Malcolm Dawson writes: a bit like Jermain Defoe, Salut! Sunderland‘s own Pete Sixsmith is much in demand. Not only is he a regular on the Fans’ Forum section of Radio Newcastle’s “Total Sport”, which despite its title deals almost exclusively with the goings on at Sid James’s Park and the Stadium of Light, he is the man The Observer approach when they want a supporter’s views on all things SAFC related.
The miserable performances of the men on the pitch means, that like Monsieur Salut at ESPN, Peter’s services will not be required in the Premier League section of the paper next season. Rumours that he has been approached to cover the goings on at Crystal Palace, Bournemouth or Watford are greatly exaggerated and even a proposed signing on fee of a year’s supply of Taylor’s pork pies will not tempt the new svelte Sixer to abandon his principles.
Fear not dear readers, he will continue to grace the pages of this very website with his personal insights into all things red and white but for now here are his unedited thoughts on a season about to end, now published in “The Observer” where their version is visible via these links (as are the thoughts of supporters of the others).
The season was wretched. It reminded me of Blackadder’s critique of Baldrick’s war poem: “It started badly, tailed off in the middle and the least said about the ending the better.”
We went into it hoping to build on the progress made under Sam Allardyce and most fans welcomed the appointment of David Moyes, a pragmatic and safe choice, or so we thought. We didn’t win a game until November and only scraped together five more in the whole season, as owner, manager and players lost contact with a fan base that appears to have had quite enough of them for the foreseeable future.
David Moyes made Eeyore sound like Norman Wisdom on nitrous oxide with his downbeat assessments – saying that we were in a relegation battle two games into the season was a severe miscalculation – and has done nothing to encourage the support that the sojourn in the Championship will be short.
The only players who did themselves justice were Jordan Pickford, a potential England mainstay and Jermain Defoe, whose goals gave us a smidgeon of hope through the winter. The rest were awful, either because they were too old, not good enough or had a negative attitude from day one. Fabio Borini was a particular disappointment while Adnan Januzaj cemented his place in anyone’s worst ever Sunderland XI.
We need to sign at least seven players who will stabilise us in the Championship but I have no idea who. The manager has been working on it, so we can expect a load of former Evertonians pitching up in July.
There was nothing to smile about at allbut Jermain Defoe showed the human side of football with his love forBradley Lowery.
The picture of the two of them on Bradley’s hospital bed showed that Defoe is a fine man as well as a fine footballer.
Team of the season based on what I saw: (N.B. nobody had to play well against us we were so bloody awful)
(Observer criteria – nobody from your own club, a maximum of two from any of the other nineteen, playing in a 4-4-2 line up).
Peter Thomas, like most of the contributors to Salut! Sunderland, has been following his team since the time when we only had two black and white TV channels to choose from and Swansea City were Swansea Town. The Black Cats did his side a favour last Saturday on the East coast, but this weekend will be looking to reciprocate by throwing Hull City the same lifeline when The Swans come to the Stadium of Light. Peter is a fan who knows his club, knows his football and can identify with us and our current plight. (Interview – Colin Randall)
So it’s come to this. By the time this appears, you’ll be another step closer to or further from relegation. Your assessment of where you are now and what is likely to happen?
After an amazing Saturday, thanks in large part to you guys and a decent performance from us, we’re back in the ballgame. It’s tempting to think that we can do it now (stay up), but most Swans fans I know are more realistic – we’re hopeful but far from certain. We can veer from the sublime to the ridiculous not just from week to week but in the same game. If the attacking team we can be turns up, as against Everton last Saturday, we’ll give you a decent game and I believe we can win, but we can’t afford to be complacent. We’ll have to earn the victory and the same applies to the Home game against West Brom. At least it’s in our own hands now.
Bob Bradley was obviously a mistake, you seemed to get rid of good managers before him and now you have the impressive Paul Clement. What part has all this change played in your struggles?
The Managerial decisions have been crucial. The first mistake was to give Guidolin a 2 year contract in the off season. The club should have said “thank you very much for keeping us up last season” and Ciao Francesco. He was an obvious non-fit which the Board realised after our dreadful start. They then compounded the issue (no – made it worse) by employing Sideshow Bob ( I think that was the Americans Kaplan and Levein exerting their power) and by the time they realised he was burying us they at least did the right thing by jettisoning him. We were very lucky that someone of Paul Clement’s calibre was available and able to come in. The way he’s transformed the team (Club) is obvious not only by the football we’re playing again but his relationship with the players and we fans. He “gets” us as a Club.
The neutral looking on might be tempted to criticise the owners and chairman and wonder why the Swans Trust wasn’t able to make its view more loudly heard. Fair or misinformed?
