Sixer’s Bradford Soapbox: Jeremain Lens a consummate artist

Malcolm Dawson writes…….Pete Sixsmith took another one of his short breaks to visit a new non-league ground, sample a few pints of real ale and wax lyrical over a Sunderland player who most people expect not to be gracing the Championship in the upcoming season. Personally I hope that Simon Grayson can persuade all his squad that giving their all for the red and white cause is one worth sharing, but I suppose that financial restraints, player ambition and personal considerations will see more players leaving (and more arrivals) before the end of the transfer window which makes gauging the strength of the team and its prospects difficult to assess pre-season. But Pete will give it a go.


Lens or Hockney: who’s the greatest artist?

Just under two years ago, we caught our first glimpse of Jeremain Lens in a pre-season game at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium. He was the flagship signing that summer, a player who Dick Advocaat knew well and who was presumably pleased to be away from the intense winter cold and stultifying summer heat of Kiev, where he had played for Dynamo in the Ukrainian League.

He looked a wee bit bewildered on that night in South Yorkshire and his bewilderment grew as he realised that his mentor Advocaat was on a collision course with the club. He scored one sublime goal against West Ham, got himself sent off in the same game and very quickly fell out of favour with new manager Sam Allardyce.

He turned out at Arsenal for our sole FA Cup tie that season, scored a good goal to equalise and then shot off to Fenerbache on a rest of the season loan, joining Advocaat as the Istanbul team looked to challenge Galatasary and Besiktas for the title.

Another peach of a goal at Bradford

Back he came to the Wearside Riviera to team up with David Moyes and back he went to the banks of the Bosphorous PDQ as the military style adopted by Moyes did not seem to appeal to the more free and easy Dutchman. He did well enough, scoring 4 goals in 25 games but once more returned to Wearside and looked as if he would be one of the first to leave as we prepared for life in the second tier. A man who once said that he did not come to England to “sit on the bench” would hardly be likely to want to play in the Championship.

And that’s a pity as he is a very capable and talented player. He won the game for us at Valley Parade in the first eight minutes, first of all by playing a perfect pass for Josh Maja to tuck away and then by latching onto a great through ball by Donald Love to beat full back Adam Chicksen with consummate ease before tying centre half Nathaniel Knight-Percival in knots. His subsequent chip over keeper Rouven Sattelmaier was (to use the word again) sublime.

He tormented Chicksen continually, occasionally wandering over to the other side, where he found Tony McMahon more competitive, but he still won a number of free kicks and it was from his corner that Didier Ndong’s shot was turned in by Billy Jones to take the game away from City. He was the star of the half and was ably supported by Josh Maja who is learning fast and Tyias Browning who looks the business at centre half. Wahbi Khazri was another thorn in the Bantam’s side and Vaughan led the line well, creating space for the midfield players to push through the gaps. He looks a useful acquisition but needs a few goals under his belt.

The second half was a bit of a non-event with some of our weaknesses being exposed. Cattermole showed that he can ping a ball 50 yards across the pitch to an unmarked full back but struggles to make a relatively straightforward ten yarder. Billy Jones got an early nomination for Carthorse of the Year as he was easily beaten by Alex Gilliead and was rightly booked for tapping his ankle as he got away from him. Lens took a knock on the thigh when he went down in the box and City gained a foothold when Sunderland referee Geoff Eltringham (all three officials were from Wearside) gave a soft penalty after Ndong caught McCartan.

Up until then, Dutch keeper Robbin Ruiter had had little to do but as the changes were made, he came into his own, producing a couple of good saves and one stunner as he saved at the near post from a good shot by sub Paul Taylor. He had no chance as “Trialist” (former Rangers player Jordan Gibson) did his chances of a contract no harm with a smart goal in the 90th minute, but Ruiter looked calm and authoritative throughout. He is a free agent having left FC Utrecht and the general consensus amongst the 999 supporters who had made the short trip was “Sign him on, Simon”.

More plusses than minuses after this one and we go to Scunthorpe on Wednesday looking for a better ninety minutes as we prepare for the Rams on Friday 4th August. What kind of team we will have then is a matter of conjecture.

Billy Jones – goal machine

I had an enjoyable Friday and Saturday, ticking off a new ground, supping some fine beer and wandering round a wonderful example of a Victorian Park. Basford United on the western side of Nottingham was the new ground as Shildon played there on the Friday night. They drew 2-2 with a team who were on the edge of the Northern Premier League Division One (South) play-offs last season and could have won it with a bit more composure in front of goal.

The ale was supped in The Cricketers Rest and The Nelson and Railway in Kimberley where I stayed. All were fine pale ales from Castle Rock and the Nottingham Brewery Company and so different from the basic bitters that Home Ales and Shipstones churned out in the past. Thank goodness for good, new breweries. Castle Rock is a particular favourite of mine.

