From the archives: as John O’Shea departs, let’s look back at looking at Paolo

'You decide,' as Jake used to say. But is there a middle ground?
‘You decide,’ as Jake used to say. But is there a middle ground?

Monsieur Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith’s piece on the departures of John O’Shea, Robbie Stockdale and Adrian Tucker – a fond farewell but measured and excellently argued – got one or two talking about Paolo Di Canio. ‘JoS stood up to the ridiculous bullying of Di Canio,’ Pete wrote. Jeff, in response, felt PDC went ‘because players didn’t want to work hard and John was part of that’.

I have a good anecdote that concerns the infamous drinking culture at the club and supports the Sixer view of John O’Shea, but it is probably not one I can yet share without my informant’s consent. Ken Gambles, however, reminds me of a piece he wrote here back in 2014, at the time of the controversy about PDC’s man-management techniques and that can be repeated ….

Read moreFrom the archives: as John O’Shea departs, let’s look back at looking at Paolo

Sixer says: goodbye John O’Shea, Robbie Stockdale and Adrian Tucker

John McCormick writes: in this short piece Pete Sixsmith casts his eye over a couple of the more minor changes that have happened to our club in recent days. I say minor, that’s just in comparison to what else has gone on. We have lost three of the more successful, and more unassuming, people at the club.

At least, that’s Pete’s view. It’s one I happen to agree with; how about you?

Read moreSixer says: goodbye John O’Shea, Robbie Stockdale and Adrian Tucker

Sixer’s Bristol City Soapbox: another pointless exercise at the Stadium of Light

Malcolm Dawson writes………..I am not one of the multitude calling for Simon Grayson’s head for the simple reason that at the end of last season I decided that I would not renew my season card and would not return to the Stadium of Light until I felt the club was able to offer me something in return for what was (up until May) my loyalty.

There is only so far blind faith can take you and my eyes are open. So I’m not calling for Grayson’s head purely because I haven’t been able to judge personally how inept he really is. For that I’ll rely on Pete Sixsmith‘s first hand verdict, first in his report from yet another frustrating afternoon spent in Sunderland and then later in the flesh when I see him at the U23 game. You see I haven’t given up entirely …

Bristol City H

Every team, bar one that I have seen at the Stadium of Light this season has had a number of common characteristics, the common one being that they are well organised with their players appearing to know what their roles are within the team structure.

Read moreSixer’s Bristol City Soapbox: another pointless exercise at the Stadium of Light

Sixer’s Carlisle Soapbox: At least our name’s in the douli for the next round

Malcolm Dawson writes……….Pete Sixsmith made the trip across the Pennines to Brunton Park last night and saw us win our way through to the next round of the competition which I still call the League Cup. We got through but was it a comfortable victory or a fortunate one? Here’s what Pete thinks.

Carlisle United (away) Caraboa Cup

Tomorrow is the day when the English Football League draws the next round of this competition that has been ticking over since the 1960-61 season.

Our first game in it was at Griffin Park, Brentford on the 26th October. We lost 4-3 after having been 3-1 up at half time thanks to goals from Ian Lawther, Willie McPheat and Amby Fogarty. Later that week, the draw for the next round was made at the Football League headquarters in Lytham St Annes, at the posh end of Blackpool and I presume that the Football League panjandrums who drew it included Alan Hardaker, the formidable secretary of the League and Barnsley Chairman Joe Richards who was the President of the League at the time.

Read moreSixer’s Carlisle Soapbox: At least our name’s in the douli for the next round

Memo to Ellis Short: ‘please not Karanka, think John O’Shea’

That’s Barry on the far left (not his political position)

Barry Emmerson is a footballing man in the mould of Pete Sixsmith. In other words, he knows his stuff. He told Ellis Short as much when they found themselves answering the calls of nature at the same time at the Stadium of Light recently. Barry modestly suggested he could sort out Sunderland’s troubles and handed the owner his business card. Chances are it will be used only if Mr Short ever needs Barry’s comfortable private-hire limousine rather than to talk football. But let’s hope the owner is an avid reader of Salut! Sunderland and, having parted company with David Moyes, gives some thought to Barry’s views (he has already floated the idea of a Keano-O’Shea dream ticket, though that might require a major act of Irish-American reconciliation …