For the full tale it’s worth going on to the Swans Trust website and reading Trust Chairman Phil Sumbler’s detailed exposition. Not only was the Trust kept completely in the dark and out of the loop but our esteemed Chairman Huw Jenkins and each and every member of the old board, have alienated a huge proportion of the fans – 70% perhaps by their actions. We all understand that their share sale made them millions but it could have been done such that it further strengthened the Club and Trust. Kaplan and Levein (the new owners) have spent the time since seeking to make amends through a greater involvement of the Trust (genuinely I believe) but this whole tale has a great deal further to run.Relegation would further muddy the waters and survival in the Premier won’t put off the reckoning forever..
Tell us who has been doing well for you and who really need a kick up the backside this season?
The amazingly gifted Gylfi Siggurdsson is the real gem in our team. Even if we survive I’ll be astonished if Everton or some such doesn’t offer a lot of money in the off season. Tottenham bought him once and sold him back to us for Ben Davies and a dog biscuit. And they say Daniel Levy is clever. If he’d been in their team this season they’d have won the League. Fernando Llorente is a “proper” footballer – no flash, trains hard, works hard, humble (a World Cup winner) and scores terrific goals. We love him. The Club, and Clement, were very successful in the January window. Tom Carroll is excellent as is the ageless Leon Britton’s successor, Martin Olsson who has fitted in wonderfully well and Jordan Ayew is proving that far from being big brother Andre’s lesser brother, he’s his equal. Plus we’ve got a decent keeper in Fabiansky. Then there’s Alfie Mawson, we’ll talk about him next, he’s already decent and could/should be very good going forward. I hate criticising our players because they are ALL genuine triers but whoever sanctioned the £15m purchase of Borja Baston (not because he’s poor but he’s just not proven or ready, he may be one day – the jury’s out) has some answering to do. That’s the sort of decision that can break a club like us.
And how crucial was the loss without adequate replacement of Ashley Williams?
It was a huge loss – he’d been the heart and soul of the club for six years and to start the year without a direct replacement was so foolish. Alfie Mawson was signed but Bradley changed the side so often he never got a decent run out till the New Year. Now he and Fernandes look a decent pair of CB’s. Van der Hoorn and Amat, the other CB’s, are squad players.
If worst came to worst, would you do a Newcastle or linger in the Championship – and what would be the state of fans’ morale?
I suspect we’d be unable to bounce straight back, although I do believe that whatever happens we’ll keep Paul Clement and that’s hugely important. If we were cherry picked we’ve got an Under 23 side that won its League this year (PL Reserve League 2) and got promoted to the top PL Reserve League, so with progress from some of them, judicious signings and decent coaching we’d be OK. The fans are fairly sanguine much like myself. We know our place in the grand scheme of things. The past six years since we got up to the PL have been a fabulous adventure, let’s see if we can have six more.
What about us: serial strugglers, finally unable to fight our way out of trouble. Did you see it coming?
I’m sorry to say I suspected you might struggle along with us. You’ve had many of the same problems – constant managerial (and hence player) turnover, boardroom unrest, an owner who seemed to almost lose interest and was maybe minded to sell. Worst of all, the previous 3/4 years’ struggles weighed heavily.
Any other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, Moyes, Borini?
I like Sunderland, both the city and the club. You’re like Fernando Llorente – you’re a “proper” football club supported through thick and thin by real people. Your ground and your training facility are first class and just like us, if you can get decent people running the show properly you’ll be successful. I think Moyes was badly scarred by his Old Trafford and Spanish experiences (he should never have gone to Spain) but I think he’s a decent man and manager. I think he’ll get it right, if allowed to. I’d have Borini back in a heartbeat, even now. When with us he played where Defoe does for you now and did really well.I think it depends on what sort of squad you can put together. I think it may take you a couple of seasons maximum but with your reputation and heft (you really ARE a big club) you surely will get it right.
Your best and worst moments as a Swansea supporter?
Two fairly recent moments stand out – being at Wembley when we beat Reading 4-2 to get into this madhouse (the Premier League) and at Wembley again for the 5-0 League Cup win against Bradord. Close second was beating Arsenal, Man Utd or Man City at the Liberty (any of those three). Worst moment was seeing Ferrie Bodde, our midfield genius, rupture and destroy his knee and career in an innocuous challenge against Birmingham City in the Championship. He was as good (some say better) as Gylfi is now.
And the best you’ve seen or wish you had seen in Swansea colours?
I’m old enough to have seen the great Ivor Allchurch (look it up, kids) and Alan Curtis and Robbie James were bloody good in the 80’s. (We’ll forgive you picking an ex Mag Peter – Ed)
Do you ever miss Vetch Field?
Not in the least. Romanticism be blowed, I can still remember the smell of the toilets .
Top four in order and bottom three?
Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool. Middlesbrough, Sunderland (sorry), Hull City
Diving: a dead issue as every team has its cheats or still worth trying to eradicate?
