Salut! Sunderland is deeply saddened by news that Stan Anderson, who will be remembered with special fondness by SAFC supporters of a certain age, has died aged 84.
In a characteristically noble tribute to a great Sunderland captain, the club historian Rob Mason recalls Stan telling him: “I was from a family of dyed in the wool red and whites – playing for the team I supported was always a privilege and a pleasure for me.”
Monsieur Salut writes: I have offered the view of Sunderland AFC as I understand it at this link. Here is Pete Sixmsith with a wonderful tribute to Rob Mason, reluctantly departing editor of the award-winning SAFC matchday programme …
One of the consequences of relegation is that there are changes behind the scenes. Players move on to better things if they are lucky but those who work in hospitality, ticketing and admin find that their services are no longer required as there is less demand for pre-match entertainment when the visitors are Cardiff rather than Chelsea.
One of those leaving is Rob Mason who has edited the club programme for many years. He is a supporter who has always attended games, coming back from university at Sheffield to watch the lads in the early 70s. The programme he has produced has been consistently excellent, rarely reflecting the action on the pitch in that it was interesting, well put together and was most certainly value for money.
Rob Mason, departing editor of Sunderland AFC’s matchday programme, was – as has been noted here previously – utterly dignified and devoid of rancour in his pre-match conversation with Nick Barnes on BBC Radio Newcastle.
He then endured the 2-0 defeat to Swansea; take 10 percent from the fat wages of the men and leader of men involved in that sad spectacle and you’d probably fund Rob’s pay packet several times over. Pete Sixsmith has written a magnificent tribute to Rob, the man he knows as well as the programme editor he knows, and I do not wish to dilute that with this exercise in context and balance. But there is context, and maybe balance, whether or not you agree with the points being made. Pete’s piece follows here …
In the fifth and final part of his look at programmes from a lifetime supporting Sunderland, Pete Sixsmith brings us into the 21st Century with his reminiscences of a season many of us would prefer to forget. When Fulham visited on the 4th May 2006 for the final home game that season it really looked as if supporters would witness an entire campaign without seeing a victory at the Stadium of Light.
And so we arrive in the last decade in our look at the last fifty years of supporting Sunderland. As usual, it proved to be an up and down one, with relegations, promotions and near misses. It also provided us with possibly the poorest team in the club’s long and glorious history – that of the infamous 15 point season.
Under Mick McCarthy we had won the Championship the previous year with a team that was put together to do precisely that. Dean Whitehead, Liam Lawrence and Stephen Elliott were perfect signings and they all played major parts in our fourth second tier title.
But when it came to the top level, they needed support if we were to make a success of it. Unfortunately, what little cash was made available to the Barnsley Bruiser was not spent on proven top level players and that support was not forthcoming.
Look at the players who came in. Kelvin Davies who was very quickly nicknamed “Calamity Kelvin” by the much missed Dave Lish.
Then there was Jonathan Stead, a centre forward of some potential at Huddersfield Town, but who had failed at Blackburn Rovers. However, Mick decided to blow a third of his budget and give the man who grew up playing Rugby League a second chance. He didn’t score until April 1st. Everton were the fools that day.
Nyron Nosworthy was picked up on a free from Gillingham. He was a great character and had a brilliant season the following year under Roy Keane, but he struggled in this team. His 60 yard back pass at Middlesbrough which ended up as a corner had Mick scratching head, chin and a*** in bewilderment.
On the eve of the season, in came Andy Gray from Barnsley to spearhead the attack. He scored on his debut (pen against Charlton) and that was it. No more goals and eventually he was shipped out on loan by February. His performance in the Cup defeat at Brentford was as inept as anything I have ever seen in a Sunderland shirt.
Our third “forward” – using the term lightly – was loanee Anthony le Tallec. The young Frenhman had been signed by Gerard Houllier and was shipped out to us to gain experience. He had loads of ability but his commitment and heart were in direct contrast. Still, he scored more goals than Stead and Gray put together – a grand total of 6 to ranking him alongside names like Brian Clough, Len Shackleton and Kevin Phillips as a season’s leading scorer.
