As Sunderland face Chelsea, meet our Weardale connection and name SAFC’s top scorer

Let us introduce you to our Guess the Score sponsors

The buildup to Chelsea v SAFC has begun with Guess the Score. Soon there’ll be another of our ‘Who are You?’ interviews. For now, though, some ideas for late Christmas shopping with a Sunderland flavour …

In an ideal world,
Salut! Sunderland would have is own busy sales department, teams of people beavering away to dispatch SAFC-related merchandise to all corners of the world and keep Sixer, Jake and the rest of us in a style to which we are not accustomed.

But that ideal is beyond us. Our modest forays into the field were amateurish, far too time-consuming to justify the effort and, in the end, spectacularly unsuccessful.

Along the way, however, we have managed to attract those who are good at this kind of thing to sponsor our competitions and, in a few cases, advertise with us. So it is time for Salut! Sunderland to return the favour.

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Chelsea v SAFC Guess the Score: will Leicester result help or hinder?

Jake: 'anything Bournemouth & Leicester do, we can better' Can't we?
Jake: ‘anything Bournemouth & Leicester do, we can do better’ Can’t we?

Knowing Sunderland supporters as we do,
the easiest guesswork in this week’s competition would be to predict the answer to the question in the headline.

Decades of disappointment have made most of us professional gloom merchants. So Chelsea’s latest defeat, 2-1 at refreshingly table-topping Leicester, damages our prospects for Saturday at the Bridge rather than improves them.

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Sixer’s Sevens: SAFC 0 Watford 1. Undone by all the old faults

Jake: 'oh dear ...'
Jake: ‘oh dear …’

Monsieur Saltut writes: deprived of Sixer – Pete was on Santa duty again – and deputy editor Malcolm Dawson, also absent from the SoL, Salut! Sunderland struggled to follow the game as much as the team struggled against a lively, well-drilled Watford side. There wasn’t even Barnes and Benno on local radio – some technical hitch presumably – but a decent stream was located to show exactly why Sunderland are in such trouble.

Sloppy play all over the pitch let the fans down after a woeful start that the Hornets sting in under four minutes. It improved when Johnson and Defoe came on and there were chances, but Watford might have doubled or trebled their lead as gaps were left, inevitably, at the back. The asterisk denotes the non-Sixer seven-word verdict (it’s mine) …

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SAFC v Watford Who are You?: ‘your garden shed may be bigger than this, but …’

Ben with Danny Graham
Ben Clarke with Danny Graham

OK, he didn’t exactly anticipate the song our supporters will be singing at Vicarage Road later in the season. But our Watford ‘Who are You?’ interviewee Ben Clarke makes it clear that for him, stadium size doesn’t matter. And he has good cause to be happy with what he, among the regular 21,000 sell-out attendances, has seen so far. They have not only been getting some decent results, taking them to 10th place, they’ve also been easy on the eye. Ben doubts the club can maintain such a lofty position for any newly promotion side, but nor does he expect a serious relegation threat. Here are his answers to our questions. Ben expresses his views on football succinctly but he is a home-and-away regular so his opinions count. As for SAFC, he likes the club and feels Big Sam will save us, but only just …

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SAFC v Watford: prizes for guessing where the goals will go in

Paddy Power
Paddy Power: ‘what’s the betting this chap will be picking the ball out of the net a few times?’

Read on for how to enter. The prizes are a £10 Amazon Voucher, a copy of Football Manager 2016 or a Sunderland shirt (home, away or third)

Here is a neat little companion
to Salut! Sunderland’s regular Guess the Score feature.

It comes from the Irish bookie Paddy Power, owner one of Monsieur Salut’s favourite radio voices, and is open, for prize purposes (see below for details), to a maximum of six readers. Any entries beyond six will be for fun only.

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Sunderland v Watford Guess the Score: can Big Sam grab that fourth win?

 Jake: 'ha'way Lads, let's have a fourth win for Big Sam'
Jake: ‘ha’way Lads, let’s have a fourth win for Big Sam’

Now is the time for Sunderland to get both parts of the package right: play well and win rather settling for gallant loser status.

After all the praise heaped on the team for a performance that deserved so much better than a 3-1 defeat, Ian Todd, a name synonymous with the London branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association, brought us down to earth a little with this tweet …

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Arsenal-Sunderland Soapbox. Guess who made better passes than Ozil

A grand stadium with 60,000 beds to fill
‘Silence please.’ A grand stadium with 60,000 beds to fill

Sixer was otherwise engaged so Monsieur Salut offers some thoughts from the Emirates …

When Pete Sixsmith leaves County Durham (or Tyne and Wear) to watch Sunderland, his post-match reports turn into witty travelogues, with tales of splendid pints of real ale quaffed in wonderful old pubs, combined with incisive analysis of the football. Henry Winter and Louise Taylor, writers I admire, generally do without the first part – and do the second no better than Sixer.

So if I announce now that my afternoon started at a contender for worst pub in England, and continued with a match that had me wondering “who did that?” if the action took place at the other end from Sunderland’s K block of the Emirates, you’ll have an idea of what is coming or, rather, not coming. This will be no match for a classic Pete Soapbox.

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Arsenal v Sunderland ‘Guess the Score’: dare to believe

Jake: 'give the travelling thousands reason to smile, Lads'
Jake: ‘give the travelling thousands reason to smile, Lads’

Watching snatches of Norwich v Arsenal
on Sunday, I formed the clear impression that Duncan Watmore – and Steven Fletcher and/or Jermain Defoe – could cause a few scares for the Gunners’ rather dodgy defence. Not Bayern-style problems but enough to make the visit to the Emirates this Saturday less of a worry than it might be.

Which Arsenal and which Sunderland turn up will, of course, be the key.

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Hutch’s Patch: Watmore floors Stoke, nearly tops the lot in one-word verdicts

Rob: one word will suffice
Rob: one word will suffice

Rob Hutchison is quick off the mark with his one-word verdicts and marks out of 10 after the 2-0 win over Stoke City. Duncan Watmore’s his playing star but Big Sam collects an extra point for his tactical nous (Monsieur Salut agreed with Gary Bennett’s verdict: PVA was the man of the match).

Hutch says (referring to the Shawcross dismissal): ‘Never a red, but he should have gone in the first half so there can be no complaints can there? The great escape may have come early this season, one never knows.’

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Sixer’s Sevens: Sunderland 2 Stoke City 0. Thrilling PVA and Watmore clinchers

Jake: catch Sixer's instant seven-word verdicts throughout the season
Jake: catch Sixer’s instant seven-word verdicts throughout the season

Monsieur Salut writes: we’ve been as critical as any others of Patrick van Aanholt this season. So let’s hear it for him after his second fine game in six days was capped by a matchwinning performance. His superb strike put us ahead and then, to Pete Sixmsith‘s delight, Duncan Watmore’s enthusiasm and appetite was rewarded with a brilliantly taken second to wrap up invaluable points.

Yes, the game changed with the dismissal early in the second half of Ryan Shawcross, lauded here in the Stoke City ‘Who are You?’ as the epitome of fair play, even the Premier’s “best defensive centre back”. But whose fault was that? He committed two clear yellow-card fouls on Watmore in the first half but was booked only once (mainly because Watmore sprinted away from the first illegal challenge instead of going down theatrically). The challenge that got him sent off was arguably not a foul, certainly – in my view – not worthy of a yellow card. But he’d ridden his luck and that luck ran out. Ultimately a terrific win and how important. Come back in due course for Sixer’s full assessment …

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