Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: Marshalling his thoughts from the Reading draw

With both Pete Sixsmith and his normal stand in Bob Chapman both electing to give this game a miss we welcome a new contributor to the ranks of Salut! Sunderland and a fine job he does too. John Marshall is from North of the Tyne and like many children of the North East, moved away from the region to find fame and fortune, but whilst that river is sometimes seen as a dividing line between red and white and black and white hinterland, just as many sons and daughters of County Durham have gone over to the dark side, John saw the light at an early age and has been red and white ever since.

He did in fact spend some time in the Royal County and returned there yesterday to see a spirited performance and a fighting draw marred by a couple of defensive lapses of the type that we have seen all season to leave us 24th out of 24 with time running out.

Over to John……

Sixer’s soapbox sees another new occupant.

It is indeed a rare event when Pete Sixsmith and Bob Chapman both miss a Sunderland game, so it was an unexpected pleasure to be invited to do this report. A big task though, as both are excellent writers, while my journalistic experience is limited to articles in the school magazine – so a bit like David Corner stepping in for Todd and Watson, but hopefully without his mistakes.

A brief intro to myself; despite being born in mid Northumberland, I chose in 1964 to decline the Mags and to follow the Black Cats, going to my first game at Roker during the 66 World Cup. I met Bob in Sheffield in 1973, and have steadily migrated further away from the North East ever since, and have been ensconced in north Somerset for the past 20 years. This means I only get to 5-10 games per season, with my appearance determined by where , when and whether I can get a ticket.

This is only my fifth game this season (and my last thanks to Sky), in a town I am very familiar with, having lived, worked and married in Reading; I was there for four years in the early 90s and was an occasional visitor to Elm Park and the Madejski. We haven’t played them much in the past and like the town, games I have seen have been good and bad, with a couple of wins and a 4-0 thrashing under Reid. Remarkably, after that game we went unbeaten in 16 and reached the playoffs, while Reading went down.

It being a weekend, trains for Bristol were disrupted and after a longer journey than usual though rural Wiltshire, I arrived in a very sunny Reading and settled into a nice pint of pale ale in the Greyfriar, a Camra listed craft beer pub close to the station. It’s always good to meet up with friends pre-match and I was soon joined by Mick, Bob’s Bedford-based cohort, Spenna, and Pete, my Cardiff supporting mate, who was in a more buoyant mood than the rest of us.

And so to the match.

       Paddy McNair back and on the scoresheet

I didn’t have great expectations. Both sides have similar records in terms of goals scored and lots conceded and that they are struggling but ahead of us down to their ability to hold on to win games. They had in fact won the last two home games 1-0, after replacing their manager. We lined up without skipper John O’Shea, replaced by Wilson, with returns for Oviedo and McNair and a surprise start for McManaman.

The atmosphere inside the ground was deafeningly quiet and it was all a bit like a gentle pre-season in the sun. We looked untroubled but not too threatening ourselves, while they settled and waited for our inevitable mistake. Camp gave us three – firstly a shanked kick out straight to their midfield, then spilling the ensuing tame shot before finally grabbing the legs of Bodvarsson instead of the ball. Clear penalty and 1-0.

We responded positively, Fletcher, who had a good game, shot across goal against the post, and McManaman’s follow up effort was headed off the line. But we were still one down at half time.

Back when he was one of ours.

Don Vito Mannone got a warm welcome but was soon soundly beaten by a screamer from McNair. He and an excellent Cattermole were controlling the game now and we deserved to go in front when Catts got his head to a McGeady free kick. Fletcher spurned a couple of chances as well, while McGready was causing problems on the left.

With 15 minutes to go Reading brought on the veteran Kermorgant and a couple of minutes later he got above Love to head past the hapless Camp.

The last 10 minutes were frantic, both sides having good chances with both keepers making crucial saves and several corners, but no more goals. Overall this was a decent team effort, with good performances from most players but a point which would have been appreciated in August is too little to prevent the inevitable now.

In my five games I’ve seen a real mix of performances. We’ve rolled over at Cardiff, fought back at Bristol and looked uninterested at QPR. We are poor, but so are lot of other teams in this division. We should not be in this mess and as Reading showed, a competent goalkeeper and experienced strikers can just about keep you safe.

Ha’way the Lads – see you in League 1.

