The Lars Word: six things Big Sam has brought to Sunderland

Lars Knutsen - Wearside through and through
Lars Knutsen – Wearside through and through

Malcolm Dawson writes…….Lars Knutsen might sound as if he was brought up on gravadlax and smorgasbord but with his East Boldon roots he is more of a corned beef and potato pie or stotty cake kind of guy. Having said that he now spends time working in the US but will soon be back in the UK to take in a few games and see extended family. Kudos to him for predicting Sam’s arrival at the club in his last column. Here is the latest of his occasional observations of what’s going on at the Stadium of Light in which he reflects on the impact that Big Sam Allardyce has brought to Wearside.

Lars Knutsen touching base
Lars Knutsen touching base

So where are we now as a football club?

Big Sam has been appointed to stabilise matters and has already given us a fighting chance of avoiding the drop. There is still a long way to go, and it has been tough for him in many ways; coming in, hitting the ground running and having to instantly assess the players at his disposal, make an impression with the media, and to settle into his new rôle.

I will say he already seems to have won the respect of everybody, aside from a couple of miserable, headline-seeking Daily Mail journalists. It is of course on the field where he will be judged, and winning two games in a row has changed the whole complexion of the season. Allardyce seems like a man who is now in the perfect job for him and his personality, in the right place at the right time.

I do feel a certain level of satisfaction having predicted Sam Allardyce being hired into the club. I quote from my last “The Lars Word” piece in June of this year:

“So we are now looking forward to 2015-16 in the hope that the “Advocaat effect” is extended into the new season and next year, with future transition to another experienced manager who can bring consistent success to the Stadium of Light. That choice will be absolutely crucial, and my vote would be for our former player Sam Allardyce, after his planned sabbatical. ”

The “Advocaat Effect” just did not materialise in the current season for a whole series of reasons, which I will not speculate about at this time. The Dutchman, who we will always be grateful to, stepped aside without requesting a payoff, and Ellis Short approached “the outstanding candidate”, who jumped at the chance of moving north.

Despite the intensity of performance seen in recent games, Allardyce’s first few weeks with the Black Cats has not been straightforward. The initial loss at West Brom. did not sit well, and although the win over Newcastle was a true high point, it was very necessary as our first win of the season.

At Everton, it became clear that Big Sam needed to work harder at cutting out individual errors. I would prefer not to dwell on that performance, and that dreadful spell of seven minutes when three goals were conceded. But oddly there were in some ways more signs of encouragement in that game than the tame and defensively naïve 4-2 defeat at Leicester on the opening day.

One positive from Everton was the impression made by Duncan Watmore. The team started well but Brown and Coates played like strangers, so the defence was not convincing, and to be honest, Everton were terrific.

Impact player or ready to start?
Impact player or ready to start?

However, it soon became clear that some lessons had been learnt. A robust performance at home to Southampton followed, which ended in a self-inflicted 1-0 home defeat through a penalty. Another individual error cost us against the classy south coast side.

It was in Allardyce’s fifth game in charge that we finally started looking like a true “Big Sam” side. We were fearless and actually quite dominant at Selhurst Park against what has become a resurgent Palace team. He emphasised after that game that clean sheets are the key to the club’s progress away from the relegation zone.

We cannot win games though without effective strikers, and looking at the Premiership scoring charts we have Fletcher and Defoe on four goals. That puts them both level with Raheem Sterling, Juan Mata and Christian Benteke. Then we have the wonderful emerging talent that is Duncan Watmore on three goals, despite his limited playing time this season. He is still on a par though with Martial, Costa and Berahino.

So what have we learned so far about Sam Allardyce?

Jake capture's Big Sam
Jake captures Big Sam

1. He is passionate about the club.
His body language and obvious pride at recent performances shows that his heart is in the club. As a former Sunderland player he knows about the fanatical support that can sell out the away end at Selhurst Park on a weeknight, even after a terrible run of one win in in 14 games. Sam understands how the passion of the fans can drive the team forward.

2. He coaches players individually and gives all of them a chance to impress.
A number of players who were under performing such as Van Arnholt, Kaboul, Yedlin, Coates and Jones have now stepped up a level. Sam has given them all confidence by good man management and working to a thought-out defensive system.

