The Lars Word: energy, drive, enthusiasm and entertainment just around the corner

Lars Knutsen
Lars Knutsen

Either that or shattered nerves have sent Lars Knutsen round the bend. He expects Wigan to stumble at the Emirates tonight and we all know what that would mean, unless stumble were to equal draw and they then thumped Villa by a cricket score while we lost heavily at Spurs (a combination of 6-0 and 5-0, for example, and we’d go down on same goal difference, fewer scored). That’s clearly not a scenario Lars envisages, but he does expect a surviving Sunderland to reinvent themselves as punk’s footballing equivalent. Without, Monsieur Salut trusts, the music …

Read moreThe Lars Word: energy, drive, enthusiasm and entertainment just around the corner

The Lars Word: and the winner is … Paolo Di Canio

Lars Knutsen
Lars Knutsen

Lars Knutsen and Monsieur Salut disagree on one matter – whether Sunderland AFC’s handling of the Paolo Di Canio appointment was exemplary or poor – but that is an honest disagreement which will be familiar to many other supporters. Where we can probably all agree is that the appointment itself has so far, on purely footballing grounds, been thoroughly vindicated. PDC has given the club a spark just when it desperately needed it …

Read moreThe Lars Word: and the winner is … Paolo Di Canio

The Lars Word: where’s Cattermole when a stuttering season needs him?

Lars Knutsen
Lars Knutsen

With Sunderland playing as if possessed by a death wish and commentators asking what has gone wrong, some supporters are raising awkward questions of their own. What has happened to dressing room spirit? Why was there an absence of intense collective celebration when Craig Gardner equalised on Sunday? Lars Knutsen considers reasons for our current predicament and identifies lack of leadership as the central issue …


Back in mid-January
Sunderland were relatively comfortably placed in 11th spot on 28 points, after four victories in six games, coming off an important away win against Wigan and their first double of the season.

Many supporters, including myself, thought things had finally turned around, and that the team was looking upwards rather than downwards.

Read moreThe Lars Word: where’s Cattermole when a stuttering season needs him?

The Lars Word: let’s have some New Year’s resolution lads!

God Jul, Glaedelic Jul, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Feliz Natal, Kala Christouyenna, Sawadee Pee Mai, Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh, Nollaig Shona Dhuit, Merry Christmas.

To reflect the global readership of Salut!Sunderland our Scandavian correspondent Lars Knutsen reflects on Sunderland’s season so far and suggests the team adopt some New Year resolution in the rest of the current campaign.

Lars Knutsen

Being well into Advent and with last Saturday’s visit to Southampton approaching,

I was reminded about the legendary motivating powers of former Sheffield United manager Dave Bassett. The Blades were in a pattern of starting the season poorly and then went on a great run in the New Year, managing to avoid relegation for several seasons, rather like a modern-day Wigan.

Bassett decided to hold a Christmas party, complete with balloons, crackers, turkey and Christmas pud, in the month of September! The idea behind the early festivities was of course to persuade his team to show their traditional New Year form, but some months before the usual pattern.

So aside from our fine 3-0 and 1-0 wins over Reading and Southampton, I was starting to wonder, “What do we need to do to motivate this team?” and the answer was: go behind!

This season started with a solid defence, and sneaking the odd goal, with a lot of draws but few wins or defeats for that matter. Then for several games we got into a pattern of going behind in matches, and finally starting to play when 2-0 down. Against West Bromwich Albion, Norwich, Manchester United…we played some of our best football when we had our backs to the wall, but sadly for our points total, we got nothing from those games.

A report in a major newspaper described our second half at Carrow Road as a one of the best performances the journalist had seen from any team this season, and as he expected of a Martin O’Neill side; committed, fast on the break and dominating goal chances, but sadly for the fans, it was ultimately disappointing, despite Connor Wickham’s disallowed effort and that truly shocking miss from Kilgallon. The centre-back looked as if he wanted the ground to open up and swallow him.

