Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: a wet weekend in Accrington

Jake: ‘that wasn’t in the script’

Play this and read on!
LA = Lancashire – Accrington

Malcolm Dawson writes…….there was a gathering of the clans in Accrington on Saturday. A veritable Salut! Sunderland fest before kick off.

Fawlty Towers anyone?

At this time of year Pete Sixsmith is otherwise engaged bringing joy to the young of the North East so I arranged to meet up with associate editor John McCormick (who was making use of Sixer’s ticket) in the Peel Park Hotel, adjacent to where Stanley used to play many years ago. It’s a very cosy boozer with a good selection of real ales and it worked out that John and I found ourselves sitting next to Rob Hutchison and his daughter Olivia, both of whom contribute to the pages of our humble website from time to time.

At the same time as the Accrington branches of Wickes and B&Q were rapidly running out of stocks of gopher wood, Rob was nervously checking his phone to see if the game was still on.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Copper-Dragon-Handpump-e1544317953958.jpg

We decided that if it should be called off before 2.00 p.m. Rob would have a few more pints before making his way back down south and as I had driven there, I would see if the Peel Park Hotel was an actual hotel that did bed and breakfast, so at home did we feel and so quaffable was the Copper Dragon Best Bitter – brewed to suit that special Northern palate according to the tasting notes I read.

But the news came through as the downpour subsided to a drizzle that the game would go ahead so John and I took the car nearer to the Crown Ground (WHAM Stadium) and making the last part of our way there on foot, bumped into one Paul (Sobs) Dobson. Sobsy is better known for his contributions to ALS and seems to be the BBC Look North’s go to guy when they need a vox pop of a Sunderland fan. Sobsy will be contributing something to our advent calendar on Christmas Day, so don’t miss that when it will be a bumper edition. Take a look while the kids are tearing the Christmas wrapping off their prezzies, while the sprouts still need another hour of boiling or when Her Majesty is rabbiting on about Brexit or whatever else is on the agenda this year. Oh and be warned “The Great Escape” is a film with Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasence and not a biopic about Paulo de Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat or Sam Allardyce. 

Inside the away section

The rain had subsided briefly but it started again as John and I entered the ground, and got heavier as we passed the double decker bus selling beer and the row of portaloos supplementing the normal facilities. Taking my seat who should I find next door but one? None other than Peter Lynn, “Wrinkly Pete” of this parish. It got even more torrential as the players were trying to warm up and just before kick off Heart of England branch stalwart Terry took his seat next to me, looking like the proverbial drowned rat, took one look at the state of the pitch and predicted there would be some shenanigans in front of goal later. He was remarkably accurate.

I’m finding it difficult to recall a lot of detail about what there was of the game yesterday, partly because of where I was and partly because of the weather. As usual at away games the whole of the away crowd was standing, and despite being in a section of the ground with seating I had to put my arthritic knees to the test, but being almost at the end of the stand, the far nearside corner was completely out of my line of vision and a lot of the play seemed to take place there. 

The conditions were making play difficult. On a couple of occasions a high ball played towards McLaughlin just didn’t bounce. The ball was sticking in the clarts so some short passes were not reaching their intended target, some balls which initially looked to be over hit stopped dead allowing the player to recover and sometimes if McGeady, Gooch or Oviedo went off on a run they would leave the ball behind. 

It looked to me that Stanley had adapted to the conditions better though I don’t remember McLaughlin having to make a save in the first half, whilst Power sent a rasping shot wide and McGeady saw a powerful effort fly over the crossbar after some good work from Maja down the right wing and Oviedo hit a free kick through the legs of the Stanley wall, after Maja had been brought down on the edge of the penalty area, forcing Accy keeper Ripley into low save, which I think was the only shot on target all half. Nil – nil at the break.

The rain really came down second half and at times it was like watching through one of those metal beaded curtains that you see in butchers’ doorways, designed to keep the flies from the dead meat. John’s mobile footage shows just how bad conditions were, but please note, the slope is just from the angle of the camera – the pitch itself does not resemble Lords or the home grounds of Yeovil Town or Tow Law.

We took the lead when Maguire showed his energy and sprinted yards to close down their keeper, who had started off in acres of space controlling a long back pass. As the Scotsman quickly closed him down he went to hoof the ball upfield but Maguire jumped, turned and the ball hit the back of his shoulder. We watched as bounced into the net much to the chagrin of Ripley who tried to convince the ref it had struck Maguire’s arm and to the delight of the Sunderland support. The Accy fans behind the goal, who had been noisy all game with their two drummers leading the way, went silent for a time as Maguire celebrated in front of them before running across and doing the same in front of us. 

