Parkinson’s lore: Pete Sixsmith welcomes another new manager

Malcolm Dawson writes…….As I was tucking into my porridge and blueberries this morning, I received an e-mail from Pete Sixsmith with the title “Parkinson” so assumed that the club had confirmed we had a new manager in place. I then went to the News Now webpage to find these headlines:

10:06  SAFC Official website: SAFC appoint Phil Parkinson

10:10  Chronicle Live: Is Jack Ross still available? – Sunderland fans react to Phil Parkinson appointment

It doesn’t take long for those who think they know best to respond on social media and I suppose there will always be some who have a totally negative outlook on life, but I get increasingly frustrated by so called news sites which seem to think people’s Tweets are newsworthy. How many of these people who already have the knives out for the new boss and the owner thought that Martin O’Neill would bring us success because he was a Sunderland fan as a boy, or that Nigel Clough would rocket us into the Premier League because his dad won the European Cup and he was born in what was then the town of Sunderland?

If I am starting to get disillusioned with the club under Stewart Donald’s tenure it is not because we failed to get promotion, it is not because we have been going to places like Accrington, Fleetwood or Rochdale which are proper clubs with devoted supporters. Nor is it because we drew 19 games last season but because of a minority of loud, very vocal and not very pleasant band of followers (I refuse to refer to them as supporters) who seem to enjoy putting the club down at every opportunity, venting their spleen at players who give of their best (even unused substitutes) when we don’t win by a massive margin, or take to social media at the earliest opportunity to show their ability in the use of four letter words, occasionally adding the letter E to one just for variety.

Will the new man get us promoted? I’ve no idea. 

Will he do a better job than Jack Ross? Time will tell.

Will I enjoy watching the side more than I did under the last man? I’ll wait and see.

What I won’t do is jump to conclusions before he’s even had PP printed onto his training gear – oh and I’ll continue to be a supporter.

Now what you’ve really come here to read ……..Sixer’s reaction to the latest manager to take on the Wearside hot seat.

Sixer by Jake

PARKY TAKES THE HOT SEAT.

It’s 140 years to the day since James Allan and a group of friends and colleagues met in The Norfolk Hotel to found what would become Sunderland AFC.

In those dim and distant days when the majority of the city’s population worked in shipyards, coal mines or heavy engineering and lived in the tightly packed terraces that led down to the banks of the River Wear (and later, to the shores of Sicileeee), I imagine there were broadsheets being printed where dissenting supporters accused Allan of setting the club up so he could sell it at a profit to Hiram B, Shackernacker from Poughkeepsie, New York while simultaneously lambasting Mr. Ross, the Maths teacher from Hudson Road School, for “stealing a living” and being “s****.”

It’s also a tad over fourteen years since I wrote my first match report for Salut, a missive from Ashburton Grove describing a 2-3 defeat to Arsenal in Roy Keane’s inaugural Premier League season, a game that showed a fair bit of promise for the future as the Jolly Drumaville boys, aided by Niall Quinn and the admirable John Hays, promised all kinds of things including magic carpets, stability and a permanent place at the top table.

Our team that day was; Craig Gordon; Paul McShane, Nyron Nosworthy, Danny Collins, Danny Higginbotham; Grant Leadbitter, Dwight Yorke, Liam Miller, Ross Wallace; Kenwyne Jones, Michael Chopra with subs; Darren Ward, Ian Harte (for Yorke 90), Dickson Etuhu (for Wallace 77), Anthony Stokes (for Chopra 77) Roy O’Donovan.

Kenwyne Jones

It was a 12.00 kick off which meant leaving at about 5 and getting there in time for a quick pint and a snack and a wander round the new ground. Van Persie and Senderos gave them the lead before Ross Wallace (now at Fleetwood Town – good guy, decent player, not s****) pulled one back before half time. Kenwynne Jones (fine player on his day, also not s****) levelled early in the second half and it looked like we would hold on. Two substitutions made in the 77th minute may have distracted us as Van Persie scored the winner with ten to go.

Now, 14 years on, we are heading for Adams Park with a team of players who are no more than Championship level at best and a new manager in charge – unless the DUP veto this.

Arlene Foster wondering if Phil is the right man for the job

We have fallen a long way and there may be little chance of us getting back to where Charlie Chalke and Roy Keane took us all those years ago.

