Gambles Rambles: duplicity and a lack of decency in Maja’s departure

Malcolm Dawson writes…..In the wake of Josh Maja’s departure, there are those of us who accept that he had the right to go, even if it has left us a bit thin in the goal scoring department, but if anything it represents a good deal for the club who might have seen him leave for next to nothing in the summer. Football is unlike most other spheres of work as the players are seen as assets with a monetary value. The Bosman ruling which allows players to move for nothing at the end of their contract or to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with another club and engineer a free transfer when there is less than six months of their current contract to go, means that clubs are now more keen to offer any player who may command a sizeable transfer fee a new deal, well before their current one runs out. If they aren’t prepared to sign then it makes financial sense to get what you can before that happens. How much was the club motivated by that I couldn’t say, but it must have played a huge part in what has transpired, after Maja’s performances this season brought his name into the limelight and to the attention of clubs with financial clout, looking to pick up a bargain.

What has perhaps been the most disappointing aspect was the player reportedly telling the manager he was planning to stay and then subsequently going back on his word. Personally, I try to think back to how I was at his age and can empathise with his behaviour. Ken Gambles has his own views on the whole affair and takes a different view.

Maja’s Leaving and the Agent Provocateur

I suppose there was a certain inevitability about Josh Maja’s departure and whilst I condemn the apparent abuse he’s been subject to on social media, I don’t subscribe to the view that it’s normal and all perfectly natural for anyone to better themselves by taking a higher -paid job. I understand the premise of this but surely we must admit that the ‘job’ of a professional sportsperson is radically different from the jobs the vast majority of us undertake in our lives.

Thousands of people don’t come to watch us at work, nor sing songs about us nor go wild when we’ve worked well that day. Nor of course do we get paid £10,000 pounds per week, nor anything remotely approaching that sum. Football is based on emotion and goes far beyond the merely transactional world of work most of us inhabit. Why should I make a round trip of 150 miles for every home game? Stand for 2 hours in a biblical downpour at Accrington or spend 13 hours journeying to Walsall and back? And I know many fans suffer even greater inconveniences.

Of course this doesn’t imply that Sunderland footballers have the same emotional attachment, but it does mean, to coin an idea of George Orwell’s, that we should expect ‘decency’.

We are not privy to the full details of negotiations between the club and Josh Maja but it does seem that he and his agent’s demands were met in full, that Jack Ross had been given Josh’s word that he was staying and that his eventual departure was so abrupt to be downright insulting. It is hard to believe that the agent is not much to blame for these events as of course no move means no extra pay-off for him but surely Josh Maja ought to have been man enough to make his own decisions and not hide behind those of someone else.

Jake: true colours?

People have commented that the game is populated by mercenaries and that duplicity is the world we live in. There is some truth in this yet the game also shows endless examples of decency that whilst furthering their own careers players have genuine respect and consideration for the supporters who have invested so much emotion in them. We can think of Charlie Hurley, Monty, Quinny, Kevin Ball, Jordan Henderson with the fans at the League Cup final against Manchester City, Danny Rose coming to watch us play even when he was back at Spurs etc, etc.

Supporters are not naïve enough to think that players have the same attachment to a club as they do, but I do think they have a right to be treated ‘decently’ Fresh in the memory is the behaviour of N’Dong, Dilibodji, Rodwell, Grabban and the rest of the shower that left us in the third tier. When they check their bank balances and polish their Ferraris in their posh houses whist curating their tattoos perhaps they won’t care less about what Sunderland supporters think of them, yet how much more human and warming it must be to feel that you are held in such warm affection by those you once played for, having responded to their support by treating them with respect and acting ‘decently.’

Indeed ‘what profiteth a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ I don’t wish Josh Maja ill for the rest of his career but nor do I wish him well as I think his behaviour has been unsavoury and disappointing.

In conversation with Charlie Methven: (4) what is the least Sunderland should expect?

Can we keep the faith?

It is time to conclude our series based on (mainly) electronic conversations between Salut! Sunderland writers and Charlie Methven, executive director of the club and a minority shareholder.

We thank Charlie for his time and full, diligent responses. Not every Sunderland supporter is yet convinced, either that the takeover from Ellis Short leaves Stewart Donald, Charlie and their team in a strong financial position or that bargain acquisitions from Scotland will win us League One.

We will see. For now, the right noises are being made and the level of communication between club and fans is healthier than in the past, possibly healthier than at any time in the history of Sunderland AFC.

Read moreIn conversation with Charlie Methven: (4) what is the least Sunderland should expect?

