Fixtures: beat Liverpool, Newcastle, Swansea to lead Premier by Aug 27

Not such a tall oder then. Having grabbed nine points from an easy start to the 2011-12 season, we would need only to hold our own until the final, title-clinching game at home to Manchester United on May 13. The heavies of the Football Data Co stand between Salut! Sunderland and publication of the full list, but we can say it should be taken with a sizeable pinch of salt.. As Pete Sixsmith points out, the first two games are already prime targets for switching …

Liverpool away, Newcastle at home. The old fixture computer has certainly given us a couple of beauties to start the season with. Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll followed by whatever ragtag bunch of nonentities Pardew has managed to throw together over the summer. And we have three weeks to clean up the mess that the overweight sweaty ones invariably leave behind.

Unfortunately, I can’t see either of these two starting at 3pm on a Saturday. The media’s long running love affair with all things Anfield and Dalglish, plus the expected involvement of Jordan, will have Sky and ESPN going weak at the knees on an opening day which has no real standout game.

Read moreFixtures: beat Liverpool, Newcastle, Swansea to lead Premier by Aug 27

Sixer’s Soapbox: Fat Lady (Man) Warbles at Newcastle

“Thank goodness that’s over” says Pete Sixsmith as we scrape a point against a far better Newcastle side. Talk of getting out of jail, fat ladies singing and clutching at straws dominate these observations on a bitterly disappointing derby performance. We need to do better next year !!!!

At 13:48, with the clock running down, I sent my Seven winging across the seas to M. Salut in Penang. “Once again found lacking when it mattered” were my words as we huffed and puffed against a side who were threatening to score a second, and take a deserved three points home with them.

For the umpteenth time we pushed forward with effort rather than skill. The ball dropped to Bardsley who whipped in a shot, Harper parried it and Asamoah Gyan poked it over the line to level the scores.

Wild celebrations from those around me; much jumping about and a feeling that we had not only got out of jail, but that we had kidnapped all the Prison Officers, burnt the place down and reformed the entire criminal justice system. The Fat Lady (or middle aged Man in this case) was singing his head off at this one. Games last for 90 minutes!!!

Quite frankly, we were awful. Whatever weaknesses we had seen against Blackpool and Notts. County were magnified 100x in this scrappy, bitty and, for us, ultimately disappointing derby.

Read moreSixer’s Soapbox: Fat Lady (Man) Warbles at Newcastle

Notts County Soapbox: Pies poison us

37 years on from a tight draw at Meadow Lane, Sunderland show that they have learned nothing from the past and turn in a display that has Pete Sixsmith shaking his head in wonderment at such an embarrassing performance


So, the idea of symmetry with the teaching career goes out of the bloody window at the first stage.

What an absolutely shocking performance our players turned in yesterday. I won’t use the word “team” in this, because we played nothing like one. It was a collection of individuals pretending to be a unified group in red and white stripes, nothing more.

Our opponents, a decent third level team, stuck to their task well. They were organised, efficient and well drilled. This proved to be far too much for the assembled red and white superstars, who played as if they were up against some wonder team from the upper echelons of La Liga rather than a mid table Division One team.

As I drove across an empty Wearmouth Bridge towards an empty Stadium of Light, I heard the line up and thought, “Hmm, one or two will be keen to show the manager and the assembled fans that they are good enough to play regularly. This makes me look forward to an afternoon of high tempo football and lots of goals whizzing past the Pies goalkeeper”.

How wrong could I be? Quite a lot as it happened. Our “squad” players made it clear that the only squad that applied to them was one they should be stood in front of.

Read moreNotts County Soapbox: Pies poison us

A case for the defence – and prayers for Mensah’s fitness

All week Salut! Sunderland has been promising a new writer, and here he is: Neil Ruttley, who popped up with this thoughtful look at the defensive problems – and options – confronting Steve Bruce …

The coming month will be pivotal to Sunderland’s season, a month in which Steve Bruce has much to ponder.

If he gets it right, Bruce could become the most succesful Sunderland manager since Peter Reid. If he gets it wrong, the current cold snap could become another “winter of discontent” as he likes to describe last year’s 14 game winless run.

Read moreA case for the defence – and prayers for Mensah’s fitness

How the Stadium of Light made Tash an A* pupil

Everyone likes a happy ending. As we await Pete Sixsmith’s reflections on the subdued win against West Ham, let us offer belated congratulations to another star – if only once so far – of these pages …

Who recalls
, from the photograph, the day last year when they read Tash’s tale, the beautifully descriptive account of a far-away, handed-down Mackem’s introduction to the Stadium of Light?