We Swansea fans sometimes think we don’t have enough (cheats, or cloggers, that is). Personally, I feel it’s time for the video ref for both penalties and offsides and I’d also convene a Monday panel that looks at every blatant dive and bans players for 3-4 games.I’m sure that would stop it. Marcus Rashford, I’m looking at YOU.
Best ref, worst ref?
Best Ref Michael Oliver. Worst Ref Mike Dean.<
One thing the authorities or Swansea should do to improve the lot of the ordinary fan?
Sell decent food and drink inside the ground at decent prices (how hard can that be?) instead of the corporate slop we currently get. Cap ticket prices and do away with the absurd gradations Cat A, Cat B, Cat C. Greedy nonsense.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
I can’t make it this weekend but our players have paid for the tickets for up to 3000 fans so I’m hoping a lot of our supporters can go. I have to say I think we’ll win 2-1
Finally: an update on who you are, what you’d do, your site, history of supporting the Swans.
Hi, I’m Peter Thomas and I sit in G120 in the Lower West Stand at the LIberty. I’m 67 yrs old and a Retired Secondary School Teacher. I saw my first Swans game when my Dad took me to the Double Decker in 1964 at the Vetch Field against Ipswich Town. I’ve been a supporter ever since and have been a ST holder for the past 10 yrs when I moved back to Llanelli (my home town, about 12 miles from Swansea).
Malcolm Dawson writes………..if you believe the official figures, there were over 40,000 world weary souls at the Stadium of Light yesterday but that statistic includes all season card holders and by the number of pink seats visible, a good number of those had opted for another way of spending their Saturday.
Pete Sixsmith wasn’t one of them and was there as usual to witness a game highlighted by slack marking and missed opportunities from the home side. What made this different to so many others was that the boys in red and white actually found the net twice and it wasn’t Jermain Defoe who did so.
Pete’s report came in early this week as he is off to witness the delights of Ashton in Makerfield and other grounds on the North West Counties “Easter Ground Hop” itinerary, relaxed in the knowledge that next weekend he won’t have to file his copy to M Salut, what with Arsenal playing at Wembley and that.
WEST HAM UNITED (HOME)
I wonder what David Moyes is thinking now? Is there some satisfaction about breaking the run of defeats and ending the goal drought or is there the disappointment of failing to win and putting pressure on Cities Hull and Swansea, both of whom were well beaten away from home?
Is he satisfied with an improved performance from his players or is he seething about basic errors which cost us two goals as well as us missing at least one good chance to win the game?
Is he sanguine about the fair number of supporters who gave him the bird whenever he emerged from the relative security of the dug out or has he taken it to heart and is perhaps contemplating whether he has a future on Wearside?
One thing is for sure, the metaphorical nails are being banged into the metaphorical coffin and to mix metaphors, we are sliding through that trapdoor which will see us locking horns with The Bees from Brentford, The Robins from Bristol City and The Wolves from Wolverhampton. The Championship is awash with animal teams – alas, almost certainly no Magpies.
This was better in parts. There was a bit more verve about our play. From the kick off the recalled Wahbi Khazri ran with the ball and attacked the opposition – and we almost fashioned a chance. Up went the ball to the other end and your friend and mine (and I mean that most sincerely, folks) Mr Andre Marriner, booked Lee Cattermole for a collision with Andre Ayew. That meant our midfield maestro had to negotiate a possible 89 minutes without incurring the further wrath of a man who has sent him off twice in the past.
Not surprisingly it stilted Cattermole’s game, although it did allow Gibson and Ndong to play a more prominent role. Gibson had his best game for Sunderland, playing just in front of the back four and one missed shot apart, making a generally positive contribution. It was nice to see a midfielder making the odd telling pass and being able to control the ball. Ndong was busy and effective and is beginning to look a decent acquisition. Whether he can produce the goods on a wet and windy night at Barnsley is still to be discovered but I was impressed with his athleticism and his ability to pop up in unexpected places. Unfortunately, one of those was on the end of a lovely pass from Khazri which the Gabon international managed to blast into the North Stand.
It was one of a trio of errors which cost us the win. The other two came in our box where Denayer failed to spot Ayew and he scored easily after Carroll had mis-kicked a cross from Byram. O’Shea pointed out to his central defensive colleague that he could have done better than he did. Denayer seemed to accept it. The other howler came a minute into the second half when a cross from Snodgrass was headed in by James Collins as our defence stood and watched him. Cue every one looking at each other and walking back to the centre circle sheepishly. Bah!!
To balance that, our two goals were also down to poor defending. The first equaliser came directly from a Khazri corner as Anichebe stopped the keeper from getting there first. Could have been an obstruction but really, Randolph should have done a lot better. For Borini’s goal, Randolph came a long way for a hopeful punt into the box and dropped the ball allowing Don Fabio to strike it cleanly into the net to salvage a deserved point.