3. He plays with the cards he has been dealt.
Sam had studied the record of the team in the 2014-15 season and knew that we had a strong defence, which ultimately kept us in the division. So that has been his initial focus, using the current players to provide a system. Cattermole is the perfect Allardyce type of player and as usual, when Catts plays well the team plays well as in the last two games. It is no coincidence that the team fell apart once he came off at Goodison Park.

4. There is no hangover from his time at Newcastle.
Buoyed by his relative success at West Ham, it appears that any post-traumatic stress after a brief tenure at St. James’ Park has evaporated. He is safely south of the Tyne and only needs to go there once a year, for this season at least. Next season is open to question after the Magpies’ 1-5 collapse at Palace last weekend, and Shearer may again have to stray onto Wearside and come to the Stadium of Light to see Premiership football.

5. He shows great attention to detail.
Unlike in many other games this season, the players obviously knew their rôles and exactly what was expected of them. To enter each match with a game plan is absolutely crucial. We could see from his face that he was in despair from the loss of the shape of the team at Goodison Park. Fabio Borini has compared new Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce to former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian striker has been impressed by the former West Ham manager’s attention to detail. “It’s something that you notice because the details always make the difference,” said the 24-year old, in quotes published by the Shields Gazette. “I found out with Ancelotti and the big managers that they were caring about every single thing from set plays to throw-ins…that’s what the manager has been doing here since day one.”

6. He is the Manager of our football club, and not the Head Coach.
This fact is illustrated in an extract from the recent Football Focus interview at the Academy of Light, with Alan Shearer:
Allardyce: “I’m not a head coach, I’m a manager, and that’s a good start. You know me, I have to manage the club.”
Shearer: “So if any player comes in to this football club it’s because you want him?”
Allardyce: “Yes that’s right, absolutely…“I say to the player, we’ll support you, we will give you as much as we possibly can to help you go on the field and perform to your level, but make sure you perform to your level because otherwise you’re going to be left out of the team no matter who you are.”

So it is prediction time again. And readers may feel that I am too euphoric after the dizzy heights of the two back to back wins, but I predict that Sunderland will be clear of relegation by the evening of the birthday of Queen Margrethe of Denmark, which is after the away game at Norwich on April 16th, 2016. That will guarantee a less “exciting” end to the season, and will take a monumental effort from everyone at our beloved football club, but I do reckon on recent evidence that we have it in us to achieve that.

SA’s essay: Sam’s Happy, we’re happy. Out of the bottom three

Jake's take on Big Sam
Jake’s take on Big Sam

John McCormick writes: Ed posted on facebook that he was dressed for winter before he headed off for his normal berth in the North Stand. Why shouldn’t he feel the cold, given that there has been a chill wind blowing for so long that I can feel it as far south as Liverpool.

But after Monday, and then this weekend, perhaps he won’t feel so frozen out. The players certainly shouldn’t as they have exited the bottom three and are now in the land of the living.

Can they stay there? Let’s see what our manager thinks, in a post-match e-mail sent exclusively to M Salut and maybe one or two others.

Dear Colin,

I think that result is the perfect finish to a big week for us; a win on Monday night and then another win today is as a result of all of the hard work we’ve put in.

There’s belief in the players and that’s now showing on the pitch and hopefully that gives everyone the confidence to know that we’re all pulling together in the right direction.

For me, this week has left me feeling really satisfied with what I’ve seen from the players.

Bright start and his first cigar
A good hour capped by his first Premiership goal

Two back-to-back victories and then two pieces of outstanding quality to win the game today from Patrick van Aanholt and Duncan Watmore.

Our aim is to pick up more and more points and climb up the table as quickly as we can and hopefully we can continue to do that.

Thanks for your support,

Sam Allardyce

Sixer’s Sevens: Sunderland 2 Stoke City 0. Thrilling PVA and Watmore clinchers

Jake: catch Sixer's instant seven-word verdicts throughout the season
Jake: catch Sixer’s instant seven-word verdicts throughout the season

Monsieur Salut writes: we’ve been as critical as any others of Patrick van Aanholt this season. So let’s hear it for him after his second fine game in six days was capped by a matchwinning performance. His superb strike put us ahead and then, to Pete Sixmsith‘s delight, Duncan Watmore’s enthusiasm and appetite was rewarded with a brilliantly taken second to wrap up invaluable points.

Yes, the game changed with the dismissal early in the second half of Ryan Shawcross, lauded here in the Stoke City ‘Who are You?’ as the epitome of fair play, even the Premier’s “best defensive centre back”. But whose fault was that? He committed two clear yellow-card fouls on Watmore in the first half but was booked only once (mainly because Watmore sprinted away from the first illegal challenge instead of going down theatrically). The challenge that got him sent off was arguably not a foul, certainly – in my view – not worthy of a yellow card. But he’d ridden his luck and that luck ran out. Ultimately a terrific win and how important. Come back in due course for Sixer’s full assessment …

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Sunderland 2 Stoke City 0. Thrilling PVA and Watmore clinchers

Sixer’s grumpy old Man Utd Soapbox

Malcolm Dawson writes…..Peter Sixsmith, as always, sent us his version of events at the Theatre of Dreams promptly this morning, but M. Salut and I were both too tied up to get to it before now. Not tied up in a “Fifty Shades of Grey” way I hasten to add, although fifty shades of grey might describe our state of mind when thinking about our current league position. As Pete said in his e-mail “bright day here – but not inside my head.” I am usually more optimistic than Sixer when it comes to our survival chances but, like him, I am already thinking that this season is just about sorted. Of course should we do the unthinkable and get three points next weekend my glass will be half full again instead of nearly empty, but all I am seeing at the moment is a few bits of sediment swilling around in the dregs of the pint that I drank because I’d paid for it, but didn’t really enjoy. 

Pete Sixsmith climbs aboard the Soapbox
Pete Sixsmith climbs aboard the Soapbox


Manchester is a city renowned for grumblers. Albert Tatlock grumbled his way through a million episodes of Coronation Street. Morrissey and The Smiths chuntered on through copious albums and if there were a prize for the most lugubrious man in English history it would probably go to Les Dawson, a native of Collyhurst (and no relation! MD).

However, there are things in the city that defy a continuous grumble. Joseph Holt’s splendid beers (a fine pint of Mild in The Ape and Apple), a tram system that is reminiscent of any European city and a radical history second to none in this green and pleasant land, make Manchester a city that its inhabitants should be rightly proud of. And they are probably the epicentre of English football at the moment. But it is city’s two senior clubs who epitomise all the problems that are bubbling away under the surface in English football. City, having walloped us 4-1 on Tuesday, went and lost by the same score at a resurgent Spurs. United, a club where grumbling has become a way of life along with applause but little actual crowd passion, took their place at the top of the league as they swatted us away without ever raising a canter, never mind a gallop.

This was probably the most dispiriting performance so far. Those last two words indicate that there will be worse to come and this performance suggested something similar to the 2005-06 season. At no stage in the game did we ever look like fully competing with the Old Trafford outfit; there were no genuine chances to score and that United had to wait until added time in the first half to open their account was due more to hard, solid graft than inspired defending. Once the mask slipped and we went a goal down, the support might have well sat down and read the paper or played on their phones as there was no chance whatsoever of an equaliser (not even a “shock” one) as they doubled their lead within two minutes of the restart. Game over. United top of the league and the crowd went back to dozing gently in the pleasant Mancunian sun.

Our support tried to rouse them and we (support rather than players) mightily impressed the Manchester United fan sat next to me. Richard from Prestatyn (although he was from “Norn Iron”) had bought a ticket that one of our party had passed on to a gentleman who, in a supreme act of kindness, had promised to recycle it to a deserving case. That was Richard. He was sat there when I took my uncomfortable and cramped seat at 2.00p.m. We talked prior to the game and exchanged views on each other’s clubs. I suggested that he sit on his hands if and when United scored and in the unlikely prospect of us netting, to join in however unwillingly. He followed the first while the second suggestion was redundant.

He thought we were well organised in the first half. I agreed. He liked O’Shea. I agreed. He identified that Kaboul gave the ball away too much. I agreed. We both admired the role that a sensible and committed Cattermole filled in front of the back four. Neither of us fully trusted the full backs with Jones being the weaker of the two and we were both exasperated by Johnson as he failed to realise that we are (allegedly) a more forward looking side than we were under O’Neill and Poyet. He kept turning back with the ball and getting into trouble with it. Off he went at half time
But there was precious little to make Richard think that here was a side settling in under its new manager and looking likely to pull away from the dead zone to rise to the relative comfort of fifteenth. To do that the defenders need to concentrate all of the time and not throw away goals like the ones that Depay and Rooney scored. All three of them came down our left flank and they had clearly identified Van Aanholt as the weak link. Like all good sides they ruthlessly exploited it.