If there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions on the images used to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested.

Reading vs SAFC Who are You?: dark magic

This is not our Who are You? interviewee

Salut! Sunderland is not too keen on anonymous Who are You?s. It seems bizarre to insist on being a nameless supporter but we must respect all choices, especially when we’re the ones asking for favours. Rarely, we grant @TalkReading* that anonymity (but then the alternative was not to have a Reading (a) Who are You?). His/her explanation? ‘@TalkRaeding is completely anonymous on Twitter (keeps the magic going!) hope that is okay with you – would still love to help. The replies are good all the same …

Read moreReading vs SAFC Who are You?: dark magic

Reading vs SAFC Guess the Score: the clock ticking down

Guess the Reading-SAFC score and you could win a mug – whoever you support

Monsieur Salut writes: by the time you read this, I’ll be on holiday and trying very hard not to think about football …

We have an oddly anonymous Reading Who are You? still to come – maybe they’re all recluses in the Thames Valley – and the result, as I write before the Leeds game, is unlikely to matter a huge amount to us.

Read moreReading vs SAFC Guess the Score: the clock ticking down

A champion Championship series: the first time Sixer saw your ground or your team

Sixer tastes the tropical flavour of a County Durham winter as he delivers the papers

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.

Read moreA champion Championship series: the first time Sixer saw your ground or your team

Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: no celebrations as The Royals come to town

Malcolm Dawson writes………with Peter Sixsmith huffing and puffing his way around Weardale at this time of year, telling anyone who’ll listen (and a few who don’t want to) as he dishes out the Christmas cheer, just why it is that Santa wears red and white, his seat at the Stadium was going spare and so it fell to me to fill it and to subsequently step up onto his soapbox with my take on yesterday’s events.

Sixer’s soapbox is groaning just a little less after Malcolm Dawson’s succesful weight loss regime.

OK I thought on my way to the ground, only two weeks ago new boss Chris Coleman was turning on the Christmas lights in Newport but the win over Burton last Saturday and his animated reaction at the final whistle had surely gone some way to reducing the negativity surrounding the football club. I hoped he could engineer an upturn in optimism around the Stadium of Light in a way that Big Sam seemed to and Moyes and Grayson had failed to do. I hoped that those who turned up would get behind the team and our pre-Christmas wassail cups would appear half full, rather than half empty on the journey home.

Sixer off the soapbox and back on the sleigh

Last time I set off for a Saturday home game with Reading I had just gone through Houghton Cut when the news came that the match was off, just in time for me to make a left turn through Newbottle and to head off to Consett, where a Northern League club, high up in the Durham hills could get their pitch playable, when a Premier League side at sea level could not.

No such luck yesterday and I sat through a game which could just about be classed as a microcosm of Sunderland’s season so far.

It’s fair to say a succession of managers have had little luck on the injury front in recent times and the hoodoo struck again in the pre-match warm up, when Paddy McNair managed to tweak something, requiring nominated sub Darron Gibson to unexpectedly make the starting line up. Of course nothing was announced over the tannoy leaving those around wondering why the Irishman had taken the field in a comedy bald wig.

I actually thought we settled better and bossed the opening period. Playing a 4-2-3-1 shape with Cattermole and Gibson sitting in front of the back four and McGeady and McManaman we had a lot of possession and were passing the ball well. That said we weren’t really creating any clear cut chances. Honeyman had tried his luck and Oviedo had a decent shot just off target, but the best opportunity fell to The Biscuitmen, when after 20 minutes or so Yann Kermogant found himself free on the right of the penalty area and played a good ball into David Edwards, who six yards out met the ball with a powerful sidefoot. Fortunately for Robbin Ruiter and the rest of the Black Cats’ defence he leaned back as he did so and spooned the ball over the bar high into the seats of the North Stand. Kermogant himself had previously missed a good chance which our keeper was able to watch fly harmlessly high of the target

Cattermole and Gibson looked assured in their roles, though it was no surprise when Cattermole got himself a yellow card for a clumsy, rather than dirty challenge, joining McManaman for what had been another clumsy challenge and former Black Cat Paul McShane, who took one for the team, scything down Oviedo who was breaking free down the left wing, in the referee’s book. Then three minutes later, a stroke of luck or poor refereeing (take your pick) as Cattermole got away with another poor challenge which was worthy of a yellow card but went unpunished. Sighs of relief in the East Stand.