It is too late to look for positives. Failure to win this game makes the task of staying up much harder but the team did show some fighting spirit and the team selection was better than it has been recently. Out went Kone who looks about as interested in being at Sunderland as George Osborne does at being a backbench MP. Out went Borini, a huge disappointment this season and in came Khazri. Out went Rodwell to be replaced by Gibson. Both of those changes were positive and made one wonder why both players had not been involved earlier.
Khazri looked the player he was 12 months ago and added pace and an ability to do something unexpected. It didn’t always come off but it was better than watching Januzaj ducking tackles (he came on and ducked one straight away) or Borini giving the ball away. But why was Anichebe played wide? We needed a win yet we still only played one man up front. In the past, Defoe has tortured Jose Fonte yet here, the far more robust Collins picked up our major threat. Had Anichebe been in the middle, Collins would have had to take him and that would have allowed Defoe to pile on the misery for the former Southampton man. But what do I know?
As for the manager, he is not popular. The boos that greeted him when he popped out of the dugout were extensive enough to worry him. The crowd have not yet turned but they may. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets at Middlesbrough a week on Wednesday from the travelling support. He strikes me as a man who will only change when he has to. I wonder how he felt when Khazri equalised and then went on to be our best player. Was Moyes genuinely pleased or did he grit his teeth and adopt a fixed smile? I hope Vikki Sparks wasn’t there to interrogate him post-match.
As for West Ham, they flattered to deceive as they usually do. I thought Snodgrass was particularly disappointing and looked poor value for money. I didn’t rate the keeper either and they may well be looking for a new coach in the summer. Bilic has probably done all he can with them. At least we will be spared a visit to their awful stadium – and probably for a few years.
We have another weekend off because of Arsenal’s involvement in the FA Cup semi-finals. Their fans will be sharpening the knives ready to plunge them into Arsene should Manchester City beat them. The pampered denizens of Highbury and Islington should try being Sunderland supporters; now that would test them.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..Shildon play Whitley Bay in the Northern League Cup this evening. Peter Sixsmith will be there hoping to see a team in red and white progress in a knock-out competition. He travelled to the North Lancashire hotbed of football that is Burnley last night, more in hope than expectation of seeing a team in red and white progress in a knock-out competition. Burnley is a proper town, with a proper football club and proper folk drinking proper beer. It has a lot to commend it. If like me you agonised with Gary Bennett, whose commentary grew more and more agonised as the match went on, you’ll perhaps be relieved that you weren’t there in person to witness another shabby performance. Pete was. Here are his thoughts.
BURNLEY FA CUP REPLAY
Another away game, another disappointing journey home and another search for the words to describe a dismal performance.
So let’s look at the trip and do a bit of a travel piece. The fact that the Durham Branch were prepared to run a bus was a pleasant surprise. So along with a rival writer, we were waiting in Spennymoor at 3.00pm as the dinky 33 seater (without a toilet) rolled up to the bus stop.
There were 10 of us scattered around the coach, all stretched out and with ample reading material. The aforementioned rival had his nose in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Quiz alert – What does the K stand for? Which Midlands town did JKJ come from?). I read the remnants of the weekend papers and The Rugby League Express while The Sunday Times circulated.
Off we went over Blubberhouses Moor, past Menwith Hill and Skipton (one of my favourite towns) and into the hill top town of Colne. A break for an hour or so took us to a micro pub called Boyce’s Barrels, situated opposite the Colne Hippodrome – a splendid old cinema.
Boycie turned out not to be an Essex second hand car dealer with a pneumatic laugh but a jolly East Lancs lad who clearly loved his ale and who wisely sold beers from outside the area. A splendid pint of mild was quaffed from a Somerset Brewery called RCH and a half of bitter from a brewery whose name I have forgotten.
From Colne we traversed the M56 several times before we entered Burnley from above and saw the gleaming lights of Turf Moor in the distance. The coach was parked outside the ground and it was straight in and into the wooden seats of the Cricket Ground stand – state of the art 40 years ago but looking a wee bit tired now.
That’s the good bit over. On to the reason for us being there…………
Moyes shuffled his cards a little bit. He started with three at the back – Jones, Djilobodji and Denayer – with Manquillo and Van Aanholt playing as wing backs. Donald Love combined with George Honeyman in midfield (Love and Honeyman – Florists to the Polari) with the chosen skipper Seb Larsson in the middle. Up front those two powerhouses, Borini and Januzaj (I gather Wakefield Trinity are looking at them to play in the second row in the upcoming Rugby League season) were there to rattle in the goals. A decent selection under the circumstances – those being that we appear to have no more than 13 fit senior players.
It started reasonably well. The three central defenders coped well enough and we buzzed around a little bit in midfield. Unfortunately, we appeared to be completely incapable of passing the ball to our own players while Burnley, entirely unreasonably, persisted in passing to their own men. For 43 minutes we held out until Jason Denayer lost his concentration and lost Sam Vokes who, entirely unreasonably, turned a fine header past Vito Mannone. One down at half time, there was hope for the second half as we attacked the goal behind which the 1800 Sunderland supporters (including a group of Belgian groundhoppers who happened to be Anderlecht fans) were massed.