My dictionary says that “dispiriting” means disheartening, discouraging. I wonder if Advocaat feels like this. He clearly has the players with him and they worked hard. But individual and collective errors consistently set us back. Does a 69 year old with no relegation on his CV really want to spend a year with players who cannot work to the high standards that he has set throughout his career? How he must envy his chum Van Gaal who has a squad of players who are dripping in talent and who may win the league. They are ok at the back, although Richard was not convinced by Phil Jones and predicted a goal for Sunderland when he came on – poor misguided fool. In Martial, quiet until he set up the second goal, Depay , full of enthusiasm and a star in the making and far keener to track back than an increasingly isolated Jeremaine Lens and the always impressive if ageing Carrick, they are not far off being the finished article.

But there is no passion in the stadium. Many of those sat there are tourists from all corners of the world who buy into the United brand but who have no concept of what it is like to follow a club through thick and thin. I don’t recollect many Japanese or Norwegians at that epic game in 1974 when we were robbed 3-2; most of the accents that day were the harsh, rasping Mancunian one rather than Scots, Irish or Aussie.

So, we move on. West Ham next week, a team who can’t win at home (like us) and can’t lose away (unlike us). I fear that another dispiriting, disheartening and discouraging defeat may push Dick over the edge. It might do the same for me. And then there will be grumbling.

And if that’s not enough you can read M. Salut’s ESPN blog here.


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Sixer’s Southampton Soapbox: top performances from Jordi and a Geordie

Jake says "Something to celebrate."
Jake says “Something to celebrate.”
Malcolm Dawson writes….Recent victories for Leicester and Hull Cities, West Brom and Aston Villa see Sunderland still in the bottom three. It is becoming increasingly likely that it could be the free falling Magpies who will be the target if we are to avoid demotion to the Football League. Yesterday’s game versus Southampton was the latest in a series of “must win” home games but the difference this time was that we actually won. A win against Leicester in the final game of the season at the Stadium of Light might be enough but if we need more than three points then the remaining away matches offer little in the way of optimism. But as last season showed, funny things happen at the back end of the season. With a game in hand you could say the players of SAFC can still determine which division the club plays in next season but we have by far the hardest run in of the clubs in danger of the drop. Pete Sixsmith still clings on to the belief we can stay up but that optimism is balanced with the realism that it will still be tough as his report of yesterday’s proceedings shows.



Is it a case of too little, too late or is it the beginning of The Great Escape III? Will we pick up wins against Everton and Leicester to give us what should be a secure 39 points or will we fall at the last hurdle at Stamford Bridge in three weeks’ time? Will our Friends from the North continue to implode with the force of a dark star having a particularly bad day or will they scrape the points that they need to welcome their new Head Coach as a Premier League side?

Well, that’s a few rhetorical questions and here are some more. Has anyone seen a cooler pair of penalties than those taken by Jordi Gomez yesterday? Why has no previous manager/coach been able to coax a performance like that out of Danny Graham? And how did the man sat next to me manage to eat a pie while texting at the same time?

But let’s not carried away. Although it was an important win it wasn’t a scintillating display of classy football that tore the opposition to shreds. Nor did we ever look comfortable – competent yes, but comfortable, no. What we did do was play solidly, avoid a series of catastrophic errors and get into the opposition’s box a number of times. And that is what we need to do for the four final gut wrenching games that we have left.

Both penalties were correctly awarded by Mike Jones. I thought the first one a bit soft from my lofty perch, but television showed that Fonte had no need to lift his leg and he did bring down Graham, who was ahead of him. No red card was also a correct decision.
The second one was the result of a superb ball by Cattermole, a splendid chase and cross by Graham and a needless second touch by Defoe before Ward-Prowse clattered into him. Penalty yes, red card probably not – although it galvanised a torpid Saints side into actually stirring themselves and playing some football.

In between the penalties, we had played with some tempo and urgency and had shown that when we play to the strengths of the players that we have, rather than expecting players to fit into a rigid tactical plan, we aren’t quite as bad as the league position has indicated. The back four is still prone to drop the odd clanger and I don’t see that changing. To gift Southampton an equaliser within ninety seconds of going ahead was one example. The lack of communication between Pantilimon and Coates was on a par of that between Basil Fawlty and Mrs Richards as the Giant dropped the ball allowing the tetchy Mende to equalise.

