Monsieur Salut writes: Burton Albion are a club with lots of virtues but the size of the fanbase is not among them, unless small is beautiful. Finding a Who are You? interview volunteer who isn’t the one we had before, and also the one before that, is not easy. Hence, our latest cap-in-hand approach to the admirable Dave Child*, who combines home-and-away support with a mini-career as a radio pundit on all things Burton Albion and also the quality of football ground pies.
It is no hardship to turn to Dave once more for a look at the season our two clubs have had in the third tier after going down together a year ago. And he will collect a Salut! Sunderland mug in honour of of his services to this series …
John McCormick writes: should I be surprised or not that Lee Cattermole is the only survivor of our last trip to Wembley? After all, it was five years – or six managers, not including two caretakers – ago? We fans are much more constant aren’t we, which brings me to Pete Sixsmith, who before he departed County Durham on yet another foray south, left the final chapter from an excellent series that we trust you’ve all enjoyed:
Sunderland got to within one step of a Wembley Final last night, with a victory in the Quarter Finals of the Checkatrade Trophy against a youthful Manchester City side, a win that was in truth, much more comfortable than the scoreline might suggest.
With Citeh defending a 9-0 lead in the other EFL cup competition tonight, and Pep Guardiola looking to give some of his fringe players a run out in that, it was unsurprising that few in the ground recognised any of the opposition squad, whose numbers were more appropriate for those playing the grid iron form of football than the one we are more used to. But there were a couple of names which stood out to those in the know.
The young lad captaining the visitors was the son of former German international Uwe Rössler and the number 69 Tommy Doyle was the grandson of former Man City captain Mike Doyle and another light blue legend Glyn Pardoe. PS – guess who enlightened me to those facts!
Jack Ross had made a whole raft of changes and of course in the days of social media and daily radio phone ins, it didn’t take long for conspiracy theories and uninformed opinions to be aired, but the manager was quick to point out he used all the first choice players who weren’t carrying knocks and it was still a strong starting XI. With Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo both fit again, we could revert to having two genuine full backs in their favoured positions. Alim Ozturk got another run out and was one of the stand out players. More on him later.
With Dylan McGeouch and Lee Cattermole occupying the holding midfield spots, Luke O’Nien was able to play in a more advanced attacking role and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet. He could easily have had a hat trick. The gangly Benji Kimpioka led the line and grew into the game while Duncan Watmore also started up front. For the first 45, Chris Maguire prowled the gap between the two forward players, with Jack Baldwin and Robbin Ruiter completing the line up.
City played the City way. They had plenty of skill and passed the ball about well but rarely threatened Ruiter’s goal. If my memory serves me well he really only had one decent save to make all night when late in the second half he was quickly off his line to smother the ball at the feet of an onrushing City player whose number I didn’t catch.
In terms of quality football the visitors were one of the more skillful sides to have visited the Stadium of Light this season. Comfortable on the ball, they worked hard and had a lot of possession, but where it counted they lacked a cutting edge. We seemed content to let them play the ball about at the back and though some around me felt that we should be pressing more and looking to regain the ball higher up the pitch, the fact our players were happy to defend our own half did mean that red and white shirts outnumbered the light blue ones where it mattered and there were few defensive gaps.
Ozturk especially revelled in defending this style of play. He was composed, read the game well and made good use of the ball when he had it. He also made one fantastically well timed sliding tackle in the second half and showed why Jack Ross brought him to the club. If only the sides in League 1 adopted a slow methodical build up approach he may have had more game time.
The same applied to Dylan McGeouch who ran the midfield, looked composed and won the ball in important areas. He is a cultured player who may actually be more effective at a higher level, where technical skills are more developed.
Statistics will show that we had much less of the ball than our opponents but the reality is that we ran the show, which is what you would expect given the difference in experience and development. Watmore was making his runs but in the early stages both he and Kimpioka seemed to try to work the ball into better shooting positions and ended up losing the ball when an earlier attempt might have been better.
But it was Watmore who broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when Maguire out wide on the left, played the ball inside to McGeouch. The Scot played the ball into the box where Kimpioka, tried to set himself up for a shot before playing the ball back to McGeouch who had continued his run. He saw a decent shot blocked and was unable to do anything with the rebound which hit him on the chest before he had time to react. Fortunately the ball fell to the unmarked Watmore who hit a low drive across the goal into the bottom left hand corner.
