Sixer’s Stoke City Soapbox: Cats get the point of the penalty shoot out

Malcolm Dawson writes……at only three quid admission plus a loyalty point to count towards away tickets this was a must not miss game. Well it was for me anyway and the three members of the Heart of England branch that I bumped into, who had made the trip up from Coventry, for what many would class as a meaningless game.

Who was that man?

It wasn’t meaningless for the club either because whilst this may not be the number one priority it did give Jack Ross and his staff the opportunity to give Robbin Ruiter, Charlie Wyke, Jerome Sinclair, Luke O’Nien, Tom Flanagan, Reece James and Dylan McGeouch some much needed match time and to have a look at some of players who will hope to step up from the U23s in Ethan Robson, Luke Molyneux, Denver Hume and Mbunga Kimpioka. The fact the competition rules state that the team had to include four outfield players who had either started the last league game or who will start the following match (or meet some other criteria in terms of games played) would seem to indicate that Charlie Wyke is already pencilled in for the weekend.

It wasn’t a classic but beat staying in and watching Emmerdale though I probably would have gone to see Esh Winning beat Durham City in preference.

Pete Sixsmith was there of course and here’s what he made of the night’s proceedings.


The EFL trophy has been around for many years in its various guises. We played in it once in 1988 when it was The Sherpa Van Trophy, beating Scarborough and Crewe Alexandra before losing to a Brian Honour goal when Hartlepool United visited a windswept Roker Park in February 1988. I missed that one as I was moving into Sixsmith Towers at the time and was sitting polishing my balls in the Billiard Room – well, you have to keep the shine on the ivory.

For the last two seasons, we have turned out in the Checkatrade Trophy (it’s latest guise after various van manufacturers, windscreen repairers and paint makers) with our Under 23’s. I went to Rochdale a couple of years ago, working on the basis that I may never have the chance to see a Sunderland side at Spotland – that one came back to bite me – and witnessed a Donald Love goal in a 1-1 draw, although the pleasures of that particular evening were tempered by a penalty shoot-out loss.

Our fall from grace (or in Rochdale’s case Gracie) led to our first team playing at home to Stoke City Under 21s. They were representing a club who could well be on a similar trajectory to us in that they have a new manager, one who is used to the Championship but who is having difficulties with what appears to be a grumpy squad and a fan base that can be as intolerant and fractious as ours was after relegation.

They had won at Hetton a couple of weeks ago and we knew that they had some decent players. Tyrese Campbell (Kevin’s little lad) was one of them and he kept Alim Ozturk and Tom Flanagan on their toes. Centre half Harry “Soapy” Souttar, a 6’6” specimen of finest Aberdeen granite had also played at Hetton where he looked good. In the more opulent surrounds of the Stadium of Light, he looked even better. At 19, he is a name to watch out for and could form a double act for Scotland with his older brother John, who plays for Hearts and who turned us down a couple of years ago.

Soapy Souter

Jack Ross may well have been aware of the Souttar siblings and regarded Souttar Minor as a good opponent for Charlie Wyke to cut his teeth on. If Souttar is reminiscent of Aberdeen granite, Wyke is a piece of Teesside steel in that he has strength and presence if not a great deal of pace and mobility. On this evening’s showing granite beat steel but only because the alloy is regaining its fitness levels after injury.

The game was played at a pleasing pace but was reminiscent of Under 23 matches in the past. Tackles were gentle and caused no harm. The ball was moved around so that everyone got a touch and for Wyke and Ethan Robson, both returning from injury, this was exactly what was needed.

Dylan McGeouch skippered the side and moved the ball around quickly although to less effect than we hoped for, Chris Maguire behaved himself after a spell on the naughty step after his near red card at the weekend and almost scored when a well taken free kick curled onto the angle of post and crossbar.

Josh Maja found Souttar and his Irish colleague Nathan Collins much more effective than some of the Third Division defenders he has come across. He did have the best attempt of the first half, forcing a fine save from Hungarian keeper Daniel Gyollai, a man who made Souttar look like Charlie Drake.

Tom Flanagan looks a useful acquisition while Ozturk had another sound game and did much to win the crowd over. He appears to be the one to target this season for those who cannot rest unless they have someone to pick on. Honeyman is next in the queue and others may follow. I remember that even in the halcyon days of 1963-64, Brian Usher was the fall guy, being awarded the nickname “Mary.”