Unfortunately we never saw much action as our defenders decided to kick the ball to anyone wearing a claret and blue shirt. Barton and Defour ran the midfield while Keane and Tarkowski swatted away the “threat” posed by Borini and Januzaj. And so it went on. Aimless long balls from the defenders, plenty of pointless running from the midfielders and absolutely nothing from the forwards. Defoe replaced Love (what’s Love got to do with it?) and we reverted to a back four but the midfield guile was still lacking and we never threatened.
On came Andre Gray and he terrorised Billy Jones sufficiently to wrap the game up before Seb Larsson finally forced a save out of Burnley’s third choice keeper Tom Pope in the 90th minute. Sean Dyche could have played his club’s Under 11 goalie in this game as our attacking threat was so puny.
Back to the coach in time to catch the rousing commentary from Sincil Bank as Lincoln City dumped Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town out of the old tin pot and Blackpool’s 50 travelling fans danced with delight at Oakwell when they grabbed a 119th minute winner.
Much of the talk during the day had been about a hard exit from the EU. Not for the first time, Sunderland found an easy way to exit the FA Cup. The exit from the Premier League draws ever closer.
Malcolm Dawson writes……….I never get too worked up about performances such as yesterday’s. I just don’t – ever! I enjoy it when we play well and win and can be as excited and emotional as the next person but my intense disappointment after a poor performance and defeat never really spills over into anger or feelings of violence. I think it’s just that I refuse to get too worked up about things over which I have no control – but maybe it’s simply that having followed Sunderland since 1964, I’m inured to the whole painful experience.
I always know when I’m really bored (or more often resigned to another loss) because I start thinking about what I’m going to have to eat when I get home and yesterday, as I sat shivering through my thermals, I was weighing up the pros and cons of an old fashioned beef stew with spring onion mash compared to lamb pasanda with sag aloo and garlic nan.
It’s fair to say that I have been preoccupied with things other than football since last weekend but as I made my slow walk back to the car I was thinking that I may well have a good excuse not to make it to the Tottenham game. Poor Pete Sixsmith will almost certainly be there and he’s got a ticket for Burnley! Here’s how he feels about yet another home defeat.
STOKE CITY (HOME)
There have been some catastrophic home performances in the last couple of years – Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers spring to mind – but there can’t have been many as dispiriting as this.
Seeking to follow up a good home performance in the last league game and perhaps climb out of the bottom three and put some pressure on the likes of Middlesbrough and Leicester City, we turn in a twenty minute cameo that leaves us sitting in the relegation places and looking as near to doomed as it is possible to be.
The Stoke goals were ridiculous. Poor defending, poor reactions and dismal goalkeeping. The passing and movement of the Potters made us look like a team of geriatric penguins as the likes of Shaqiri, Arnautovic and Allen showed what clever and sensible investment coupled with managerial stability, can do for a club. We have none of those.
If the way that we played was bad (and believe me, dear reader, it was), there was far worse to see on the pitch as players fell out with each other, seemed to give up and generally looked like a group who didn’t like being where they were and who may well be begging their agents to get them out of Sunderland and to a decent, well run club.
Take Patrick Van Aanholt. He was one of the better players and he continued to push forward as we chased the game. His frustration grew, particularly with Adnan Januzaj and at one stage towards the end of the game, I expected a Kieron Dyer/Lee Bowyer situation to develop as Van Aanholt made it very clear that he was not impressed with the way that the Belgian held on to the ball. There was little Low Countries rapport between these two.
Take Adnan Januzaj. There is an acceptance from the support that he is a frail character, certainly physically and possibly mentally. They will make allowances for him and don’t expect him to be the next Billy Whitehurst. But they do expect him to make challenges and when he ducked out of one that was 70:30 in his favour, the howls of derision that rained down from all four parts of the ground made it clear that any sympathy that the support had with him, had gone – never to return. He makes Will Buckley look like Joe Bolton.
Take Fabio Borini. Here is another player who talks a good game but rarely produces. In a game where skill and thought are needed, he chases around, gives away endless free kicks and spends much of his time getting involved in needless spats with referees. Time to concentrate on what you do best, Fabio, although I and many others, are no longer sure what that is.
Take Jermain Defoe. He took his goal well, latching on to a long ball from Donald Love and outpacing the slowing Ryan Shawcross. But in the second half it looked as if he had given up, not something that is associated with this consummate professional. He got frustrated with some of the appalling play that went on around him. There could well be a return to his mum in London in the offing before the end of the window.
Take Vito Mannone. How can a keeper who had such a good game against Liverpool concede a goal like the third one? He was totally outjumped by the impressive Peter Crouch and that was the game gone. These last two Saturdays I have witnessed two appalling errors by the keepers of teams that I support. Both games were lost and both signified a season that was virtually over.
