John McCormick writes: 1985, Liverpool. Someone in a taxi had kindly left a redundancy notice with my name on it at the door of my workplace. I had two very young kids. I’d just moved house, only to be clobbered by a series of mortgage rate rises – 13.5 per cent springs to mind – and I had no spare cash. Going to the League Cup final hardly entered my mind and I never tried to get myself a ticket. It was one of those things.
So was the game, as Pete Sixsmith recounts:
SAFC U23s 1 v Norwich City U23s 1
For some reason the Under 23s had elected to play their home fixture against Norwich at the Stadium of Light, rather than the Colliery Welfare ground in Hetton. I never seem to enjoy U23 games at the Stadium as much, partly because the small number of supporters gets lost in a ground designed to hold 48,000, partly because those that are there are confined to a small area in the West Stand and partly because they seem to attract some supporters who wouldn’t make the effort to get to Eppleton. For me it entails an extra 30 minutes drive but hey ho I went along anyway, expecting to see Pete Sixsmith there with the other Hetton Irregulars and half expecting him to do the match report but I caught neither sight nor sound so expect he was off to a Rugby League fixture at somewhere like Cleckheaten or East Ardsley or another equally obscure venue.
£2.60 for a brew at a reserve game seems a bit much but you can add a pretty rank, luke warm sausage bun for an extra £1.40 so being a tight sort, the diet went out of the window, which is totally illogical when you stop to think about it because I paid an extra £1.40 for something I didn’t want and didn’t enjoy! After quantities of draught Bass in Burton on Friday night, that’ll be me on the steamed fish and vegetables for the rest of the week then.
And so it was, cooped up in the padded seats with the arm rests I settled down for a game against the young Canaries. I must say that the North Stand looks a lot better now that you can actually read Ha’way The Lads picked out in white after the seat replacement in the week, but they must have run out of white bases with only three to go as the uncompleted seats stuck out like a sore thumb. See if you can spot them on the highlights package. I also wondered if they are planning to have the padded seats for the Black Cats Bar patrons steam cleaned as they were a delicate shade of grey, rather like my bathroom walls rather than brilliant white like my kitchen ceiling.
It wasn’t long before I remembered why I find it hard to settle at these games at the SoL, with two 4 year olds in front of me, bored after two minutes and kicking off with the type of tantrum usually reserved for the household detergents aisle at Asda and some 18 year old arsehole, who loved the sound of his own voice yelling abuse at the referee, the Sunderland players, the ball boys but mostly just screaming “Gerrrrooonnn” at 104 decibels. And with no hearing aids to turn down there wasn’t a lot I could do to shut him down.
So onto the game itself. I have to say I am not finding the red shorts as offensive as I thought I might do and we lined up with a number of players with first team experience in Mumba, Ethan Robson and Kimpioka in the starting XI. It would seem that Elliott Dickman is trying to get his charges to play the same type of passing game that Jack Ross favours but it was Norwich who had the temerity to create the first clear cut chance, when also in a moment so reminiscent of the first team a little bit of defensive indecision gave Ant Spyrou the chance to flash a shot across goal, just wide of the upright.
Kimpioka reminds me a bit of Peter Crouch in that he can appear ungainly but seems to retain possession and create chances when you think he really shouldn’t. He’s got a decent turn of pace and when he wriggled past a couple of Norwich defenders and got a shot off, the blocked effort lobbed up for Robson whose side footed volley fizzed just the wrong side of the post. Then after another wriggling run he managed to get a shot off from a tight angle and though the goalkeeper’s block again sent the ball straight into the path of Robson, this was a much weaker effort and easily cleared.
Not long afterwards, again mirroring the first team a long ball saw Bainbridge failing to deal with Spyrou who squared it onto the foot of centre forward Adam Idah who had the simplest of tap ins with Storey caught the wrong side of his man.
A dribble into the box from the right wing and a pull back to the waiting Simon Power gave the Canaries a chance to double their lead but a double block from Storey and Owen Gamble kept the deficit to a single goal and it looked as if Norwich would go into the break one up but just before half time Norwich defender Adam Phillips’ headed attempt to clear a corner from the left, only succeeded in looping the ball up to an unmarked Bainbridge who side footed home at the far post.