Season reviews (6): one bound and free

Malcolm Dawson writes… the sixth of our end of season reviews Ken Gambles brings back memories of Saturday mornings at the Houghton Essoldo, when no matter which end of the packet of Smith’s crisps you opened, the little blue bag was always at the other and you had to rummage through the contents before you could sprinkle the salt and enjoy your savoury treat. Bit like watching Sunderland these past few years where patience eventually sees frustration turn to pleasure.

Ken Gambles: bringing more positivity to the SoL
Ken Gambles: bringing more positivity to the SoL


This season has once again been like at a Saturday matinee at the local flea-pit, where however precarious a situation the hero finds himself in, he manages to escape and lives to have further adventures….. and thank goodness for that.

The Saturday of the Chelsea game was one of those wonderful days where if you’d scripted it yourself it could hardly have been better,except of course for the total relief when Everton were vanquished 3-0 and we were safe – not that I relaxed until the final ten minutes or so.
The biggest irony this season would have been if we had been relegated for to me this seems the best side we’ve had for years who play entertaining football (we’ve not seen that in a long while ) and who have escaped the drop by consistently good performances in the second half of the season, albeit playing catch-up.

Hindsight is a marvellous thing and clearly Dick shouldn’t have come back, although I was delighted at the time. I was wrong too about Kaboul and Kirchhoff who have both been immense and at long last I actually LIKE the players again. They play as a team, constantly encouraging each other and appear genuinely fond of the club seeming to have bought in to what Sunderland AFC is all about and what Allardyce is trying to achieve. It’s invidious really to name individuals as each of the settled squad has made excellent contributions towards survival, but Kone is a new Charlie Hurley, Defoe has been a striker par excellence and Vito despite his many detractors has been a major part in our gaining of points.

Jake - Kone simply a rock
Jake – Kone simply a rock

I’m still ecstatic and as someone else observed, it’s like having Tourette’s for whenever I think of staying up I clench my fist and go ‘Yeeessss! Get in!’ The big question now of course is can we consolidate and become at least a strong mid-table side? I feel optimistic (always a dangerous feeling) for Sam won’t settle for coasting and is ambitious for the club to kick on.

Two final points:

1) How amazing is it that we constantly average over 40,000 on the back of so little success yet none of the pundits ever mentions it? Is there a club in Europe with such big gates and so little to cheer about?

2) I believe I also heard something about the Mags as well. What was it now?

‘Dennis’ says ‘Why oh Why?’ Things to ponder in the summer break

Ken Gambles
Ken Gambles
Malcolm Dawson writes….it’s the silly season and all quiet on the transfer front. The Copa America and the Under 21 Euro’s will have something to do with the lack of finalised activity so far and many of the rumours will be no more than that, started by agents and clubs hoping to up the value of players they are looking to move on. Expect some positive news soon. And it’s not too long now until North Shields go to Berwick Rangers and an SAFC XI head for Ironworks Road, Tow Law to give Saturday afternoons some purpose again – if pre-season Northern League friendlies can be considered purposeful. But in the meantime here (courtesy of Ken Gambles) is a contribution from a Mr Dennis Whys who has been pondering the imponderable in the hiatus that summer brings.


The close season always brings an opportunity to reflect on the great imponderables concerning our national game, those which can probably be termed the ‘Why on Earths?’ Answering these conundrums surely will involve an intimate knowledge of philosophy, psychology, metaphysics and even the thought processes of Greg Dyke. I’m sure that you can add your own particular favourites (or more likely, pet hatreds). Here’s mine.

Why, when defenders are shepherding the ball out for a goal-kick, are they allowed to assault any forward trying to reach the ball? Some of the antics would not be out of place on WWE and yet no foul is given for what would possibly be a yellow card anywhere else on the pitch.

Why in added time do time-wasting, substitutions and injuries never get the extra time they merit? (Add to that goalkeepers taking ages to pick up the ball and then carry it to the other end of the six yard box before kicking their boots against the post and having a sip of water instead of taking a goal kick? MD)

Why do super-fit young athletes have such a poor sense of balance that the merest nudge can send them sprawling and contorted in pain? The body contact is usually no worse than in the checkout queue at the supermarket.

Why are players taking a corner so desperate to gain an extra 3cms outside the quadrant? Can it make any difference? Would it have meant that John Oster would have been able to clear the first defender?

Why do teams in possession some 20 or so yards from the opposition goal pass the ball back to their keeper who then hits it long back to the place where play was shortly before?

Why have the authorities not introduced “citing” (as in Rugby Union) whereby serious foul play or blatant cheating can be dealt with retrospectively? This might help to eradicate feigning injury and diving.

Why (I assume with confidence) are modern kits designed by primary school children? Surely no adult could create or find the Mags pondweed and slime away ensemble attractive, nor Man City’s two shades of purple with yellow twiddly bits!