There was an acceptance that the manager’s hands are tied. This was clearly his best XI and there is nothing sat on the bench that would make things any better. Love is more mobile than Jones and Manquillo may have to step in for Van Aanholt if he swaps a relegation battle in the North East for one in South London.
The other four outfield subs would not have made a scrap of difference to this shambles and it may well have damaged them irreparably. The two young forwards, Maja and Asoro, are promising but I saw them struggle against an experienced Everton Under 23 team last weekend and I shudder at what the likes of Shawcross, Johnson and Adam would have done to them yesterday.
George Honeyman was almost released by the club in the summer and I doubt that he is good enough at this level. Elliott Embleton may be. He ran the show in Wednesday’s comfortable 3-1 win over Shrewsbury Town in the FA Youth Cup and he may make that jump from promising to good. I would not be surprised to see him start at Burnley on Tuesday night.
As for the manager, he must be regretting taking this job on. He tries to remain upbeat and he interviewed well on BBC Newcastle after the game. But he now knows that he has walked into a club that is sliding away quickly, an owner who wants out, a poor playing squad about which he can do little – although the signing of Djilobodji is a millstone around his neck – and a financial situation which is potentially ruinous. He must be another one thinking about his next job – I see that Cowdenbeath need some help this season.
As for us, the crowd, we keep on going. 42,000 there yesterday butmany will not be back. For those who go to every home game, there is no pleasure in this and we are becoming numbed by the pain of wretched season after wretched season. Could this be the one where the habit of going is broken?
Malcolm Dawson writes….aficionados of Vic Reeves Big Night Out in the early 90s will doubtless recall the Living Carpets. Basically this was just Vic and Bob with carpet sample masks talking rubbish.
A typical conversation might go like this:
Carpet 1: You know if you see a ginger cat with a cabbage sellotaped to its back and you turn round three times while singing Bananarama’s Cool, Cool Summer it will permanently rid you of troublesome warts forever.
Carpet 2: I’ve heard that rumour.
Carpet 1: I know. I started it.
Carpet 2: You lying get!
Where is this leading I hear you cry. Well bear with….
Salut! Sunderland relies on a team of regular contributors for its content. On the whole these are original pieces, supplied by genuine Sunderland fans from places as diverse as the South of France, Canada, the USA and Shildon. Not forgetting Spain, Merseyside and Wearside of course.
Now and again M Salut is happy to grant webspace to outsiders if he feels it relevant, especially if it contributes to the upkeep of the site, but while attracting visitors is obviously something we strive for, there is no real pressure to provide fresh copy every few hours. M Salut earns his living from other journalistic sources and Pete Sixsmith and I wallow in the luxury that years of contributions into the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and the top ups that the odd paper round brings. John Mac and Jake too do not look to this site as a means of funding a life of debauchery.
So not for us the rehashing of other people’s writing nor the repeated presentation of the same stuff under different headlines with the sole purpose of bringing in extra hits and generating advertising revenue. “Fat chance of that!” I hear M Salut mutter.
We write what we want, when we want. Usually that’s when there is something happening at the club and rather than just report on things you have probably read elsewhere, we like to look at them from our own perspective. To me the things I say and the comments that I read are a bit like the conversations I might have with fellow supporters in the local, except our community of fans is based all around the globe. Above all we seek to entertain. But sometimes nothing seems to be happening.
When I worked in primary schools I would occasionally set my pupils little research tasks but would always stress that wherever possible they should check their facts and above all not to rely solely on the Internet. “Just because it’s on the web doesn’t make it true – anyone can write anything and put it up there,” was my mantra. But this close season when transfer business has so far been non existent I have been trawling the inter-web trying to glean any morsels of gossip hinting at who may be coming into the club. And there’s the rub. Anyone can put up anything these days, when it will immediately be picked up by others as gospel and repeated until it must be true.
So I have decided that to liven up this dead period I will set cogs in motion and wait for the Daily Mail, The Northern Echo, Melody Maker and Bunty for Girls to send these snippets around the globe.
Five times world player of the year Lionel Messi was spotted in the Ryhope branch of Morrisons earlier today, buying three slices of corned beef and some haslet. Having already shown his love of Sunderland by copying Fabio Borini’s hairdo, he is expected at the Academy of Light tomorrow to put his signature to a five year deal.
David Moyes has tempted Portuguese cry baby Cristiano Ronaldo to move to Wearside by telling him that once the move is finalised he can live in Hylton Castle. “I can’t wait to get behind the drawbridge and raise the portcullis” he said. “I just hope the Moysiah doesn’t adopt similar tactics on the pitch and stifle my attacking flair.”
