Soapbox: season tickets, semi-finals and Nicky Sharkey

Season ticket renewal time has Pete Sixsmith momentarily undecided as he contrasts the snarling faces of Premier League football and honest-to-goodness non-league fare …

The season ticket forms dropped through the letterbox this week, closely followed by an email from the club telling me that I didn’t have to do anything and they would instruct my bank to carry on with the Direct Debits.

Of course, I can always cancel the DDs and the season ticket and I have had one or two little doubts creeping into the far corners of what passes for my mind. Some of it is to do with Sunderland AFC but most of it is about the general state of the Premier League and its “leading” clubs.

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Soapbox: forget moaning Fergie, smug Lampard. Just pity Plymouth

Right: a busy run-up to Arsenal at Saturday lies in prospect with at least two Who are You? features lined up. A good time, then, to let Pete Sixsmith get a few things off his chest about the state of modern football …

It’s a bright and breezy Wednesday and I have spent the day with ten 16-year-olds while suffering from a cold that has made me feel that my head is in a vice.

The papers and the internet are full of the usual Ferguson complaints about referees and there are pics of the incredibly smug Frank Lampard banging in the winning penalty at Stamford Bridge last night.

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Stoke Soapbox: blinded by the truth


In common with most parts of the media, and an overwhelming majority of neutral onlookers other blinkered SAFC supporters, Salut! Sunderland may have gained or given the impression that Stoke’s tactics on Saturday were not only ugly but bordered on thuggery of a kind that Mr Lee Probert ought to have noticed and punished. It has now been drawn to our attention that far from being a bunch of ruffians whose priority is to crowd, obstruct, push and restrain the opposing goalkeeper at set pieces, they are standard-bearers for football’s Corinthian spirit and the aesthetic joys of the sport at its best. Sunderland fans, in particular, reek of sour grapes and are just jealous because Rory Delap never put in a menacing long throw in his time at their club. We therefore apologise unreservedly to Mr Tony Pulis and the players, staff and supporters of Stoke City.

Now let Pete Sixsmith embrace the mood of contrition …

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Chelsea Soapbox: beaten but not humbled by Blues

In a model of even-handed match reporting, Pete Sixsmith praises what Sunderland did well, puts aside disappointment that we could not quite rise to the occasion and do better and salutes a powerful display by the Champions in general – one José Bosingwa da Silva excluded – and one man, Nicolas Anelka, in particular …

As games go, it was a good one. There was plenty of exciting and attacking football, some poor defending, controversial refereeing decisions and a sublime performance from one player. The pity was that we lost it.

These are the games where we measure our progress. Too many times in the past, we have come up against one of the very good sides at the top of the League and we have been rolled over. So, on that criterion, we have advanced. We were beaten, but Chelsea did not swamp us.

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SAFC v Notts County Soapbox: Meadow Lane by Hillman Imp

Some more glorious reminiscences from Pete Sixsmith, who also offers timely reassurance to anyone who took him seriously when he wondered aloud about which match to watch tomorrow …

To those who thought I was deserting the Stadium of Light for Dean Street, I say thank you for convincing me that my destiny and duty lay at Sunderland rather than Shildon. I shall be in my normal seat on Saturday watching the current crop of Lads take on the current crop of Magpies.

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Soapbox: the January transfer window – board it up!

Football clubs up and down the land are setting out their stalls for the January sales, and looking around in the hope of snapping up bargains of their own. Pete Sixsmith would cheerfully save them all the bother. It’s all enough to make him toy with the attractions of Shildon at home instead of the FA Cup this weekend …

So, the eagerly anticipated transfer window has opened at last. Excuse me while I yawn, while Sky Sports News presenters have 28 days of collective orgasms as they break the news that Gillingham have signed a Spurs Reserve who not even Harry Redknapp has heard of and while tons and tons of newsprint are wasted on “exclusive” stories that turn out to be so exclusive that they are pure fiction.

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Soapbox: more reflections on Blackpool, jitters before Blackburn

The post-Christmas setbacks have left Pete Sixsmith in a gloomy mood. The possible absence of Welbeck and Gyan when we face Blackburn hasn’t lifted his spirits. But surely he is going too far down the road of pessimism to suggest we could find ourselves in trouble …

Two days later and a short viewing on Match of the Day have done little to assuage my disappointment after Tuesday’s result.

The Northern Echo sent Steph Clarke to cover the game. I assume she is a young journalist, finding her way in the world and has been told not to upset the powers that be at Premier League football clubs. She wrote in a positive vein and even gave Gyan and Bent a score of seven each out of 10. Maybe she confused the mark with the number of chances missed by each player. (Not as bad as the Sunderland Echo, Pete; its headline reads “Gary Rowell: How did Sunderland lose against Blackburn?” – ed)

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Soapbox: Blackpool illuminate the Stadium of Light

Any hope that meek capitulation at Old Trafford would at least be followed by six home points was swept away in a torrent of missed chances against Blackpool. And, with the exception of Darren Bent’s well-struck free kick against the bar, badly missed chances (“my granddaughter would have saved most of them and she isn’t one yet,” said someone at the Blackcats list). Pete Sixsmith sees our supposedly sleek Mercedes of attacking power cut up by the Skodas of the Premier League …

As the teams were read out before this fiasco, I mentally scratched my head to try to remember something about those who made up our opponents. Taylor-Fletcher – former Huddersfield Town; Campbell – Yeading and Brentford; Vaughan – Crewe and Real Sociedad. None of them names that trip off the tongue. They do now.

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Manchester United v SAFC, and why I love Boxing Day

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From all at Salut! Sunderland – that’s essentially Monsieur Salut, Pete Sixsmith, Joan Dawson and a growing army of contributors, have a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy new year. Pete’s already looking forward to tomorrow …

Read our big match build-up by clicking here or here. Or listen to Monsieur Salut 30 minutes or more into this interview with

The day after Christmas Day is called Boxing Day because of the tradition of giving presents of money in small boxes to tradesmen and beggars – and not the habit of punching your brother because he is hogging the Hornby DuBlo train set.

For me it is the highlight of the year. I always look for the Boxing Day fixture first so I can plan my Christmas Day accordingly. Home game means an early night, away game means an early night; you have to be ready for the biggest game of the year.

Last year we had Everton as visitors to the SoL, the year before, pre-Coyle Bolton Wanderers, who played out an awful goalless draw. This year we are off to Old Trafford, via the pubs of Saddleworth for a pre game snifter.

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Bolton Soapbox: Cattermole causes Coyle to complain

If Saturday in Sunderland was cold by normal standards, it was positively balmy by comparison with what was happening almost everywhere else. But 1245 is a rotten kickoff time, as witnessed by empty seats that cannot all be attributed to the weather. All the same, three good points made it all seem like a heatwave. Pete Sixsmith reports on the tough encounter that awaited those of us who made the effort …

Could there have been a worse time for this game? The Saturday before Christmas, a 1245 kick off and visitors who rarely bring more than a couple of coachloads of fans.

Add to that the fact that many people still see Bolton as the personification of grimness in football and I think we did bloody well to attract just under 35,000 Sunderland fans to the Stadium on Saturday.

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