Not long after Watmore again made a good run down the right and cutting inside was fouled on the edge of the penalty area. From the resulting free kick Oviedo went for goal and was unlucky to see a lovely curling effort come back off the angle of post and crossbar. So a comfortable 1-0 half time lead and I wasn’t even feeling apprehensive that we might let the game slip. In fact I was expecting us to build on the lead and thinking that my 6-0 prediction might indeed win me a mug!
It wasn’t to be but could have been. Catts, had seen yellow early in the first half but wasn’t put off by that and another strong clean challenge saw him win the ball in midfield and play square to O’Nien, who played it forward to Roadrunner. Marked tightly, Watmore played it back to O’Nien whose long range effort whizzed over the bar. There were surely more goals in this team.
Watmore was starting to tire and on the hour was replaced by Gooch and it didn’t take long for the American to make an impact. An overlapping Adam Matthews played the ball back to Gooch from near the right hand corner. Gooch took a couple of steps infield before curling a lovely effort into the far corner to double the lead.
After that O’Nien and Kimpioka both had multiple chances. One O’Nien shot from the 18 yard line seemed to have squirmed under Grimshaw’s body but somehow the young City keeper managed to reach back and claw back the ball just before it completely crossed the line. Unlike Bradford City’s on Boxing Day, this wasn’t in but my was it close.
With 15 minutes left Ethan Robson replaced Cattermole and just as Gooch had done made an immediate impact. He’d only been on a matter of seconds when he put in a crunching tackle in the middle of the park and almost immediately after that won the ball again and set Kimpioka off down the left and into space. It was a decent chance which Grimshaw did well to block.
The final chance came right at the end when Lee Connelly, brought on in the 89th minute almost opened his account with the last kick of the game.
It was an enjoyable match and the majority of the 14,679 spectators left happy, hoping for a home draw on Friday. Bury away on a Tuesday night is just about doable but having been to every Checkatrade game so far I don’t fancy a trip to Portsmouth or Bristol.
As Salut! Sunderland‘s tweet put it, this was game that would take us one step from Wembley if we won, but didn’t really matter if we lost since it’s a Mickey Mouse competition anyway. In the event, Pete Sixsmith and our deputy editor Malcolm Dawson were there to witness a good win. So the Checkatrade is important after all. Watmore could you want than one goal? Another, from Gooch. One of the Salut team will be writing about the match at greater length. This is the place for the instant verdict, preceded by an asterisk if someone other than Sixer proves the seven-word summing-up …
GUESS THE SCORE: The Checktrade rules are simple – no extra time but penalties if scores are level at 90 minutes. For the prize mug – whoever you support – you must correctly predict the score at full time and, if the teams are drawing, the winner on penalties (don’t worry about the shoot-out score). And you must have a UK delivery address …
Sunderland have had some great moments against Man City in cup games. The 3-1 win in a fifth round FA Cup replay, on our way to Wembley glory in 1973, was one. Wembley again, for the League Cup final in 2014, was another.
We invaded London, steamed ahead thanks to Fabio Borini’s tremendous goal and should have seen him double the lead before half time. Steven Fletcher missed a good chance at 1-2 but by the end, three classy City goals had seen us off.
In that Cinderella of trophies, the Checkatrade, we face City boys not men in the quarterfinals but – as that implies – find ourselves two steps away from a Wembley return. Read again how Pete Sixsmith saw the 2014 League Cup final …
Amid all Sunderland’s more pressing problems, it seems almost incidental to reflect on how old you now have to be to have any dependable first-hand memory of May 5 1973: Porterfield’s goal, Monty’s double save, Stokoe’s sprint and our cup.
Never forget that the London branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association voted years ago to change the name of its newsletter from 5573 to Wear Down South, an excellent title but the choice reflecting younger – and also some older – members’ reluctance to be reminded quite so regularly of how long had passed since the arrival of serious silverware at Roker Park or the Stadium of Light.
And we all know what has happened to the status and allure of the FA Cup in more recent times. It was different in 1973. And if Monsieur Salut’s younger daughter, Nathalie Randall, were somewhat older, enough to have seen that win against lofty, dirty Leeds, it’s a fair bet that the emotion and glory of that day – and her father’s celebrations – might have have steered her into lifelong support of Sunderland, not Liverpool.
