Sixer’s Sevens v Nottingham Forest: poor up front and weak at the back

Jake: ‘it won’t always be pretty’

John McCormick writes:I couldn’t get the matchday centre, no matter what I tried (and try I did). Various websites were no help because there are no clubs outside the Premiership so I was reliant on Pete Sixsmith and his half time text: “0-0 Better than Saturday but not very inspiring”.

I found the BBC’s text service for the second half.  It sounded as if Pete had summarised the first half perfectly. Then came a second text “terrible error by Browning 0-1” One of our ex-players, of course

And that was that, as Pete’s final text, in seven words, no more, no less explained:

Read moreSixer’s Sevens v Nottingham Forest: poor up front and weak at the back

Nottingham Forest guess the score. Will it be the first win at the SOL this year?

John McCormick writes: It’s the time of the week that all true Sunderland fans have come to fear. A chance to guess the score in a Sunderland AFC game.

What will you do? Be honest and write us off? Or keep the faith and go for a win?

What a choice to have to make.

Read moreNottingham Forest guess the score. Will it be the first win at the SOL this year?

Who are You?: Nottingham Forest and the Art of Football

Malcolm Dawson writes……….the games are coming thick and fast. Today the Who are You? series reaches Sunderland v Forest ahead of Tuesday’s game and we have turned to “Art of Football”, Forest fans all and sponsors and providers of some great prizes that we on Salut! Sunderland have been able to award. I have two of their tee shirts, Jermain Defoe crashing in that brilliant effort against the Mags a couple of seasons back to make it 5 in a row and Super Kev’s equally brilliant stunner against Chelsea, and fine products they are too. I have to emphasise that David Cuthbert, the father of  the founders made no request that we advertise his sons’ business but answered the questions that M Salut put to him with grace and as a favour. Nevertheless with Christmas not that far off here’s a link to their homepage and Sunderland stuff.

Now on to David’s responses.

Interview Colin Randall

Jake wants answers …

A solid enough start, certainly compared with ours. Have you high hopes for this season?

It has been a few years since such a wave of optimism has swept the City Ground (apart from the first few weeks of the Stuart Pearce era). We are not expecting to reach the Premier League this season but will definitely be disappointed if we are not challenging for the play-offs.

The ownership – Evangelos Marinakis and Sokratis Kominakis – may not mean much to most people but Mark Warburton made a name for himself at Brentford, did pretty well at in the revival of Rangers and is now your boss. What do you make of him and the owners?

Really like the football that Brentford played under Warburton and we are starting to see better football at Forest already. As a manager he knows what he wants, the players respect him and want to play for him and there is definitely a sense of team spirit. He seems a good tactician and wants to entertain. He has also been good at bringing in a few home grown youngsters who are Forest through and through as well as making a few astute signings. Whilst he is not another Clough he seems to have the same core values and believes in “a better way to play football”.

If not covered in that answer, are they the right combination to restore something of the past glories of Forest?

The takeover was a long running affair as it took 2 attempts during which time Marianakis was getting a bit of bad press about allegations of corruption in Greek football. So we were all a bit concerned that we were jumping from frying pan to fire, as Fawaz had been an absolute disaster. But so far they have been doing and saying all the right things. There is a determined effort to look after fans and local businesses a bit better. And at least they know how football works given what they have achieved at Olympiakos (so many foreign owners don’t seem to have a clue about the game). Don’t think we will ever see the European glory days again but the owners, manager and the team on and off the field that they are putting together should see us competing properly in the top division.

Liam Bridcutt was poor for us, Daryl Murphy patchy (though he did score a wonder goal against Wigan). How do you see their Forest careers developing?

Bridcott had barely trained with the squad when he made his only appearance in the last game against Leeds so it’s too early to make a judgement on him. Murphy has been surprisingly impressive. He is strong, holds the ball up well and is scoring. His experience should help the rest of the strike force who are all young players.

And who else will be important to you this season?

Barry McKay looks the buy of the season at £500k from Rangers. He is quick, two footed, has scored a couple of really good goals and can pick out an intelligent pass.

Old Big ‘Ead in his Sun’lan days

You are probably far too young to have seen anything of the great Forest era. Any handed down thoughts on Clough and the team he created?

Watched the ‘Miracle Men’ film by Jonny Owen which was a reminder of what a fabulous team Cloughie built which played some amazing football on mud baths of pitches. Whilst it will never be repeated there are definitely echoes of that era in the current situation. Manager that likes to play on the floor, starting from a low position in the second tier, little right footed Scottish left winger, strong journeyman centre forward etc. etc. Dream on.

What about your own high points as a Forest supporter?

Was too young and too poor to see much of the European years but the highlights for me were the League Cup wins with Pearce, Des Walker, Nigel Clough etc. You can’t beat a day out at Wembley and you bring the cup home.

