Salut! Sunderland seeks out all manner of people for the ‘Who are You?’ series. It’s great to attract household names but some of the best interviews have been with ordinary fans, home-and-away regulars or armchair supporters. Richard Littlejohn* fits into the first category, familiar to most people from his TV series and strident Daily Mail columns. Monsieur Salut knew him when he was just one of the mob of hacks covering industrial relations. He’s a good lad, whatever you think of his views, he’s a real football supporter and he came third in our HAWAY awards. Here is the interview we ran before the 1-0 home defeat to Spurs in September …
The judges have spoken. We have winners in the HAWAYs, Salut! Sunderland’s annuals awards for best interviews given by opposing supporters in the Who are You? series. HAWAYs, as you will have worked out, are otherwise known as Highly Articulate Who are You?s.
Another season produced another crop of excellent contributions. And we are again indebted to our prize sponsors, the friendly folk at the famously half-decent football magazine When Saturday Comes and the purveyors of fine football tops at Classic Football Shirts.
For 2015-2016, the voting ended with a runaway victory in first place and a tight battle for second.
Dawn Astle, daughter of the late WBA legend Jeff, was the clear winner, our voting system giving her 38 points, 16 ahead of the nearest rival. Dawn wins a subscription to When Saturday Comes and her interview will be republished here tomorrow.
“An outstanding piece,” said John McCormick, associate editor. “For me, this was WAY ahead of the rest. “Well written and heart warming,” added Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete. Both had her in first place, as did Monsieur Salut while our deputy editor Malcolm Dawson placed her second, with Pete Sixsmith including her in his “highly commended” group.
“Another excellently scripted piece from a true football fan,” said Malcolm. “That her dad was one of the greats just adds to the relevance and her tireless work for the Jeff Astle Foundation deserves as much publicity as possible.”
Scant consolation for relegation but Gary Gowers pipped the Tottenham Hotspur-supporting Richard Littlejohn, unrivalled master of Mr Angry columns in the Daily Mail. He collects a £25 voucher towards any purchase from Classic Football Shirts.
For Sixer, who chose him for first place, Gary “sums up the ‘niceness of Norwich’ which will be missed next season. He fully understands the difficulties of keeping a (relatively) small club with no major financial backers in the top level and supports the manager who almost kept them up, but not quite. Lovely quote about Defoe and his entourage – ‘Norwich is a small city and would struggle to accommodate them all’. Just good writing from start to finish.”
Malcolm’s winner would have been Littlejohn: “Well written piece as you would expect from a professional journalist. Realistic and humorous. Liked the Wayne Bobbitt reference but, like Sixer, you won’t catch me buying a Daily Mail.”
Richard will win a suitably designed mug, which is unlikely to change his life.
If another of our usual sponsors responds belatedly and positively to our cap-in-hand approach for prize sponsorship, we will find another worthy candidate for a special late award. Contenders in that category would be Sam Myers (Everton), who won marks from Wrinkly Pete for declining to name any player who should never have been allowed to wear his club’s shirt; the Exeter City pairing of Paul Sussex and Neil le Milliere and Watford’s Ben Clarke.
Paul “Sobs” Dobson, the star A Love Supreme chronicler, was on his own in selecting Ben in any position and had him first for his interview, “a good appreciation of how their recent achievements have been accomplished and not getting too rose-tinted about the future”. Of Gary Gowers, Sobs said: “Realistic to the point of … well, I’d never be that realistic about a Sunderland team!”
Our thanks to the sponsors and to the judges, but also to all – or almost all – the interviewees we found during the season. There were honourable mentions for both Swansea City “Who are You?” candidates, Newcastle United’s Adrian Darnell and one fan from each of the Manchesters, United’s Chas Banks and City’s David Mooney.
We had perhaps better not adopt Sobs’s idea of an additional award for the most irritating interview of the season, and there are no prizes for guessing which two (this and that) he may have had in mind.
* Each of the top three interviews will be reproduced in the coming days. All interviews in the 2015-16 series can be seen at https://safc.blog/category/who-are-you-2015-2016/
Salut! Sunderland’s ‘Who are You?’ series, in which we interview supporters of SAFC opponents, has had some notable catches, including actors, writers, broadcasters, footballers and managers as well as a great procession of ‘ordinary’ fans, often extraordinary people who follow their teams with passion and commitment. As a broad church, we’ve had senior clerics, too.
But we return to journalism for the first of this season’s Tottenham Hotspur editions of ‘Who are You?’ and hear from the tub-thumping columnist and broadcaster Richard Littlejohn*, who rebelled against his family’s West Ham-supporting tradition when the double-winning Spurs side of 1961 captivated him as a boy of seven. Littlejohn, scourge of the politically correct and anyone who says ‘hey Little John, so where’s Robin Hood, then?’, will be relieved to hear the interview has been approved by ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ …
Far too early for a Sunday game but the cupboard is otherwise bare so let’s go with Guess the Score. One good excuse: we have the return of prize mugs for winners to gloat about …
Too late for winners so far – in fact there may have been only one, apart from the Swansea game and its special prize and he’s already got mugs galore – Salut! Sunderland is delighted to announce the resumption of Guess the Score as a prize competition.