The spirit of Shack lives on. Illusionist and part time spiritualist Derren Brown has been spotted on the green at Plains Farm, burning animal bones and dancing around a pair of steel toe capped 1950s football boots, whilst shaking a pair of maracas and chanting “I’m not biased against Newcastle. I don’t care who beats them.” It is thought that when they are handed over to one of the academy lads, they will inherit the twinkle toes of soccer’s Clown Prince allowing club owner Ellis Short to save a fortune on the wages that Marouane Fellaini would require.
Finally, a system of mist nets, similar to those used by bird ringers, has been invisibly installed into the crossbars at the Stadium of Light. Undetectable by referees and anyone else with suspect eyesight, the nets will drop into place when the home side are defending, therefore ensuring that no goals will ever be conceded by the Black Cats. It is hoped the system will be effective, though experiments conducted a couple of seasons back failed to produce conclusive results when Jozy Altidore was used as the guinea pig in secret trials.
Ha’way Sunderland – get some players in sharpish, then maybe I can regain my sanity.
Malcolm Dawson writes………I gave some serious thought to going down to France for the pre-season friendlies but in the end never got my act together soon enough then other commitments intervened. Our ace match day reporter Peter Sixsmith also gave serious thought to making the trip before failing his medical and settling like me, for the SAFSEE link.
But Salut! Sunderland and Shildon are represented by the presence of Peter Horan who sends us this brief account of events so far via the wonders of modern technology. So not technically a French letter but French i-phone e-mail doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Anyway – over to Pete H.
THE WATER CARRIER CAME TO EVIAN
Wherever you go, these words are used as a ‘thank you’ for visiting France. Despite a national state of emergency with the army patrolling the streets, the French nation remains determined and welcoming.
And so it was that three lads from Ferryhill and one from Shildon arrived at their first destination, the French resort of Evian Les Bains via an unfortunate detour into Switzerland, courtesy of a dysfunctional Citroen Picasso satellite navigation system.
The Stade Camille-Fournier, the venue for the first two games of the French pre-season, overlooks the lovely town of Evian and Lake Geneva. The facility was the base for the German National team during the Euros. An excellent choice by Big Sam who as things turned out preferred to take himself off to Burton on Trent, home of the FA’s new training facility and where sparkling spring water is converted into beer!
The first game against a modest Swiss team, FC Stade Nyonnais, offered opportunities for many of the development squad (with a sprinkling of established first teamers) to impress the new manager. Two Watmore penalties made it a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Lads in pink and purple, but let’s leave the field of play and concentrate on the antics of the bench.
Scissors, Paper, Stone was popular with Borini, Khazri, van Aanholt and a young skinny thing called Joel Aroso. Keep an eye on this lad. The half time warm up consisted of keepy-ups with a forfeit for failure. Khazri was stitched up several times, the forfeit being a finger flick to the ear.
Paper, Scissor, Stone continued after half time, then Aroso came on and he impressed us all with his pace and touch. I think he also impressed the new manager who was getting his second glimpse of his inheritance, having turned up at Rotherham within hours of his official appointment.
On the second match day, the County Durham lads planned a ‘cultural tour’ of Evian. Our hotel was close to the training complex and to reach the funicular railway, the start point of our tour, we had to walk past the training area. Our timing was perfect. The squad had just arrived via the funicular from the five star ROYAL HOTEL. What a wonderful opportunity for a scoop but no chance as they skulked onto the training area and immediately set to with another session of Scissor, Paper, Stones with one exception – Jermaine Defoe who appeared wearing boxing gloves and proceeded by sparring with a club physio. According to a club source the gloves were a penance for a hotel room incident.
The second game was against Dijon FCO and the starting eleven contained ten regular first team players and Joel Aroso. He must really have impressed the manager on his first appearance! He showed his gratitude by scoring a goal and then creating one for Khazri. Borini scored a third from a penalty. Kirchhoff managed 90 minutes as did Kone. The three ‘K’s’ continue to impress.
The bench consisted of development squad. Not to be outdone by the previous game’s substitutes’ antics, Honeyman and Greenwood had a proper scuffle as to who sat where In the end they had to be separated and spent most of the game sulking.
As I pen these words we are in Switzerland, returning to Aix Les Bains for the final game against Montpellier. Well, that’s the plan. We may yet end up in Montenegro if we take advice from Sat Nav Picasso which like its namesake sees the world in peculiar ways.
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)
1. 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?
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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!)
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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!
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?
With no interest in the final of the European Championships later this evening, Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson‘s thoughts have centered around the apparent lack of activity at the Stadium of Light. Is this a cause for concern or reassuring that the club is avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes of the past few close seasons?
Reading Between the Lines
It is now 10 days since the transfer window opened. It is also 10 days since Martin Bain officially assumed his duties as chief executive. During this opening spell of non activity, we have sat back and seen our local rivals on Tyneside and Teesside actively recruiting and releasing players while all remains quiet at the Stadium of Light.
