Salut Sunderland’s 13 years, 13 managers (4) Martin O’Neill and hopes unfulfilled

With thanks to Jake for adapting Kartun Malaysia’s caricature

John McCormick writes: Jer posted this comment in response to Colin’s piece on Charlie Methven’s resignation as a director: ‘Stopped reading after the left wing diatribe. Keep your views on Brexit and politics out of football. Last I heard you don’t have to be a Remainer Labour lefty to follow Sunderland I live in a safe Labour seat’

Well, I live in a safe Labour seat in a pro-Remain city and I’m making what I think will be my 23rd hospital visit of the year on election day. I can’t think of anything worse than Boris returning to government. Perhaps people would like me not to say so, and perhaps they would like all of us to be, as Andy posted in  in response to Bob Chapman’s report from Gillingham:

Very mellow and passionless at a critical time ..

Andy did continue … for the football club and its supporters. Why even bother? Hope you have a great holiday and the cat gets to keep the mouse next time.

If we were mellow and passionless we’d never have kept Salut! Sunderland going for 13 years and Pete Sixsmith would never haver formed opinions on the 13 managers we’ve had in that time, the fourth of which is Martin O’Neill.

Read moreSalut Sunderland’s 13 years, 13 managers (4) Martin O’Neill and hopes unfulfilled

A rocking manager, Martin O’Neill glory days, Luke O’Nien: the Wycombe Wanderers ‘Who are You?’

Jon Dickinson: on stage (right) accompanying the Wycombe Wanderers boss and former player Gareth Ainsworth

Monsieur Salut writes: I may have said it before but League One is a treasure trove when it comes to Who are You? interviews, or is once I can locate a warm, witty and/or wise supporter from each club. There will be stumbles as the season progresses – the FA Cup draw left me with the task of finding not one but two Walsall candidates (it was often hard enough to get one when we were in the Championship), the Barnsley game has crept up on me and I haven’t even started thinking about Accrington Stanley and Bristol Rovers. Walsall (one fan covering both the forthcoming games) and Barnsley are sorted after a burst of energy yesterday, but recommendations for other coming games would be appreciated.

Jon Dickinson‘s* Who are You? makes the effort worthwhile. I love the pride he takes in supporting his own unfashionable local team but most of all, I love his responses about Martin O’Neill, Wycombe Wanderers’ amateur football history, what colleagues made of Sunderland when he conducted a straw poll at work and the manager who, when not managing, belts out rock music ….

Read moreA rocking manager, Martin O’Neill glory days, Luke O’Nien: the Wycombe Wanderers ‘Who are You?’

Choose Sunderland’s next manager: at least one O’Neill in the frame

Jake: ‘you don’t talk to the likes of us, Ellis, so how can we be blamed if we get something wrong?’

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Read moreChoose Sunderland’s next manager: at least one O’Neill in the frame

Andy Reid on Keano and O’Neill, Defoe and Moyes – and Sunderland spirit

Andy Reid:by darryl_se7/

So Salut! Sunderland was told the former SAFC and Republic of Ireland midfielder Andy Reid, speaking exclusively to 888sport, was happy to answer our questions as part of the interview. He had some interesting things to say about enjoying his time at Sunderland, playing for Ireland and observing our current plight.

Read moreAndy Reid on Keano and O’Neill, Defoe and Moyes – and Sunderland spirit

Aston Villa vs Sunderland Who are You?: ‘a tenner on finishing 10th’

Welcome back, Stuart Jinks*. Jinksy, as some will remember, is a past winner – first prize no less – of what we now call the HAWAYs – Highly Articulate Who Are You? awards. That was back in 2012 and we thought it would be a good idea to invite him to have another bash. Sharp memories will also recall that despite the chummy picture you see below of Jinksy with Martin O’Neill, he had serious misgiving about MON’s managerial abilities. Oh, and the headline gives his Villa prediction; we’ll be a lot lower but stay up, says Jinksy. Now let the man behind the Villa Boy YouTube channel speak for himself …

Read moreAston Villa vs Sunderland Who are You?: ‘a tenner on finishing 10th’

Nil Desperandum: Why relegation will not lead me to despair

Malcolm Dawson is of pre-Premiership pre-Sky vintage. He remembers a time when teams like Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Derby County could actually win the league. When teams like Northampton Town and Carlisle United could reach the top tier of English football and for a time actually threaten to go top of the league. Of course he wants the team to do well and be as successful as possible but as a fan is he wrong to contend that there should be more to life as a Sunderland fan than Premiership survival?

