It may seem fanciful to suppose a team that beat us twice last season, and comfortably each time, and plays in a higher division should feel any need to envy Sunderland and Jack Ross. But look at Ipswich’s current plight – winless and second bottom of the Championship while two disappointing home draws have failed to push SAFC out of the League One top four – and you begin to see why William Sundin, the Tractor Boy (and Sunderland University graduate) writing this piece, is wondering which club is better off …
Ipswich Town fans started this summer in a situation familiar to Sunderland supporters, having taken the plunge and finally said goodbye to Mick McCarthy.
Fortunately, Ipswich didn’t do as Sunderland once did and turn to Roy Keane, as they’d made that mistake a few years previously instead [though taking Sunderland from bottom to top may be seen by some as less than a mistake – Ed].
Instead, Ipswich’s owner Marcus Evans sought an exciting young replacement not yet entrenched on the managerial merry-go-round. Evans was keen to wait for Paul Hurst to complete his playoff adventure with Shrewsbury, but the other standout candidate Jack Ross was not so keen to wait around.
For his second contribution to the pages of Salut! Sunderland, Martin Crow compares and contrasts – favourably – the Chris Coleman way with words, when talking publicly about Sunderland AFC, with the mix of gibberish, gallows humour, boorishness, beyond-the-pale philosophy and heavy gloom that has gone before …
Monsieur Salut writes: on Twitter, where we found him, he goes by the name of ITFC COYB. Darren Elmy* is a Glasgow-based Ipswich Town fan who would normally have been at Saturday’s game as he loves visiting Sunderland and has Mackem family connections. Unfortunately he cannot make it but we do have his thoughts on both clubs and the match.
Darren’s a professional gambler; we hope he loses any stake he places on his predicted scoreline – 1-1 – but hammers the bookies if he hedges his bets with money on an emphatic home win …
John McCormick writes: there are cries from some of our readers for our manager to go, there are others saying he should have more time, and there are those saying it’s not his fault and there’s nothing he can do. I must confess I’m expecting any day to hear he’s been sacked or walked as it seems to be the SAFC way of dealing with things but I’m not sure if it would solve anything. Pete Sixsmith, who has been to far more matches and lives much nearer to the action, was at last night’s debacle. What does he think? He’s past caring. Perhaps that tells us all we need to know …
Harry Redknapp tells Alan Brazil on TalkSport we’re the worst team in the Premier League.
Steven Fletcher gets it in the neck for posing with his brash new £260,000 Lamborghini parked next to his £160,000 Bentley in front of another brash possession, his house.
And back at TalkSport, Adrian Durham calls us a basket case of a club that has ruined Connor Wickham’s career. It’s not all bad, though; Dick Advocaat says we have so few current internationals that we needn’t worry too much about injuries this weekend.
There you have a snapshot of the negative coverage heading our way in recent days.
With our abysmal record this season, it should come as no surprise. We cannot pick up points against the top clubs and we cannot pick up many against those struggling with us down at the bottom. The football has been dire and, while there was a big improvement at West Ham, it was an improvement from atrocious to mediocre and we lost anyway.
Let’s take the anti-SAFC news agenda step by step: * ‘Arry: On any assessment, he failed at QPR other than getting them quickly back up again (we’ve had managers like that who then couldn’t hack it in the top flight and they didn’t all have the money and geography – London attracts players – at his disposal].
This is what he told Brazil: “I think it’s going to be very, very difficult [for QPR to stay up]. But, having said that, I think Sunderland are bang in trouble. My honest opinion, I think Sunderland at the moment are the worst team in the division. QPR went there and beat them 2-0 just a few weeks ago. I think they’ve got it all on, Sunderland. I think it’s going to be tough.”
My first instinct was to denounce his outrageous calumny. Then I pulled myself up with a jolt: perhaps he’s right. I was only a little reassured by this exchange of tweets with a fellow-supporter:
I accepted in response that I’d settle for the standings to be as they are now after the last games of the season. Then, the table will have exposed ‘Arry’s lie if Stu is right that what counts is total performance over the whole season.
I’ll admit I dislike Durhan’s whiny voice. But he does the job he’s paid for, winding people up with all that whining.
It would be comforting to know at least some Salut! Sunderland readers are far too young to remember Shots at Sleeman.
Alan Sleeman was a Sunday Sun (ie Tyneside not Murdoch) sports journalist who liked to enrage fans of the North East teams and wait for the deluge of anger to pour in. Once received, it was sorted and stuck on a page with that heading, Shots at Sleeman. Durham is like that, deliberately contradictory to the extent that the discerning listener can often feel he has espoused an inflammatory case that he does not actually endorse but is guaranteed to bring in the callers (is it true, as I saw on twitter in the same thread, that TalkSport callers pay a premium rate?).
The thrust of his case on Wickham is that here is a player who greatly impressed him before he joined Sunderland but has had his natural progress disrupted and derailed by a constant managerial changes, repeated exiles on loan and utter failure by the club to show him the necessary guidance or even play him in his best (central attacking) position.
Here’s an extract:
The ongoing debate about English talent failing to develop after promising early signs needs to look at examples like Wickham. All the ability, but no significant strides made. He should have made that progression. The fact that he hasn’t is down to Sunderland being a complete basket case of a club.