A saunter up the motorway to Bradford and a couple of hours spent in Lister Park, donated by and named after Samuel Cunliffe Lister (later Lord Masham), the man who built the splendid Manningham Mill that dominates the skyline of Bradford. In fact, he built it twice as it burned down in 1871. It employed 11,000 people at its peak, producing high quality silk. The eponymous park has trees, walks, a boating lake and café (good coffee, decent roasted vegetable Panini), botanical garden and a very impressive art gallery, Cartwright Hall, which was also built by Lister on the site of his old house.

There you can wander around a permanent display of David Hockney’s life and works. He is a Bradford man through and through and still has a very clear West Yorkshire accent. Whether he was a City man or a Park Avenue habitué is not documented but he might have dashed off the odd portrait of Kevin Hector or Cec Podd in between painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy and people splashing into swimming pools. Or maybe he was a closet Bradford Northern fan and he stood on the ash banks of Odsal cheering on Trevor Foster, Bill Seddon and Drew Broatch. Or maybe not……..

What is more aesthetically pleasing – a Hockney painting of trees in East Yorkshire or a chip over the keeper by Jeremain Lens? At the moment, I’ll go for the Dutchman beating Championship keepers 30 times next season – but I’m not banking on it.


North of the border down Livingston way

Malcolm Dawson writes……with Sixer, our normal match reporter recuperating in Wales after the early summer grind of exam marking, it falls to a Salut! Sunderland virgin (his words not mine) to provide us with a first hand account of last night’s third pre-season friendly. Brian Todd survived the experience of Mr Sixsmith’s teaching and brings us his view of last night’s proceedings. I’m tempted to say his Uncle Colin would be proud of him but I won’t because as far as I know they aren’t related and he’s probably sick of people making the same reference anyway. So was it a funny old game Brian? Let’s find out…………
Brian Todd ventures north of the border and climbs upon his old history teacher’s soapbox

A beautiful evening at the Tony Macaroni Arena saw around 500 of Sunderland’s finest squinting into the evening sun to see the boys take on newly promoted Livingston. For those of you that don’t know Livingston it’s a new town, around 40 odd years old, built to take the over-spill from the demolition of the Glasgow tenements. That means 90% of the town supports one of the old firm teams and about 1% of the remaining 10% supports Livingston. This generally means that their 10,800 seater stadium, as nice as it is, is a complete waste of time for average crowds of about 900. But that’s the SPL’s fault for their stupid vanity.

Onto the game. An impeccably observed minutes applause rang around the ground for Sunderland legend Bradley then the team set up as a 4-1-4-1 with no recognised centre forward and a line up of Mika, O’Shea, Djilibodji, Gibson, N’dong, Khazri, Jones, Rodwell, Gooch, Galloway and Love.
Livingston started the game brightly with an attempt which appeared to be saved by Mika just going past the post. After that Sunderland controlled the possession with some nice crisp passing which was largely ineffectual and lacked penetration with no outlet to aim for up front. Khazri was full of running but his delivery from set pieces was poor while Gooch gave the defence lots of problems all half. Indeed it was his strike which was parried by the keeper that led to Khazri pouncing and slotting home to net the opener. The defence looked solid with even Papa looking like a centre half for a change when Livingston applied a bit of pressure for the 5 minutes or so after we took the lead. A few long range efforts from Rodwell and N’dong were all that were of note in a first half leaving many in the crowd a little frustrated. We huffed and puffed but that 11 looked like they couldn’t blow down a house of cards
Got a last minute scorcher

The second half saw Lens introduced for Jones and although it started quietly Livingston gave it a go to no avail with a fabulous set piece, and a 35 yard volley from Gibson Sunderland’s only chance of note. On the hour mark the whole team was changed with Love, who for me was man of the match, heading to the showers.

The new guys driven on by the ever talking and motivating Cattermole looked brighter, more interested and generally more up for it. Whether it was a change of formation or a change of attitude I don’t know but the pace increased as did the pressure
Lee Cattermole – Chattermole more like
Livingston made their changes and introduced keeper Gary Maley. Big Stretch is a great guy who I’ve known since he was a kid so I better be kind….. Sod it. A drive from outside the box was fumbled inexplicably by the big guy and Osoro pounced and tucked it away nicely. It was all Sunderland after that with Osoro looking very sharp and Kone who looked huge on the pitch keeping things tight when Livingston did rarely endeavour to venture into the Sunderland half.
As the match petered out and the sun finally disappeared behind the North Stand up popped Lens, a player who did virtually nothing for 44minutes, with one of the finest strikes I’ve seen in years. So good even the Sunderland fans went quiet for a second or two because they couldn’t quite believe it. Maley had no chance with this one and the ref blew up with everyone still in a high.
As we walked out with smiles on faces as red as the sun dried tomatoes on one of Tony Macaroni’s pizzas, thanks to the glorious sunshine, I asked a few guys what they thought. It was OK, wasn’t bad, pretty average was the general consensus. I personally left with a feeling of hope rather than expectation as OK and not bad or pretty average won’t cut it and get us out of what looks to be a very challenging league. I’ll still keep the faith though…. For now.

