Elections are a time for presenting old policies as new, re-announcing expenditure plans as if part of a bold, vote-winning new programme. Salut! Sunderland gets in on the act by re-announcing Pete Sixsmith‘s farewell series as the site winds down after very nearly 13 years.
Sixer came up with the idea of describing each of the 13 managers seen at Sunderland since the site first appeared at the beginning of 2007. For the first instalment, he recalled the towering ups and ultimate down of the Roy Keane era.
One of those annoying technical issues that have become so prevalent restricted readership of a typically fine Sixer read. Hence the reproduction of the piece today ahead of the second episode, which will look at Ricky Sbragia’s short spell in charge.
At the time, we longed for better. Keano’s pulsating promotion season was followed by tough struggles in the lower regions of the Premier League fixture. But we survived. And viewed from the closing months of 2019, when the team staggers from bad to worse and manages to exit three cup competitions before a new manager has his feet properly under the table, they were positively golden times.
As we lick our wounds after the latest abysmal performance, beaten 1-0 in the FA Cup first round replay at Gillingham (see Phil Parkinson’s reaction here), let Pete take up the story …
As Salut! Sunderland winds down, Pete Sixsmith comes up with an idea to keep us occupied in our remaining weeks. He will describe each of the 13 managers seen at Sunderland since this site was created at the beginning of 2007.
That means he starts by remembering the short, explosive reign of Roy Keane. It may be recalled that when Keano took over at a salary of £1m-a-year shortly after a calamitous start to the 2006-2007 season, he responded to a warts-and-all, player-by-player appraisal of the squad he was inheriting by saying: ‘Good grief (or similar)? I should have asked for £2m.’ …
Yet for a time, he made it work, a sensational bottom-to-top romp to promotion as champions followed by a hard-fought survival year back in the Premier League. Then it went wrong as Sixer explains …
Malcolm Dawson writes…..with the seemingly never ending issue of Brexit, the prorogation of Parliament and the confusing and contradictory outpourings of the major political parties and politicians I decided to take a sideways look at the whole business of leave or remain by comparing the contributions that EU citizens have made to the cause of Sunderland AFC, in the hope it would simplify my thinking.
Yesterday, I made the case for the Remain campaign and in case you missed it you can find it here (and hopefully this will take you there and not some dodgy Turkish escort site!).
Today I shall be looking at some of those players whose time on Wearside was less effective and give weight to the argument that freedom of movement is not always desirable – unless it means moving them on.
Initially I did think that this was going to be an easier task than choosing a team of individuals who had made a positive impact in the club’s history but realised quite quickly that my self imposed criteria, one of which was that I had had to see them play in a Sunderland shirt had actually restricted my options.
For instance, the first name that sprung to mind was that of Arnau Riera. Signed by Niall Quinn, Arnau made his first appearance from the bench at Southend, a game I didn’t go to, then in a League Cup tie away to Bury, his only start, he got himself sent off after only three minutes. I wasn’t at that one either. Then in came Roy Keane and out went the young graduate of Barcelona who had grown up with Lionel Messi and Xavi, so that was an obvious choice rejected.
But undaunted I have set about trawling the memory banks and come up with the following side, set up in a 4-4-2 system with a full bench of 7 subs.
GK. This was my most problematical selection. There were two obvious candidates. Mika and Keiran Westwood.
However, whilst I am pretty sure I saw Mika play for the U23s at the Stadium of Light in a game where he made two howlers, I never saw him play for the senior team so I’ve ruled him out. So Westwood it had to be. After all he had played for the Republic of Ireland, which makes him an EU citizen, until I discovered that he had been born in Liverpool and qualified for Ireland owing to the fact that he liked a pint of Guinness, listened to The Corrs and once read Roddy Doyle’s “Barrytown Trilogy.”
So it was back to the drawing board and a bit reluctantly I’ve gone for Jurgen Macho.
The Austrian was a decent enough keeper, though he lacked a bit of beef as they say and had a propensity to punch rather than catch (some would say flap at) high balls. Macho joined us in the year 2000, from First Vienna as back up to Tommy Sorensen and made a total of 7 appearances in his first season, two as a sub. He only played 4 times the next season but in his third and final year, before moving to Chelsea he actually started 15 times and also came off the subs’ bench for a third time in his Sunderland career. Of the EU nationals I’ve seen play in goal for Sunderland (I never saw either of Edwin Zoetebier’s two appearances either) he would have to be my choice between the sticks for the Brexiteers XI.