In the second half Norwich keeper John McCracken pulled off two decent saves from long range efforts from Kimpioka and substitute Jack Diamond whilst at the other end, Spyrou spurned the sort of chance where it looks harder to miss than score with goalkeeper Patterson stranded as a low cross came in from the Norwich right. And that was more or less it as the game drifted to an end.
A decent way to spend the early part of Sunday afternoon and one all was a fair result on the day. But next time the U23s play at the Stadium of Light I’ll get organised, have a bacon sarnie before I go and take my own flask of tea.
Malcolm Dawson writes…….Sunderland spurned two good opportunities to improve their ever decreasing chances of survival last night. The first when Aiden McGeady failed to convert a penalty in the first half and the second with yet another example of defensive frailty in the dying minutes. OK in theory they are still grasping a lifeline that is becoming more and more slippery as the games run out, but in their desperate thrashings about all they seem to have done is put a slow puncture in the life raft and toss the bailer overboard.
There were other chances to put the game to bed. Listening to Barnes and Benno, it sounded as if Ejaria and Gooch in particular had good opportunities to put us further on the score sheet and much maligned Ashley Fletcher almost scored after 15 seconds. Perhaps it’s the almost which leads to the much maligned tag.
But it wasn’t all one way and The Canaries had chances of their own. Did they deserve their point? Did we deserve ours? The long suffering Pete Sixsmith was there. How did he see last night’s proceedings? Here just to show we can all do metaphor at Salut! Sunderland is his latest set of observations.
NORWICH CITY (HOME)
The life support machine is about to be switched off. The friends and relatives are gathering around the bed of what was once a healthy occupant reduced to a husk and expecting to expire in the next ten days.
The Missourian Director of the Hospital has much to answer for. He has allocated a number of surgeons to this case and all have, in their own way, failed to restore the patient to rude health. There was an Italian extrovert who turned out to be a snake oil salesman, followed by a Uruguayan who felt that this noble northern outpost should be like the West London one that he had spent a number of years in. Unfortunately the medical staff in situ and those he imported from South America, Spain and er…. West Bromwich Albion did not improve things – although the Spaniard did pretty well at the aforementioned West London location.
A pragmatic Dutchman came and resuscitated the patient, left, came back and left again dissatisfied with the breaking of promises to be replaced by another pragmatist who recruited a trio of Europeans, organised the existing medical staff to do their jobs properly and then departed to run the National Health Service – for a while at least!
He was replaced by a Scot so dour that it was, in the words of PG Wodehouse, never difficult to distinguish a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine (Vicky Sparks will testify to that) and after his lame attempts at surgery saw the patient placed in intensive care, his successor despite being a Yorkshireman found this job (and maybe even his subsequent one at Bradford) way beyond him and so we have ended up with the surgery being supervised by a loquacious but rather conservative Welshman.
His attempts to instigate a recovery relied on borrowing young staff with potential from top level institutions and those who were under employed in locations similar to the one at which he worked. Throw in a few grizzled veterans of at least three of the above Chief Surgeons, a handful of ambitious but limited youngsters and a couple who seem to be (oxymoron alert!!!) permanently peripatetic and we have seen the patient slide inexorably to the state it is in now.
The surgeons have tried hard and, although they should take some of the blame, the fault lies at the top, as a fellow Missourian of the Hospital Director said when assuming the Presidency of the United States, “the buck stops here.” Alas, the HD has now absented himself from his responsibilities and is in hiding somewhere in Texas, never to return.
That’s enough of the extended metaphor.
Let’s have a look at last night. Could we have won? Probably. Should we have won? Probably not.
Chances to win the game and put pressure on a Bolton side who are struggling were there but were missed. McGeady’s penalty hit the post and bounced out. Ejaria managed to tangle his feet up and scramble his brain when all he had to do was lift the ball over Gunn in the Norwich goal. Honeyman (our best player on the night and probably our player of the season) hit the side netting when he really should have scored. Had we gone in two up at the interval, we would have gone on to win …… maybe.