Jake still looking for visions of plenty of points

The 1-0 win on the south coast last Saturday under difficult conditions was a truly professional effort from the whole team, and was very welcome as well as timely. We need ten wins to ultimately be clear of the drop zone, and are now on four, but with Man. City and Spurs next up at the SSOL, when will the next one come?

Martin O’Neill did have a bleat to the media on Saturday about our squad being small, but he was the guy who sold Turner and Richardson, let a lot of players go for nothing and then allowed Meyler and Elmohamady to leave on loan. Obviously we do not know which players he almost signed, and that will all be forgotten if Ellis Short loosens the purse strings and allows one or two major signings in midfield and upfront. Overall, O’Neill’s signings have been sound and have shown good judgement of players’ abilities, but I am not sure what Saha and McFadden have added to the team so far…

So to the second half of the season. What has been clear is that one can buy a set of players but it takes times to make a team. We had to watch while some big name players like Sessegnon, Larsson and Johnston struggled for form, but when fit, others such as O’Shea, Rose, Mignolet and Fletcher have been outstanding. A problem I see is that we recruited Gardner, Larsson, Fletcher and Vaughan from relegated teams and it takes a while to build a winning mentality after leaving a losing side…some of those habits have been hard to shake off.

Others, such as O’Shea have never ever faced being in the bottom three, which was something they never experienced under Steve Bruce, despite his struggles to get the team to hit form in 2011.

Captain Courageous by Jake

It is clear we need a fit, driven and disciplined Catts to shape us into a team. So my New Year wishes will be for our star players to do what they are paid to do, produce excellent form, and for the team to gel. The squad is basically good enough to excel in the Premiership, but we just need this engine to fire on all cylinders, and for the spark to come back consistently, not just in flashes.

See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC:http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739

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The Lars Word: Fulham win offers belated glimpses of team’s potential

Lars Knutsen

Not quite the Last Word on Fulham v Sunderland. My fellow Craven Cottage Neutral Ender Pete Sixmsith will also be offering his thoughts on a day in the Smoke. Sunderland supporters are divided as to how good we were at Fulham, as opposed to lucky. Lars Knutsen found ample cause for satisfaction …

Read moreThe Lars Word: Fulham win offers belated glimpses of team’s potential

The Lars Word on starting the revival – at Everton or somewhere else soon

Lars Knutsen: home is where the heart is

A visit home to Sunderland from US exile set Lars Knutsen thinking about when the GR – SAFC’s Great Revival – will start. Another defeat seems to many so obvious an outcome at Everton today that we might as well have have faxed the points to Goodison and saved on travel costs. But Lars recalls another November away trip when Sunderland managed to tear up the downbeat script …

Who the heck knows what is really going on at the Sunderland Stadium of Light at the moment? 

Read moreThe Lars Word on starting the revival – at Everton or somewhere else soon

The Lars Word: great centre backs from King Charlie to John O’Shea

Lars Knutsen: opening the defence case

Lars Knutsen, Sunderland exile in the USA, praises the contributions of our centre-back regulars to the unbeaten start to the new season and looks back at the rock-like figures who played for SAFC in the days when there was one in the middle and he was called the centre-half …

SAFC vs MUFCJohn O’Shea in action vs old mates: image by ‘vagueonthehow’

Read moreThe Lars Word: great centre backs from King Charlie to John O’Shea

The Lars Word: surviving Suarez, a Sunderland fan’s soft spot for Liverpool

Lars Knutsen: drawn by two shades of red


Despite a curious but brief boyhood flirtation with Peterborough United, Monsieur Salut does not really approve of “second teams”. But he can think of Sunderland supporters who would share Lars Knutsen‘s declaration of more than grudging respect and admiration for Liverpool – plus a few who would profess to loathe them …

Read moreThe Lars Word: surviving Suarez, a Sunderland fan’s soft spot for Liverpool

The Lars Word: how charisma, determination and patience define Martin O’Neill

John McCormick - singing in the rain

Lars Knutsen offers a hearty welcome to Martin O’Neill’s new acquisitions, applauds the manager’s role in persuading stars to come our way and quietly approves of heavy rain on Wearside …

Read moreThe Lars Word: how charisma, determination and patience define Martin O’Neill