Monsieur Salut says: stand by for a sharp, literate analysis of all that is wrong and the bits that are right about Saturday’s opponents, QPR, and what has gone awry for Sunderland. At least half a dozen headline-worthy phrases leap from Clive Whittingham‘s* answers. Clive, a business and sports journalist, is the editor of a QPR fan site, Loft For Words. I loved his one-line assessment of his club: ‘not big, or that good, but we’ve had some lovely players’.
Of players linked to both clubs, he admires the current but injured captain, Nedum Onuaha – remembered fondly for his wonder goal vs Chelsea for us but not, apparently, a favourite of all Hoops fans – but came close to adding Anton Ferdinand to his ‘worst players’ answer. As for us, he likes Simon Grayson but suspects we’ll end up firing him as the season progresses. Perhaps the kindest way of interpreting his remarks is that he thinks we’re a basket case …
My view of the bookies making Harry Redknapp a 20-1 outsider for the SAFC job was that it might be their idea of a joke. Thank heavens he’s ruled himself out with an unprofessional series of sideswipes at Sunderland. Of course we were ‘horrendous’ at Bournemouth, of course we’ve made some ghastly moves in the transfer market and of course we’re in deep trouble.
But why on earth would any of that put off a self-respecting manager from considering taking over a great football club? Even a manager unaccustomed to a club that attracts crowds of the size of Sunderland’s, despite playing turgid and losing football, would have to see the potential. ‘Arry wondered about the bus timetable between the south coast and Wearside – let him stay there …
It’s been open season on Sunderland.
Harry Redknapp tells Alan Brazil on TalkSport we’re the worst team in the Premier League.
Steven Fletcher gets it in the neck for posing with his brash new £260,000 Lamborghini parked next to his £160,000 Bentley in front of another brash possession, his house.
And back at TalkSport, Adrian Durham calls us a basket case of a club that has ruined Connor Wickham’s career. It’s not all bad, though; Dick Advocaat says we have so few current internationals that we needn’t worry too much about injuries this weekend.
There you have a snapshot of the negative coverage heading our way in recent days.
With our abysmal record this season, it should come as no surprise. We cannot pick up points against the top clubs and we cannot pick up many against those struggling with us down at the bottom. The football has been dire and, while there was a big improvement at West Ham, it was an improvement from atrocious to mediocre and we lost anyway.
Let’s take the anti-SAFC news agenda step by step:
* ‘Arry: On any assessment, he failed at QPR other than getting them quickly back up again (we’ve had managers like that who then couldn’t hack it in the top flight and they didn’t all have the money and geography – London attracts players – at his disposal].
This is what he told Brazil: “I think it’s going to be very, very difficult [for QPR to stay up]. But, having said that, I think Sunderland are bang in trouble. My honest opinion, I think Sunderland at the moment are the worst team in the division. QPR went there and beat them 2-0 just a few weeks ago. I think they’ve got it all on, Sunderland. I think it’s going to be tough.”
My first instinct was to denounce his outrageous calumny. Then I pulled myself up with a jolt: perhaps he’s right. I was only a little reassured by this exchange of tweets with a fellow-supporter:
— Stu Parkin (@Runaround_Stu) March 24, 2015
I accepted in response that I’d settle for the standings to be as they are now after the last games of the season. Then, the table will have exposed ‘Arry’s lie if Stu is right that what counts is total performance over the whole season.
I’ll admit I dislike Durhan’s whiny voice. But he does the job he’s paid for, winding people up with all that whining.
It would be comforting to know at least some Salut! Sunderland readers are far too young to remember Shots at Sleeman.
Alan Sleeman was a Sunday Sun (ie Tyneside not Murdoch) sports journalist who liked to enrage fans of the North East teams and wait for the deluge of anger to pour in. Once received, it was sorted and stuck on a page with that heading, Shots at Sleeman. Durham is like that, deliberately contradictory to the extent that the discerning listener can often feel he has espoused an inflammatory case that he does not actually endorse but is guaranteed to bring in the callers (is it true, as I saw on twitter in the same thread, that TalkSport callers pay a premium rate?).
The thrust of his case on Wickham is that here is a player who greatly impressed him before he joined Sunderland but has had his natural progress disrupted and derailed by a constant managerial changes, repeated exiles on loan and utter failure by the club to show him the necessary guidance or even play him in his best (central attacking) position.
Here’s an extract:
The ongoing debate about English talent failing to develop after promising early signs needs to look at examples like Wickham. All the ability, but no significant strides made. He should have made that progression. The fact that he hasn’t is down to Sunderland being a complete basket case of a club.
Maybe and maybe not. Durham’s evidence of this uncommonly great talent consists of snatches of brilliance in an England Under 17 game, a sub’s role in a Championship match showing him to be “one of the more technically gifted players” on the pitch and, a few months later and still in what we used to call and other countries still call Division Two, a superb run from his own half and the coolest of finishes.
