Right, we got back into the game, maybe should have found the strength to win but cannot seriously complain about the result.
Martin O’Neill maintained his unbeaten home record at the Stadium of Light with the heartening goal from Fraizer Campbell, just back from long-term injury securing the draw. We now have to go the Boro and win to earn another home tie, against Arsenal, in the 5th round – and Martin’s post-match missive recognised that the main plus from a moderate display was that we were still in the hat …
This is where Pete Sixsmith captures the glory and shame, hope and despair, excitement and ennui of the Sunderland matchday experience. When, rarely, Pete is absent or delayed, a supersub does it for him and the seven-word verdict is preceded by an asterisk. Pete’s full analysis of the game will usually appear within a day or two.
It is time again for our glance at the week gone by. But let us look forward a little as well.
Pete Sixsmith gazes through the transfer window, sees little he truly fancies but wonders whether one or other of the men whose names are being bandied about could nevertheless do a job for Sunderland …
There are five days to go before the transfer window slams shut until June and so far there has been about as much excitement as you would get at a concert starring Des O’Connor and Paul (“oops, there goes my finger”) Daniels.
There have been a couple of trialists in at the Academy. Mario Balotelli’s younger brother, Enoch came and went, while the Bosnian international Zlatan Muslimovic is still at the club with us looking at him and him looking at the club.
This morning (Thursday) there is talk of a permanent deal for Kevin Davies, who appears to be surplus to requirements at Bolton, and we are looking at the Sporting Lisbon striker Adrien Silva. That was in the Daily Mail, so maybe not a bang on certainty. Nor would I put money in Sporting’s pockets after they cheated us out of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1973 – proving that my string of grudges goes back way before upstarts like Coventry City appeared on the scene.
Muslimovic’s last club was PAOK in Thessaloniki – and we have signed players from La Toumba before. In 1998, a small Honduran by the name of Milton Nunez appeared at the club and became the smallest and the most widely reviled player in Sunderland’s history.
He called himself Tyson because he wanted to appear aggressive, but he was no bigger than Jimmy Clitheroe and carried as much weight as Wee Jimmy Krankie. He made his debut in a Reserve game against the Mags at the Stadium and ran around an awful lot. He played two half games for the first team before departing to oblivion – or Guatemala as it is known in football terms.
When we signed him, I spoke to my brother who lives in Thessaloniki and who was friendly with some PAOK fans. He rang me back, chuckling and told me that his mates were creasing themselves that they had actually got money for Nunez and from a decent club. He prophesised that Milton might find the Premier League a wee bit beyond him.
As we all know, he was right and Nunez went down as a genuine legend for Sunderland fans as certainly Reidy’s worst signing and possibly the club’s. Apparently he is still playing at age 39 in the top league in Guatemala, so fair play to him.
The mooted Kevin Davies deal is an interesting one. He has never been my favourite player on account of how he throws his weight round at every opportunity, but he could be a useful short term signing for us. It looks as if Bendtner will miss the next few weeks with his facial injury (pizza shop workers in Copenhagen beware!!) so there may be a need for a replacement. Oumare Tounkara played a bit on Tuesday night, but I don’t know whether he can step up to Premier League level.
It also gives an opportunity for Connor Wickham to lead the line and with games coming up against sides he played against last year when he was at Ipswich, it will give us a chance to see what made The Brucester pay £8m for him.
Looking forward to a footballing treat on Sunday – maybe.
In the second of our Sunderland v Middlesbrough “Who are You?”s – it happens that way sometimes – we talk to Harry Pearson, Guardian sports columnist and author of books that include the wonderful North-eastern footballing odyssey, The Far Corner. That’s the one to grab if you read nothing else about the game. Harry is also a slightly guilty Boro fan, too guilty about the long gaps between his attendances to muscle in on the limited ticket supply …
The relatively few Boro fans who have seen Alan Comfort’s excellent – I would say, but there it is – interview with Salut! Sunderland have given it mixed reviews.
Boro on Sunday in the FA Cup 4th round and Salut! Sunderland‘s build-up starts here. For a man who was able to play so few games because injury cruelly cut his career short, Alan Comfort – now, of course, the Rev Alan Comfort – made an impact, him on the North East and the region on him. He remains deeply fond of Boro to this day – and yes, his wife grew to appreciate the Dales – wonders what might have been and says he would happily have seen out a player’s normal-length careeer there …
We are not about to enter Man’s First Steps on Moon territory, but it is a small achievement of which we are mightily proud: yesterday, the hit rate of 3,500+ took Salut! Sunderland for the first time into the top 10 of the Soccerlinks hitlist.
A posting at the main Salut! site, which you can see by clicking this link, mentions the subject only in passing, but it was sufficient to inspire a cartoonist, James Benn, to come up with a great illustration. It got me thinking: we’re all meant to hate the Mags, they hate us. We both used to hate Boro, and them us, but what with all that’s happened down on Teesside, we’ve all but forgotten one another’s existence. Maybe we should just all get a life …
Pete Sixsmith made a telling comment here the other day that should have made every thinking Sunderland supporter reconsider the kneejerk anti-Mag mantras they – we – adopt, and vice versa.
He was reacting to Jeremy Robson’s amusing look at the story of the two lads, from either side of the Wear-Tyne divide, who had a wager on who would finish higher: the loser had to go to the other club’s shop and buy and wear a top.