Jake: 'do you reckon it'll produce a brighter wash next season?' ..'
Jake: ‘do you reckon it’ll produce a brighter wash next season?’
..’
Driving over Wearmouth Bridge after the debacle that was Poyet’s last game in charge, I glanced at one of the escutcheons bearing the coat of arms and heraldic motto of the City of Sunderland. The words “Nil desperandum” roughly translated as “don’t despair” leapt out at me. Had I been on foot I may well have been more focussed on the stickers placed there by the local branch of The Samaritans but I wasn’t. I was in the car and the journey home had been made much easier by the early departure of half the crowd. I should have been depressed but I wasn’t.

I tuned the radio to “Jazz Record Requests” and planned my evening meal – a comforting pot of home made chicken and chorizo cassoulet made with cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes, Italian herbs, served with a crusty loaf. The world seemed OK. You see I was disappointed but not downhearted by the Aston Villa defeat and an increased probability of relegation

I admit I had gone along hoping for the three points that would lift us up the table but in all honesty what I expected was another abject performance and what I had expected was for us to lose. I expected to lose because that’s what this current Sunderland team unerringly does when faced with a crucial game. Thankfully I missed QPR being exiled in deepest West Lancashire, but my brother had gone along for free and complained that “even that was too much to pay”. The story of too many home games over the past few seasons against sides we should be beating comfortably, has been one of continual disappointment and I wasn’t falling into that trap again. Hull City, West Ham, West Brom, and QPR, together with the majority of games at the SOL last season, just reinforced my expectation that we would get nothing from Villa.

We actually started quite brightly, just as we had against Hull City, then capitulated just as we had against Hull City. Whilst those around me got increasingly animated I sat with a wry smile as the next episode of the SAFC soap opera unfolded. This was the Sunderland we have come to know and still somehow love, in the same way that Dot Cotton loved her son Nick. We keep coming back for more in the same way that Gail Tilsley (Potter, Platt, Hillman, McIntyre, Rodwell) is repeatedly attracted to homicidal psychopaths, career criminals and men with dark secrets. And she still loves her son Nick. Not to mention David!

So Gus has gone. No real surprise there but should we lay the blame solely at his door? Who should carry the can for years of abject failure?

When I was about 7 or 8 I was given a book by one of my older cousins from Fence Houses. That book was Len Shackleton’s autobiography “Clown Prince of Soccer” – a publication which recent comments leads me to believe never graced the bookshelves of Murton Library, but which I remember well. Especially the Chapter headed “The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football” and the footnote which read “This page has been left blank in accordance with the author’s wishes.” Shack had a low opinion of the men (and it was exclusively men back in the 50s) who ran the clubs, but at least those types tended to be local businessmen with some understanding of the people who supported the club, what their club meant to them and accepted the premise that the aim of a football club was to win trophies.

From Len Shackleton's autobiography (with David Jack), Clown Prince of Soccer?
From Len Shackleton’s autobiography (with David Jack), Clown Prince of Soccer?

Updated the chapter would be re-titled “The Average Owner’s Knowledge of Football” but the content would remain the same. But nowadays the hyper rich owners of clubs in and around the Premier League are more concerned with balance sheets than trophy cabinets. Ellis Short may be pumping money into the club but he has achieved absolutely nothing. As fans we want more than a healthy balance sheet – at least I do. I want to see a side that plays entertaining football and is at least competitive every time it steps out onto the field.

To be honest I’m not bothered about Premier League status. I am rapidly approaching my 61st birthday (am I really?) and in my lifetime all we have won is the F.A. Cup and a few promotions. We still harp on about 73 because it’s the only significant trophy that the club has lifted in living memory unless you happen to be an octogenarian, nonagenarian or had a telegram from the Queen. If you have yet to reach your mid-forties you have seen us win nowt except a few promotions. Last season’s trip to Wembley will live long in the memories of those of us who were there because it is such a rare event. I’d rather we had beaten Hull in the F.A. Cup last season and gone back to North London for the final than enjoy “The Great Escape.” Enjoy that I did – but look where it has got us. Another year of miserable underachievement, the tearing of hair and the gnashing of teeth. This season I wish we had beaten Bradford, then Reading and had another crack at Cup success even at the expense of relegation which still looks probable unless Dick can turn things around in 9 games.

