SAFC v Newcastle: (5) not trying too hard to love the enemy

Jeremy Robson
Jeremy Robson

Jeremy Robson is more than disillusioned with Sunderland just now. Just settled in Scotland after returning from Canadian exile, he will be ‘roaring at the telly’ on Sunday but says ’40 odd years of failure punctuated by lesser degrees of failure and no success at all has taken its toll’. That said, he had no worries about reposting these old thoughts about Wear-Tyne rivalry.

It first appeared in February 2009, and was introduced by Monsieur Salut as a as classic piece of Jeremy ‘wit, wisdom and bluster’ … but a couple of comments posted in recent days seemed to suggest it was time for a re-run, to be followed by a quite different analysis from a Newcastle supporter …

Read moreSAFC v Newcastle: (5) not trying too hard to love the enemy

The Robson Report: in Short we could do with another Advocaat

The whole Salut! Sunderland team owes our old mate Jeremy Robson a huge apology. He was one of the first out of the blocks to submit an end of season review (you can read the rest by following the link below Jake’s image) but somehow it got lost in the ether. Putting things right, here is his slightly amended contribution edited to reflect events at Stamford Bridge and Dick Advocaat’s subsequent decision not to stay – both of which occurred after Jeremy’s review was written. MD

Image by Jake:
Image by Jake: see the rest of the series at

End of season review time again. There’s no point in recanting the events of the season per se. We were all there and saw what happened, so I won’t. Most of it is best forgotten anyway.

Comparing this season to the previous one might simply read as follows. “Couldn’t manage a point for weeks on end” and “couldn’t do much other than draw for weeks on end.” There’s a line from Boy and Bear’s “Old Town Blues, which is “Shadow of the carving knife, is not the danger but the warning sign”, which sums up this season’s tedious and faltering start and the incredible number of draws. Optimists consoled themselves with the satisfaction of not losing. Realists recognised that a defeat followed by a win would be a more accurate sign of progress. The truth is that there wasn’t any progress. Failure was simply wearing different clothes.

The previous season had seen us lose regularly but not heavily. This was also to change. A capitulation of mammoth proportions away at Southampton knocked ten bells out of the goal difference, and we witnessed one of the finest strikes on goal this season from a SAFC boot. Vergini’s finish was sublime. Unfortunately, it was past Mannone and not Forster. If only Messrs Wickham, Fletcher, and Graham (you can only dream Jozy), could muster such a thing at the right end.

As memories of a League Cup Final appearance faded to distant memory, goals were becoming a rarity. It looked as if the goal drought might be over for Fletcher as he netted twice in November away at Crystal Palace. Apart from his hat trick for Scotland against the Isle of Lundy (sorry Gibraltar – which isn’t even an island), the goal well remained dry until the fat lady was giving her rendition of “Oh Sole Meo”.

Freshly back to the UK having become fed up watching Raptors games and hitting the town with Drake, hopes of ending the goal scoring embargo saw Mr Defoe arrive in a swap deal for the lumbering and hopeless Altidore. Remarkably, many Canadians think they got the sweet end of the deal. Laugh? I thought my pants would never dry. Defoe’s return has not been high but his contribution has been significant, even when playing out of position.

Jake's take on JD
Jake’s take on JD

By the time Defoe had arrived, many of our fans were sensing déjà vu, with Gus Poyet sounding increasingly like Steve Bruce in his later period as manager. Eager to criticise everyone other than himself and unable to see the glaring limitation in his tactics, style and team selections. Remarkably and against all odds, we saw the return of Danny Graham from a loan spell at Wolves which was cut short. They weren’t terribly impressed by Danny at Molineux, yet here he was. Not only back in the fold but even more remarkably back in the team, where he more or less stayed. Disastrous home performances and results of which the lowest ebb was the first half collapse against Aston Villa, ultimately saw Poyet leave with only 8 games left.

Enter the Little General. Contracted to the end of the season. We can only assume that Lee Congerton was responsible for this coup (so thanks a bunch Lee!). The most accomplished manager to ever arrive at Sunderland AFC in my life time had come to try and save us. Most fans had more or less given up the ghost. We were as good as relegated. Except of course we weren’t. All of a sudden there was some cohesion, organisation and a much more attacking formation which might actually pose a threat to the opposition. Dick Advocaat knows that to be successful, you have to score at least occasionally. Having said that we were also stronger defensively and that was down to the manager having the courage of his own convictions, dropping the likes of Vergini, Revelliere, and Alvarez on the final run in. A more positive outlook from the team saw our luck change as we got the two penalties at home to Southampton and the two fluke goals away at Goodison. What was it that Napoleon said about his Generals?

When our own Little General arrived he was probably not looking beyond the end of the season. Would he want to stay if we went down? Would we want him to stay? How would he feel if he saved us from relegation? Putting aside Dick’s comments about Mrs Advocaat not wanting him to carry on working, it would seem from his comments and behaviour that he did reconsider. When he burst into tears at the end of the match at the Emirates, it raised the possibility that this was the end of the road for him and his assistant, Bert Van Lingen. The two men have worked side by side for almost three decades. We asked the question, was Sunderland to be the final staging post on their joint careers which had taken them to league titles and World Cups? Avoiding relegation would have been a strange way for Dick Advocaat’s career to end. Was it, we wondered simply the end of the closing chapter to a longer story yet to be written? Some of his comments suggested that he realised what needs to be done at Sunderland, and how to make those changes. In a very short time he established a bond with the players, many of whom he knows are nowhere near good enough, and with the tens of thousands of Sunderland supporters with whom he has found a special place in their hearts. Personally I never warmed to Gus Poyet, but took to Dick Advocaat very quickly. But he’s made his decision and again we find ourselves looking for someone new.