Phil Parkinson is the man given the opportunity to improve on Jack Ross’ record and get us out of League One to the relative prosperity of the Championship. He’s a Chorley born man who started out at Bury and then moved to Reading where he spent ten years and qualified for a testimonial. He also became a close buddy of Alan Pardew, so there’s a stick to beat him with already.

When he stopped playing, he became manager of Colchester United and took them to the Championship before leaving for Hull City and an uncomfortable stretch at Anlaby Circle. He was in charge of them when Ross Wallace scored a last minute winner in front of us, took his shirt off and was sent to the dressing rooms by an unsmiling Richard Beeby.

He then moved to Charlton Athletic and managed to get them relegated to League One, thereby undoing his good work at Colchester and although he stayed there for three years, he couldn’t get them back up and was sacked.

Back to Yorkshire for his next job at a struggling Bradford City and he struck gold. He took them to Wembley for a League Cup Final (don’t ask about the result) and then again for a play off victory over Northampton Town before establishing them in League One. He had John McLaughlin as his goalkeeper and was in charge of The Bantams when they put us out of the FA Cup in 2015 when our team had Wearside legends like Billy Jones, Ricardo Alvarez and Liam Bridcutt on the field.

He left Bradford a steady League One club and moved back across the Pennines to Bolton, who had just been relegated to League One as their financial troubles began to grow. He got them back up at the first attempt, despite an EFL transfer embargo which prevented him from recruiting anything but loan players and free agents and then miraculously kept them up the next season as well, taking four points off us and being in the away dugout for Simon Grayson’s last game as Sunderland manager.

The troubles at Horwich clearly wore him down and he resigned after it looked as if Bolton were going to drop out of the EFL – and I don’t think anyone could blame him for that.

He now finds himself at another club riven with self doubt and with divisions between supporters, owners and players clearly on view. Should he read this (I assume he won’t) I would advise him to permanently block the message boards, not listen to any phone ins (even the ones that use me) and avoid social media. I’m pretty sure that he will do all three as a matter of course.

I wish him well and hope that he makes a success of this job even if his football style appears to be more pragmatic than romantic. We desperately need to finish this season with 21 or 22 clubs below us and a season that ends on the first weekend in May with a visit from The Demon King and his Fleetwood Town team (assuming he is not in jail by then).

No report from me from Wycombe.

I am having a weekend in Prague and hope to get some football in. Slavia and Bohemians are at home and there is an intriguing Second Division game at Vysherad which kicks off at 9.15 on Sunday morning. I’ll see how I feel after a night of Czech beer and Czech dumplings.

Sixer’s Bradford City Soapbox: Bantams powerless to stop 10 man Sunderland

Malcolm Dawson writes…..there is an air of quiet satisfaction floating around Sixsmith Towers this morning, as the staff quietly go about their duties, secure in the knowledge that their young master is full of the joys of the season following his charabanc trip yesterday and with the prospect of Toronto Wolfpack and Featherstone Rovers, both in action later today to keep him occupied.

Following his civic duties, bringing the news of the day to the good folk of Shildon, but before his Sunday morning breakfast of kedgeree, devilled kidneys and chitterlings Peter Sixsmith found time to dash off his account of proceedings in what was an eventful day in West Yorkshire.

The man himself

BRADFORD CITY

My age-old newspaper reading habits have taken a knock recently. The Northern Echo is a mere shadow of its former self and is often finished before my bowl of porridge and round of toast have been devoured, while The Guardian Sports section is full of the usual Premier League guff so it is largely ignored.

On Saturday, while cruising down the A1 and after having avoided pieces on Jose Mourinho and how difficult it is spending money like water and then dropping the players that money has been spent on, how a new Arsenal are evolving at Ashburton Grove and the trials and tribulations of Tottenham at Wembley (all to be repeated ad infinitum), it was a pleasure to read about how Jack Ross has settled into the job at Sunderland and how, every time that we win, an anonymous Sunderland supporter donates a goat to a charity that distributes them to villages in Africa – or maybe Eldon Lane.

Who said you’ll win nothing with kids?

After a thrilling game at Valley Parade, the African goat population has increased by one and, if the season continues in this vein, there will be a surfeit of goats in villages and the locals will be urging the donor to send PlayStations instead.