Why when we are told season ticket money is largely irrelevant owing to mega TV deals do prices still go up? (I exempt SAFC from this charge as they seem to be aware of the need to keep prices affordable.)

Now a few Sunderland specific unanswerables.

Jake: 'Lee Cattermole -  modelling his range of Niall Quinn Disco pants"' with thanks to Jake
Jake: ‘Lee Cattermole – modelling his range of Niall Quinn Disco pants’

Why does Lee Cattermole pull his shorts up to his armpits probably cutting off circulation?

Why can Jozy score with abandon in Holland, the USA and in international football yet couldn’t hit the proverbial with Sunderland?

Why does the stadium announcer irritate so much? (As well as often getting the substitutions the wrong way round.) (Have you been to a 20/20 at Chester-le-Street? Now there’s irritating – MD)

Why do thousands leave early despite the scoreline and even on Sundays when traffic is no issue?

Why despite having similar demographics and social mix do the Mags wreck their city or punch horses after a home defeat? This is a serious question and could also take account of their penchant for pitch invasions (which the media have largely ignored.)

On windy days at the SOL why is there such a lacklustre attempt to gather litter at half-time?

Why are we always last on Match of the Day? (I think I know the answer to this one).

Why do Sunderland always seem to struggle in the Premier? The only common factor in perpetual failure, other than the crowd, is the kitman John Cooke. Perhaps it’s time to get rid of him (Only joking John )

Why are close seasons and international breaks such a pain?


Dennis Whys?

Reviews of the Season: pathetic, spineless lows but a Montyesque goalkeeping high

Jake: 'you get the idea Ken's seen better'
Jake: ‘you get the idea Ken’s seen better’

The end-of-season reviews continue to flow in. Ken Gambles is another of our writers with a wealth of experience of watching Sunderland, good and bad. It’s fair to say he felt cheated at times in the season he now reviews, but at least he found one huge positive. All the reviews in this series can be seen at

Read moreReviews of the Season: pathetic, spineless lows but a Montyesque goalkeeping high

The Tottenham, Chelsea, Everton, WBA and QPR giants who fired my youth

Ken Gambles is Sunderland through and through. But the recent death of Dave Mackay got him thinking back to some of the giants of English football seen in his student days. Let Ken reacquaint older readers with – and introduce younger ones to – some of the players who gave him such pleasure without ever pulling on the red and white stripes of Sunderland …

Read moreThe Tottenham, Chelsea, Everton, WBA and QPR giants who fired my youth

Gambles’ Rambles: Yes to Mannone’s humility, a resounding No to moneyback culture

Ken Gambles: 'charity begins at home to Arsenal'
Ken Gambles: ‘charity begins at home to Arsenal’

Just as old cynics – step forward Ken Gambles and also M Salut – were wondering what sort of reception Vito Mannone got in the dressing-room when he took the hat round for refunds for the fans (£50,000, £60,000, £70,000 in all or am I way out?), put out a statement saying this grand gesture was on. Ken, though, disagrees completely with idea of fans demanding their money back after wretched performances and would doubtless go along with the idea floated here of allowing their refunds to go to the Grace House children’s charity. All you need do is miss the deadline of Nov 5 for claiming the money. But let Ken have his say on the principle anyway …

Read moreGambles’ Rambles: Yes to Mannone’s humility, a resounding No to moneyback culture

Gambles’ Rambles: cheering ‘our’ Liverpool man, but the loan system is wrong

Ken by Jake: we know it should be Gambles's, but that would spoil the look
Ken by Jake: we know it should be Gambles’s, but that would spoil the look

Ken Gambles takes a look at the loan system that has given us three of our summer recruits. And he doesn’t like it a bit …

Read moreGambles’ Rambles: cheering ‘our’ Liverpool man, but the loan system is wrong

Summer Gold: (2) goggles for Robben, pink mittens for shirt-tuggers

This photograph from the Flickr files of the National Media Museum may or may not show Arjen Robben making one last attempt to perfect his technique ahead of tonight’s World Cup semi-final against Argentina.

Our Summer Gold series, recalling timeless highlights from Salut! Sunderland‘s archives, harks back to August 2011 and Ken Gambles‘s entertaining manifesto for cutting out the things that irritate him about football. Nothing’s changed …

Read moreSummer Gold: (2) goggles for Robben, pink mittens for shirt-tuggers

Gambles Rambles: a cry for fairness on Paolo Di Canio

'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?

Is it possible to believe both that Ellis Short was utterly right to dismiss Paolo Di Canio when he did and that not every scathing appraisal of PDC was fair? Ken Gambles regards the merits of the sacking to be proper ground for debate but finds unjust and unpleasant the almost cliched view of the Italian as a man not quite right in the head …

Read moreGambles Rambles: a cry for fairness on Paolo Di Canio