And the lows?

Relegation to Division 3 and then taking three seasons to get back up.

Best players you’ve seen in your colours or wish you were old enough to have seen?

John Robertson did it all. Stan Collymore was absolutely superb but we only had him for 2 seasons. He could have been the best centre forward England ever had if he had got his head together

Who should have been allowed nowhere near the City Ground?

Justin Fashanu – Clough bought him for £1m from Norwich (a lot of money at the time) after he scored a wonder goal against Liverpool. It turned out to be a fluke!

What are your thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, Simon Grayson?

Have always had a soft spot for Sunderland ever since they rolled over Leeds in 73. Loved it when Roy Keane had success there (ex Forest) and after what I read about the way Niall Quinn was connecting with the fans

Is there anyone in our squad you’d like to see at Forest?

Can’t really comment as I haven’t seen enough of the present team.

Hand on heart, where will our clubs finish this season?

Unfortunately I think Sunderland are going to find it tough and will finish mid-table. I see Forest as pushing for a play-off place but can’t see them in the top two spots.

We’ve already had a rude awakening to life in the Championship. What is your assessment of the difference in quality and style with the Premier League?

I think there has been a big improvement in the standard of football in the Championship in the last few years with some good footballing sides. The division gets more competitive each year and I don’t feel there is a big gap between the top third of the Championship and the bottom third of the Premiership. Look at how small clubs like Bournemouth, Burnley, Southampton have been able to hang in there whilst bigger clubs like Villa and Wolves are struggling to get back.

Will we see as much cheating as happens almost routinely in the top.

Unfortunately yes. Simulation, feigned injury, time wasting and arguing with the ref are just as prevalent.

Best ref, worst ref at this level?

Can’t really comment. All I know is I wouldn’t do it no matter how much they paid me.

JD – Mag slayer
Detail from my tee shirt

Tell us about Art of Football, valued sponsors of Salut! Sunderland competitions and awards.

My two youngest sons Gabe and Luke started the business 4 years ago from their bedroom. (They have 3 older brothers and we all love football.). Gabe is the artist and had the idea whilst watching Aguero score the goal to win the Premier League. He jumped out of his chair with excitement and love for the beautiful game. So Art of Football is about capturing those moments and players that make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Sunderland have a special place for us as their win at Old Trafford in the League Cup semi-final was the first design to really catch on and helped us realise that the business could work. Believe me, we so wanted you to beat Man City in the Final.

One step the authorities should take to improve the lot of the ordinary fan?

Safe standing areas.

Will you be at our game and what will be the score?

I can’t get to the game sadly. Forest have been travelling well but I expect this to be a 1-1 draw.

Finally, a paragraph or two or who you are, what you do, your history of supporting Forest.

My name is David Cuthbert. I am 63 years old and a life long Forest supporter. As mentioned above I have 5 sons and we are all season ticket holders and my grandson now comes as well. My own father wasn’t interested in football and never took me to a game. He missed out because going with my sons is the highlight of the week. COYR

 

The first time ever I saw your team – Nottingham Forest

Pete Sixsmith – pre-weight loss days

John McCormick writes:

Fixtures come thick and fast in the Championship. No sooner have we left our (in my case metaphorical) seats after Sheffield Utd than we’re sitting back down for the arrival of Nottingham Forest.

I have memories of watching Forest play us in the 60s and it’s likely I was at some of the games that Pete Sixsmith also attended. But I’m not sure about this one – I have no memory of ever seeing Harry Hood play. So it was with great interest that I read Pete’s account of this game, wondering if it would reawaken some distant flicker in my mind. It didn’t, although I do remember Churchill’s funeral, but that doesn’t mean it’s not another superb account.

Read moreThe first time ever I saw your team – Nottingham Forest

Cardiff, Ipswich, Forest, Wolves and Sheffield Utd leave Villa, Fulham, Wednesday, Middlesbrough and SAFC standing

Do we know owt about football?

That’s what I asked a couple of years ago, when I was comparing a pre-season poll with end-of season positions. And that’s more or less what the Mrs said  when I showed her the graph I’d done to compare the current championship placings with our readers’ pre-season expectations.

Just as the last time, the expectation is nothing like the reality,  although it must be said that this time around it’s still early days.

 

Read moreCardiff, Ipswich, Forest, Wolves and Sheffield Utd leave Villa, Fulham, Wednesday, Middlesbrough and SAFC standing

Reading at last? Norwich perhaps, or Derby, Leeds, ‘Boro and Sheffield? What’s your fancy?

John McCormick:
John McCormick. Here we go again – but this time it’s different

I was away last week and didn’t log on much, on account of having a temperamental handheld device (a tip – don’t drop your computer onto a tiled surface) and iffy connections courtesy of a not-so-local bar.