Read moreMemo to Ellis Short: ‘please not Karanka, think John O’Shea’

Sixer’s Hull City Soapbox: something to shout about in the city of culture

Jake: ‘well knock me down with a feather’

Malcolm Dawson writes……I half expected Pete Sixsmith to go up to Whitley Bay yesterday to watch the Northern League Cup Final (the last game of the Northern League season) in which South Shields hammered their rivals from ower the Tyne, North Shields by five goals to nil. But no! Peter is made of sterner stuff and made the journey down the East coast to Kingston upon Hull and for once didn’t come home wondering if he shouldn’t be finding more entertaining ways of spending his Saturday afternoons.

HULL CITY (away)

In a dismal season we clutch at anything that reminds us that watching football should be a pleasure rather than a chore that has to be endured and the win at the KCOM Stadium fell into the category of mild ecstasy rather than the usual deep despair. It made for a pleasant journey home – a first for me this season.

We came away from the City of Culture (of which more later) with three points and some pointers towards next season, whether under the supervision of Gloomy Dave and the ownership of the Absent Missourian, or perhaps new owners with new managerial ideas. There are indications that there are two consortia interested in buying the club (and its huge debts) and that they may want their own man in place. We shall see. It maybe that M Salut, financially fat on his ESPN earnings, is one of the consortia members. Or, then again, maybe not.

We had it confirmed that we have in Jordan Pickford (He’s One of our Own), a top class goalkeeper. This was the best I have seen him play for us. It was a flawless performance, one that should comfortably boost his stock within the game and his transfer value.

There were three things that really struck me about him yesterday. First of all his ability to come for the right ball at the right time as he now had an idea of what his defenders could and couldn’t do. His judgement was spot on and he caught, punched and palmed away as well as any Sunderland keeper I have seen.

Secondly, his positioning. There was a spell in the second half when the Tigers were well on top and were pushing for the goal that may well have saved their precarious Premier League place. A cross came in from Elmohamady and was met with a thumping header by Liverpool loanee Lazar Markovic. It looked a certain goal but Jordan (He’s One of our Own, ya knaa) had positioned himself superbly and made an outstanding save to keep it at 0-0.

He’s one of our own

Thirdly, his distribution. One pass from him in particular stood out. His amazingly accurate kick went over the head of centre half Rannochia, leaving Jermain Defoe with a clear run at goal. It should have been the opener, but Jermain took a second too long and his shot was saved by Jakupovic. It was a pass not a clearance, something he has been doing all season. Throughout the game, he dropped the ball on Anichebe’s head or put it just in front of Defoe and that meant that Hull could never relax at the back which contributed to the tension that stifled their game.

Top marks to Jordan – those of us who have watched him since he made the Under 21 team years ago are not surprised at how well he has done – neither are the fans of Darlington, Bradford City and Preston North End whose clubs helped to nurture him and show the advantages of the loan system. And, of course, He’s One of our Own…..

We had two loan players performing in our Real Madrid strip at Hull. For Javier Manquillo it must have been galling wearing the all-white as Real had walloped his parent club Atletico in the all Madrid Champions League semi on Tuesday night. He looks a decent footballer but suffers from being a right back playing at left back. Every time he gets the ball he has to transfer it on to his right foot and that often means that his final pass or cross is intercepted by a recovering defender. When he returns to Spain, he will understand the meaning of the word adversity.

Sunderland in their faux Real Madrid kit

Jason Denayer has been a decent player for us this season and, although probably not good enough for Manchester Coty, he will make progress in the game. He is enthusiastic (I have likened him to a sheepdog chasing sheep over the fells) and is not frightened to make a tackle. Employed in midfield above Larsson, Rodwell and Gooch, he did his job well tackling, heading and generally running about with none of the world weariness that two of the three aforementioned names too often exhibit.

He was joined in the team’s engine room by George Honeyman who justified the faith that Gloomy Dave placed in him by turning a solid performance which may bode well for him getting a new deal for 2017-18 (the Comeback Year). He was neat and tidy, picked out a couple of really good balls to Defoe and in what will probably be a Championship clash next season, showed that he may well be an important player. Like Jordan, he’s One of our Own, albeit from Mag (and Ruth Archer ) territory in Prudhoe.