However, this fails to mention the number of chances that Norwich missed. Prompted in midfield by James Maddison – a player to look for in the Premier League next season – and with the excellent Nelson Olivera up front, they contrived to put more balls over the bar than Kevin Sinfield and hit more posts than a man putting a fence up. Towards the end, when we fell apart and stopped defending, they could have had three goals and it was no surprise when Ivo Pinto levelled in the 89th minute.
Once again, we failed to defend a set piece. The ball was won by their centre half who was hardly challenged. Pinto, a full back and not a very good one, then had time to control the ball, change feet, have a shower and cook an omelette before he poked the ball over the line with no Sunderland player anywhere near him. By then, legs had gone and nerves had not held. O’Shea had gone off with a back and a groin problem (tough on Mrs O’Shea) and the loanee from Chelsea, Jake Clarke-Salter, looked like a man who would rather be anywhere than playing in a Sunderland home game.
The older pros on the field – Cattermole and Kone- were also shattered both physically and mentally. For Cattermole, games have three phases. At the start, he struggles. Passes are misplaced, tackles are missed and he looks lost. Then he settles into the game and performs well. Unfortunately, after 70 minutes his legs have gone and his brain has slowed down and he resorts to kicking the ball anywhere, sometimes extending that to kicking the opposition. Kone is pulled out of position far too easily. Olivera did that a number of times in the first half although he tired towards the end as well. Kone can be a good player but takes no responsibility and clearly cannot wait to get away from Sunderland. What if we had let him go to Everton and The Dour Scot had invested the money wisely and not on Djilobodji and Ndong?
This lack of responsibility shows itself in poor game management. The number of times we needlessly gave the ball away is beyond comprehension. At times, it is like watching Sunday morning football and whoever we sign next season (there are good players in the National Leagues and below who would be worth a pitch) they have to be able to pass a ball, cross a ball, defend a ball and save a ball. Too many of ours cannot do that.
Ashley Fletcher had a better game last night and gave a slight indication as to why he has had two big transfers. He actually led the line and that enabled Honeyman, McGeady and Gooch to pick up second ball.
Honeyman deserved his goal and never stopped all night. Sometimes, honest endeavour makes up for a lack of genuine quality and he could be an important player in Division One next season. McGeady played well and it was his run and shot that set up the goal. Shame about the penalty – the last one we missed was at Molineux in December 2011 after Steve Bruce had been dismissed. Gooch promises much but needs to produce more. He is strong and quick, but his last ball is not good enough. He has worked hard on aspects of his game and needs to focus on this now.
The chances of winning the final four games are not quantifiable. Bookies would refuse your money and would call for the men in the white coats to come and take you away. We know where we are and who we are. Fleetwood, Accrington and Oxford will find out next season. Once the Director of the Hospital has left, the patient may well begin a very slow recovery. Whether it is under the current Head Surgeon is a matter for debate.
We may return to this next week.
If there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions, on the video and images used to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..things are so bad at the moment for Sunderland supporters that here at Salut! Sunderland M Salut has gone en vacances sur la plage and John Mac is as we speak, jetting away de vacaciones en la playa, leaving me to update the site from a wet and dreary Weardale and Peter Sixsmith, after presumably a wet and dreary wander along Seaburn sea front, to trudge along to the Stadium of Light and take up his customary position in the East Stand to bring us his instant seven word verdict. Canaries were once common throughout the North East coalmines to forewarn of impending disaster. Was this evening the final flicker of the Championship flame or was there a bit of spark to cheer our wordmeister on a wet and miserable night. I’ll bet you’ve got a fair idea but let’s see what he has to say in his immediate post match seven word summary.
John McCormick writes: the cup tie at Carrow Road mentioned below has a certain resonance but I don’t remember the replay. 1968 is very much a time when I’d have been there but there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that I remember about it.