A top class coach Dick by Jake
A top class coach Dick by Jake

The most significant difference between this season and either of the two previous seasons is that Ellis Short seems to better understand not only what is needed to put this club where it should be, but what mechanisms need to be put in place for that to happen. I’m delighted for Ellis Short, as I’ve been very critical of some of his dealings in the past, and particularly his transfer policy etc. When he took ownership of the club, he must have thought that owning SAFC was a great idea, but not being a football man at all, he really wasn’t sure what that idea was about. There’s a sense that he now comprehends the issues and has made some strides towards finding solutions. The first part of this new jigsaw has to be finding a replacement for Dick Advocaat. Someone with a similar philosophy and feel for the game. Someone who will fall in love with the club and get the team onside. Someone who will be here for the longer term and produce the longed for stability we all crave. If he’s successful in doing that difficult task, then we will have good reason to look forward to the coming seasons with much more optimism than for many a good year.

Middlesbrough and others face playoffs but Bournemouth gatecrash Premier – and Howe

Jeremy Robson
Jeremy Robson: ‘if only we could play you next season’

When AFC Bournemouth swept aside Bolton to win, all bar the shouting, a first season in the Premier, we wondered about asking a supporter of the south coast club to write something. Our own Jeremy Robson has beaten them to it, welcoming the team that plays in AC Milan colours but to a maximum home crowd of 12,000 to a top flight Sunderland may well be departing. As our illustrator Jake put it at Facebook the other night, they ‘play some great stuff, they sing the red flag an’ al’…

Read moreMiddlesbrough and others face playoffs but Bournemouth gatecrash Premier – and Howe

The Robson Report: Sir Alex Ferguson had millions, Clough charisma and brilliance

Jonathan Wilosn's book on a Sunderland great
Jonathan Wilson’s book on a Sunderland great

NB: COMMENT ON: A technical blip prevented them until now

Jeremy Robson pays a grand tribute to Brian Clough to mark the imminent 10th anniversary of his death (aged 69, on September 20 2004). Sunderland fan and top writer Jonathan Wilson’s book, Nobody Ever Says Thank You, is available at very decent prices at Salut! Sunderland’s Amazon link:

It’s hard to believe
that ten years have lapsed since the passing of the great Brian Clough. Arguably, the finest manager of all time, he didn’t have to spend millions or be in charge at clubs with the deepest pockets to win trophies. He did it on the strength of team work, charisma and sheer brilliance.

Read moreThe Robson Report: Sir Alex Ferguson had millions, Clough charisma and brilliance

The Robson Report: Brazil 2014 – overblown, over hyped and over on Sunday

taking  a detached view of events overseas
taking a detached view of events overseas
Jeremy Robson is not a man to shy away from a good debate. It could be said that had he studied for the Bar it would have been at the Devil’s School of Advocacy, but his observations are always incisive and well argued. He has been watching the affairs in Brazil with interest and shares his thoughts about a World Cup nearing its conclusion.

Over the course of the last month we’ve seen the best of the world game, for what it is. There may be no Pele, Muller, Beckenbauer, Tostao, Jairzhino, Ronaldo, Charlton, Gascoigne, Cruyff, Neeskens, Baggio, Schillachi, Platini, Garrincha, or Maradona. There is really no stunning team, but we have seen some very good football. It has to be said that there have been some awful games to watch as well.

Read moreThe Robson Report: Brazil 2014 – overblown, over hyped and over on Sunday

The Robson Report: biting thoughts on Suarez

taking  a detached view of events overseas
taking a detached view of events overseas

This should really have preceded Malcolm Dawson’s short, timely piece on the Luis Suarez biting incident. Monsieur Salut had assorted domestic crises, a heavy extractor fan falling in the middle of the night to smash the hob and my Mac’s refusal to accept the valid password for wifi access being only two of them. So here, out of sequence but welcome, are Jeremy Robson‘s thoughts on footballer’s teeth invading footballer’s flesh …

Read moreThe Robson Report: biting thoughts on Suarez

Wembley and Safe (3): everything’s not all right

Jake is sleeping soundly again
Jake is sleeping soundly again

Jeremy Robson would be the first to acknowledge that he does not suffer fools gladly. Woe betide them, as our old teachers used to say, if the fools are currently wearing our red and white stripes. In an ideal Robson world, football would still be something viewed from the Clock Stand paddock of Roker Park, just to the left of the halfway line. Here’s Jeremy’s very particular take on the ups and downs of the season just ended …

Read moreWembley and Safe (3): everything’s not all right

The Robson Report: in an SAFC world without Poyet, who’d be next?

Jeremy Robson: 'what did I do in a previous life to deserve this?'
Jeremy Robson: ‘what did I do in a previous life to deserve this?’

Still not the start of ‘Wembley and Bust’, the series in which our contributors will discuss what went so drastically wrong. But Jeremy Robson feels it in his bones that Gus is about to hop on a one-way bus trip. Who would come in to pick up the pieces, rebuild for a different task (gaining promotion as opposed to perpetual relegation avoidance) and please the fans? …

Read moreThe Robson Report: in an SAFC world without Poyet, who’d be next?

The Robson Report: what on earth happens next?

Salut Chrome

The time for the proper inquest is not quite with us. Soon enough, Salut! Sunderland contributors will be having their say on a season that has had one high spot but otherwise trundled relentlessly towards the abyss. That doesn’t stop us thinking about the mess we’re in and Jeremy Robson offers some preliminary conclusions …

Read moreThe Robson Report: what on earth happens next?