Malcolm Dawson writes….as kick off approached I was enjoying a few excellent pints of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and taking part in a pub quiz less than three miles from Toronto. Meanwhile Bill Taylor, who I don’t think is related to the founder of the Keighley based brewing company (though he might inform me otherwise) was making his way to the BMO Field for last night’s final game of the three match pre-season tour of North America. I went home and watched it on TV via my laptop, as the Toronto I was near to is the one just outside of Bishop Auckland whereas Bill, County Durham born and bred, now lives over there. I could see, even over a dodgy internet connection, the influence that Jozy Altidore has had on his team mates, if Osorio’s glaring miss just before half time is anything to go by! We will be getting a more detailed version of events later from Martin Bates, the latest of our new found correspondents courtesy of SAFC NASA, but we’ll start with some of Bill’s pics and his explanation as to why he has been much missed on the pages of Salut! Sunderland in recent times.
TORONTO FC 1 SUNDERLAND AFC 2
I know what you’re thinking! “Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water… there’s that bugger Bill Taylor again, doing his celebrated impersonation of a bad penny.” Okay, that’s a shark metaphor gone wrong and, don’t worry, I’m not back to stay.
Some of you may remember I took my leave of this site when the appalling (but much-admired at the time, as I recall) neo-fascist Paolo di Canio took over at the SoL. Somehow, even after his departure, my cynicism — mainly at the club’s management structure remained and I stayed away.
As an aside, I’m by no means convinced that Dick Advocaat is the answer to our prayers but I’m still a Mackem through and through. I still follow the team closely, though often despairingly, and I still read Salut! Sunderland. And there was no way I wasn’t going to be front and centre (literally — a TFC season ticket-holder got me seats in the first row right next to the tunnel and close to the visitors’ bench) when the Lads came to Toronto.
Other, more expert, eyes were also at the game and will deliver a longer and more considered verdict.
Me? Apart from Defoe’s two goals and a nice solo effort by Fletcher that didn’t come off, Sunderland were not impressive. Toronto played better football all-round, positionally, controlling the ball, setting up chances. Especially in the first half, they constantly forced Sunderland onto the back foot and confined them to their own half. At times, our lot seemed genuinely surprised to find they had an attack starting and had to scramble to catch up. TFC were unlucky not to win. They scored first and came close to scoring three or four times more. They made a lot of substitutions, perhaps to allow as many of the team as possible to say they’d played against a Premiership side.
I hate to say it, but unless Sunderland really pull their collective socks up, this time next year they really will be a Championship side. There’s a LOT of work to be done.
And come on, lads, two yellow cards in a friendly? Really? Seb Larsson’s, which I saw close up, could easily have turned into a red, the way he argued with the ref.
With Peter (have Railcard will travel) Sixsmith off on one of his public transport jollies, travelling across country and national borders to witness lowly Annan Athletic defeat the might of Greenock Morton in the Ramsdens Trophy, it falls to deputy editor Malcolm Dawson to get up off the subs’ bench, take off his tracksuit and step into Sixer’s shoes to give us his televised take on events in the Far East, whilst the world eagerly awaits the next instalment of Paul (I was there) Goldsmith’s “Hong Kong Diary”.
(Phew! Is that the longest ever sentence in the history of Salut! Sunderland? – Ed)
I have a bone to pick with Craig Gardner. Knowing that the task of reporting on the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy was falling to me, I was hoping our stand in fullback would either score a forty yard free kick or else get himself sent off. You see I had a headline, paying homage to Siouxsie and the Banshees, all worked out. “Hong Kong – Gardner – Oh oh, oh oh oh oh!” but he let me down and I can’t use it now. Having said that the aforementioned player was involved in two heart in the mouth moments but more of that later.
Readers of a nervous disposition will be pleased to learn that yesterday wasn’t one of my volunteering days at the local naturist reserve, so it was a fully clothed me that turned on the TV to catch the last part of the third and fourth place play off match between Tottenham Hotspur and South China. At this point, it was 4-0 to the Londoners and I was thinking “As it’s only a pre-season game and Spurs have a reserve team out, there’ll be no dancing in the streets of Edmonton and Stamford Hill tonight.”
You see what those arrogant tosspots who came on here after we beat the “mighty Lilywhites” failed to realise is that following the mess Martin O’Neill left and after a complete overhaul of the squad, with a raft of signings many of whom we hadn’t even heard of, it was important to Sunderland fans to see how the team gelled and whether Paolo Di Canio’s methods might give us cause to look forward to the season ahead with optimism.
On the evidence of these two games I think we can. The manager obviously wanted to use the tournament effectively and took the games seriously and at this point I will apologise to the less bitter Spurs fans who visited us in the week and could see the bigger picture. All clubs have their share of tosspots.
I left the room and prepared some lunch as Trevor Francis came on, although I did catch him telling a tale about breaking a curfew with Graeme Souness while they were rooming together at Sampdoria. Now there’s a night out I’m glad I missed.