Jake says "Buen hombre - Senor Cool!"
Jake says “Buen hombre – Senor Cool!”

There were other first half chances with Connor Wickham ending as good a move as we have put together all season by leaning back and putting it over the bar.

The changes that Advocaat made were simple and effective. Three forwards who were prepared to work and work, with Graham used as a battering ram to unsettle the Saints defenders. Wickham played wide left and Defoe tucked in, often appearing to be an extra midfield player. All three made a massive contribution to a vital win and I expect to see the same three lining up at Goodison next week.

In midfield, Larsson returned for the perpetually disappointing Rodwell and had a typical Larsson game with lots of running, prodigious energy and the odd really sharp and incisive pass. Alongside him Cattermole played effectively particularly in the second half, playing a sublime pass for Graham to run on to for what turned out to be the second and winning penner. The two full backs looked sound rather than solid, although that was a huge improvement on the previous home game. Jones gets forward well – although not as much as the BBC Football site suggests (they confused him with Graham for the first penalty) and Van Aanholt is a good outlet and his defending looked better.

O’Shea was concussed in the first half and went off allowing Vergini to make amends for his spectacular O.G. at St Mary’s. The disappointingly low turn-out of Saints fans demanded that he “shoot” every time he got the ball but he failed to oblige. I say disappointingly low, because if we were challenging for a Europa League place, our allocation would have been oversubscribed – theirs was considerably under subscribed.

Coates did well and showed that a good, solid stopper in the middle of the back four can make a difference. Take away the clattering into Pantilimon and the dreadful sideways pass to the newly arrived Djuricic and he looked decent. He stuck to his task and it will be interesting to see how he faces up to the likes of Lukaku, Vardy, Giroud and Costa in the remaining games.

Pantilimon held up his giant hands for the equaliser and then used them to tremendous effect to keep out a shot from Steven Davies in the 93rd minute and secure a vital win for us. He was feted as a hero by his colleagues and the crowd and he may well have other miracles to perform between now and May 23rd.

Should we start sounding more optimistic?

[polldaddy poll=8818549]

And now for a quick expansion of the poll to find out who Salut! Sunderland readers (who, don’t forget, may well again include supporters of the other six clubs) think will go down.

It does not need a tactical genius to dig out wins in the Premier League – Mark Hughes, Tony Pulis and Gary Monk have shown that. All three of them have produced sides who know exactly what they are supposed to do and do it without fancy plans for playing like Real Madrid or Chelsea. They are pragmatists while we have employed dreamers in Di Canio and Poyet. Now, with a pragmatist at the helm, we have given ourselves a chance of swapping Chelsea for Charlton and Liverpool for Leeds (and possibly both Manchester’s for Middlesbrough) but it is only a chance. Two wins and a draw would give us the required 40 points and would probably see us safe but seeing as we have not managed back to back wins all season, the chances are not great. Four more draws would probably not be enough – although Newcastle are in desperate straits at the moment.

As usual, it’s the hope I can’t stand.

Read M Salut’s take on event on his ESPN blog here!

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

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Fulham v SAFC – The Chapman Report: no disaster in Titanic fixture

SBOXFULHAM (2)Malcolm Dawson writes…..For this and the next few weeks a few lucky adolescents on North Teeside are the beneficiaries of Peter Sixsmith‘s years of experience of teaching History in his idiosyncratic style. “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?” (Click here to put into context!)

And here for the whole thing!

He wasn’t there at Craven Cottage but he kept up with events via Benno and Barnes and numerous texts from those who were, thus flummoxing John McCormick with his customary Seven. But you can’t do a match report second hand and so it is the fine figure of Bob Chapman stepping into the breach and onto the soapbox to bring us his take on the events from a chilly West London. Bob had to do a day’s work today but here is his view of Tuesday night’s win.

Robert Chapman on the soapbox from Craven Cottage
Robert Chapman on the soapbox from Craven Cottage


Working in Bedford, I am in the fortunate position that I can travel to watch Sunderland during the working week. With a speedy escape from school, out of the door even before the kids have their coats on, I can get to most grounds in the country ready for an evening kick-off. I even made it to Exeter for a League Cup match 25 years ago, although that would be impossible today with the state of the current motorways.

