Soapbox: the O’Neill factor outsmarts Arsène, Sessegnon outclasses Arsenal

Another gem from Jake


Pete Sixsmith
eulogises a thumpingly good display by Sunderland, heaping praise on supreme gifts and honest endeavour alike. He will return to the matter of the disappointingly low attendance but, for now, revels in the warm glow of resurgent times for the club …

Read moreSoapbox: the O’Neill factor outsmarts Arsène, Sessegnon outclasses Arsenal

Arsenal, PSG and the unsettling of Sessegnon

More graphics wizardry from Jake


Early doors,
they set their stall out and just about nicked it. The wantaway stopper between the sticks was different class and the gaffer is backing him to keep more clean sheets, which is just as well since he hasn’t been able to buy a goal since the lone striker issued his “come and get me” plea.

Yes, I thought about a quiet midweek romp through football’s awful clichés, beloved not only of footballers and managers, who can at least be forgiven for being inarticulate, but also the commentators and journalists who are actually paid for their supposed command of the English language.

The source would have been the good old Blackcats list, a deep reservoir of wisdom and humour among Sunderland supporters spread around the world from Wearside to western Ontario and beyond.

But after a good start, in which broadsides were fired, transfers “put on ice” and injuries “shrugged off”, the ideas dried up. It would not have stretched to a proper Salut! Sunderland feature without hearty plagiarism of the Colemanballs archive.

Then I came across a classic example of the misleading dross sports editors feel obliged to shovel into their pages and broadcasts. It was in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle and concerned Stéphane Sessegnon, whose form has at times been magical during Sunderland’s post-Bruce recovery.

The Chronicle is no better or worse than countless other media outlets. It uses all the clichés and dresses up casual training ground half-quotes as stories, but also comes up with viable interviews that draw me to its website pages from time to time.

Yesterday’s story about Sess not only fell into the first category. It managed to convey, by the time you’d read it, an impression that was the direct opposite of that created by the headline.

Sunderland fans would have been greatly reassured by the heading: “Stéphane Sessegnon: Arsenal switch is not for me.”

So far, so good. The lad’s happy at Sunderland, he is going nowhere. But read on (though there is not actually much to read) and you reach his direct quote, the first six words of which may well have been the reporter’s, not his: “Interest from some bigger English clubs? I don’t think about that. Above all I am just thinking about scoring and assisting.”

Even that we could live with. He’s hardly going to say he is already planning to move on if that is in his mind, and it is hard to see what more he can say if he is not. Bear in mind the story is written in the context of “talk of a summer move to Arsenal”.

But then we come to the only words of the story that matter, again attributed to Sess: “We will talk about my future again at the end of the season.”

Now that is worrying. Far from meaning, as the headline suggests, that an Arsenal move is not for him, it makes us fear that our hold on Sess is flimsy to say the least. I do not blame the Chronicle reporter, James Hunter, for the headline but I do reproach him for his failure to offer intelligent interpretation of such remarks as Sess allowed to pass his lips.

Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop

That is all the more pertinent when you consider how many people will have seen the Chron headline on newsnow.co.uk and followed the link in the belief they were about to have minds put at rest over Sess’s commitment to the club. When I looked a minute ago, the story was fourth in the newsnow hitlist of top Sunderland stories from the past 24 hours.

And when Sess switches to French, it is even more alarming. L’Equipe, which has a habit of getting footballers, especially those with French connections, to speak at meaningful length, quotes l’international Béninois as saying this about his former club Paris Saint-Germain, nowadays fabulously rich with Qatari gold:

“Of course I follow PSG’s results. It’s good that big names are arriving at the club, which deserves great things. Even though it’s now a year since I left, I retain my love for Paris and still have friends there, like Guillaume Hoarau, who I talk to regularly on the phone. Wear the PSG shirt again (hack alert: more words put in his mouth -ed)? Paris, it’s still Paris. Why not? But that’s not for today.”

The two references to Paris can be taken as meaning the club. It is common in France to talk of PSG as “Paris” so he is not just eulogising the city of romance (Paris, not Sunderland).

But taken together with negative-positive Chron story, it is depressingly fair to conclude that the season for unsettling Sess has well and truly begun.

* Get the best out of Salut! Sunderland by bookmarking the home page (click for it anywhere in this text) and using it to see, on each visit, highlights of the six most recent articles.

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Monsieur Salut

Time for thanks: to Sessegnon and Salut! Sunderland’s 1.4m

We are not about to enter Man’s First Steps on Moon territory, but it is a small achievement of which we are mightily proud: yesterday, the hit rate of 3,500+ took Salut! Sunderland for the first time into the top 10 of the Soccerlinks hitlist.

Read moreTime for thanks: to Sessegnon and Salut! Sunderland’s 1.4m

Hibernian 0 SAFC 0: the phoney war’s over, now for Liverpool


So we end the pre-season build undefeated in Scotland and the North East, winless in Germany and Lancashire.

Without the slightest disrespect to York City, Kilmarnock, Hartlepool and Darlington, the four teams we have beaten in the friendlies, it is fair to assume Liverpool will present a somewhat tougher obstacle in the opening Premier League game at Anfield next Saturday.

Read moreHibernian 0 SAFC 0: the phoney war’s over, now for Liverpool

Kilmarnock 1 Sunderland 2: Sess again, Wickham off mark



Not the toughest of pre-season opposition but good to record a win all the same. And 399 SAFC supporters were counted among the 2,333 crowd.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the safc.com live text team, and Mr Peter Sixsmith of this parish, I knew fairly quickly that we had taken the lead at Kilmarnock and soon after the end that we had beaten them 2-1.

Read moreKilmarnock 1 Sunderland 2: Sess again, Wickham off mark

A win at last: the Wigan game in quotes


Sunday’s a day of rest, especially after you’ve won for the first time since Jan 22. Pete Sixsmith‘s analysis will appear tomorrow. Please feel free to add your own quotes to these …

Steve Bruce:

“I have to say a big thank you to the supporters. They were magnificent and played their part from the first whistle to the last.”

Read moreA win at last: the Wigan game in quotes

Remember Chamakh? The joke’s on Bordeaux now

Forgiven: a Bordeaux fan M Salut hammers at badminton

Those of you with hair have torn it out, the milk is well and truly spilt or even spilled Over at non-football Salut!, I wondered aloud whether watching Sunderland could, like smoking, seriously damage your health. It has been a week in which a supporter of West Brom, of all clubs, cockily dismissed Sunderland in his “fan’s view” for the Daily Mail as “physical, determined but limited”. And that was just the first-half, when we were ahead. So let’s change tack. Here, before we start fretting about Birmingham away, is another episode in our French Fancies series …

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Yes. I really should get out more. The time to end the ridiculous feud with Les Girondins de Bordeaux has surely past. Who cares if the club president Jean-Louis Triaud and his then manager, Laurent Blanc, insulted Sunderland AFC?

But every time I feel Salut! Sunderland should move on, bury the hatchet, find someone else to taunt, along comes an excuse to reopen hostilities with the self-important Ligue 1 underachievers who declared that Sunderland AFC were altogether too small a club to be allowed to buy Marouane Chamakh (now at Arsenal, where he scores a little and dives a lot).

Read moreRemember Chamakh? The joke’s on Bordeaux now