Di Canio started with the same XI that had begun against Spurs so it may be he is thinking this could be his first choice side – at least until we sign some proper full backs. On a pitch so reminiscent of the Baseball Ground in the 1970s I was half expecting Dave Mackay to turn up at anytime, I thought we started brightly enough.
There was plenty of early movement from our boys, some slick passing and both Colback and Wes Brown were pushing high up the pitch when they could. In these early exchanges I thought we looked the team more likely to score. Altidore was looking strong, playing with his back to goal and Adam Johnson looked lively enough.
Sess and Cabral were quiet in these early stages but it’s difficult on TV to get a true sense of just how much they were contributing out of picture. I sensed that Cabral was taking up positions and closing down players so that when City had the ball they looked for other options. Throughout the first half, Cabral would appear in the right place and he looks as if he knows how to pass the ball forward. Like Sess, Giaccherini was taking time to get into the game, but Colback, looking settled at fullback was supporting him well whilst not neglecting his defensive duties.
But it goes without saying that City have a quality squad and their forwards were causing us problems. Dzeko especially looked lively and the goal came just as the Sky Blues were beginning to assert some authority. Wes Brown I thought did well to get in his defensive header as the ball was a bit behind him. Unfortunately for him and Mannone, it only fell to Edin Dzeko who unleashed a cracker of a shot from twenty yards which fizzed past our new keeper, just inside his left hand post giving him no chance. A quality goal from a quality player.
Despite the persistent rain this was a game worthy of two Premier League sides. It was one of those games where at 1-0 I always thought we might get back into it, but where a second goal would take it out of reach. Giaccherini was now taking up some good positions and we were starting to see more of Sess. The two of them combined as the team broke forward and it looked as if we might create a scoring opportunity with a 3 v 3 situation, but the Italian’s touch let him down at the vital second and the chance went begging.
City had a few chances themselves, and the last action of the half saw a free kick lofted into the box but it was dealt with by Craig Gardner who took the unusual option of heading it across goal against the post to avert the danger. This proved to be the last action of the half and the whistle went as the ball was cleared to safety. Lucky escape number one.
Altidore and Cabral, who had been relatively quiet were replaced at half time by Wickham and Ba, giving ourselves and the manager a chance to see what they could do for the team. Westwood, who must have been disappointed not to start, also came on for Mannone. The game was pretty even at the beginning of the second period when John O’Shea announced himself to Negrodo with a powerful leaping challenge from behind leaving the City man spread eagled in the mud on the halfway line, looking for all the world like a tourist at the Dead Sea.
On the hour the left footed David Moberg Karlsson took over Adam Johnson’s spot on the right wing, and Ba was guilty of a needless handball inside the box. Up stepped the Bosnian to get his second from the spot and put the game out of Sunderland’s reach. Except he didn’t and blasted the ball high and wide thus securing himself a spot on You Tube’s collection of the ten worst penalty kicks ever. Let off number two.
Soon afterwards we had a penalty shout of our own when Giaccherini went over, but ref Anthony Taylor got it spot on as the tackle from Kolarov was a good one. And then City broke again. A flat footed John O’Shea allowed Nasri to get behind him and fire his shot beyond Westwood, who had come off his line to force the City player out wide and narrow the angle. This was enough to allow the back tracking Gardner to clear off the line. Narrow escape number three.
Truth be told we rarely looked liked scoring but unlike so many of the games I saw last season, it did look like goal scoring opportunities were only a touch or a pass away. Larsson forced a save from a free kick near the end and Westwood made one and City deserved their win. This could so easily have been a 4-0 defeat, yet there was never that much between the sides. Yes City are a better side. They have a greater depth of quality and will be challenging for the title once again. Yes it is only a pre-season tournament and yes the conditions weren’t great but compare these two games with last year’s outings at Derby and Leicester. I’m doing it again and thinking this year could be our year. Nurse!
See what M Salut made of it at ESPN: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/1845?cc=5739#
Dzeko had a glorious chance to grab a second when City were awarded a penalty for a clear if unnecessary handball by El-Hadi Ba. He placed his kick somewhat higher than row Z and how the overwhelmingly pro-Sunderland Hong Kong crowd laughed and cheered.
[Then] … two Sunderland penalty appeals within three minutes.
Stephane Sessegnon was pushed in the back by City keeper Costel Pantilimon as plainly as Ba had earlier handled the ball at the other end. Referee Anthony Taylor barely looked at it. He was right, however, to wave away louder claims when Aleksandar Kolarov’s excellent tackle defied David Moberg Karlsson
Birflatt Boy sees all the summer transfer activity, with more than a few words of gratitude to a former manager, as a potential pivotal point in Black Cat’s history. The Di Canio revolution he argues, backed by, or more likely galvanised by our American owner, can be the catalyst for a change in the way in which the club, its fans and the world perceive Sunderland Association Football Club.
