Among the things it seemed impossible to believe, Jermain Defoe’s England recall was up there with “of course the pound will recover from Brexit” and “Sunderland won’t go down”.
Monsieur Salut can live, just, with the former being a somewhat improbable development – while allowing himself a mischievous chuckle at what’s it’s done to Magaluf spending dosh – and meekly accepts the latter is a forlorn hope.
Colin Randall wites: What a fabulous set of answers, from a proper supporter of a proper football club, brought to us by Pete Sixsmith, who met him on holiday in Italy and tried to lead him astray (ie by persuading him along to some some Under 23s reserve game Sixer had spotted in the local paper). As I read the first, long answer from Duncan Sutcliffe* I wondered whether the interview ought to be cut in two. I decided against, because a) it’s the sort of read I’d personally want to see in one go and b) because Salut! Sunderland readers generally warm to exchanges of this kind and this quality with people who essentially, share their outlook on football. Great stuff, if ultimately grim reading for us, Duncan – what a pleasure to have you back again ….
So Salut! Sunderland was told the former SAFC and Republic of Ireland midfielder Andy Reid, speaking exclusively to 888sport, was happy to answer our questions as part of the interview. He had some interesting things to say about enjoying his time at Sunderland, playing for Ireland and observing our current plight.
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 but many 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?
Monsieur Salut writes: I got into trouble with a Salut! Sunderland reader, ‘Maw’ over at Twitter when I tweeted Jermain Defoe and said that while I might understand him wanting to leave at the end of the season, would he please stay for now? ‘Grow up,’ was the gist of my critic’s response and, while there was a germ of a serious point in what I had said, I ended up conceding defeat. The serious point holds good, especially if it is true, as speculated, that Defoe’s body language on Saturday suggested restlessness; whatever restructuring is needed – and by whom – come the summer, Defoe is our main, perhaps only hope of salvation between now and then. Alex McMahon agrees …
Jermain Defoe is one of the best strikers in the Premier League. The Sunderland man may be 34, but he certainly has not lost his mojo. The former England man has scored 12 goals and created as many chances in 21 Premier League appearances so far this season. That’s 57 per cent of the goals Sunderland have scored.
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ESPN FC ran a fascinating survey on whether their blogger for each Premier League club – Monsieur Salut does the honours for Sunderland with occasional stand-ins by Mr Sixsmith (think Colin Todd on the bench for Gareth Hall and you get the picture) – would buy Jermain Defoe and if yes, what they’d pay.
The brands – so many of whose supporters find it a struggle to locate “their” club by pointing to a map – all voted the same way: No.
Everyone else, save for West Brom, jumped at the idea.
Sunderland have rejected a £6m bid from West Ham for striker Jermain Defoe, Sky sources understand
Salut! Sunderland pays relatively little heed to rubbishy transfer window speculation.
In the past, much or maybe most turned out to be untrue, no more than the manipulations of clubs and agents or the imaginations of football journos.
But these days, clubs – some clubs, then only sometimes – are more open about their wishes and their dealings. We already know Slaven Bilic fancies bringing Jermain Defoe back to West Ham. We know Crystal Palace, absurdly located in one of the worst places to get to in London, even from London. want him, too.
These are my messages more fully:
Malcolm Dawson writes: New Year’s Eve and the aftermath was spent down in the Midlands, with my mate the Leicester City fan who is convinced that he will be off to Cardiff to see the Foxes in the final of the Champions League, despite my reminding him that I have seen Leicester City play more often than he has over the past 30 years.
I travelled up the A1, kind of hoping that the accident which slowed my progress might delay me sufficiently to make the trip to the Stadium of Light impracticable. I had told the Liverpool fan I got talking to over breakfast at the Little Chef (excellent black pudding btw) that I was expecting a 3 or 4 nil hammering but I got through and made it to Sunderland just in time to park up and hear the team news on Radio Newcastle, before re-claiming my scarf from a certain Mr Sixsmith, who had taken it from my car after the Chelsea game, donning my thermals and making my way to my seat.
Well worth the effort and a typical experience for Sunderland fans everywhere. We can get beaten by poor sides then play well against the title challengers but, unlike when we played the Pensioners, we got a point from a decent performance. I’ll let Peter take up the story.
Like most people, I have no idea what Jermain Defoe’s contract says about his right to leave Sunderland in the event of this or that bid being made.
Like most people, I know that Slaven Bilic rates him as highly as we do and knows his movement and his goals make him an unusually gifted striker. And our old pal Big Sam would apparently love to get him down to the backwaters of south London.
And like all Sunderland supporters, I believe that if Defoe shows the slightest hint of being tempted to join either club, or anyone else, Ellis Short should throw whatever it takes – money, the freedom of Sunderland if he has the ear of someone at the council, even David Moyes’s famed £30,000 watch – to keep him.