We just about deserved the lead I thought, though we by no means were dominating in the Lancashire mud bath. Not so long after Stanley equalised and it could all be put down to the conditions. McLaughlin failed to hold on to a low shot from close range, Flanagan slipped trying to get to the rebound, a third effort was scrambled off the line before the ball was finally bundled into the net with James (or it might have been Gooch) just failing to do enough to prevent the equaliser.

Not long after referee Oliver Langford had a word with both managers and the fourth official before taking the players off. Mixed comments from the Sunderland contingent leaving the ground, most seeing it as a sensible move but some complaining that the ref should have ended the game when we were ahead in the misguided belief that the result would have stood. 

So another rearranged game to fit into a busy programme and a Checkatrade draw that pits us at home to the Mag’s U21s. I bet after what went on at Port Vale in the week, the club and the local police can’t wait for that.

Luton v Sunderland Hutch’s one word ratings

Rob Hutchison is a home and away regular and manages to encapsulate each of our players’ performances in the briefest of single word summaries. He was at Kenilworth Road yesterday to witness a hard fought draw with a Luton Town side who could be there or there abouts when the League 1 title is being decided at the back end. Are we League 1 ready? He sees an improvement on last week and thinks we are.

When it came to those who appeared off the bench he decided to leave the vagaries of the spellcheck uncorrected. Fitting he thought in Mr Cattermole’s case!

Rob Hutchison

Hutch’s One Word Player Ratings:

McLaughlin 7 – assured
Oviedo 7 – sharp
Baldwin 7 – busy
Loovens 7 – strong
Matthews 6 – leggy
Maguire 7 – athletic
Mumba 6 – steady
Power 7 – tidy
Honeyman 6 – neat
Gooch 8 – quality MOTM
Maja 7 – developing
Subs
Carts 5 – predictable
Known 5 – brief
Molyneux 5 – brief

Hutch’s one-word ratings after Aston Villa defeat: who was drab, who was ‘crablike’?

Rob Hutchison: master of the one-word verdicts

Monsieur Salut writes: had I been able to make it – up for me, from London – for Chris Coleman’s first game in charge, I would have met up with not only Peter Sixsmith but Rob Hutchison and his daughter Olivia, all three familiar figures around these parts. My apologies for absence reached the Hutchisons as they – also heading north from exile – drove towards Birmingham.

At one down, as the second half started, Rob thought there was so little between the sides that Sunderland could go on and win if only they could first equalise. Cue a second Villa goal.

Here, then, is one of those Hutch specialities, Rob’s one-word man-by-man verdict (he described the whole experience as ‘drab, drab, drab; oh, it was so drab’ and will one day explain why Gibson was ‘crablike’) …

Read moreHutch’s one-word ratings after Aston Villa defeat: who was drab, who was ‘crablike’?

Hutch’s Patch: the despair of one boy’s plea to Moyes after Chelsea

M Salut: two credits to SAFC, Jermain and Rob Hutchison’s daughter Olivia, star of the parachute jump for Bradley

Rob Hutchison is not always restricted to one-word, one-mark ratings after games he’s (mostly) seen us lose. Scenes at Stamford Bridge after Sunday’s thrashing caught his eye …

Hutch’s Patch post-Chelsea: ‘culpable, fragile, tragic’ – match the words and players

Jake: ‘2016/17 season, bog off and don’t come back’
Rob Hutchison – inexplicably renamed Ron when this first appeared – gets to lots of games, almost all of them away since he’s exiled in the south. He and his daughter, Olivia, enjoy the day out, like meeting up with old and new friends and then – for the most part – endure the football. Here are Rob’s final one-word ratings of the season after watching the champions tear us apart at Stamford Bridge. ‘And so it’s done,’ says our man of few words. ‘Thank God for that.’ Monsieur Salut’s ratings at ESPN FC appear in parentheses and are not so different …

Read moreHutch’s Patch post-Chelsea: ‘culpable, fragile, tragic’ – match the words and players

Hutch’s Patch: one-word ratings from Watford make for grim reading

Rob Hutchison: why do I come home for this?

