Another international weekend with Sunderland players called up. You might wonder how, given that we’re a League One club and we can barely score, never mind keep a clean sheet. But let’s be thankful for small mercies, not only does it give the players a weekend without conceding, it also gives me a chance to bring us up to date before Pete Sixsmith starts a new series (I won’t tell you what it is but I will assure you of its quality) that will take us to Christmas and the site’s wind-down.
For my part, I’ll be keeping things brief. I still have neuropathy following my treatment (follow the link to find out what I’m on about) and it’s likely to last a lot longer. Typing isn’t easy and creating and manipulating graphs takes forever, which explains why this lot aren’t a uniform size.
Still, things could be worse, I’ve now had two all-clear blood tests and we are still within spitting distance of the playoffs, as you will see below:
Another weekend without football, another weekend providing space to keep our readers – and pundits – up to date with our chosen clubs. If you think as far back as the start of the season you’ll probably recall six clubs being selected by our readership as the most likely to finish in the top six slots come the end of the season.
Sunderland made the cut but would have been selected regardless. The other five clubs were Ipswich Town, Rotherham, Peterborough Portsmouth and Doncaster. Ipswich apart, they haven’t done as well as expected. In fact, they haven’t done as well as Sunderland who, as the first two graphs show, haven’t done as well as they did last season
HThe hardest bit is trying to enter the mindset of a professional footballer who, during a meaningless touchline tangle after his team has taken an unassailable 3-0 lead, receives no contact to his face but goes down clutching it as if someone has just whacked him with a sideways blow from a sledgehammer.
Luke O’Nien has been cleared by the FA disciplinary bods of committing the imaginary offence for which Peterborough United’s Ivan Toney managed to have him sent off. I do not know whether Toney has form for this kind of simulation but if he has a shred of dignity and decency, he should apologise now.
If the Chronicle’s excellent James Hunter is right, Toney could even say sorry without worrying about further inconvenience. You and I might think he should now be starting a two-match ban; James thinks his luck will hold out:
It looks like he’s got away with it. Last season, when there was a similar incident in the Leeds v Villa game, the appeal result was announced at the same time as the deception charge. No mention of Toney being charged this time
— James Hunter (@JHunterChron) September 3, 2019
John McCormick, writes: our ‘who to follow’ poll remained quiet, although the trickle of votes that came in over the last week did result in some changes. Sunderland and Portsmouth are clear leaders, with not much between them, after which we have Ipswich, Rotherham and Peterborough. Then come Doncaster, who edged ahead of Coventry, followed at a distance by Lincoln and Burton.
I did expect Blackpool to do better but our site appears to have attracted few of their fans. Their season tickets had reached 4,818, when I last checked, so there’s obviously life returning to this once-troubled club. That’s about twice the number sold by Coventry, whose own troubles are nowhere being resolved and who slipped out of our top six after Doncaster Rovers gained a few votes. A third troubled club, Bolton Wanderers, who might or might not be sold by the time this post goes live, also didn’t do too badly and finished in the top half of the table. I don’t know how they’ll do that with only 7 first team players but what do I know about football?
This will be my last visit to our “ones to watch* series before the end of the season.
You’ll have to judge for yourself whether or not our readership, ably assisted by the Coventry Ninjas**, got it right at the beginning. For my part, with three of the five – Portsmouth, Charlton and Barnsley – fighting for second place and another two still with a chance of the playoffs I’m inclined to think they didn’t do too badly.
The problem is that the sixth club is Sunderland, and that’s who they are all fighting with.
Another international break brings an opportunity to revisit the six clubs our readers* and the Coventry ninjas** chose way back in the summer, and I’ve added Doncaster and Luton Town, who thoroughly merit more than a mention.
I last visited this series at the end of January, when I had this to say:
“… before I go I must mention Coventry City. They will finish the month with only four points from a possible fifteen. February includes some winnable games but I can’t see them doing us any favours when they travel to Kenilworth Road. Mid-table safety looks to be their destiny and I’m almost certain they won’t be returning to this series.
But you never know, do you? That’s what football’s all about.”
Regular readers will know that the Salut team make occasional appearances in the official matchday programme. Recent visitors will know that my last contribution came at the end of 2018, when I wrote about my take on the year before the Shrewsbury game.
However, that piece only came about after Sunderland had to fit in an extra cup game following our draw at Walsall.
I was originally asked to do something for the Bristol Rovers programme, with a focus on League One’s promotion challengers over the Christmas/New Year period. The extra game forced a change to the timetable and then other events took over, with the result that the piece I duly sent off never made it into print.
With a break this weekend it’s time to revisit our “Ones to watch”.
If you’ve been following this series you’ll remember that we’re tracking six clubs over the course of the season. The six were chosen by a people’s vote, that new tool of democracy, with the club which came top of the poll – Coventry City – also providing a baseline against which the other five will be compared.
If you’re wondering how Coventry came to be chosen click the hyperlinks at the bottom of the page. (And if you want to see how I’ve followed our selected teams in previous seasons you can follow this link ).
Martin O’Neill is satisfied, in the end, with a comfortable win at London Road and progress to the next round of the FA Cup. And in his post-match e-mail, the boss makes special mention of the blossoming talent of James McClean …