As we all wait for things to happen on Wearside speculation is rife, but precious little in the way of hard facts is coming our way. Several players have been linked with the club but so far with no new faces arriving, or familiar faces returning and there has been an unsettling amount of conjecture regarding the position of our manager.
Though I must confess I have found it difficult to get excited about the national team since the night I sat in a ground floor flat in Gunnersbury, West London in 1973, listening to Brian Clough describe the Polish goalkeeper as a clown, I would have been so much happier had England got through to the final of the Euros this time. Not only might it have reignited my interest in the game at this level but it would have meant that Roy Hodgson would still have been in a job and Big Sam would not be being touted as his replacement.
For me, this is the biggest worry just now. I’m sure he is being totally professional with the squad out in Austria but unless he’s been told something that hasn’t been made public his mind can’t be 100% focused on his club while there’s still a chance his country will come calling.
I’d love to think that he decided at the end of last season (if not before) that he has found a spiritual home and wants to mastermind the revival of our club and is here for the long term. I’d love also to think that he can see that being the boss of the national side is a poisoned chalice but he has made no secret of the fact that he once wanted the job and I fear he would find it hard to turn down if the F.A. approached him with a lucrative deal. Despite my reservations on his appointment I have been convinced by his achievements to date and have enjoyed the way the team have been playing. More than anything the squad have been playing with passion and commitment but I am also impressed with the way he is integrating younger players into the squad. It may be that he had to use the players he had at his disposal in a way that was effective and that he has plans to change the set up and style of play but more than anything we need a period of stability.
What else can we read into the non events of the past ten days? I have no mole inside the boardroom and I may be making two and two equal six in what follows but what follows is me trying to make sense of the various snippets that have emerged in the media.
Just when we thought the club was about to make the first signing of the summer it came out with the following statement. “Sunderland AFC will not be pursuing its interest in Inter Milan player Davide Santon, after negotiations between the two clubs failed to reach a positive conclusion.”What can we surmise from that? Is this the first outward sign of Bain’s approach to his job. The club are not in the habit of commenting on transfers until deals are completed so why the change?
Two things immediately sprang to mind. Firstly the possibility that negotiations with Spurs regarding Yedlin had progressed to the stage where his return might be imminent. Secondly, that the terms of the deal were unacceptable to one or other of the clubs with Inter demanding the entire payment up front and Sunderland wishing to pay in instalments or inserting a proviso that the player made a minimum number of appearances before some of the agreed fee became payable. With his recent injury record that would be understandable but with SAFC and Inter still in dispute over the Ricky Alvarez affair it’s not hard to see why negotiations between these two clubs might not all be sweetness and light. Of course I may be wide of the mark, but Bain has to deal with a mess not of his making.
Yann M’Vila is reportedly not training with his club’s first team squad. It’s no secret we want him back. Fans and management. It’s also no secret that he is on astronomical wages that Sunderland are unlikely to match. Are other clubs interested? Is Sunderland playing a game of brinkmanship? I’d like to feel that all parties involved are talking, looking to compromise and I remain hopeful that the Frenchman will become part of the long term plan. But I expect alternatives are on the radar.
Diafro Sakho – is he isn’t he? Mixed reports suggesting here is a player Sam knows well and got on well with at West Ham on the one hand whereas others suggest he was signed by David Sullivan when Allardyce wasn’t keen. We need another striker, no doubt. Is he the one and would it suggest that the Boss is contemplating a more direct and robust style of play? I don’t know but I think I’d rather him than Gomis.
And speaking of Swansea what’s happening with Ayew? More of a wide man but with Jeremain Lens and Charles N’Zogbia it would seem that the manager may be considering his options in that department. It’s no secret that a centre half, a full back and a striker are top priorities. Hanging on to Lens and taking a look at N’Zogbia might just free up the resources to consider better quality signings in those other departments.
The domino effect could well see a flurry of activity both in and out of the club in the not too distant future. So far Vergini is the only one who has gone who wasn’t out of contract. If Giaccherini signs for one of the Serie A sides supposedly interested, then maybe the Ayew deal will go ahead or maybe if Inter is one of those interested, the Santon deal might well be back on. Remember Kone?
If West Ham sign a striker then perhaps Sakho will put pen to paper. M’Vila’s return could well see the end of Seb Larsson as a Sunderland player and surely Adam Matthews will be off if and when another full back comes in.
Bridcutt, Buckley, Gomez and Mavrias are no doubt on the radar of other clubs but knowing they are not part of Allardyce’s plans those clubs will be looking to sign them at bargain rates all of which will impinge on Bain’s ability to offer deals to new players and stay within the Financial Fair Play rules.
All ifs and buts at this stage but with the new season just five weeks away the clock is ticking. Let’s hope that come the opening day we are set to go, knowing the manager is not about to walk away, that all transfer deals are done and dusted and that Fabio Borini’s hair is back to it’s usual colour. I won’t hold my breath.