Maybe and maybe not. Durham’s evidence of this uncommonly great talent consists of snatches of brilliance in an England Under 17 game, a sub’s role in a Championship match showing him to be “one of the more technically gifted players” on the pitch and, a few months later and still in what we used to call and other countries still call Division Two, a superb run from his own half and the coolest of finishes.
That is pretty thin stuff. But yes, we paid lots of money for Wickham and saw the same potential. So Durham may have a point in saying he has not been properly nurtured at Sunderland and has not even been given the proper “slap in the face” needed to eliminate what one of his past managers described as his “playboy model” tendencies.
Perhaps in the short time he may be with us, Advocaat – provided he sees the unfulfilled potential – will recognise this and use it to help Sunderland’s survival bid and Wickham’s long-term prospects.
* Fletcher’s flash car:
There is Sunderland history for this kind of contrived row. After the relegation of 2003, Mick McCarthy fined Michael Gray two weeks’ pay and stripped him of the captaincy for turning up in his new Ferrari when ordinary SoL staff were losing their jobs because of the players’ failure to stay up.
Check that link, by the way, and you’ll find it is from 2008 when Derby were facing relegation and Rob Savage was involved in a similar boy’s toys controversy. Paul Jewell, then Derby manager, said: “At this moment, Sunderland are the worst team in Premier League history because they went down with a record low number of points”. Derby went on to break the record in style, with just 11 points (our worst having been 15 and 19).
To be honest, I cannot be bothered to say much more about Fletcher’s car, beyond this thought: most SAFC fans, at a guess, couldn’t care less about such displays of affluence if only the players concerned were doing the business on the pitch, which demonstrably Fletcher – among many others – is not.
And I promised one bit of better news. Advocaat has been talking aup the value of ugly wins – yep, we’d take a few of those – and spelling out why we should not fear the internationals could add to injury woes:
‘The only important thing in the final games is winning. The way we do that is not important. So if we win games very ugly I like that. We will play very negative if the need is there.’
Advocaat has given his players the early part of the week off, an agreed rest period which is the legacy of Gus Poyet’s ill-fated reign. The Dutchman joked that the club don’t have too many international players so their preparations for the visit of North-East rivals Newcastle a week on Sunday will not be disrupted.
The upshot of all this is clear: we can dismiss ‘Arry’s thoughts as irrelevant, adopt a couldn’t care less attitude on players’ tastes in runarounds (while asking for more achievement in their day jobs), aim Shots at Durham and look forward to however many wins, and however ugly, needed to stay up.
In the latest edition of Gambles’ Rambles, our regular contributor Ken Gambles pondered the worthy title ‘a reflective narrative on the role of altruism in a capitalist hegemony’ before deciding: ‘Nah, just a memory of Quinny’s testimonial.’ Monsieur Salut remembers it, too, as the game for which he bought a ticket knowing he had no hope of being there (remember those non-attendance tickets that boosted the proceeds?). He missed a great occasion, which special connections made greater still for Ken …
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the embryo of a body of contrition hovering over the Emirates stadium as it dawns on Arsenal folk that their self-canonised saints of football may also, from time to time, stray from the path of purity …
Cesc Fabregas is a magical footballer, a convincing contender for any choice of the Premier League’s finest. He is also, necessarily, strong, fast and committed.
So realistic supporters, whether they are Gooners or follow Sunderland or Chelsea, Wolves or Stoke or indeed anyone else, can sympathise with Fabregas when he tells his manager he hadn’t the slightest wish to injure Stephen Ward of Wolves. Yet it was challenge that some felt merited a card of a different colour than the yellow shown by Mark Halsey.
Jeremy Robson ponders the list of possible contenders for the England job, if Fabio Capello does not stay on. He finds one omission surprising, though there is just a slight suspicion that he may be taking the Mick (and a much stronger suspicion about an SFR dongle’s ability to work on a French TGV, which explains why Jeremy’s piece was cut almost in half for most of the day …
A N Other
These are the candidates for the England manager’s job. Well, at least these are the
names that The Guardian feels worthy of inclusion in its list of potential replacements
for the beleaguered Italian.
Pete Sixsmith arrives at the penultimate stage of his journey to every World Cups from 1966 to 2006. From the 2002 tournament he remembers the McCarthy-Keano spat, wailing South Korean teenagers, Tommy Sorensen’s howlers and yet another Brazilian trophy …
It’s interesting that as you get older, the more recent memories don’t stay for very long, while the more distant ones linger. When speaking to Neil Martin a couple of weeks ago, I was able to picture the goals he scored in my boyhood far more clearly than I could those of say, Tore Andre Flo or Jon Stead.
In the first two extracts from his book, Sing When You’re Winning, Colin Irwin trod the familiar path of Sunderland’s history: early glory, post-war turbulence and 1973 fairytale (with as much literary licence as the Brothers Grimm). He left us with the anxiety of relegation-haunted fans as kickoff neared in SAFC v Boro in Jan 2006 …
Not that the nail biting lasts for long. Sunderland forget that Emanuel Pogatetz, the big lad strolling into their penalty area when Middlesbrough are awarded a free kick just outside the box, isn’t there to discuss the latest bargains at B&Q and may have evil intent.