But let Nathalie explain how her own feelings about the competition have been affected by two unexpected results, Wigan’s heartening act of giant-killing and Rochdale’s draw against Spurs to ensure at least one day out at Wembley …
A just-for-fun poll introduces this look at some of the greatest games in Sunderland AFC’s history. Many readers will approve of the choices made by Ben Jones, a sportswriter and ‘massive Sunderland fan’. Others might add the 4-1 defeat of Chelsea in the first of our seventh-top Premier seasons under Peter Reid. Or the first FA Cup 6th Round replay against Manchester United at Roker Park in 1964. Back in 2013, a Roker Report piece on great games over the festive period threw others into the mix: the last-second win against Man City on New Year’s Day, 2012; a 4-1 Boxing Day romp at Bradford in 2000 and two Old Trafford classics (a 5-3 win on Boxing Day 1950 and a 2-1 defeat on New Year’s Day 2003. You decide …
Since Sunderland became the first new team to join the Football League in 1890 and from the earliest seasons, their name has been embroidered prominently in the tapestry of English football history.
Monsieur Salut introduces our annual HAWAY awards, with thanks to the supporters of all clubs played by Sunderland in league and cup this season who contributed to the series …
Cinema does it with Oscars, BAFTAs, Cannes and the rest. Pop has the Brits and Grammys. Salut! Sunderland brings you the HAWAYS, honouring the best interviews with opposing fans – the Highly Articulate Who are You? awards.
We are delighted once again to have a trio of generous sponsors. The rough-and-ready shortlist is with judges but I shall extend the process this year to allow a popular vote, using the same criteria including the fact that my suggestions are intended as no more than a guide.
Nathalie Randall, daughter of Monsieur Salut, rues the collapsing act of the team she disloyally supports, Liverpool, predicts an Arsenal place after all in the top four and says Hull are going down with Boro and us …
There will be no “little” team winning the Premier League this year.
Normality seems to have been restored with Chelsea more or less certain to win the title once more (hands up anyone who actually likes them though!).
Arsenal have had their usual flirtation with the top four, and it remains to be seen if they manage to scrape into a Champions League place, as they always seem to do.
The future of Arsene Wenger is yet to be revealed as well as those of players such as Ozil and Sanchez.
Liverpool had their usual great start to the season, lauded as potential champions before going on a dismal run which may yet land them outside the top four, with points dropped against lesser teams (even including Sunderland in that 2-2 draw in January).
Man City are finishing strongly but they will be disappointed that they weren’t able to make a challenge for the title.
Man Utd have been disappointing in the league but are flying high in the Europa League so could yet qualify for the Champions League by winning that.
Tottenham, as last year, got themselves in great position but seem to be pipped at the post for the second year running.
The usual mid-table teams have cemented their places there again, the likes of Everton, West Brom and Southampton.
Leicester caused uproar when they sacked Claudio Ranieri after he had guided them to an unprecedented Premier League title the previous season but have recovered [egg on Monsieur Salut’s face, maybe, for suggesting the dismissal was an example of corporate obscenity]
Sam Allardyce looks to have performed his miracle survival act once more with Crystal Palace although they aren’t safe yet [see my ESPN piece showing they are still in danger depending on final results – Ed].
As for relegation, Sunderland could not repeat previous seasons’ escape acts and ensured their drop to the Championship recently after a woeful season. It is not known yet who will join them except that it will be any two of Hull, Swansea or Palace.
So my predictions for the final two weekends are:
* Chelsea to win the title (no big surprise there)
* 2: Tottenham / 3: Man City / 4: Arsenal all qualifying for the Champions League.
Relegated: Hull to fill the final place.
* My dad to give me some pocket money for writing this
Salut! Sunderland gets big hits for “Who are You?” interviews, the Q and A sessions with opposing fans that we publish before every game, writes Monsieur Salut.
And at the end of each season, we present the Haways – Highly Articulate Who Are You? awards – to those our judges deem to have been the best.
It is entirely subjective but a spot of fun. If any reader who follows the series wishes to have a say, please just leave a comment (using your correct e-mail address, which is not shown but I can see) and you will be contacted.