Read moreHow the Stadium of Light made Tash an A* pupil

Sunderland (1) 1 West Ham (0) 0: Henderson’s class clinches it

Not a game with any great talking points. The referee Martin Atkinson had a fairly easy match, though the booking of Cattermole looked pre-ordained and was certainly harsh. Had he been as harsh with Carlton Cole, West Ham would have been down to 10 earlyish in the second half.

What did distinguish the game was the goal, a finish of control and quality from Jordan Henderson after Gyan broke down the right and sent over a cross that was spot-on but still left work to do.

Sunderland were comfortable for the lead apart from a minor flurry of end-of-half pressure, and then fell into bad old habits after the break, defending far too deep and getting nothing of real promise anywhere near Darren Bent, who was eventually withdrawn.

This did present the chance for a number of breaks, and from one of these, late, Welbeck missed a chance in a confused goalmouth that Bent would probably have converted.

At least we did not lapse into that other bad habit: conceding a late goal to change the result. Pete Sixsmith will deal with events at greater length, and from a shorter distance, but it looked and felt like an open, entertaining game with bursts of quality but long spells of ordinariness.

West Ham rarely looked capable of scoring, despite enjoying growing possession as the game wore on. Three welcome points that take us back to seventh; it is good to be able to win even when, except in short spells, we do not perform in convincing style.

Starting teams:

Gordon, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Mensah, Bardsley, Cattermole, Henderson, Richardson, Welbeck, Bent, Gyan.

West Ham

Green, Ben Haim, Gabbidon, Upson, Tomkins, Dyer, Parker, Cole, Boa Morte, Spector. Obinna.

Monsieur Salut

West Ham, Darren Bent or snow can brighten our lives

Image: addict_tedKevin

Always look on the bright side of life – even when hubcap thieves in Liverpool are casing the joint, intent on stealing our star striker, and our next opponents suddenly start winning. Monsieur Salut, off to Zurich to report (but not for the British media) on the Fifa decision on 2018/2022 World Cup venues, tries to keep smiling …

The Reserves’ great win at Chelsea aside – and we’re still waiting to hear from the much-praised Louis Laing with a photo we can post – it has not been a week for good news.

Read moreWest Ham, Darren Bent or snow can brighten our lives

Bravo Jordan: show Chelsea your class but stick with us

Fabio Capello has given us a good excuse to show off addick_tedKevin‘s latest Sunderland player image. Michael Turner was also, apparently, in Capello’s list of possibles (that outstanding second half at Spurs not quite enough to clinch it for him?), Darren Bent would have been involved if fit, so all in all we have reason to applaud the rising quality of Steve Bruce’s squad …

Thoroughly deserved selection, and reason for celebration (a sober one, on the eve of Chelsea away) for Jordan Henderson.

The lad has advanced by leaps and bounds under careful care at Sunderland and it will be a source of pride for those concerned with his development, as well as Jordan himself, that he may be about to win his first full international cap at just 20.

Read moreBravo Jordan: show Chelsea your class but stick with us

Sixer’s Sevens: the short, sharp match verdict


This is the slot where Salut! Sunderland‘s inimitable chronicler and sage casts his instant judgement on every SAFC match – well nearly every one – from the moral high ground of having been there. Agree or disagree with his seven-word verdict as you will, but they come from the heart of a first-rate analyst of any football game. They will appear as soon after each final whistle as we can manage (which sometimes may not be as soon as we’d like). If an asterisk precedes the comment, the words that follow are the work of someone else. Each week, we update to include the latest verdict plus the previous five – a link at the end takes you to the full recent history of Sixer’s Sevens…

Oct 31 2010 Newcastle United (3) 5 SAFC (0) 1 A complete embarrassment from beginning to end

Oct 23 2010 SAFC (1) 1 Aston Villa (0) 0 Just enough to hang on, but shaky

Oct 18 2010 Blackburn Rovers (0) 0 SAFC (0) 0 A complete waste of a Monday night

Oct 2 2010 SAFC (0) 0 Manchester United (0) 0 Were superior throughout and completely outplayed United

Sat Sept 25 2010 Liverpool (1) 2 SAFC (1) 2 Showed real quality and deserved to win

Tues Sept 21 2010 Carling Cup: SAFC (1) 1 West Ham (1) 2 Disappointing: as flat as Saturday was sharp

To see Sixer’s Sevens in full, click here