There’s really only one word to describe the transfer activity at Sunderland this close season, and that’s “breathtaking.” Players seem to be arriving almost on a daily basis. Well, alright, that might be something of an exaggeration but for this summer at least it’s clear that we are able to get a lot of the players we want, when we want. Beneath the headlines which alert us to another new arrival there are probably a good few more that we haven’t quite been able to get to sign, for a host of different reasons. The rumour mill keeps on churning them out, but for once in living memory there does appear to be more than a hint of truth in what we read and hear.
The “comings” and perhaps more importantly the “goings” which naturally receive a lot less attention have been really sweeping. Bramble and Kilgallon were sent packing at the end of their contracts. Elmo’s permanent future has been resolved in a reunion with Cribbins in East Yorkshire. You would have thought that signing this player once would be enough for any manager, even Bruce, but twice, really? Bruce clearly has a conscience, spurred by his failings at Sunderland he seems hell bent on repeating the same failings on Humberside taking Danny Graham on a season long loan. Hull are also being linked with Cattermole and also the B52, although Bruce has been quoted as saying that Mr Bendtner ‘is probably going to cost too much.” That’s not quite a euphemism for “not cheap enough.” Bruce may turn out to be the best manager we ever had managing someone else. Not only is he happy to relieve us of the rubbish he signed for us, but he is happy to take some of the dross acquired by his successor. Long may this continue and we may hope that Graham’s taxi comes straight back for Cattermole, if rumours are to be believed. Dare we hope he returns yet again for McClean? The prospect of that remains a Birflattian dream.
The latest speculation is that a Turkish club have now made a serious offer for the other January acquisition Alfred N’Diaye. West London, and Martin Jol’s Fulham seem contenders to end Phil Bardsley’s stint in rolling around in used bank notes. It’s a disappointing end to a player, who unlike many of his peers never seemed to hide. Not the most gifted of players, he appeared to give his all and was our Player of the Season, not so very long ago. It’s a pity that fact has been forgotten already. Perhaps I am being too charitable about an average footballer who is earning over 30 grand a week. I hope he enjoyed playing with the U21s the other day. (And in a 3-2 win v Darlington at Bishop Auckland yesterday – ed)
Having digressed so completely, from the intention of this article, which was about how “breathtaking” the personnel changes have been, what is most impressive is not only the speed at which dead wood is being cleared, but that the intentions of our management team have been made loud and clear. PDC has wasted no time in marking the cards of players who don’t fit into his plans. There will be more departures in the next few weeks, and quite possibly a few more arrivals. We have never previously signed a current Italian international with two Serie A titles to his name; a player in his prime, yet we have done that. It’s not all down to the manager of course, and without the sheer guile, commitment and conviction of Ellis Short we would be sitting here with O’Neill at the helm and looking forward to trips to Barnsley and Yeovil. There were a significant number of our supporters who were happy to accept our fate, refusing to embrace the required changes back at the end of March. The transfers both in and out over the course of the summer have been rapid and show a real conviction, but it’s really been the behind the scenes events, and the initial recruitment of a well connected scouting team which has made this all possible.
For decade upon decade we have not been taken seriously as a football club, and that has had to change. The persona, the public face and character of Sunderland AFC had to change, and my goodness, has it changed. This is not to say that the season ahead will be without its challenges. There are a lot of new players who are going to have to settle and adjust. The tried and failed methods of old have gone in one fell swoop. The way in which we are perceived by the wider world has changed, and that is long overdue and welcome. That too has been “breathtaking” but perhaps the most significant change is yet to come, and that is in the way that we perceive ourselves and our club. For the first time in most of our lifetimes we look like we are serious about all of this and that’s got to be the most “breathtaking’ of all. We might even stop harping on about 1973.
Football in, politics out. Or is it? Paolo showed his communist side this week after suggestions were made that the players were being made to do everything together, writes Gareth Barker.
For us however, we are firmly focused on the football during this weeks podcast, as most of you will be delighted to hear and it’s part of the build up to the big one – The Tyne Wear Derby.
“The derby, is the derby, it still counts for three points, not six points. But it counts in terms of dignity, honour and pride for 2,000 games” said Paolo Di Canio this week. It feels like 2,000 games since we last won one of these encounters. Can PDC inspire us to a far too rare victory over ‘them up the road’?
An agenda is written every week prior to the recording of the Salut! Sunderland podcast, writes Stephen Goldsmith. It’s not a rigid structure, just something to keep the podcast on track and make it sound like it has some sort of direction to it.
There have been a few problems in acquiring the desired guests since the podcast’s launch around five weeks ago.
Considering the infancy of the project, having former players, football journalists and fanzine editors get involved makes it all feel worthwhile. We set the standards high in that aspect and are happy with the early results; next season could see things elevated even further given the chance.