The outstanding performance of the night came from Denver Hume. He has been around for a while now and at 22, needs to make the breakthrough either here or elsewhere. The previous managers have not been able to use young players due to the precarious situations we have found ourselves in and for whatever reasons Hume has not gone out on loan and has stagnated in the Under 23’s a la Rhys Greenwood.

He played on his wrong side in this game but showed excellent defensive qualities and he pushed forward very well. He forced a good save from Gyollai and looked as if he was ready for first team football. The unconvincing form shown by Donald Love may see him get that opportunity sooner rather than later.

Jerome Sinclair got 25 minutes under his belt and gave us a different option up front. Whereas Maja approaches the game as if he were dabbing paint on a canvas with a fine brush in the mould of Vermeer, Sinclair is more like a Jackson Pollock, slapping it about all over the place and rolling around in it. There’s a place for both and Sinclair seems an ideal candidate for the replacements bench at the moment. Good to see him back.

Ruitter – came to the fore in the shoot out
Source: Wikipedia

Kimpioka missed a clear chance from almost point blank range, managing to sidefoot the ball over the bar when it looked harder to miss than score and the game meandered to a goalless draw. Some of the 7,644 crowd (which included 21 Stokies) went home not realising that if there is a “u” in the name of the day of the week, it goes to penalties whereas if there is a “w” in it, extra time is played. The EFL do make the rules simple for a reason and that is to encourage people to attend these games. I am sure that Max Power was sitting in the stand watching rather than playing and that pushed the attendance up by 1.

On a more serious note, why did we kick off at 7.45 when most of the games in this competition were 7.00 kick offs? Hopefully the Carlisle game next month will revert to the norm and I can be home by 9.30.

The penalties gave Robbin Ruiter a chance to earn some glory. He saved a penalty at Scunthorpe in pre-season last year which led to being signed and here, he saved two – ironically from Campbell and Souttar, Stoke’s two best players (I don’t include Charlie Adam in that category as he has past form with me i.e. some nasty tackles in the past). The Dutchman also impressed with a good save before half time and some excellent distribution with his feet. McLaughlin, who looked a bit shaky on Saturday, has genuine competition.

Sinclair, McGeouch, O’Nien (he had a tidy game) and Hume converted theirs and we gained the bonus point that sets us on the road to Wembley, although we are a point behind Carlisle who beat Morecambe 3-2 in their opening tie at Brunton Park in front of 1,213.

Not a great game but the company was good and it didn’t rain.

Sometimes we are thankful for small mercies

Sixer’s Sevens Stoke City U21s: Cats get the bonus in penalty shoot out

Malcolm Dawson writes…..this was a game that rarely got the pulses racing but was decent enough entertainment I thought. I suppose you’d have to say there was a reasonable crowd there but not that many that there was any need to queue for the loos or park miles away from the ground. But there were still a few who felt it necessary to get up and go five minutes before the half time and full time whistles. Perhaps they didn’t know about the extra point penalty shoot out but there were still some who stayed for the first three or four then left before the result was decided!

This is still a competition with a chance of getting to Wembley. I’ll be interested to see how the crowds develop if we were to progress and the chance of a trip to the capital were to become a distinct possibility.

Jack Ross made it clear how he sees this competition and used the game as an opportunity to give some of our summer signings, Flannagan, McGeuch, Wyke and surprisingly and encouragingly Sinclair some match fitness whilst also taking a look at a few of the academy graduates in a match situation. I was there. Pete Sixsmith was there and a match report will follow in due course. For now you have my seven word summary.

Read moreSixer’s Sevens Stoke City U21s: Cats get the bonus in penalty shoot out

Stoke City, the U23s and the Hetton Irregulars. What more could you want on a Monday Night?

As soon as Pete Sixsmith and the trusty Mazda returned from Luton he was under the bonnet, checking the oil, putting air in the tyres and refilling the tank. For there was no time to rest, no time to reflect on the gardens, gnomes and conservatories of Old Oak Road. The Under 23s were playing on Monday and Pete needed to be there.

And now he’s here:

Read moreStoke City, the U23s and the Hetton Irregulars. What more could you want on a Monday Night?

Thanks for the memories, Tommy Sorensen. Stoke, Aston Villa fans may agree

From Tommy’s Facebook page during a long post-SAFC charity bike marathon in the USA

Pete Sixsmith bids a fond farewell to Thomas Sorensen, a great Sunderland goalkeeper of recent times, as he puts away his gloves and enters retirement (from playing at any rate) …

Thomas Sorensen announced his retirement today, ending a distinguished career that has taken him from Denmark via Wearside, Birmingham, the Potteries and Australia’s second city, Melbourne, where he finally hung up his gloves.

Read moreThanks for the memories, Tommy Sorensen. Stoke, Aston Villa fans may agree

Forget Oscars: the HAWAY awards are what matters to fans of Everton, Stoke, Chelsea … and Shrewsbury

Jake: ‘with thanks to all opposing fans who participate’

Salut! Sunderland gets big hits for “Who are You?” interviews, the Q and A sessions with opposing fans that we publish before every game, writes Monsieur Salut.

And at the end of each season, we present the Haways – Highly Articulate Who Are You? awards – to those our judges deem to have been the best.

It is entirely subjective but a spot of fun. If any reader who follows the series wishes to have a say, please just leave a comment (using your correct e-mail address, which is not shown but I can see) and you will be contacted.

Read moreForget Oscars: the HAWAY awards are what matters to fans of Everton, Stoke, Chelsea … and Shrewsbury

Sixer’s Stoke City Soapbox: Potters pile more pain on Moyes’s Boys (and us!)

Malcolm Dawson writes……….I never get too worked up about performances such as yesterday’s. I just don’t – ever! I enjoy it when we play well and win and can be as excited and emotional as the next person but my intense disappointment after a poor performance and defeat never really spills over into anger or feelings of violence. I think it’s just that I refuse to get too worked up about things over which I have no control – but maybe it’s simply that having followed Sunderland since 1964, I’m inured to the whole painful experience.

I always know when I’m really bored (or more often resigned to another loss) because I start thinking about what I’m going to have to eat when I get home and yesterday, as I sat shivering through my thermals, I was weighing up the pros and cons of an old fashioned beef stew with spring onion mash compared to lamb pasanda with sag aloo and garlic nan.

It’s fair to say that I have been preoccupied with things other than football since last weekend but as I made my slow walk back to the car I was thinking that I may well have a good excuse not to make it to the Tottenham game. Poor Pete Sixsmith will almost certainly be there and he’s got a ticket for Burnley! Here’s how he feels about yet another home defeat.


There have been some catastrophic home performances in the last couple of years – Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers spring to mind – but there can’t have been many as dispiriting as this.

Seeking to follow up a good home performance in the last league game and perhaps climb out of the bottom three and put some pressure on the likes of Middlesbrough and Leicester City, we turn in a twenty minute cameo that leaves us sitting in the relegation places and looking as near to doomed as it is possible to be.

The Stoke goals were ridiculous. Poor defending, poor reactions and dismal goalkeeping. The passing and movement of the Potters made us look like a team of geriatric penguins as the likes of Shaqiri, Arnautovic and Allen showed what clever and sensible investment coupled with managerial stability, can do for a club. We have none of those.

If the way that we played was bad (and believe me, dear reader, it was), there was far worse to see on the pitch as players fell out with each other, seemed to give up and generally looked like a group who didn’t like being where they were and who may well be begging their agents to get them out of Sunderland and to a decent, well run club.

Will PvA stick with us or is he off?

Take Patrick Van Aanholt. He was one of the better players and he continued to push forward as we chased the game. His frustration grew, particularly with Adnan Januzaj and at one stage towards the end of the game, I expected a Kieron Dyer/Lee Bowyer situation to develop as Van Aanholt made it very clear that he was not impressed with the way that the Belgian held on to the ball. There was little Low Countries rapport between these two.

Take Adnan Januzaj. There is an acceptance from the support that he is a frail character, certainly physically and possibly mentally. They will make allowances for him and don’t expect him to be the next Billy Whitehurst. But they do expect him to make challenges and when he ducked out of one that was 70:30 in his favour, the howls of derision that rained down from all four parts of the ground made it clear that any sympathy that the support had with him, had gone – never to return. He makes Will Buckley look like Joe Bolton.

Take Fabio Borini. Here is another player who talks a good game but rarely produces. In a game where skill and thought are needed, he chases around, gives away endless free kicks and spends much of his time getting involved in needless spats with referees. Time to concentrate on what you do best, Fabio, although I and many others, are no longer sure what that is.

Take Jermain Defoe. He took his goal well, latching on to a long ball from Donald Love and outpacing the slowing Ryan Shawcross. But in the second half it looked as if he had given up, not something that is associated with this consummate professional. He got frustrated with some of the appalling play that went on around him. There could well be a return to his mum in London in the offing before the end of the window.

Take Vito Mannone. How can a keeper who had such a good game against Liverpool concede a goal like the third one? He was totally outjumped by the impressive Peter Crouch and that was the game gone. These last two Saturdays I have witnessed two appalling errors by the keepers of teams that I support. Both games were lost and both signified a season that was virtually over.

Fire fighting with hands, feet and any other moving parts tied behind his back.

There was an acceptance that the manager’s hands are tied. This was clearly his best XI and there is nothing sat on the bench that would make things any better. Love is more mobile than Jones and Manquillo may have to step in for Van Aanholt if he swaps a relegation battle in the North East for one in South London.

The other four outfield subs would not have made a scrap of difference to this shambles and it may well have damaged them irreparably. The two young forwards, Maja and Asoro, are promising but I saw them struggle against an experienced Everton Under 23 team last weekend and I shudder at what the likes of Shawcross, Johnson and Adam would have done to them yesterday.

George Honeyman was almost released by the club in the summer and I doubt that he is good enough at this level. Elliott Embleton may be. He ran the show in Wednesday’s comfortable 3-1 win over Shrewsbury Town in the FA Youth Cup and he may make that jump from promising to good. I would not be surprised to see him start at Burnley on Tuesday night.

As for the manager, he must be regretting taking this job on. He tries to remain upbeat and he interviewed well on BBC Newcastle after the game. But he now knows that he has walked into a club that is sliding away quickly, an owner who wants out, a poor playing squad about which he can do little – although the signing of Djilobodji is a millstone around his neck – and a financial situation which is potentially ruinous. He must be another one thinking about his next job – I see that Cowdenbeath need some help this season.

As for us, the crowd, we keep on going. 42,000 there yesterday but many will not be back. For those who go to every home game, there is no pleasure in this and we are becoming numbed by the pain of wretched season after wretched season. Could this be the one where the habit of going is broken?

After Stoke horror show, which seven Sunderland players get 3/10?

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake

Monsieur Salut writes: each matchday, ESPN FC expects me – or Pete Sixsmith when I am away – to send a report with a brief summary of the game followed by out-of-10 ratings for manager and team.

Read moreAfter Stoke horror show, which seven Sunderland players get 3/10?

Moyes on the Boys after Stoke debacle: ‘just 20 dodgy minutes’

David Moyes: ‘oops’

Monsieur Salut writes: people left their Stadium of Light seats in droves, Pete Sixsmith sent demoralised text messages and I ended up giving three-out-of-10s galore in my ESPN FC ratings. So what did David Moyes make of it? Well, he has either lost track of time or, when claiming SAFC matched Stoke for all but the first 20 minutes, meant to say the 19 minutes they took, starting in the 15th, to put the game out of sight …


Read moreMoyes on the Boys after Stoke debacle: ‘just 20 dodgy minutes’

Sixer’s Sevens: SAFC 1-3 Stoke City. With barely a whimper

Jake: ‘the curse Of Jack Rodwell is beyond a joke now. Maybe we should consider hiring an exorcist or witchdoctor or something’

Monsieur Salut writes: Is there no end to the pain to which Sunderland supporters are subjected by those rewarded handsomely to manage and play for the club? By the time Sunderland got started, 38 minutes into this miserable game, they were three down; it might have been four or five so easily had a well-organised but hardly exceptional Stoke City ripped though our slow, panic-stricken defence. Jermain Defoe scored with a clinical finish to pull one back but apart from one absymal miss from six yards by Jack Rodwell, even a marginally improved second-half performance offered few signs of hope.

David Moyes added his own contribution to a catalogue of individual failings by refusing to make a single change and, quite obviously, saying nothing at half-time to inspire a meaningful comeback. Pete Sixmsith’s seven-word verdict did undergo changes as the game wore on. I shall offer them all below …

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: SAFC 1-3 Stoke City. With barely a whimper

Should Sunderland aim to be more like Stoke?

Jake: ‘more squeaky bum time?’

Monsieur Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith raised this question here several months ago. It occurred to me again as I wrote my preview of Sunderland vs Stoke City for ESPN FC – is Mark Hughes’s side, and the club itself, more or less what SAFC should be aiming to emulate? Why can they attract players with greater apparent ease than us, and how do they manage to get into the top half so often (OK, a bad start this season makes that a taller order for 2016-17)?  

Read moreShould Sunderland aim to be more like Stoke?