RB Considering we finally ended up in 14th spot in the Premiership in season 2013/14 (but only after winning five of our last six league games) and we got to Wembley in the League Cup, we had a number of poor signings that pre-season. One of those Valentin Roberge is my selection on the right side of the back 4. Coming on a free from Portuguese side Maratimo, I actually thought he looked quite a classy player whenever I saw him but he didn’t really coupé la moutarde as the French never say. He was quite a cultured player but his style didn’t really seemed suited to the English game and after a mere 13 appearances he went back to his native France on loan to Reims.
CB There was a lot of competition for the back 4 positions but my two centre backs are Thomas Helmer and Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
Thomas Helmer – capped 68 times by Germany and a member of the winning side of Euro 96 came to Sunderland in 1999, brought in by Peter Reid to cement our place back in the top flight. He managed all of two games – a 0-0 at home to Arsenal and a 2-1 away win at Elland Road. I was at both of those games but never saw Helmer again. Did Peter Reid not rate him? Was he suffering from homesickness or couldn’t he face the constant singing of the The Dambusters March by opposing fans? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. He came on a free but on massive wages and returned to Germany, on loan to Hertha Berlin, before we’d all linked hands and sung Auld Lang Syne to celebrate the new millennium a year too early.
Do you remember Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the big Greek centre back who came to us on loan from Wolfsburg?
No? Well I do – just. He played a total of four games for us and I know I saw him play but I can’t for the life of me recall who our opponents were. I have vague memories of a lumbering hulk with long hair who looked clumsy on the ball but that’s about it. The main centre back pairing that season was John O’Shea and Titus Bramble with Carlos Cuellar ahead of Kyrgiakos, which perhaps indicates just how much managers Martin O’Neill and Paulo di Canio rated him but like so many on this list he played several times for his country as well as at the highest level in European competitions with Glasgow Rangers. Maybe we just never got to see the real deal.
LB has to be Andreas Dossena. Dossena came to us on a free from Napoli, via a loan spell at Palermo. The Italian could have become a cult figure after making his debut in a 2-1 victory at Sid James’ Park but in only his second game, at Hull City, he was sent off for a needless stamp in the 6th minute of first half stoppage time. Not only was that an act of pure stupidity in itself, being as it was out by the touchline in the opposition’s half with the ref just about to blow for the break, but we were already a goal down thanks to a Carlos Cuellar OG and a man light already courtesy of an idiotic lunging tackle from Barry Lee Cattermole not long before. It was a credit to the nine men still on the pitch that we finished that game without conceding another goal and unlucky in fact not to have got at least a point.
As before the competition is healthy for the midfield berths but my selection lines up like this: Carsten Fredgaard, Jason Denayer, Christian Bassila, Charias Mavrias.
Monsieur Salut writes: games come thick and fast in League One. We’ve hardly had time to celebrate the emphatic home win against Scunthorpe before the long trip to Gillingham beckons. James Morgan*, our Gills fan, is not from Gillingham and has never lived in Kent. A gloryseeker then? No, he inherited his love of the Gills from his dad and that passes my arbitrary test of true support with flying colours (heaven knows, I was born almost as far from Sunderland as it’s possible to be and still be English). James has pals from uni who follow Sunderland and retains a soft spot for our club – and for a certain player who graced both the Priestfield and the Stadium of Light. I wonder what the Gills equivalent of Roy Keane’s assessment of Nyron – Tony Pulis or Peter Taylor maybe – might have been (Keano said ‘the less time Nyron spends on the ball, the better it is for all concerned’). Oops: forgot to ask him about the Gills sending us down to the third tier in the 1980s …
We continue our end of season reviews with Wrinkly Pete, aka Pete Lynn, who – in his second contribution to the series; click here for the story so far – asks one of the questions which will be on a lot of minds.