So getting to Fulham on a Tuesday evening posed no problem whatsoever. I didn’t need to be first out of the door and even had time to set my year 7 class their homework on the science of icebergs and their role in the sinking of the Titanic. (Bet that went down well! MD)

Picking Mick up round the corner we headed for Bedford station for the train to St. Pancras. By the time some of my students would have arrived home, we were both sat down in The White Horse on Parsons Green. I invariably drink in this pub for both Fulham and Chelsea matches as it has its own micro-brewery and serves a good selection of guest beers. I decided on a pint of First Class made by the Titanic Brewery. (Bet that went down well! MD)

Mick had an obscure lager and we found ourselves without any change out of a tenner! London is a different world. With the amount of money they are charging it’s no wonder that this pub can afford to have patio heaters on full blast at 5.30 on a freezing cold winter’s evening and nobody sat outside. We had a couple of pints and discussed, because of the expense, whether it would be appropriate for a couple of middle aged men to get involved in an old student activity and in Mick’s case an army activity of ‘minesweeping’. I suppose it’s technically not legal but neither of us like seeing beer wasted! We decided against and left – back towards the underground station, past an estate agent with flats to rent from £3000 per week. London is a different world!

With a couple of pints of Titanic inside, a full moon and a cold northerly wind, I was hoping that we were not going to be hit by an iceberg and an exit from the cup. Although the match at the SOL had been awful I was confident that we would get a result tonight and I was even more convinced when a really strong attacking side had been selected, with Defoe and Wickham upfront supported by Giaccherini and Alvarez. Like the majority I was surprised to see Fletcher appear rather than Wickham. I like both of them. They both have good technique but are very different players. Gus will have to make difficult choices as to who plays up top with Defoe.

Walking up from Putney Bridge station it was evident that there was going to be a good turnout. The only disappointment being the “Steven Taylor” chants that you hear at every away match. A steward told me inside that they were expecting up to 4000 and that he liked us because we are never any trouble.

Jake says: Phew - We're through!
Jake says: Phew – We’re through!

The game started and within 30 seconds Alvarez had made a strong tracking back run, to alleviate Fulham’s opening gambit. I thought to myself, that Poyet must have told him that if he is to play regularly he would have to improve the defensive side of his game. This was a good sign and from the start we began to dominate the game. I lost count of the number of corners we had in the first 20 minutes and was beginning to think that just like the Titanic we were unsinkable and it was just a matter of time before we scored. Then in 28th minute, against the run of play we hit that iceberg! A McCormack corner caused a scramble in the box and Rodallega put it away off the crossbar. They didn’t deserve it to be honest, but you have to defend properly if you are going to win games.

However, the usual post conceding goal slump didn’t materialise and we continued to dominate. We were playing really well as a team and our quietest player was Defoe. Giaccherini, Alvarez, Van Aanholt were all having good games, causing all sorts of problems down the flanks for Fulham. However there was no breakthrough and I was beginning to worry at half time. That continued into the second half and I began to really worry when PvA missed an easy chance early on.

With a lingering depression beginning to kick in at the thought of meeting up with a Fulham supporting A level student next day at school, Fulham hit the iceberg! Bettinelli had the easiest of tasks collecting a high loose ball, but allowed it to slip from his grasp and it went over the line. With goals like that you always assume that there must have been something dodgy and double check with yourself before celebrating. Even at my age I don’t want to look a fool!

Nothing to worry about and it was game on for the win. Alvarez had been outstanding throughout the match.

Jake: 'you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind'
Jake: ‘you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind’
Even though the Fulham players were doubling up on him they couldn’t contain him as he demonstrated his international class. With 15 minutes to go he cut in from the right wing beating players and unleashed a shot that flew into the net. A goal of real quality and let’s hope one of many to come. He has the potential to change our season, just like Borini did last year. Remember, Borini couldn’t get a regular start, just like Alvarez, when he first arrived.

Another plus has to be the form of Danny Graham. He seems sharp and has done well in all the substitute appearances he has made. He made a good run in the final minute to win the penalty which finally sealed the game. So with the game won and not feeling the cold it was a pleasant walk back to Putney Bridge station. It was great to hear the chant changed from one about Steven Taylor to that of “Cheesy Chips down Wembley Way!”