Who was at Hibernian 2-2 Sunderland? Tell us what you think

Pete Sixsmith had other plans after the Bury game so no one from Salut! Sunderland was at Easter Road for the 2-2 draw against Hibs.

Khazri and, believe it or not, the lesser-spotted Jeremain Lens scored good goals to put SAFC in a commanding position that was duly sacrificed as the home side scored two in three minutes and then went close to grabbing a winner. The clip shows excellent finishes for our goals and woeful defending for theirs.

Both of our scorers were surely in the shop window though imagine what assets they could be in the Championship if they stayed and were committed to the cause.

Read moreWho was at Hibernian 2-2 Sunderland? Tell us what you think

Sixer’s Soapbox: Moyes stews as Sunderland get burned by Middlesbrough

Malcolm Dawson writes…..I nearly didn’t go today. I’ve got a bad back. But my lift arrived early so I struggled into my socks and shoes and did what Lamine Kone didn’t do and trekked along to the Stadium of Light. I’ve moved a row back this season but the faces from last year were all there and we spent the pre-match minutes inevitably talking about how the events of the close season have put us back into a familiar frame of mind for our first home game of the season. Of the starting XI only Don Vito, PvA and Defoe were left from the line up which had put Norwich, Chelsea and Everton to the sword and ensured another season of Premiership struggle. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were supposed to be consolidating ourselves as a top half side. Instead we lined up with kids and other clubs’ reserve team cast offs. My GP has ordered a whole set of blood tests, I’m due an X-Ray in the week to see if he can determine the cause of my pain and has threatened me with a prostate examination if nothing is forthcoming from those. (I think he’s a closet Mag!) In the meantime I’ll let Pete Sixsmith describe his own painful experience (and I don’t mean getting through the multiple roadworks on the A690.)


Read moreSixer’s Soapbox: Moyes stews as Sunderland get burned by Middlesbrough

Jeremain Lens: our best midfielder (or maybe not)



Blame Rob, who suggested we needed an article on squad analysis when I did my last review of “relegation watch”. Or Malcolm, whose idle speculation led to the idea of specific comparisons. Some of them weren’t particularly enticing but they planted a seed so I trooped off to and did a bit of digging. Then I did a bit of moving things around and playing with the numbers on a spreadsheet and  here we are.

This is the first of what I think will be two posts comparing our players. It concentrates on midfield and doesn’t include the Hoff as Sunderland have him listed as a defender rather than a midfielder. I’ve also excluded Rees Greenwood and George Honeyman, who made their debuts against Watford.

Read moreJeremain Lens: our best midfielder (or maybe not)

Summer signings Coates and Borini to leave? Giving Ellis short shrift

Malcolm Dawson writes……it’s a proven fact that we all feel better when our chosen football team is doing well and that poor on field results can bring disappointment and depression.

It may only be a game but football fans are stuck with their team. Some glory hunters might chop and change but the true supporter has no options. I was a fresher at college when Sunderland last won anything meaningful and now I’m only a couple of years away from a state pension.

Our first FA Cup win happened 17 years before I was born and the last League Championship Sunderland claimed was the year before that. Eighty years ago in fact. So success is not something we are used to.

Should we be doing better? Surely we should at least be doing as well as Stoke City, West Ham or Spurs. Surely we should be better than Watford, Southampton and Leicester City and no disrespect is intended towards those clubs. 1973 apart Sunderland AFC have been perennial underachievers, at least in our own eyes for eight decades now. Little windows of optimism have promptly been slammed shut again.

We all have views on the causes of our current malais but if he hasn’t already done so, maybe the owner of the club should take a long, hard look at his tenure in charge.

Read moreSummer signings Coates and Borini to leave? Giving Ellis short shrift

Dick’s post West Ham Advochaat: I’m proud of the players

Malcolm Dawson writes…..on the way back from today’s game Pete Sixsmith got a text suggesting that Big Dick had checked out of the Ramside and sent flowers to the staff. Of course with the international break coming up maybe he’s just off to see the missus to tell her that today the boys in red and white played their hearts out. The first forty five minutes produced some great attacking football and we didn’t look like a team in crisis. We could and should have had more. Borini had two great chances and I thought we might have had a penalty but the added time curse struck and the second half was a different story. This was one of those games where both sets of supporters might have left feeling disappointed but surely no-one at today’s game could question the players’ attitude. Big Dick was happy. This may be his last e-mail to M. Salut. I hope he stays. I fear he won’t.