Of course, being Wrinkly Pete, he has to do it in a musical way, and he has to ask it a number of times …
For his second contribution to the pages of Salut! Sunderland, Martin Crow compares and contrasts – favourably – the Chris Coleman way with words, when talking publicly about Sunderland AFC, with the mix of gibberish, gallows humour, boorishness, beyond-the-pale philosophy and heavy gloom that has gone before …
Whatever our feelings as yet another Sunderland horror show is staged (NB: thoroughly mitigated by an astonishing second-half fightback at Ashton Gate bringing us a 3-3 draw), it would be criminal not to offer a tribute to Liam Miller, who has died at the cruelly young age of 36 from pancreatic cancer.
Kevin O’Neill is an Irish football writer who knows his subject. In a new book, he traces the declining role of Irish players in England’s elite clubs. Since his research covered plenty of Sunderland-related content, we invited him to introduce his project ….
With this book, I recall better times for the Irish in England’s leading clubs, largely before the introduction of the Premier League and subsequent influx of foreign players.
Sunderland supporters are fully aware of their club’s own strong links to the Emerald Isle, a bond that continues today with Aiden McGeady and John O’Shea members of Simon Grayson’s squad. Among the Irish stars whose careers I review are Niall Quinn, properly seen as a Sunderland hero, and the man he later – when chairman – appointed as manager, Roy Keane.
There’s an interview too with another former Sunderland boss, Martin O’Neill, and former club defender Mark Rossiter – [he didn’t play much for us but was there when I saw us beat Arsenal 3-2 in a League Cup game at Highbury – Ed] as well as an interview with Sunderland fan Martyn McFadden, editor in chief [crikey Martyn, that’s a grand title – Ed] of A Love Supreme.
My origins are in the Irish midlands town of Athlone, a place familiar to Sunderland supporters through pre-season visits.
Firstly, I wish to thank everyone who helped me get the book to this stage, and particularly past and present players who gave me their time. They provided invaluable insight and experience into what it’s like for Irish players, young and old, to be part of English football.
The result, I hope, is a factual, hard-hitting account of what has happened to the Irish in top-class English football over the past 20 years.
I try to find out how and why their fortunes have deteriorated so dramatically – and quickly – while also recalling better times when the Irish triumphed in England with great regularity.
Through a series of face-to-face interviews with current and retired players, the book describes how young Irish teenagers fend for themselves in the cut-throat world of Academy football and considers those who have fallen by the wayside in their pursuit of fame and footballing fulfilment in England. I pose the question of whether the Irish can ever again prosper at English football’s most successful clubs.
* Where Have All the Irish Gone? The Sad Demise of Ireland’s Once Relevant Footballers will be released by http://www.pitchpublishing.co.ukon October 16 2017, is priced at £12.99, and will be available to purchase at Amazon, Waterstones and various other book stores and platforms to be confirmed.
The publishers say the book tells a story of dramatic decline, an ‘ultimate riches-to-rags affair’ in which Irish players have largely become irrelevant at the top English clubs.
The author can be reached on Twitter @kevoneillwriter
Monsieur Salut writes: it seems an awful long time ago. Then, BBC Radio Newcastle’s brilliantly excitable Simon Crabtree had produced the Mother of all Goal Commentaries with his description of Carlos Edwards’s scintillating winner against Burnley to push us closer to promotion (achieved as champions with the 5-0 away win at Luton in the final game). It’s in the superb YouTube clip you see above.
But Ten Years After – OK, a little more than 10, since the Burnley match was on April 27 and the Luton game on May 6 – we all need to have our spirits lifted. Then, we were in the hands of the Drumaville consortium, a group of Irish businessmen led by Niall Quinn as chairman and Seaham-born John Hays as vice chairman. I have seen the message Niall sent Drumaville’s surviving veterans after our relegation was confirmed this season; it was a model of dignity and pride.
Can the memory of that astonishing bottom-to-top transformation inspire whoever, ultimately, accepts the job of managing Sunderland and whoever is subsequently the club’s owner(s). We shall see. But here is how we reported on promotion 10 years ago …
So Salut! Sunderland was told the former SAFC and Republic of Ireland midfielder Andy Reid, speaking exclusively to 888sport, was happy to answer our questions as part of the interview. He had some interesting things to say about enjoying his time at Sunderland, playing for Ireland and observing our current plight.