Pete Sixsmith, once again, comes to the rescue. He was there. He remembers it. He leaves me hanging my head in shame. I can say no more and I humbly apologise, much as so many of our players should do.
Monsieur Salut writes: the curtain seems almost down on as bad a season as most Sunderland fans have experienced. Thanks Ellis Short – near the top of the Championship table for money spent of agents’ fees, near the bottom for investment on players and next to bottom of the league when not actually bottom.
Martin Penney is our Norwich City interviewee. He has missed all of five of the Canaries’ home games in 30 years. He’s from the Norwich MyFootballWriter site and the dog you see above, poised to bark loudly at the Black Cats, is ‘a Patterdale called Geezer after the best bassist in the entire world – Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath’. There you have it, and here are his excellent responses to Salut! Sunderland‘s questions …
Monsieur Salut writes: a family holiday looms so this is being prepared between Black Monday, perhaps the defining moment of a wretched season when even a half-decent performance was undone by the usual defensive frailties, and whatever happens at Leeds. I leave it to Salut! Sunderland colleagues to update this introduction as they see fit after Elland Road. For now, I shall combine the usual prize Guess the Score competition for the next home game, Norwich City and a rare chance to record a double, with some thoughts from elsewhere on a competition that seems to have little or nothing to do with the preoccupations of a club heading for League One (or not, according to results) …
Most weeks, readers of Salut! Sunderland drop by on Friday morning to catch the latest instalment in Pete Sixsmith’s twin series, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Ground (if the game in question is away), Team (if it’s at the Stadium of Light).
This week, the Millwall edition was posted earlier than usual – namely at this link.
Put it this way. Pete Sixsmith gives a lot more to the football-supporting public than he gets back.
He collects bits and bobs of beer money, the odd mug or print or match ticket paid for, but nothing that remotely reflects all he does, mostly for Salut! Sunderland but also in unpaid appearances on radio, in books and on other people’s websites. And he’s Father Christmas to boot – look out for him ho-ho-hoing his way through County Durham and Tyne and Wear in December.
We’re accustomed to the analysis, the seven-word instant verdict (Sixer’s Sevens) and the post-match Soapbox reports. But have you noticed how he also comes up with great ideas for series? “Sunderland’s 10 relegations”, “Sunderland’s Twelve Days of Christmas” and now “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Ground” (or team if a home game).
This is the story so far for those who have missed it:
- PNE (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/09/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-ground-preston-north-ends-deepdale/
- Ipswich (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/09/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-ground-ipswichs-portman-road/
- Cardiff City (team) … https://safc.blog/2017/09/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-team-cardiff-city/
- Everton (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/09/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-ground-goodison-park-my-favourite-ground-after-roker/
- Hull City (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/09/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-ground-hull-city/
- Nottingham Forest (team) … https://safc.blog/2017/09/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-team-nottingham-forest/
- Sheffield United (team) … https://safc.blog/2017/09/sixer-recalls-the-first-time-he-ever-saw-sheffield-united/
- Barnsley (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/08/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-ground-barnsley/
- Carlisle United (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/08/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-ground-with-or-without-sunderland-carlisle-united/
- Leeds United (team) … https://safc.blog/2017/08/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-team-leeds-united/
- Sheffield Wednesday (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/08/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-team-leeds-united/
- Norwich City (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/08/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-team-3-norwich-city/
- Bury (ground) … https://safc.blog/2017/08/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-ground-2-bury/
- Derby County (team) … https://safc.blog/2017/08/the-first-time-ever-i-saw-your-team-derby-county/
Please have a look. Next stop – a good sports publishers who may see the merit in this series, if only Sixer can keep it up.
John McCormick writes: Pete Sixsmith has finally made it home from seat U2 in the Carrow Road football stadium (hence the reference in the introduction to Saturday’s Sevens). He probably has just enough time to grab some rest before he heads off to Sheffield. But before he gets his head down here he is with the heads up on a game more than a few of us expected to be difficult.
As ever, it’s a fine piece of writing. The bonus is that this time it’s about an excellent Sunderland performance: