The diver turning in his grave

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Colin Randall kills time with a quick rant about diving …

When I was a lad and couldn’t afford a Subbuteo set, I devised a makeshift version using various toys – toy soldiers, toy cops, whatever came to hand – and a marble for the ball. The floor or table provided the pitch.

My star player was a toy frogman. I called him Diver. I could make the marble ricochet off his almost mermaid-style form and sometimes sneak into the goal.

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Who are you? We’re Blackburn

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OK, Tuesday night brought us back down to earth with a bump. Chelski were just streets, if not boulevards or trunks roads, ahead of us in class. Blackburn, at this stage of our development, should be a fairer test of Bruce’s squad….
Last season, we seemed to play Rovers every other week, presenting us with a real test to find enough of their fans to preview each of the games. One who expressed himself in particularly robust terms was Vinjay, owner of the Rovers fan site www.brfcattitude.com, though his commitment to the cause of Blackburn Rovers is equalled by his resolve to remain anonymous. His loathing for Roy Keane cannot offend us any more, but he still comes up with some challenging thoughts on Big Sam, Steve Bruce, club owners and cheating ….

Big Sam saved you quite comfortably in the end, Is he the man to take you forward?

I wasn’t surprised he ultimately prevented disaster. Always felt he was capable of that goal. The job he has done has been slightly overrated in my view. If Portsmouth can survive with a failed championship level manager and Brian Kidd in charge it wasn’t such a momentous task.

Read moreWho are you? We’re Blackburn

Soapbox: I think I have seen the champions

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Just as well we have Blackburn on Saturday, as good a chance as we could have to bounce back. A preview Rovers fan’s preview will appear by tomorrow. “Complete and utter massacre. Can’t ever remember us being so completely overrun at home by another side. Frankly depressing …” was one Sunderland supporter’s harsh verdict on the 3-1 home defeat by Chelsea. Pete Sixsmith takes a more philosophical view of the gulf in class between the two teams …

Well, it could have been worse. But for some dogged defending and our visitors taking their foot off the pedal with 10 minutes left, we could have been looking at a repeat of Saturday night’s fiasco at Goodison. As it was, we were privileged to watch a master class in how to swat awkward opponents when they are annoying you.

Again, we got off to a flier and Bent took his goal really well. He picked up the ball that Kenwyne had forced out of the defender, moved quickly onto goal and slotted it past Cech in a manner completely unbeknown to the likes of Chopra and Murphy. This was after Chelsea had started well but had been pushed on to the back foot by some ferocious tackling from Cattermole and Cana.chelski

Read moreSoapbox: I think I have seen the champions

Stephen Wilson RIP

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Pete Sixsmith pays a moving tribute to a pal and fellow Sunderland fan who has met a cruel end. There is an update on the police investigation in the footnote …


Stephen Wilson
was a very good friend of mine. He was a Sunderland supporter par excellence, a well known and highly thought of Sunday footballer, a proud member of the Wilson/Barker clan – and now he is lying in a hospital morgue after a senseless death outside a pub in Bishop Auckland.

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SAFC’s Hollywood alter ego

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One question I am asking opposing fans, when they write for Salut! Sunderland, is what they make of the choice of movie star to which Jonathan Northcroft of The Sunday Times likened their club in a pre-season Premier preview.

And Sunderland? In case you didn’t see, we were Denzel Washington – and it had nothing to do with Nissan. It was because we have “probably done good things, but you can’t recall any of them right now”.

But at least we can thank Northcroft for his prediction on how we will fare. Of course, we’d all like better, but most of us would welcome the ninth place he suggests in “a season of progress” for a squad with Darren Bent promising goals and “a squad that contains other good elements”.

Others have been asking us questions, too. This (for those who missed it when I reproduced it without the link) is what I made of those set by Low-life Opinions, a football and music blog. The headline is theirs:

High-brow opinions from salut! sunderland

Are you pleased with Sunderland’s transfer activity over the summer?

Yes. I think Steve Bruce has done well in overcoming the won’t-play-in-the-North-East arrogance of so many players, or is it their Wags? Did Peter Crouch consider in his wildest dreams coming to Sunderland, or was he just using us to spur (pun intended) another club into action? As I write, Darren Bent is reportedly about to sign and that is a mightily welcome addition to those already acquired (da Silva, Campbell and Cana – respectively an international skipper, a bright Man Utd prospect and the captain of OM, who went so close to winning Ligue 1. We’re showing real ambition.

Are there any youngsters who you think will make a big impact for Sunderland this year?

I’d love to see the likes of Martyn Waghorn, Jack Colback and Jordan Henderson come through and show themselves to be Premier standard after all they’ve done in the youth scheme. (NB: The answer was given in ognorance of the Waghorn and Colback loan deals)

What’s the minimum Sunderland have to achieve this season in order for it to be considered a success?

It seems an age since Peter Reid had two successive seventh top finishes. It wasn’t a better team in every department and the positions have mahe flattered to deceive, but it did have the formidable Quinn-Phillips strike pairing. Ellis Short, our owner, has top 10 as his target. That may sound over-ambitious after the disappointments of our first two seasons back in the Premier, but last season was so tight in the division that we would have got there with just a few more wins. OK. five more wins! I’d be happy with 10th

Were you pleased when Steve Bruce was appointed as manager?

I had hoped for an exciting appointment from overseas, but was 80 per cent convinced Bruce was a good choice. The reservations may have had irrational tribal origins. Everything so far suggests I should be allowing that percentage to rise, not fall. I think we will progress under his management.

Name one player you’d like Sunderland to sign before the transfer window closes.

