Monsieur Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith makes 10 points from the opening sequence of the Euros but I seem to have reduced them to seven. I began yesterday in a rage against the moronic English ‘fans’ who, as I have witnessed at first hand, are as obnoxious a group of people as you’d hope not to meet. But if they – and of course I mean the sizeable minority of trouble-seeking louts – had already behaved atrociously in one of my favourite French cities, Marseille, their lowlife thuggishness was more than matched by an evil bunch of Russians, in particular, and by some French ‘fans’.
Pete fears there will be trouble wherever England play, even when the English are not wholly or even mostly to blame. As for the football, disappointment for England, a dark start for a man with SAFC pedigree – Lorik Cana, who must have even Lee Cattermole tit-tutting – not to mention another red, albeit away from the Euros in the Copa America) DeAndre Yedlin – and a great opener for Wales. Now let Sixer admire French stadiums and French midfielders …
The Mag hordes have departed, taking with them the smug smiles we can but wish we had been wearing since 2pm on Saturday. On my own reckoning, there must have been 15,000 visits over the weekend from Newcastle supporters eager to gloat. And they didn’t even buy a mug between them! As for Sunderland, we now face an important week on the road, with effective performances a must at Brighton and Swansea. But first of all, let’s have another look at football across the Channel…
Three games into the French season, Steed Malbranque has finally had his first taste of Ligue 1 football since the move from Sunderland to St Etienne (might a touch of his creativity made a difference on Saturday?).
Lille’s 2-2 draw at Paris Saint-Germain last night was enough to bring them the cup-and-league double – they had already beaten PSG in the final of the Coupe de France – and a promise by the club president Michel Seydoux to throw a “huge party in this marvellous city”.
That’s a great achievement for a relatively unfashionable club that will do well to hang on to its better players. It is only their third Ligue 1 title, though their second double (look back to 1946 for the first). I did help a little by predicting a comfy late cruise to the championship for Marseille but the record books are unlikely to acknowledge this contribution.
Our regular look at French football – illustrated by a photo borrowed from the PSGmag.net fan site – considers the racial quotas scandal – and comes clean on another dodgy prediction …
Lille football club – LOSC Lille Métropole if you must – are very nearly the Ligue 1 champions in France after winning 2-1 last night at Saint-Etienne (who else remembers when Dominique Rocheteau played for them?
It puts them seven points ahead of Marseille, who have a game in hand but a markedly inferior goal difference.
Only a remarkable collapse in their final three games, from which five points would suffice, would stop Lille winning the title for the first time since their previous championships on 1946 and 1954. As in 1946, they may also win the double, the Coupe de France final against PSG coming up on Saturday night.
And my apologies to Marseille for casting a curse on their title hopes for the second time in three seasons. On the morning OM blew their chances by crumbling at home to Lyon two seasons ago, I had a 2,000-word piece on the sports pages of The National, Abu Dhabi, dealing at length with their revival after 16 years in the doldrums. And only last week, when they briefly went top of Ligue 1, I predicted that they would go on to stay there. Oh well.
Meanwhile, the hot football news in France is the sports minister’s clear statement that Laurent Blanc, manager of the national side, was innocent of any improper behaviour in the affair of the racial quotas. For those new to the subject, the Q word was used by the French Football Federation technical director François Blaquart when a meeting of coaches last November discussed the issue of schoolboy hopefuls who were trained at FFF expense only to go on to represent the North or sub-Saharan African nations of their family origins.
Another review of the week gone by for the busy reader who appreciates a regular digest of what’s been going on here (and ps: see our FA Cup wishlist) …
Among Salut! Sunderland‘s pet hates, a weekend without football ranks high.
There are FA Cup 6th round ties this weekend, and important FA Youth Cup games (the FA’s own site originally had Liverpool and Man Utd having to play their 6th round tie before the winners beetled off down the M6 to London for the first leg of a semi final at Chelsea three hours later: the semi has now been put back to Wednesday).
And Sunderland’s ladies’ team carry our best wishes in their FA Women’s Cup 5th round game against Lincoln City.
Before we get hopelessly bogged down with pre-derby coverage, Monsieur Salut gets up early to update events in France …
After an uplifting victory over St Etienne, who are doing well in the French Ligue 1 for the first time in years, the team every Sunderland supporter should keep a soft spot for – Nice, managed by Eric Roy – resumed their mini-slide.
A 1-0 defeat in Lens was the disappointing result from Nice’s weekend (and heaven knows how they got back from the grim north to the sunny Med with all those fuel blockades). So the Lads/les Mecs slip to 13th (our finishing position last season) when victory would have taken them to seventh (where we are now).
Nice, or Olympique Gymnaste Club Nice Côte d’Azur to give them their splendid full title, are – for the uninitiated – the team Salut! Sunderland looks out for in France. They had as good a weekend as the Tangerine-clad men from the slightly less sunny English seaside ….
Nota bene the two results. Rather a neat bit of alliteration to mark two minor causes for celebration at Salut!’s Nice Corner, our regular look at French football.
There isn’t too much of a French connection in Blackpool’s balloon-pricking win at St James’ Park.
Good wins for moneyed QPR, Keano’s Ipswich, Millwall and Hull City – and back down to earth for Leeds – in what we must learn to call the Npower Championship but Salut! Sunderland observes a pre-season pledge to look out for Eric Roy’s Nice team in the French top flight. Not, however, a great opening match …
Whatever Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Sidney Govou did or did not get up to after tiring of all those discussions on Molière, Voltaire and Baudelaire with young Zahia Dehar, there are still football issues to decide in France …
Forget (for a moment) the sex scandal. Forget Thierry Henri’s outrageous handball against Ireland (and at least Ribery & & co have taken the heat off him ahead of South Africa).
The injury to Lee Cattermole seriously tests the strength of our squad. But
Colin Randallfeels that in Cana and Zenden, Sunderland have two of this season’s canniest Premier acquisitions …
Confirmation that Lee Cattermole will be out for three months means that we will come to rely ever more heavily on the qualities of our pair of Marseillais. A for the Albanian Lorik Cana, captain of club and country (and captain at OM until his move), Z for Boudewijn “Bolo” Zenden.
The loss of Cattermole – cue for abject apology from the Liverpool players and officials who whinged so pitilessly when this strong, battling midfielder crumpled in a heap – is a serious blow.
He has been hugely impressive in every game since arriving on a transfer that, if we are honest, divided Sunderland fans.