Tommy Miller had arrived from Ipswich Town and became “Mr Anonymity”, looking every inch a Championship player. Nice lad, good trainer but totally out of his depth in the Premier League. He is now at Swindon Town – guess who signed him!!!
Justin Hoyte, on a season’s loan from Arsenal, was one of the few players who improved as the campaign rumbled on. He had played in successful teams all his life until he pitched up at Sunderland. He almost became a legend when he put us ahead against the Mags, but the defence had its usual stinker and they scored four – even Chopra got one. He must have got a good price at Corals.
During the season, we brought in Christian Bassila, a French journeyman who like Baldrick’s war poem, started badly and then went downhill and Rory Delap who never once took a throw in, although he did score a splendid goal at Everton.
The season started badly with a 3-1 home defeat to Charlton Athletic, with a certain Darren Bent bagging two of them and we never looked like dragging ourselves out of the mire. By the time the Fulham game came around for the second time, we were one game away from going through an entire season without a home win.
I say again, because the original game on Apil 8th had been abandoned after 21 minutes due to a combination of snow and rain. At the time The Cottagers were a goal up thanks to Brian McBride and looked the more likely winners.
They clearly didn’t fancy a return to Wearside and went two goals down to strikes from Le Tallec and Chris Brown before Tomasz Radzinski pulled one back. Memory serves that Davies had a decent game that night against a team that featured Steed Malbranque and Wayne Bridge, one of whom a few years later made a significant contribution to SAFC and one who didn’t.
The whole sorry farrago ended a few days later at Villa Park and we had grave fears about our club’s future. And then, along came Niall Quinn and the Drumaville boys and the rest is history.
I chose this programme because it did end a traumatic season for us and also because of the date of the game. I spent my next “work” day making the Ferryhill students write the date at every opportunity, which just goes to reinforce the view that I am among the saddest of the sad.
It’s also a very good example of the excellent programme that Rob Mason and his team now produce. Priced at £3.00 there is sufficient reading in it to sustain a lengthy bus journey home. Alas, the local adverts were a bit thin on the ground – The Fry Fry in Bridge Street had closed down by then and Reg Vardy had gobbled up Byers Dunn Turvey, but there is an interview with former Bishop Auckland Grammar School lad Les Wood, a Red and White of my vintage and all round good egg.
And that, as they say, is that. I hope to have revived some memories, both good and bad and look forward to welcoming Fulham and their 25 travelling fans to the Stadium on the 17th.of next month. I suspect the Cottagers’ team will be more readily identifiable than our lot!!!
Finally a word of thanks to Keith Scott, a good friend an even better Sunderland fan for the loan of the programmes.
Colin Irwin is best known as a music writer, with a passion he shares with Salut! Sunderland, folk music. But in 2006, he brought out a smashing book, Sing When You’re Winning, based on travels into the heartlands of football. They were grim times when his odyssey reached Sunderland. We were on our way down and visiting the Stadium of Light brought to mind “an official observation of the last rites”. It’s a treat to see how well he managed to make it sound the great place it is …
I can’t think ill of Sunderland, who are the only Premiership club to respond to my plea for information, encouragement, tickets and dusky handmaidens when I am researching this book. They return phone calls, e-mails and cinvivial banter and furnish me with a press pass for their local derby with Middlesbrough.
The days of Roker Park are long gone since Sunderland moved into this gorgeous space age stadium on the outskirts of town, so close to the Wear that you fear it may topple in and get us all wet.
So Lorik Cana – get the T-shirt from ALS – has brains as well as brawn. Perhaps that is one of the attractions for a certain refined Alcasien, now reported – to the dismay of all Sunderland fans, not just those who fancy Cana (for his mind, doubtless) – to have him back in his sights …
The least surprising news of the week, as far as English football was concerned, was that Arsène Wenger remains interested in Lorik Cana.
It would be wonderful if Lorik were to say: “Desolé, mon brave, mais je préfère rester à Sunderland.” Or even: “You had your chance when I was a kid and messed it up , chum, so buzz off”.
But never underestimate the pull that Arsenal has over players who have grown up in a Francophone environment, as Lorik did after his family’s flight from Kosovo. Long after Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, French people I know still talk of the Gunners as the nearest they have to a Premier side.