With the half coming to a close Oviedo made what looked like a good challenge on Aluko, on the goal line near the edge of the penalty area. From where I was sitting Aluko appeared to grab Oviedo’s throat and push the Costa Rican but after speaking to his assistant referee Keith Stroud decided to book both players before awarding a free kick to Sunderland. A torrent of boos followed this decision and more were to come a few minutes later deep in stoppage time.

Adam Matthews, who had been overlapping well on the right fired in a good cross. From my seat it looked as if it might have been going in anyway, but there was a tangle of players attacking the ball and it was bundled into the net. McManaman celebrated, the crowd around me was on its collective feet and the cheers rang out for a split second until a flagging linesman indicated all was not well. The cheers rapidly turned to a cacophony of boos as Stroud not only disallowed the goal but sent off McManaman for what we assumed was handball. Was it deliberate? Was he nudged into the ball by a defender as he jumped? Was he trying to avoid a heavy collision with the post? If you’ve seen the replays you’ll have your own opinion but to the man who matters it was enough to show the winger a second yellow and find out if the ground staff had remembered to turn on the immersion.

Grabbed another consolation penalty
Image courtesy of

And so with the half drawing to a close the game was turned on its head and a team that struggles for wins with a full complement of players would have a whole half to survive a man down. Could we do it? Well not when we continue to make needless mistakes and leak goals through sloppy play. Just seven minutes into the half, McGeady, who shows some neat skills at times lost possession cheaply and from the counter attack, poor marking allowed Edwards to slide in for the opening goal as Aluko squared the ball across the six yard box.

Oviedo who had looked lively all afternoon and constituted our main attacking threat took a knock and on came Galloway who had only made the bench because of McNair’s late withdrawal. Then with just over 20 minutes to go the crowd were uplifted as Asoro came on to replace McGeady. It seems to be a common feeling amongst many of the Stadium of Light faithful, that inexperienced young players will provide the boost and the spark that more worldly wise seasoned professionals cannot. It happened with Duncan Watmore and now it is Asoro who is being heralded as the new saviour. But before he even had a minute to assert himself we were two down.

Kelly’s cross from the Reading right found Barrow unmarked at the back post to volley past a stranded Ruiter as Browning stood and watched. Then two minutes later it was all over as Barrow was again left without a marker and steered home Kermogant’s clever flick.

I suppose one advantage of having a smaller crowd, only 27,000 yesterday, means that the mass walk out isn’t quite so dramatic. Certainly the first wave of leavers had cleared the aisles and gangways by the time the third goal went in, but the second exodus was more obvious.

Joel Asoro could be playing more as the season progresses.

As if to prove a point Asoro was getting involved and trying to make a difference, making some mazy runs, getting in a good shot and taking long throws into the box. Indeed it was Asoro who engineered the goal. He chased down a typical Vito Mannone parry from his own good shot but was tripped when doing so. Grabban confidently dispatched the penalty but we all knew it was only ever going to be a consolation.

Pete Sixsmith gets to many more football matches than I do. Before the game I was hoping that I would have been able to tell him that I had witnessed something that he hadn’t. I was hoping I could tell him I had seen Sunderland win at home in 2017. No chance yesterday after we were reduced to 10 men.

Can I grab any positives from yesterday? It’s a sad state of affairs when I can say that I didn’t think that three high earners in Kone, Ndong and Rodwell were missed yesterday. At least Honeyman, Asoro and Gooch, in his cameo appearance, showed enthusiasm and didn’t look out of their depth at this level. With the possiblity that Grabban might be recalled to the south coast, either to play for The Cherries or to allow his sale in the January window, we could well need Asoro and Josh Maja to show what they can do.

The crowd gave Manonne, who obviously has personal worries, a warm and supportive welcome back, which was good. The fact that so many inside the Stadium transmit their frustrations to the team by booing and walking out early, I find less acceptable, though understandable.

Finally, by the time my dodgy knees had allowed me to negotiate the steep steps from Sixer’s seat, high up in Row 32, with no handrail for support, the loos were empty, there was no crowd to fight my way through to the car, the burger vans were devoid of customers with masses of unsold bread buns (shame I’m on a diet!) and I was able to get some shopping in at the Neville’s Cross branch of Sainsbury’s Extra by 6.00 pm and still be home for 6.30.

