The diver turning in his grave


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


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, 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.

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Soapbox: I think I have seen the champions


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

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Stephen Wilson RIP


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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Who are you? We’re Chelsea


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?


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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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.

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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.

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