John O’Shea showed that he deserves another contract with an impressive display of football and captaincy. The more I see of him, the more I like him as a player and as a man. He has the attitude to go on and become a coach and manager, possibly with us. He likes the club and the support and I expect to see him making his Championship debut on the first weekend in August.

Didn’t need his boots to find the back of the net yesterday

He played a key part in the opening goal. He dropped short to Honeyman at the corner and was not picked up. His flicked header bamboozled a static Hull defence and there was Billy Jones, who had previously been given a torrid time by Grosicki, to turn the ball into the net and send the 2,500 fans wild. I thought that we deserved to be ahead as we had played the more controlled football while Hull seemed to think that if they fell down in the box, Neil Swarbrick would eventually give them a penalty. Their antics reminded me of Norwich last season – and look what happened to them…..

The second goal was a sharp ball by Larsson which Hull failed to read and it was bundled home by a relieved Jermain Defoe. He has stalled recently but he has been an excellent player for us and wherever he goes in the summer, no Sunderland supporter will wish him anything other than success and happiness. Like O’Shea, he has been more than a footballer at Sunderland.

Apparently, City manager Silva and striker Niasse had both predicted a comfortable win for what turned out to be a toothless Tigers team. They overstepped the boundary between cockiness and confidence and looked deflated at the end. With a trip to Palace and a home game with Spurs to come, they needed this one and although not certain to go down, they will have to play much better than they did against us. Former Sunderland player Alfred N’Diaye was eclipsed by the quietly influential Didier Ndong and the Tigers offered little craft or guile in midfield. The much vaunted Harry Maguire looked as if he was going to cry when the first goal went in.

No matter who owns the club – this is who it really belongs to

As for The City of Culture, it was a disappointment. I fully expected to see street corners full of mime artists climbing out of imaginary boxes, artists wearing smocks sitting at easels frantically painting and poets in floppy hats and bow ties extolling the virtues of Spurn Head and Hull Kingston Rovers. Instead, the entire population appeared to be eating fish and chips on the cold, wind-blown streets of a city that I really like and shall be revisiting in the summer to look at some of the exhibitions and events that we may be seeing in Sunderland in four years time.

The journey home was saddened by the demise of Hartlepool United as they slipped into the National League and who will be exchanging visits from Luton and Portsmouth for those of Bromley and Guiseley, hopefully only for a year. We wish them well. Relegation can be a cleansing process as our Tyneside friends have shown.

Our support was magnificent at Hull, with no aim other than to show people that whoever owns, manages or plays for the club, it is our club. We are there for life – even if it is in the Championship.

Sixer’s Arsenal Soapbox: this Sunderland defence just don’t like it up ’em

Malcolm Dawson writes……it’s fair to say that Pete Sixsmith was incandescent after yesterday’s performance. I have no intention of bringing on a cardiac arrest about something over which I have no control so rather than rant and rave as the BBC moved to interview Arsene Wenger I chose instead to chill out to Joni Mitchell, Donald Fagen and Van Morrison. After all a comprehensive defeat at home to one of the sides who’ll be in the title mix in a few months time was not unexpected. I find quiet resignation keeps the blood pressure under control. I elected instead to save my ire for drivers blocking off the exits on the Wearmouth bridge roundabout delaying the journey home. Fortunately Pete finished his report of yesterday’s dismal performance before this morning’s batting collapse in Dhaka. What with that and New Zealand’s single point victory over England in the RL Four Nations yesterday I assume he is now curled up in darkened corner of Sixsmith Towers with Rafael, his Spanish manservant bringing him hot toddies and cold compresses to ease the pain.

arsenalsoapbox

ARSENAL (H)

The death of Dad’s Army creator Jimmy Perry this week at a ripe old age – he would have been a teenager when we last won the league- brought out the old clips. There was Private Walker selling dodgy nylons and illegal ciggies for vastly inflated prices (remind anyone of our transfer policy this summer?), Private Pike showing his naivety and believing that everything will be all right (like a David Moyes press release) and finally, a man we can all identify with – the gloomy Scot Private Fraser, with his mantra of “We’re doomed, Captain Mainwaring” so reminiscent of our manager after the home defeat to Middlesbrough eight long and tortuous league games ago and of the vast majority of the home support. Throw in the fact that three of our better players in O’Shea, Pienaar and Defoe are veterans and we really are a Dad’s Army.