I would love to see Marouane Chamakh come from Bordeaux if only to annoy Laurent Blanc, who – as I have reported has been making idiotic noises in the French press about Sunderland not being a big enough club for him. What exactly are Bordeaux? Deserved champions, but in France. Unlike our Quinn-Phillips side back in Reid’s days, they’d have struggled to finish seventh in England.

Will Man City finish in the top four?

I don’t have anything against Man City. In fact I quite like them and would be happy to see them break into the top four, especially if it were at Chelsea’s expense. However much we – and I include myself – rattle on about proper clubs, proper football, every fan is pleased when his or her club attracts rich investors. Not sure if it means I have an interest to declare but I have already said as much in the Abu Dhabi paper for which I write. But I’ll stick my neck out and say they won’t make it this season.

Where will Sunderland finish in the league?

Let’s stick to the above and say 10th, while hoping for sixth.

Colin Randall

Who are you? We’re Chelsea

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We’ll get onto Chelsea in a minute. First, though, be aware that Laurent Blanc has been up to his idiotic tricks again, saying Marouane Chamakh could go only to a “big English club” and no such club is there for him. We are no longer chasing Chamakh, according to Bruce (though I see he has already scored three goals for Bordeaux in their opening two Ligue 1 games), but the jibe is aimed at Sunderland. Consider our likely attendance tomorrow night against Chelsea, compare it with the pathetic 32,000 who watched the first Bordeaux home game and then work out which is the bigger club.
So we made a great start at the Reebok, and could not be mentally more ready for tomorrow night. Most bets will nevertheless be on an away win. David Millward*, lifelong Blue, ducks the issue but agrees that this could be Chelsea’s year for the title. Here is how he answered our questions …

There’s been plenty of backing for Chelsea as champions this season. What do you say?

Logic says this could be true. Much depends on whether Ancelotti is a Hiddink or a Mourinho. First signs are encouraging. He has not mucked about with the side. The game against Manure showed they have not lost their competitive cynicism and, from a distance, Ancelotti looks like Hiddink – little grey haired fat man in a suit.

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Soapbox: where were you?

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Pete Sixmith reflects on a great day out and that rarity: three points from an opening game away from home…

Where were you on the August 19 1989? If you were at the County Ground, Swindon, you saw our last away win on the opening day of the season. Eric Gates and Warren Hawke scored on a day that featured such luminaries as Tony Cullen and John Cornforth. I was in Greensboro, North Carolina and I remember making frantic transAtlantic phone calls in order to get the score in those pre internet days.

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Sunderland’s opening win observed

For those who do not take The Observer – shame on you; it’s the best Sunday paper and needs all the support it can get just now – this is how our own Pete Sixsmith saw Bolton Wanderers 0-1 Sunderland in today’s edition

Jones led the line so well and got Bent involved early on. Jones was a giant – and did some tremendous defensive headers. It was a good, solid win and we were outstanding in the first half. Jussi had a blinder against us and Bent was unfortunate. In the second half they came at us, but Fulop made two outstanding saves – his handling was good and he ran his area very well.The manager has strengthened the team in the middle and we moved the ball quicker.

Player Ratings Fulop 9; McCartney 7, Ferdinand 6, Collins 7, Bardsley 7; Richardson 6 (Campbell 76 7), Cattermole 8, Malbranque 7 (Henderson ht 7), Cana 8; Bent 8, Jones 9

And, for a Bolton verdict …

Shaun O’Gara, Bolton Supporters’ Club Disappointed that the manager spent all the money on defensive players and they did not defend well. We’re crying out for a striker and a creative midfielder. Elmander struggled again – he’s not scored all year! The style of play is pretty awful and ticket sales have fallen, even though prices have dropped. A child’s season ticket is £50, but the general season ticket holders haven’t renewed. We have to beat teams like Sunderland – they’re in our mini-league.
Player Ratings Jaaskelainen 7; Robinson 4, Knight 4, Cahill 5, Ricketts 4; Taylor 5, Muamba? 5 , S Davis 4, McCann 5 (Lee 68 5); Elmander 5 (Ward 83 n/a), K Davies? 6

Sixer’s Travels: Haarlem globetrotting


Once bitten twice shy. Pete Sixsmith’s eccentricities with spelling know no bounds, as a reader gently observed after his report from the Benfica game. Pete’s poor editor had no idea where to start on this one, a detailed account – littered with proper names Salut! Sunderland wouldn’t recognise if they fell in its soup – of his day off from following Sunderland. It’s a good read all the same and ends on a happy note …

It’s a quiet Sunday morning in Amsterdam. People are walking or cycling to work. There is a peaceful air over our part of the city. It’s the calm before the Steve Bruce Revolution hits the Amsterdam Arena at seven o’clock tonight.

Read moreSixer’s Travels: Haarlem globetrotting

Sixer’s Travels: Dutch delights, Benfica blues


So on the strength of one 2-0 defeat to Benfica in a pre-season game, a fan over at the normally sensible Blackcats list is already fretting about another relegation battle (“After 50 years of totally being convinced we are going to make good next season. I think the hope has gone!!!! When if ever, will we get some talent in the team worthy of wearing them stripes with pride and giving there all”).
But this, as has been pointed out, was last season’s team. No Campbell, no da Silva, no Lorik Cana, our new capture from Marseille, no whoever else is due at the SoL. Pete Sixsmith was there to apply wiser judgement, but he was pretty unimpressed too (while being rather fond of the Netherlands) …

The Sixsmith/Horan bandwagon rolls on from the lush green fields of Ireland to the flat polders of the Netherlands as we sample the delights of European football, European culture – and European prices.

Read moreSixer’s Travels: Dutch delights, Benfica blues