 Dick by Jake
Dick by Jake


Dear Colin,

It’s the best game I’ve seen from our players; the way we played and got forward is what the fans like to see. We scored two beautiful goals; there was great movement and great action. The way we played the first half was of a really high standard.

At the end of the first half it was 2-1, had we gone in 2-0 of course it would have been better. We even had the chances to score 2 or 3 more goals, but it wasn’t to be.

After the red card it made it more difficult so I am happy with a point after that. The players gave everything and the crowd got right behind them, it was a joy to watch.

[Jeremain] Lens’ goal was particularly nice; [Steven] Fletcher’s was just as good and then the action we saw from Fabio [Borini] was great, he was finding space and if he had scored from the chances he had that would have been game over.

We just didn’t have any luck, that will change and I think we were the better side today. The players did very well, I’m very happy with their performance.

Thanks for your support,

Dick Advocaat

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SAFC vs Tottenham Hotspur: a chance to snatch that elusive first win

Jake: are Charlie Fleming and Danny Blanchflower eligible for Sunday?
Jake: are Charlie Fleming and Danny Blanchflower eligible for Sunday?

We’ve had – and still got – Guess the Score, at There’s a mug from Personalised Football Gifts awaiting the winner, who can be a Sunderland of Spurs supporter or follow neither team.

And we’ve had a Who are You? with Richard Littlejohn, such a good interview that even Littejohn’s natural enemies, from Sixer to the Sheriff of Nottingham for all we know, were heard offering polite applause. Catch it for yourselves, if you haven’t already, at

Read moreSAFC vs Tottenham Hotspur: a chance to snatch that elusive first win

Dick’s post Hannover Advochaat: better but not brilliant

Malcolm Dawson writes….this was Dick’s last chance pre-season to give what will probably be his first choice eleven a run out against decent opposition. I elected to go and see Crook Town against Blyth Town but got back in time to see the last 45 minutes of the jolly green giants on You Tube – except our giantest giant was in a charcoal grey number. Jeremain Lens took his chance well, winning the ball just outside of their area and rifling home a shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards. O’Shea gave away a penalty by allowing an attacker to run into him and fall over but justice was done when TGP dived to his left and saved not once but twice, blocking the follow up shot after his initial save in the 90th minute. So we got a win but I can’t say that I saw anything in the 45 minutes I watched to get my heart racing before my trip to Leicester. Dick shows mixed feelings in his post match e-mail and I expect, like me he is hoping the Wickham deal goes through so that a couple more new faces can be brought in to freshen up the squad.

Dick's chaat, by Jake
Dick’s chaat, by Jake

Dear Colin,

It was a fair result in what was another game away from home. The positives were that the team worked very hard to get that result and a lot of players played 90 minutes in warm conditions.

Overall I was pleased with what we brought but we also know that we need to bring more than we did today. It is important to remember that we have another away game against Leicester City next week, but this result will give us confidence because it was better than Wednesday [against Doncaster].

We’ve had a lot training sessions during pre-season and the players had to get used to it, but they did and they’re a very positive group.
I have to be fair to them because they always work hard in training and I cannot complain; there are still some things that we need to improve but they understand that and we will do so.

Thanks for your support,

Dick Advocaat

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Hutch’s one word ratings: new boys only bright spots at Doncaster

Malcolm Dawson writes…he’s back. Our man of few words with his summation of last night’s players’ performances. Rob Hutchison was at the Keepmoat and as equally unimpressed as Pete Sixsmith whose report you can read here. The plan is that Rob’s marks and one word ratings will appear after every Sunderland game he attends in the forthcoming season – which will be most if not all. I’m not sure whether he’s off to Germany or not but if he is I hope that he has more to look forward to than just the match.

Rob: 'wishing I was stuck in a desert'
Rob: ‘again wishing I was stuck in a desert’

Have I missed anyone? – Probably!

Lens . . . best player you’ve seen in a Sunderland shirt since . . . . .

Pants – 6 rusty
JoS – 5 creaky
Coates – 5 lethargic
Beadling – 6 steady
Kaboul – 7 energetic
PVA – 6 patchy
Jones – 5 leggy
Lens – 8 Sesstastic
Bridcutt – 5 predictable
Giacchy – 4 poor
Larsson – 6 sharp
Johnno – 6 sameold
Watmore – 6 lively
Buckley – 4 brief
Rodwell – 5 worrysome
Fletcher – 4 fading
Defoe – 5 adequate
Graham – 6 grafted

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