'SAFC more Dad's Army than Red Army,' says Sixer  via Jake's graphic
‘SAFC more Dad’s Army than Red Army,’ says Sixer via Jake’s graphic

For make no mistake, doomed we are and doomed we shall stay. The Coat of Optimism has been consigned to the cupboard under the stairs and the Sword of Hope has been placed in its sheath where it will remain for goodness knows how long. There is more chance of my gall bladder being re-installed than there is of avoiding yet another relegation. That the players are not good enough is obvious. That they seem to have little self-belief after they concede a goal, equally so. Tactically, we set ourselves out to disrupt and spoil and have little idea of how to break down a good or even average side. We had a mere handful of attempts on the Arsenal goal before they stepped up the pace and put us out of our misery.

And misery it was. Three goals, all well taken but all avoidable, were swept into our net as defenders stood looking and midfielders fell down on their tasks. The disappearance of the industrious Pienaar (at 34, the hardest working midfielder in a red and white shirt) and his replacement by the seemingly indolent Januzaj, encouraged Arsenal to take advantage of the gaps that appeared down that side and slaughter us with crosses into the box that went to their players. Kieran Gibbs had so much space that he could have had a couple of goals for himself, but the inch perfect cross to Giroud sufficed as the substitute restored the Arsenal lead with the kind of deft volley that Jermain Defoe is quite capable of producing should he ever get a decent ball played to him in the box.

He had levelled for us with a well taken penalty, this coming at the end of a period when we actually played some decent stuff and did not look like conceding, although Arsenal fans may disagree, even though the whiny, disagreeable but excellent Sanchez had a good penalty claim turned down.

All Arsene Wenger did was to send on a big centre forward and we capitulated. All Giroud had to do was stand about a bit and our defenders would have had a fit of the collywobbles. As it was he scored two quick goals and finished the game off. His second showed our defensive frailties off to a tee. A good corner, nobody jumping with him and a firm header planted into the net. It was the kind of goal that a lowly Under 15 team would concede on a school field or a scratch pub team on a public park. We concede them regularly as Lukaku and Benteke will affirm.

Sanchez wrapped it up after a spot of football pinball in the box, that goal not as good as his first, a crafty header from a lovely cross by Oxlade-Chamberlain. We may ask why O-C was given so much space by Duncan Watmore (rapidly turning into the new James McClean) and why Kone (a future Sunderland captain according to the increasingly beleaguered manager) was caught on the back foot. He was probably distracted by deciding which Arsenal jersey he wanted for his collection.

There are no positives to take from this. We came up against one of the league’s top sides and they swatted us away as if we were a mere inconvenience. At no stage did we ever look like winning the game, although I thought Moyes was bold in putting on Januzaj. In some ways he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Last week criticised for sending on a defender, this week for putting on an attacker. That the player let him down badly with a display that made it very clear that the delights of Rusholme far outweigh those of Seaburn was hardly his fault.

Jake: 'no impact substitute'
Jake: ‘no impact substitute’

Where do we go from here? Well, in my case not to Bournemouth or Liverpool or Swansea or Manchester United. By New Year’s Eve, when we set foot on Turf Moor we will be so far behind that we will need a pair of binoculars to see the Tigers’ tail and the Swans’ wings.

The return of Cattermole, Kirchhoff and Borini may settle things a little bit, but we still cannot defend and I would imagine that Kone will increase his demands for a move in January. Pickford is another one who may be sold as we raise money to buy players who might get us out of the Championship at the first time of asking. I cannot see the current owner putting a huge amount in the hands of Moyes in this window; the poor returns we have had on Ndong and Djilobodji will dictate that.

Hard times for Sunderland supporters and I fear that there is worse to come. Lose the next two games and the manager’s position becomes completely untenable. That Sunderland should even contemplate losing to Bournemouth and Hull City shows how much the game has changed – in our case not for the better.