Rob Hutchison might have picked a better day to resume his one-word ratings, usually from away games since they are the ones he mostly attends. His verdicts – one word, one mark out of 10 – closely follow those of Monsieur Salut (for ESPN) …

Read moreHutch’s Patch: one-word ratings from Watford make for grim reading

Hutch’s Patch: Crystal Palace – big in Saigon

Hutch is speechless: help him with a caption

*******       CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO ENLARGE FOR A CLEARER VIEW       *******

Rob Hutchison, as most of us know, is a man of relatively few words. His one-word, one-mark ratings after each Sunderland game he attends (mostly the aways) can be caustic and cruel,  or more rarely ecstatic and encouraging. They are always succinct.

He’s struggling for the right words, any words this time, to sum up the poster you see above.

Read moreHutch’s Patch: Crystal Palace – big in Saigon

Rob’s one word ratings. Who got a 4?

Rob Hutchison

Rob Hutchison recovered from the London Branch 50th birthday party and then found something else to celebrate. Here are his one-word ratings from the Palace match (or mismatch if you like).

They’re a bit better than those we’ve become accustomed to and doesn’t it feel good that they are so well merited?

Read moreRob’s one word ratings. Who got a 4?

Devil’s Advocate: Ndong in Gabon and a few home truths

Malcolm Dawson writes…….Rob Hutchison is a man of few words when sending us his post match ratings but every now and then he expands his thinking and tackles the issues that we might bounce about in the pub over a few bevvies. Today in the latest of his offerings where he plays devil’s advocate, he asks can we build a fortress out of plastic and card and has our record buy got what it takes? 

Rob as seen by Jake
Rob as seen by Jake

It’s just so Sunderland isn’t it?

Win a game memorably, get a bounce and then the predictable one step backwards lurches into view.

Didier Ndong arrived with a reputation and plethora of red and yellow cards. This week Gabon notified he’d been sent home for failing to show up for International duty. Reportedly in the capital Libreville since the Monday but failed to show up for training on Tuesday. Granted the rest of the players, by all accounts, were treating it like party week just days after Gabon appointed a new manager but for a player who’s hardly setting his club alight, it potentially gives us a taste of things to come from DND when the going gets tough. And therein lies the problem.
Whilst the fee we paid for him is not his fault, we’re seeing just about zilch from him at the moment. The odd shot (Bournemouth) the odd assist (QPR) and that been about it apart from a lot of anonymity and dreadful misplaced passes. I was excited when we signed him, but he’s showing precious little at present, and it will be interesting to see if Seb pips him for a starting berth against Hull or as will be more likely, comes off the bench to help us retrieve a point.

Onto Hull, yes, yum yum. One of our bogey teams? Probably. But 40,000 clap banners should whisk up an atmosphere eh? WTF? How we laughed when Norwich and Leicester called to arms with the fearsome clap banners of justice. “Never happen at our club would it?” Wrong. They’re here for Hull, and maybe with a drum for the long term.

You’d think an intern had been tasked with invigorating the SoL atmosphere – you know a lad dropped in somewhere and given a project to play with and keep him quiet for few days. But no! Even money says our new chief executive who wants to sort things out top to bottom think this is the answer. If this is the case, and of course I may be completely wrong, it show how little he really knows about the fabric of our club, our roots, heritage, why we do it week in week out, traipse up and down the country like lemmings to a cliff. The moment you try and manufacture something artificial and cosmetic to give a desired perception and result, you’ve lost the plot, sold the soul, gone down the river. Building a fortress I bet we’d be told. Aye, might as well use cardboard and sticky backed plastic.
Hey Martin, you want to sort it out, here’s the plan . . . . took me hours to come up with this one mind . . .  win some home games.
All the best . . . .  Rob

Bournemouth banter: (2) just one win but already part of Sunderland folklore

Olivia
Rob’s daughter Olivia would have loved this souvenir, but had to make do with dad taking a photo of another girl’s prize acquisition

use this e-mail address

Bournemouth away was an occasion to remind supporters of Sunderland AFC, from nippers to long-in-the-tooth codgers, why they care so much about football. And this lovely piece from Rob Hutchison, the perfect complement to an excellent Chapman Report, captures our part of a special day …

“Which is the away end mate?” asked Colin, aka Monsieur Salut, as we approached the stadium. “Follow the voices”, the young friendly steward replied “They sound nothing like us!”.

We’d just been putting the world to rights in the Sir Percy Florence boozer with a few hundred other Mackems who had started drinking when the coaches left at 6am by the sound of the place.

Read moreBournemouth banter: (2) just one win but already part of Sunderland folklore