That is pretty thin stuff. But yes, we paid lots of money for Wickham and saw the same potential. So Durham may have a point in saying he has not been properly nurtured at Sunderland and has not even been given the proper “slap in the face” needed to eliminate what one of his past managers described as his “playboy model” tendencies.
Perhaps in the short time he may be with us, Advocaat – provided he sees the unfulfilled potential – will recognise this and use it to help Sunderland’s survival bid and Wickham’s long-term prospects.
* Fletcher’s flash car:
There is Sunderland history for this kind of contrived row. After the relegation of 2003, Mick McCarthy fined Michael Gray two weeks’ pay and stripped him of the captaincy for turning up in his new Ferrari when ordinary SoL staff were losing their jobs because of the players’ failure to stay up.
Check that link, by the way, and you’ll find it is from 2008 when Derby were facing relegation and Rob Savage was involved in a similar boy’s toys controversy. Paul Jewell, then Derby manager, said: “At this moment, Sunderland are the worst team in Premier League history because they went down with a record low number of points”. Derby went on to break the record in style, with just 11 points (our worst having been 15 and 19).
To be honest, I cannot be bothered to say much more about Fletcher’s car, beyond this thought: most SAFC fans, at a guess, couldn’t care less about such displays of affluence if only the players concerned were doing the business on the pitch, which demonstrably Fletcher – among many others – is not.
And I promised one bit of better news. Advocaat has been talking aup the value of ugly wins – yep, we’d take a few of those – and spelling out why we should not fear the internationals could add to injury woes:
From The Daily Mail
‘The only important thing in the final games is winning. The way we do that is not important. So if we win games very ugly I like that. We will play very negative if the need is there.’
Advocaat has given his players the early part of the week off, an agreed rest period which is the legacy of Gus Poyet’s ill-fated reign. The Dutchman joked that the club don’t have too many international players so their preparations for the visit of North-East rivals Newcastle a week on Sunday will not be disrupted.
The upshot of all this is clear: we can dismiss ‘Arry’s thoughts as irrelevant, adopt a couldn’t care less attitude on players’ tastes in runarounds (while asking for more achievement in their day jobs), aim Shots at Durham and look forward to however many wins, and however ugly, needed to stay up.
Almost forgot. It is a big game tonight, says Martin O’Neill, at the same time denying those tweeted claims that he had offered his resignation after the West Brom defeat.
Sadly, when you’ve won only twice and it’s almost December, every match is big. In the short time left before the match gets under way, here’s your opportunity to say how will this one end up.
As Pete Sixsmith said, another Saturday, another Sunderland defeat (he actually wrote ‘another Sunday’, as in another Sunday to have to write about losing). So let us put WBA behind us and move on in hope. Is it to be a case of ‘Arry arriving at just at the wrong time for us or will the men who are the cause of our disappointment finally offer a home performance the supporters deserve? Monsieur Salut’s former colleague John Crowley, a Loftus Road loyalist (if you can have loyalists from County Cork), weighs up the new boss’s prospects, tells us where the “dour Welshman down the pub” went wrong and prescribes a course of patience for our own support …
Bombshell or predictable? And now that ‘Arry’s gone, is White Hart Lane on the imminent travel itinerary of Moyes or Hiddink? In the first of two looks by Salut! Sunderland at the managerial merry-go-round, Stephen Goldsmith poses these questions and offers his own answers …
It was while waiting to be released from the Riverside after a hard-fought but deserved win against the Boro that Ken Gambles learned, thanks to the scoreboard, that Fabio Capello had resigned. It set him thinking …
Salut! Sunderland has not checked the provenance of the Caught Offside website’s report that SAFC – apologies for the lapse into tabloidspeak – are “bracing themselves for a summer approach from Tottenham for combative midfielder Lee Cattermole”.
Football fans come in different forms. Jim Duggan* has formidable knowledge of and deep love for his club, Tottenham Hotspur. He runs an impressive website, www.topspurs.com, and looks forward, not back to the Spurs golden era, despite powerful respect for the Spurs “holy trinity” … but wild horses wouldn’t drag him to the Stadium of Light for Saturday’s game, and he doesn’t get to WHL these days either. None of which stops him having some strong views on his team and the game generally …
Don’t tell ‘un(h)appy ‘arry but this is one view of the “career-threatening” challenge by Lee Cattermole on Mr Luka Modric at White Hart Lane the other night.
Not quite as Redknapp or Modric saw it.
And I am not sure where the graphic began life. Its journey to me seems to have started with Trevor Longstaff, esteemed former editor of 5573, later Wear Down South, magazine of the London and SE branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association.
If anyone can fill in missing details of provenance, and offer an informed view on whether it may one day fetch £43m at auction in Pinner, please let me know.
But for now, let us us just give thanks that Modric is still alive. It was a close-run thing.