We are in for a long, hard winter…….

Sixers’s Soapbox: squirming in our seats as Crystal Palace take the spoils

Malcolm Dawson writes…..I was in the ground early yesterday and got chatting to one of the stewards. When he asked me if I expected anything from the game my look must have said it all, even before my shake of the head and verbal response of “No not really.” When the first goal went in I turned to the bloke sitting next to me and said “two more and I might be able to relax.” After the second went in I turned again and said “one more and I’ll be able to………two more again!” That’s what following Sunderland does for you. Serves me right for getting all optimistic at the back end of last season. During my conversation with the steward and comments from those around me during the match, it would appear that criticism of the owner is growing.

I hate to hear the team booed and I wish people wouldn’t leave early, no matter how dire the performance as I feel that just adds to the enormity of the task and does nothing for player morale. Tremendous positivity amongst the fans helped keep us up last season. More on field performances like yesterday’s will not be tolerated by much of the home support and will make what is already an uphill task, that much harder.

Like me, Pete Sixsmith stays to the bitter end and keeps his feelings bottled up until the players are out of earshot. Here is where he says what he really feels.

palacesoapbox

CRYSTAL PALACE (H).

We have had books about Sunderland’s Top Ten Games and Sunderland’s Great Matches and I believe there is one coming out about the Six In A Row over our Friends From The North And Currently In The Championship which will probably find its way into the stockings of those who are still of a Red and White persuasion.

I would like to propose a follow up to that one and call it “Totally Inept Performances by Sunderland AFC 1962- 2015” and would suggest that Saturday’s howler would vie with the 5-1 defeat at the Sports Direct and a 6-1 thrashing by Blackburn Rovers in the mid 80’s, as the worst performances I have seen by teams representing the club M Salut and I have followed for the last 50+ years.

In many ways, this was worse than the others on account of how, by some fluke, we had established a two goal lead and looked as if we might be on our way to winning a game before the central heating and the winter duvet go on.

That those goals in no way reflected the general course of play was of little bother to the diminishing number of Sunderland supporters inside the Stadium of Light. A win was a win was a win and in Jermain Defoe we had a man who had given us a lead that we could hopefully build on as the leaves left the trees and the Premier League starts to sort itself out.

When he put in the second goal on the hour after another bout of poor defending by the visitors, we prepared to sit back and watch the midfield and back four tighten up and thwart Pontius Pardew and his team and then we could go home with big smiles on our faces to enjoy a Saturday evening doing whatever it is we do on a Saturday evening.

That feeling lasted for all of 30 second. Straight from the kick off, Palace went down the field, took advantage of the rabble who purport to be defenders and pulled a goal back. Instead of relaxing back in our red and white and pink seats, we were sat on the edge of them hoping that perhaps we could get a third goal to finish these pesky Croydoners off.

Jake: 'we're pretty useless'
Jake: ‘we’re pretty useless’

Not so. Pontius played his substitute cards well and took off Cabaye and sent on a pacy youngster in Zachy Fryers. With his first involvement, he galloped down the wing, leaving Manquillo for dead and put in a cross that James McArthur, rising above a static Van Aanholt, headed in to level the scores.

From edge of seat, we went to hiding under them. The longer the game went on it was clear that if anyone was going to win it, it would not be a team in red and white stripes. But, we held on thanks to some desperate defending and some wayward finishing, particularly by Andros Townsend. A point was just about acceptable – or so we thought.

What possessed Manquillo to push Wickham over in the corner may never be known. The game was almost over. Had the push not taken place we would have had to defend at worst, a throw in. But hands were placed on him, down he went, right in front of Anthony Taylor and the free kick was given.

We had time to organise our defending – except there was nobody there to do the organising. But even so, surely it was easy to spot that Benteke was stood unmarked, in the box, looking to make a run. I saw it, just as I had seen Lukaku peel off the defenders in the last home game.

Alas, neither of the centre halves picked him up and the Belgian came through like a coal train rattling down a railroad track and powered in a header past Pickford and into the net. And that was that. From 2 up to 3-2 down and we looked like a team that was seeking to emulate Derby County’s 11 point season.