Chris Coleman, can have no illusions about the size of the task he faces. Remember Big Sam took his time to get the team sorted and needed a trio of decent signings in January to avoid relegation a couple of years back. Let’s hope the Welshman can do the same.


Sixer’s sub’s sevens: Reading take the points as McManaman takes a walk

Jake: ‘it’s not always pretty’

Pete Sixsmith  has been given leave of absence in order to carry out his duties with the fair elves of County Durham and the pixies of Jesmond. In his stead we have a little helper – at least littler than he was at the start of the season.

Malcolm Dawson, for it is he,  will step up soon with a full match report. Here he is with the seven word instant verdict that follows the final toot of the referee’s whistle, and no doubt the boos of the crowd after we shot ourselves in the foot:

Read moreSixer’s sub’s sevens: Reading take the points as McManaman takes a walk

Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Fulham, Sheff Wed, Leeds and Sunderland – the ones to watch

not long now.

As foretold, the poll we’ve been running slipped down the front page and then off it so, although it remained – indeed remains – live, it no-one has visited recently. Before it disappeared from view we’d had over 7,000 votes cast, with well over 1,200 people taking part, from all parts of the UK and beyond.

That’s enough to provide me with a guide as to which clubs we’ll report on as we try to get an idea of who’s heading out of the Championship in the right direction.

As the headline says, Sunderland’s in the mix, probably only because  of the loyalty of diehard fans.

Has that loyalty been strained too much by recent events? Or did they, perhaps, inject a dose of realism? The poll’s still open, perhaps Norwich will make that jump from seventh before the season starts.

Read moreMiddlesbrough, Aston Villa, Fulham, Sheff Wed, Leeds and Sunderland – the ones to watch

Vito Mannone’s proud, emotional farewell to Sunderland (fans) as he joins Reading

Vito: the sweetest of parting messages …

The news that Vito Mannone was leaving came as Sunderland prepared for the friendly win at Hartlepool. In itself, it was not surprising; nor, given our club’s wretched history in the transfer market in recent years, has been the realisation that we did not appear to have had anyone lined up. With the start of the season so close, that might have seemed a given  but then this is SAFC.

Mannone himself leaves after four years with heaps of goodwill. That penalty shoot-out save at Old Trafford that took us to a Wembley final stands out. So do his heroics in a number of vital survival games.

Read moreVito Mannone’s proud, emotional farewell to Sunderland (fans) as he joins Reading

Birmingham, Wolves, Brentford, Forest, Cardiff, Preston, QPR and Ipswich go missing from our poll

John McCormick, seeking the truth

I have to say I’m a bit surprised by the poll results to date.

‘Boro being top is reasonable. They have proved they are capable of handling the Championship, have money coming and have a decent manager.

Sunderland in the top six is understandable. It’s a Sunderland site, and no matter how jaundiced the fans are, no matter how concerned over the owner, there will always be a loyal following willing to vote for them.

But last season’s form has gone out of the window with this poll. Villa, who finished bang in the middle of the championship, are up there in second place, while Hull and Derby are out of the running. What’s going on?

Read moreBirmingham, Wolves, Brentford, Forest, Cardiff, Preston, QPR and Ipswich go missing from our poll

Middlesbrough, Fulham, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds head the poll. Norwich, Reading and Derby slip down

with an increasing feeling of optimism…

The poll I set up a couple of weeks ago is still running and you’ll find it below, so you can still vote if you have a mind to. (If you’re new to the site and want to see what it’s about follow this link.)

At the time of writing we have had some 3,818 votes cast, with Middlesbrough leading the pack. Sunderland crept up a couple of places and edged Norwich out of the top six by two votes. Given this is a Sunderland fans’ site we could be expected to do well so I’m taking that as a vote of confidence in Norwich. I’m a little surprised by Fulham, who have exceeded my expectations, and by Derby and Reading, who haven’t done as well as expected and at the moment aren’t going to make the cut.

“What cut?” You may be thinking. Well, read on, and all will be revealed

Read moreMiddlesbrough, Fulham, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds head the poll. Norwich, Reading and Derby slip down