I’ve actually enjoyed our time in the second division or The Championship as it is confusingly named – the winners of the Championship being only the 21st best team in the country – more than our Premiership campaigns. I’ll qualify that by saying the two 7th place finish seasons were an exception but generally we see more positive attacking football at the lower level, the pre-match build up is much more optimistic and the whole day is much more fun. Add to that you get to go to other places and mix with fans of clubs who are realistic about their clubs’ prospects and it makes for a good day out. We played at Gillingham a few years back and the banter in the pub before and after the game was so good that a group of us decided to go back. Sure enough half a dozen of us turned up in our Sunderland shirts one Saturday when they were playing Walsall. We had a great day and as it was their last home game of the season (we had Arsenal next day) they were having a party, ordered in pizza and asked us to join in. Unfortunately we had a train to catch so had to give it a miss. Invariably my best memories of following SAFC have been at so called smaller clubs. Lincoln City, Grimsby. Bury, Stockport etc. A few pints, good craic and decent footy.

Malcolm Dawson with SuperKev back in the days when the football was worth watching.
Malcolm Dawson with SuperKev back in the days when the football was worth watching.

I don’t really get this obsession with preferring the avoidance of relegation to actually watching competitive games that we have a chance of winning. The reality is we can’t aspire to be anything other than a mid-table side at best unless we get a takeover of the Abramovitch variety. I know survival guarantees a big television payout and relegation results in a huge loss of revenue but that’s not my problem. The lure of the lucre is what drives the business model of the owners of our clubs and any on field success is viewed solely in terms of European qualification and more TV money.

Roy Keane did well when we were in danger of dropping into League 1 (the old 3rd Division) but it appears he was frustrated by the club’s inability to push on in the Premier League. Not the most patient of men I believe the situation at the club gradually wore the Irishman down.

Steve Bruce did OK for a while even though his tactical thinking seemed limited but was unable to take us forward. Was that purely down to his ability as a manager or were his hands tied to an extent by the policy of the Board? Martin O’Neill we all hailed as a savour when he was appointed but like Bruce he apparently ran out of ideas. How much was his ambition supported by those in charge of finances? Di Canio’s appointment was naïve but in his brief and tempestuous time he hinted that the culture of the club needed an overhaul.

Poyet too pointed the finger at off the field issues and eventually, like Keane appeared to lose the plot and resign himself to leaving the club. Towards the end a huge disquiet about team selection and tactics lost him the support of the crowd and there were at least three games I went to where the “Gustavo Poyet” song, which had been one of the South Stand’s favourites was never heard, but since Niall Quinn was relieved of the Chairmanship and latterly Kevin Ball’s reduced role in the club I look at Short, Margaret Byrne and the rest of the Board and ask myself if it is them rather than the players and coaching staff who are the root cause of the problem.

But going back to my main point, my feeling is that should we escape relegation again we will have another season of disappointment and frustration looming. The reality is we will not be competing with Arsenal or Spurs, never mind Chelsea, Man City and Manchester United. When the height of our ambition is to finish 12th or thereabouts and if achieving that comes at the expense of entertaining football I question whether it is worth it. Go down though and I can see some great days out and some enjoyable matches. Should we go down and Sixer’s seat is filled by someone other than he, it could easily be myself.


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Jake flags the new feature allowing you to have your say on topic or off
Jake flags the new feature allowing you to have your say on topic or off

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Brazil 2014. The empire strikes back

John McCormick: something to get your teeth into
John McCormick:  here’s something to get your teeth into

I said in my last post that I’m not a fan of the World Cup. That’s true but I do like football so I’ve watched the majority of games. One or two have been missed because of unavoidable clashes with the important parts of my life but, generally, TV schedules appear to have been adjusted so nothing competes with the football except maybe tennis, which I don’t watch. I’ve even recorded a few games which I couldn’t watch live and played them through afterwards.

And what are my thoughts on the games I’ve seen? To misquote Rick in Casablanca,

I’d probably be bored if I thought of them all.

There have been only a few games, and a few sections of games, that have fired my enthusiasm. Like I said, the spark, the fire, it’s just not there for me. Those few games and sections do include some tasty football from the big boys and there has also been some sterling (now there’s a pertinent word) action from the minnows in there with them. But there has also been enough to make my mind wander, which is how I’ve come to write this.

Spain going out. Well, well. That’s a blow for the “I can bore you more than you can bore me” school of football. I enjoyed them being taken apart by constructive teams who played good football.

The Netherlands and Chile were both part of the Spanish empire and had to fight long and hard for independence, so I suppose it’s a case of “the empire strikes back” but does it mean Spain’s teams’ imperious performances in this year’s European competition were a fluke? No, not by any means, but maybe next year some capable teams will be getting stuck in and conquering the conquistadors.