But log on I did, twice.

The first time, it was to find three quarters of our readers thought our chances of immediate promotion were scuppered.

On my second log-in Colin’s poll had closed and the number had dropped to 70%. That’s still quite a damning figure.

Me, I’m not so pessimistic.

Read moreReading at last? Norwich perhaps, or Derby, Leeds, ‘Boro and Sheffield? What’s your fancy?

Hillsborough (2): a Sunderland fan in Leppings Lane End as disaster struck

Mick Goulding and son
Mick Goulding and son

We have already heard from Pete Sixsmith how the official approach to football supporters that was reflected when 96 people died at Hillsborough also threatened people attending at a Sunderland game, and how it nearly ended his own teaching career. Now, also discussing the historical context in which the tragedy was handled, Michael Goulding, lifelong Sunderland fan and occasional contributor to these pages, looks back on a day that affected all of us in different ways but especially those who, like him, were there …

Read moreHillsborough (2): a Sunderland fan in Leppings Lane End as disaster struck

Hillsborough: how the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest tragedy epitomised a rotten era

It seems appropriate to make this the briefest of introductions and let Pete Sixsmith speak for himself and for a generation of football supporters treated shamefully by authority …

Read moreHillsborough: how the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest tragedy epitomised a rotten era

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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Behind Enemy Lines: shaky Fulham sink shaky Forest

Jake: 'back to Wembley?'
Jake: ‘back to Wembley?’

Rob Hutchison, our man of single word player assessments took a trip to the north bank of the Thames last night to take in a not so sneak preview of our F.A. Cup opponents. Here’s what he saw – little to fear for a Premier League side he thinks but as we all know too well, Sunderland is no ordinary Premier League side.

When my mate said he had a spare season ticket at Craven Cottage for their league game against Nottingham Forest last night, it struck me as the perfect opportunity to check out the opposition for our forthcoming Cup game on Saturday. So here in a couple of hundred words is a quick resume of what we can expect . . . .

Fulham lined up 4-4-2, with a Mag loving centre back by the name of Hutchinson holding the back line together, Scotty Parker and Ryan Tunnecliffe taking charge of the midfield and Rodallega and £10m danger man Ross McCormack as a front two. Fulham were up to the pace of the game far quicker than Forest, winning all the second balls and carving out dangerous opportunities at will while Forest sat back, seemingly still on the team coach. By the 31st minute they were 3-0 down, courtesy of a stunning Ross MacCormack hat-trick – the first a clean left footed strike from 25 yards. The second was a similar but right footed strike into the left hand corner from 20 yards and his third another right footed effort from a similar distance albeit with a big deflection. The game was over – home and hosed. Bring on Sunderland.

Rob:
Rob:

But it’s never that easy, is it? Although Forest were abject and I mean abject (think Sunderland but double it) schoolboy errors at the back by the home side helped to carve out a couple of opportunities for Forest and they pulled one back on the stroke of half time with a smart Henri Lansbury free kick. Pearce (black suit, brown shoes never a good combination) gambled and moved to 3-5-2 for the second half. The extra man in midfield caught Fulham cold, and they appeared completely unable to keep possession and re-create the silky smooth passing game wich had epitomised the first 45 minutes. Yet more defensive frailties were exploited and Forest deservedly scored a second from another Lansbury effort, again from outside the box. Fulham brought on Bryan Ruiz for Parker, and Cauley Woodrow for the ineffective Rodallega but the red tide kept swarming forward and the home team continued to look very shaky under pressure at the back. Ultimately it wasn’t enough for Forest and Fulham held on to secure a generally deserved win on the night.

So what do we have to deal with on Saturday? Well in a nutshell stop McCormack and you stop Fulham. He can go left or right, shoot at will with either foot from distance and while he doesn’t possess pace, he occasionally drops deep into the hole and can be very difficult to pick up. A midfield enforcer like Cattermole would you’d hope deal with any threats from Parker and Tunnecliffe. We need to come out of the traps and deny Fulham any time on the ball. Under pressure there’s and air of panic in their defence on occasions. They pass the ball neatly and patiently and are happy to build from the back, but there’s also limited pace in their side, so you’d hope Brown and O’Shea (or any of our centre back pairings) could deal with everything in front of them, without the fear of runners exploiting any gaps. No real threat to speak of from the wingers or wing backs, should also give Johnno & Giaccherini (if playing) the chances to weave some magic. It’s made for Van Arnholt and Defoe for me. Play the ball to them in the right areas and hopefully we’ll be OK, but of course it’s never easy with Sunderland.

So I guess to sum up – if Fulham play like they did in the first 45 minutes last night they should be play off certainties. If Forest do the same, Stuart Pearce will be next in line down the job centre.

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