This is yet another ragbag of a team, hastily thrown together with no planning or foresight. There is no discernible pattern to it and without Defoe, there is not one player who can score goals. Two of Palace’s goals came from midfielders. Our midfield is more likely to appear on Strictly Come Dancing than it is to weigh in with a goal or two. Kirchhoff has never scored, Cattermole twice in his seven years at Sunderland and Ndong twice last season for Lorient.

That is but one of the problems that faces David Moyes and whichever other manager comes to Sunderland. Another is the frighteningly inept levels of defending. Hearts are in mouths whenever Djilobodji goes anywhere near the ball and Kone looks a considerably lesser player than he did in the spring. There are plenty of handshakes and fist bumps but not much sign of any cohesion between them. Neither full back appears to be a competent defender.

Going forward there are three options.

Option One is hoof it forward to Defoe who is prepared to scrap with centre halves but who, because of his size, rarely wins.

Option Two is to pass it square until we can get the full backs in, by which time any competent team has got back in numbers and any attack peters out.

Jake: 'we need an end result'
Jake: ‘we need an end result’

Option Three is to give it to Janusaz in the hope that he might just dribble his way through the defenders and score a wonder goal.

The problem with the third option is that the player involved looks as likely to score as Cattermole does. When he goes on a run, there is nothing genuinely productive at the end of it and down goes his head. He does not appear to be enjoying his time at Sunderland and I can’t see Mourinho welcoming him back the Old Trafford with open arms, so he really is at a crossroads in his career. I would be amazed if he retained his place for next week.

As I would if John O’Shea were not to be brought back to face the Baggies next Saturday (kick off 3.00p.m. – seats available in all parts). He may not be the most mobile of players, but he can organise and he is not a mistake waiting to happen as Djilobodji appears to be.

David Moyes must be wondering what he has walked into. Any good will that he brought with him has just about gone and he has clearly inherited and signed players who are not good enough. Manquillo represents a trade down on Yedlin, Kaboul is desperately missed at the back, Kirchhoff does not look the imperious player he was last season and his gamble on Janusaz appears to have backfired.

My well of optimism is running dry and another defeat next week against a well organised West Brom may empty it completely. Saturday was a dismal experience and it is beginning to look like four years of constant struggle have caught up with us. Psychologically, the players look shot.

Finally, what of Palace? I am not a great lover of the club or the manager, but he has put together a solid team that will do well – at least up until Christmas. They gave us two goals but were strong enough to come back at us and they have a pattern and a plan. We are lacking in both.

A long autumn and winter beckons. It may be a long time before we can celebrate a win but we keep the faith – at least for a little bit longer.

Our best defenders: part 2, in praise of John O’Shea

Lies_player
Jake’s take

We started our season at Leicester with a line up that included Seb Coates and Costel Pantsilimon. Substitutes included Adam Matthews, who came on for Billy Jones.

By the time we got to the final game Seb Coates, Costel Pantsilimon and Adam Matthews were no longer at the club. Billy Jones, subbed 12 games previously and subsequently dropped, came on for the final fifteen minutes, replacing DeAndré Yedlin, who hadn’t featured at Leicester.

They weren’t the only changes. Our manager had long gone, as had Danny Graham, Stephen Fletcher, Emanuelle Giaccherini, and Liam Bridcutt, all subs for that first game.  Our new manager had made room for players who could bolster a leaky defence and strengthen a porous midfield.

They were Lamine Kone, Whabi Khazri and Jan Kirchoff.

And the rest is history

Read moreOur best defenders: part 2, in praise of John O’Shea

Our best defenders: Part 1, individual comparisons

Lies_player

When I did my analysis of our midfield I said it would probably be one of two posts but there was so much to collect and compare that I decided to split the second part into two.

To begin, I’m using stats from  hosted stats.com, Squawka.com and my own sums to look at individual performances.

Who do you think is better – Coates, Kaboul or Koné? How do they compare to John O’Shea?

And would you rather have Billy Jones than DeAndré the Throw-in Slayer?

Read on, and all will be revealed.

Or maybe not.

Read moreOur best defenders: Part 1, individual comparisons