This was the proverbial hard-fought win. We went in 1 up at half time, never looked in trouble, conceded a poor equaliser, retook the lead within two minutes, saw our new captain give away a penalty and get sent off, watched as the penalty was saved, comfortably survived an aerial bombardment not seen at Valley Parade since the days of Ian Ormondroyd before we closed the game out while witnessing a brawl that was more in keeping with the original use of the ground as a rugby league venue. No wonder the coach travellers slept on the way home; we were knackered.

The first half was another example of how Ross would like us to play. The ball was knocked about, forcing the City players to chase and harry and use up lots of energy while we passed and passed. At times we stretched their defence and chances were missed although the referee did not pass up his chance to book Cattermole with a mere ten minutes on the clock.

It was for an innocuous foul, one which other players would have got away with (and did) but it seems that there is a policy amongst the lower league referees of “let’s see how early we can book Cattermole.”

He now had to play 80 minutes without one false move, something which he accomplished with considerable aplomb and made some of us believe that the earlier the yellow card for Cattermole, the more effective he is because he has to concentrate on his game and not do anything silly.

Finding new ways to score

He contributed to the opening goal with a fierce shot which was going fractionally wide until Maja turned it in as it brushed past his left kidney. The Goat Shop were preparing the next departure to Africa by half time as we controlled the game and Bradford’s huffing and puffing barely disturbed anxiety levels amongst the 2,900 who had made the trip.

The second half was a different experience and the goat looked as if it might be staying in the UK when we failed to defend a long throw and O’Connor hooked the ball into the net. However, its passport was out again two minutes later when the ball bounced around in the box and Jack Baldwin opened his account for the club with a firm shot.

In the next ten minutes we could have wrapped the game up and the goat could have caught an earlier boat. Max Power had a shot well saved by O’Donnell and Tom Flanagan (who formed a very effective central defensive partnership with Baldwin) had a header pushed over.

It all changed in the 66th minute when Power was sent off. Being at the other end and thinking of the goat saying its goodbyes, I did not see what had prompted the newly appointed skipper to kick out at Jack Payne. But I did see the kick and the subsequent red card for Power who will have now missed more games through suspension than he has played. I foresee an anger management course for him before he returns and he may not get his place back if we continue to purge the national goat herd.

West Yorkshire Police not licensed for this fixture! (The sign reads “Sorry no alcohol at this kiosk.”)

Up stepped Payne, the protagonist in the Power situation, to take the penalty. He is a confident, nay cocky, youngster, but he was not good enough to beat the Magnificent McLaughlin, who pulled off a tremendous save or the Fantastic Flanagan, whose tackle as Payne lined up to slot home the rebound was as good as the original save.

Maja was replaced by McGeouch and we proceeded to give an almost master class in game management. The ball was retained when we needed to and despatched to the other end of the field when that was necessary. Honeyman came on for McGeady and his running and energy played an important part in preventing a limited home side from putting any real pressure on us.

When he signed for us, some supporters were distinctly underwhelmed by Chris Maguire, claiming that a man who had flopped at Bury was not for us. He has shown that if he is on the right stage, he is a match winner. That turn against Peterborough where he set up Sinclair was a as good as anything I have seen since the halcyon days of Johnson and Summerbee and today, he made sure that the sting was taken out of City by holding the ball up, winning free kicks and generally winding up players who were unsure of how to handle him. He is enjoying being at Sunderland and we are enjoying watching him.

Both full backs did well. Matthews has formed a good partnership with Maguire and gets forward well while Reece James, now third choice in that position, was targeted by Bradford and Sean Scannell in particular, never missed an important tackle and did really well.

Always a sad reminder

In fact, there were no weak links in this team. All worked hard, none more so than Lee Cattermole, who won umpteen headers and tackles and was always there to fill a gap, pass a ball and generally wear down the opposition. I gather he is happy at Sunderland but the size of his wage packet and the length of his contract may be a factor in any possible transfers to a higher division.

After Mr. Backhouse had added on seven minutes and Ross showed his tactical acumen by sending on Ozturk to bolster the defence, the final whistle went and, at a certain goat farm somewhere in England, a Ms. N. Goat was shaking hooves with her friends and hugging her family as she began the long trek to Africa. Her final words were “Don’t worry. We won’t be apart for long. I can see another 25 of you joining me before the first week in May. Ha’way the Goats.”

