore’s sheer persistence brought a fifth and the game was surely won. B&B were not so convinced, but Jermain’s third came and won it was. We’ll learn in more detail whether Sixer enjoyed a nine-goal thriller, in a sadomasochistic sort of way, or went to bed facing a nightmare about our defence.
‘The score sounds like a thrashing but Exeter made a real game of it,’ Barnes. ‘Until Watmore came on,’ Benno. …
Will Sunderland get a first win of the season, boosting morale with any luck ahead of the trip to Villa? Or will Exeter City slip banana skins under our feet?
Fans of the Devon side, including the 300-500 expected to travel up for the game, are welcome to join in Guess the Score though it will probably be a just-for-fun comp. On the basis that no prize is only marginally worse than a coffee mug, have a go anyway.
Exeter City and York City drew in their League Two game on Saturday as did Sunderland and Swansea, the Premier teams some might expect to waltz past them in the League Cup. Whatever happens in Swansea-York, however, we know better than to count chickens, though it’s a fair bet the travelling Exeter fans will be counting empty home seats at the SoL. We found two fans of the Grecians willing to contribute to the Who are You! series – Paul Sussex*, who runs the Exeweb site (@exemsg at Twitter) and Neil Le Milliere** – and promised to use both sets of replies. Both will be at the game and here they give refreshing accounts of life beyond the Premier …