France, Tunisia and a word in Fifa’s ear

paraguay1There will be a lot of random jottings here during the World Cup, given our declared support for Paraguay – not to the exclusion of a probably Bentless England, but in honour of Cristian Riveros, Paulo da Silva and those red and white stripes – and the haphazard nature of the Salut! Sunderland team of scribblers.

First thing first. In the long queue for the Uffizi museum in Florence, the faces of two Mexican students lit up when talk turned to football, and specifically to Sunderland.

Read moreFrance, Tunisia and a word in Fifa’s ear

Champions and daughters

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It was a weekend for champions: the Champions’ League final, the Championship playoff final, a fitting finale for southern-based Sunderland supporters who won their own league – and even some reflected glory for Salut! Sunderland …

Chelsea’s Florent Malouda popped up on the French TV news yesterday, beaming as he rejoined Raymond Domenech’s Wolrd Cup squad at their training camp in the Alps – are we expecting snow in South Africa? – after a quick return to London for the birth of his fourth child.

Read moreChampions and daughters

Rooting for Marseille and Le Mans amid French football scandals

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Whatever Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Sidney Govou did or did not get up to after tiring of all those discussions on Molière, Voltaire and Baudelaire with young Zahia Dehar, there are still football issues to decide in France …

Forget (for a moment) the sex scandal. Forget Thierry Henri’s outrageous handball against Ireland (and at least Ribery & & co have taken the heat off him ahead of South Africa).

Read moreRooting for Marseille and Le Mans amid French football scandals

Au revoir, Bordeaux: not such a big club after all

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France, Tuesday: Bordeaux went out of the Champions’ League tonight, beating Lyon 1-0 but losing 3-2 on aggregate. Salut! Sunderland allowed itself a small cheer as it said farewell to the pantomime baddies of winemaking country …

Last summer, Salut! Sunderland decided to have a spot of fun at the expense of the French champions Bordeaux.

Not because we felt les Girondins deserved no credit for the superb run-in that brought them the Ligue 1 title last season. Not because they haven’t got good players and an enthusiastic, if smallish, band of spectators. And not because they continually found room, if mainly as a sub, for David Bellion, known at Sunderland for long, exciting runs that ended with the ball hoofed into the Wear.

No, it was all because the preposterous Bordeaux chairman, Jean-Louis Triaud, who really should stick to winemaking, aided and abetted by his hitherto blameless manager, Laurent Blanc, chose to insult Sunderland AFC. It was their punishment, imposed on us for trying to bring the Bordeaux striker, Marouane Chamakh, to the infinitely superior Premier League.

Who are Sunderland? Where did they finish up in the Premier? Chamakh can go, but only to a big club. These were the words on les lèvres bordelaises. Trouble was, no “big club” at the time especially wanted him. Worse, a glance at the history of Bordeaux and Sunderland showed both had six top flight championships (admittedly, in our case, from long, long ago!). A glance at more recent history showed that the relatively small city of Sunderland had an underperforming team drawing average home gates of 40,000; Bordeaux, self-designated as part of the European elite, struggled some weeks to get above 30,000.

Tonight, I settled down in France to watch the second leg of the Lyon-Bordeaux Chanpions’ League quarter-final. It was 3-1 at Lyon, to the home team. And Lyon began the return in far more positive mood than opponents seeking to overturn or match a two-goal margin.

For long periods, Bordeaux seemed to have one key tactic: fall over often and theatrically enough to get Aly Cissokho sent off. It was good cut-and-thrust stuff of the sort we saw in our Championship (Ligue 2 to the French) promotion seasons, and eventually Bordeaux bustled enough to grab a goal, courtesy of a wicked deflection.

They proceeded to fall a lot, hustle a lot, dive a lot and occasionally threaten Hugo Loris’s goal (he even had to pull off a Craig Gordon-style save near the end, from Wendel’s powerful header). It petered out with a bit of Lyonnais keep-ball in the Bordeaux half.

But in a way the result did not much matter. A run of bad results has seen Bordeaux lose the French league cup final against Marseille, slip from number one position in Ligue 1 and now join Manchester United as Champions’ league also-rans. What we saw tonight was frantic but uncultured. And though the top four in France may be a little better than we thought it was, it is still Fulham/Everton/Villa, not Chelsea/Man United or even poor, Messi-struck Arsenal.

Even so, Salut! Sunderland thought it was time for a cesser-le-feu. Our hostilities against Bordeaux, or rather its president and – to a lesser extent – manager, have run their course. It’s been fun, but we need to liberate a bit of space down the left-hand sidebar.

And in any case, who needs Marouane Chamakh when we’ve got Darren Bent?

Colin Randall


* Caricature of Chamakh from our electronic friend and (presumably disconsolate) Bordeaux fan Kamini-le-ouf. See his Flickr pages at this link.
Kamini knows Salut! Sunderland sympathises with his fellow fans, pleased as we are to see M Triaud with a little egg on his face.

SAFC 3 Birmingham 1: is Craig Gordon the new Monty?

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SEE ALSO: guess-who-was-our-star


In praise of a footballer who has had to triumph over doubt – and done so in style …

More years ago than Salut! Sunderland would willingly own up to to remembering, an away game took us to Huddersfield, where Sunderland won 3-0 in a game that began with a blitz on our goal.

The reason we weren’t left with an uphill struggle before scoring ourselves was simple: Jimmy Montgomery’s form that day was not so much outstanding as extraordinary.

Read moreSAFC 3 Birmingham 1: is Craig Gordon the new Monty?

Soapbox: another week, another drama. But let’s hand it to Thierry Henry

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As Sunderland prepare to face Arsenal, the debate rages on. Should France v Republic of Ireland be replayed? If so, what about Reading 1 Sunderland 0 (goal given, not over line), Sunderland 1 Aston Villa 1 (legitimate, last second SAFC winner inexplicably denied by Steve Bentley), Sunderland 1 Liverpool 0 (beachball clinches the points).
One view of Thierry Henry’s public contrition is that it reaffirms his greatness; another is that it was a little belated and therefore that public reaction forced his hand (sorry).
No serious football controversy would be complete without Pete Sixsmith weighing in. And he says the Irish just have to get on with life …


Like the poor
Swedish referee, I didn’t see the Henry Handball incident on Wednesday. I was driving home from Billingham, having got my midweek football fix by watching an entertaining game between Synthonia and West Allotment Celtic (2-1 to the visitors if you really want to know), but I did have the commentary on Radio 5 Live.

In between the whoops and soars and the intervention of Radio Moscow, I heard John Murray say absolutely clearly that Henry had handled it and the goal should not have stood. Mark Lawrenson came on at the end of the 90 minutes and said the same, only more forcefully. Both spoke about the need for technology to help the officials with their decisions.

Read moreSoapbox: another week, another drama. But let’s hand it to Thierry Henry

Andy Reid and the Giovanni grudge factor

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As it is internationals weekend, a large chunk of Salut! Sunderland is off to Istanbul to celebrate his wedding anniversary. Whether much new appears here over the weekend is up to another large chunk, and the IT and editing skills of a smaller chunk, left behind. But before I tuck into the kebabs, let me give a quick kicking to Giovanni Trapattoni for his continued exclusion of Andy Reid from the Irish squad …


Q: “What do you call a banjo at the bottom of the sea?”

A: “A start?”

Read moreAndy Reid and the Giovanni grudge factor