My journey home was a pleasant one. All on the coach behaved, there was good conversation and the icing on the cake came as the we paused at the traffic lights at Thinford and Alexis Sanchez scored the winner at Old Trafford.

No goats for the black and whites then………

Sixer’s Soapbox: Sheffield Wednesday make for a depressing Bank Holiday Monday

Malcolm Dawson writes…….there was no Northern League today. A light dusting of snow early morning and a whole heap of surface water all around the North East ensured the Bank Holiday Monday morning fixtures had no chance of going ahead. There were cash turnstiles at the Stadium of Light so was I tempted to go. I hate to say it but no I wasn’t. I hadn’t let Friday’s result fill me with optimism. I was moved, if that’s the right word, by the manager’s appeal to fans to get behind the team and the club’s willingness to put it so prominently on the website. Perhaps after years of treating us with disdain, those who have been charged with struggling to keep the club as a going concern, are trying to limit the damage which is the result of a clueless and now absentee and disinterested landlord. I take no pride in what some will see as a desertion, but sometimes I feel you have to acknowledge that when a relationship has lost its lustre it’s time to walk away.

Pete Sixsmith though was there and his report does nothing to convince me that I should have been there too. 

Sixer proving that fine words butter no parsnips

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (HOME)

And that, as they say, is it! We hoped that our time in the Championship would be short and it most certainly has been. This latest defeat is the killer and the one that puts us down. Should a resurgent Birmingham City win at Bolton tonight (Tuesday) we can order the sackcloth and ashes safe in the knowledge that they will be donned at Fulham and at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

This was by no means our worst performance of this dismal season. The players were up for it, they looked comfortable and confident for the first hour or so and they played some decent football. Cattermole and McNair were in control of the midfield, Honeyman and Gooch scampered around as only they know how and there was some threat from McGeady. After a shaky start, Wilson settled in and along with O’Shea we looked solid at the back against a Wednesday side that seemed to play everything through Barry Bannon.

But we didn’t score. Love put one over the bar, the keeper made a smart save from a McGeady free kick and there were a couple of occasions when the ball bounced around in their box. We needed to take the lead and put them firmly on the back foot. The longer it went goalless, the more worried I got and it came as no surprise when our defence collapsed in the face of three crosses and conceded three goals, goals that we are oh so familiar with.

The Sunderland back 4 don’t like crosses

Ball knocked into the box, ball either headed straight into the net or laid off for an unmarked opponent to slide it into the net. Goalkeeper looks at defenders. Defenders look at goalkeeper. Crowd groans and thinks about what they might be having for tea.

We did equalise through Honeyman and straight from the restart as well. That gave us a foothold in a game that we simply had to win and I thought that Chris Coleman missed a trick here. Matthews for Oviedo was like for like (Oviedo was injured) but a change from five in midfield to three and two up front might just have paid dividends.

As it was, Gooch, the man likeliest to come off, gave away a needless free kick from which The Owls scored. Despite Cattermole hitting the post and referee Simon Hooper (how did he pass his fitness test? He looked fatter than me….) turning down what looked like a very strong penalty appeal, they closed the game out when the Kosovan giant Atdhe Nuhiu headed in to bang yet another nail in the coffin.

To be honest dear reader, I am getting sick and tired of droning on about the same old deficiencies week in and week out. No doubt you are equally s and t of reading them. I shall go to Leeds on Saturday and will take in the Norwich and Burton home games. Reading and Fulham are off the agenda and, should we be down (99% certain), I shall probably not bother with the Wolves game.

I had hoped for a season in the middle of the Championship to consolidate under Simon Grayson but like most supporters, had no idea of the real state that the club was/is in. Two managers, both with decent reputations, have utterly failed to halt the slide of a famous old club that represents a passionate part of the footballing world but is now laughed and sniggered at by those who think themselves our betters.

I have renewed my ticket for next year, principally because I would not know what to do on a Saturday afternoon. But it could well be my final year as I have great fears that the slide is not over and there may well be worse ignominies to come.

I think we went on Monday half expecting to kick on – and half expecting to slip back. As usual it was the latter. Burton, Barnsley and ourselves will be the three to drop into The Land of the Checkatrade Trophy. For the two B’s it is not unknown territory. For us it is. We could be playing in it for a long, long time.