Uruguay were also under the control of the Spanish, fighting them and finally gaining independence in 1828 or thereabouts, after Portugal had annexed the territory to stabilise their giant next-door colony. England helped Uruguay in their struggle and in the treaty negotiations which gave them their freedom. Look how they’ve repaid us. I suppose that this time it’s a case of “the vampire strikes back”.

Uruguay, according to the book “Soccernomics”, have no chance of winning the world cup. Only the biggest countries (and even England’s not big enough to be one of them) can succeed. It’s all down to population, apparently. Tell that to Uruguay, (population 3.5 million) and also to Belgium, (population 10 million), which put Russia in its place.

Belgium, incidentally, grew out of provinces that stayed loyal to the Spanish Empire when the Dutch bit split off. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between Holland and France it became independent  but remains split into Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia to the south. This doesn’t explain Fellaini’s hair although it might explain why he uses his arms like a windmill.

Meanwhile, back in South America, much of the central area was becoming free from Spain. After a lot of turmoil, including wars of independence and internal and cross-border civil wars a group of states evolved, one being Argentina. Argentina then laid claim to a group of islands off the coast on the grounds that in 1493 the pope had said Spain could have them and three hundred years later the Treaty of Utrecht had confirmed this (it hadn’t). This might explain why Spain supports Argentina’s claim to the Islands, but it doesn’t explain why Spain also says Gibraltar is Spanish when the same treaty gave Gibraltar to Britain.

Spain, Argentina and the state that is Stan Collymore also ignore the fact that the British, who didn’t agree with the pope in 1493, twice had possession of the Falklands, as they called them, before Argentina came into existence. So while I can see why Argentinian footballers might demonstrate I can’t understand why Stan Collymore should say we thieved them. Unless of course, he thinks he’s the pope.

But I digress. Let’s ignore the politics and the football and stick with the important stuff – the commentary and commentators. I’ve two awards to give out

Firstly, the most contrived comment from the World Cup award. France were well on their way to destroying Switzerland (the only country I’ve mentioned without colonial connections) and the commentator said

“ And not for the first time, there really is a mountain between France and Switzerland.”

I don’t know who the commentator was but next time he’s on I’m using the mute button.

Secondly, the World Cup sense of humour award. This goes to Martin O’Neil. You can see his worthy winning effort yourself:

And on that theme I’ll leave you for now. I’ll be in Spain for the final. Usually the bars put big screens outside and people gather and watch. Maybe they still will. Who knows, who cares.

Hasta la vista

The art of managing Sunderland: Quinn to PDC minus one

So who’s next? Will Ellis Short stick with Bally or go for one of the candidates we’ve seen mentioned – for example Gus Poyet, Rene Meulensteen, Gianfranco Zola and Stuart Pearce – or someone else entirely? Whoever it is, we should expect it to mean work for the Sunderland-born, Sunderland-supporting artist Owen Lennox, who now describes his labour of love …

In the 83/84 season when Alan Durban was the manager, Sunderland made an important signing, Chris Stevens. Rarely had Roker Park seen such artisty. Not since the board had commissioned the Hemy painting that now hangs majestically in reception at SoL had the club invested in so much money in art. Chris Stevens was appointed as artist in residence on a year’s contract valued at £7,000.

Read moreThe art of managing Sunderland: Quinn to PDC minus one

And our best manager is ….. : an analytical review of SAFC bosses

John McCormick: master of dodgy numbers.
Jake says – John McCormick: master of dodgy numbers.

John McCormick writes: In a response to one of my posts Sobs wondered if it might be possible to use substitutions and tactical changes to rate our managers. No chance, I thought, as I headed off to Spain. But, one baking hot day, when I was idly contemplating the frothy, chilled bottles calling my name from the fridge and wondering if it was too early, Sobs’s comment came back to me out of the blue. I began to wonder how we might compare managers. What stats would be needed, what would someone look for?

Read moreAnd our best manager is ….. : an analytical review of SAFC bosses

Salut Reflections: Westwood, Mignolet and Bramble make for interesting week in Sunderland.

Jake detects thinking
Jake detects thinking

 

During Martin O’Neill’s final months as SAFC manager, it became increasingly hard to gather and comment on news for a Reflections piece for Salut! Sunderland, writes Stephen Goldsmith. It seems unlikely Di Canio’s reign will be similar. The end of season is generally a bit of a lull for bloggers and writers, who try their best to avoid getting carried away with bogus and erroneous transfer targets. There have been a couple of interesting developments in the last week, though, “that’s for sure” (Bruce: 2009/2010/2011).

Read moreSalut Reflections: Westwood, Mignolet and Bramble make for interesting week in Sunderland.