Monsieur Salut introduces our annual HAWAY awards, with thanks to the supporters of all clubs played by Sunderland in league and cup this season who contributed to the series …
Cinema does it with Oscars, BAFTAs, Cannes and the rest. Pop has the Brits and Grammys. Salut! Sunderland brings you the HAWAYS, honouring the best interviews with opposing fans – the Highly Articulate Who are You? awards.
We are delighted once again to have a trio of generous sponsors. The rough-and-ready shortlist is with judges but I shall extend the process this year to allow a popular vote, using the same criteria including the fact that my suggestions are intended as no more than a guide.
Malcolm Dawson writes: Just over twelve months ago we celebrated another great escape. But it wasn’t just avoiding relegation that thrilled us. As Fat Sam and the boys danced around the pitch we saw a team that appeared to have taken the club, the city and the fans to their collective heart, working for a manager that understood just how much it all meant to we supporters. Our two loanees, M’Vila and Yedlin seemed to love the place. While the former made his wish to return clear, the latter had seen his game improve no end under Allardyce. The players signed in the January window had all committed 100 per cent and made a huge difference in the fight for survival.
Fast forward 367 days and one of our loan players was nowhere to be seen and another couldn’t wait to get off the pitch. This year’s January arrivals had little impact (when not injured) then the the one who had shown glimpses of being a game changer posted pictures of his suitcases packed and ready to go and looked a shadow of his earlier self. He was soon clutching his hamstring and left the field before half time in what I predict will be his last Sunderland appearance. It may have been a genuine injury but it was certainly a convenient one for him.
The Swansea fans were great in their support of Bradley Lowery, the plane and banner were a bit of a damp squib and a waste of money, though unlike many others I thought the message was appropriate in that it was a mild piece of mickey taking while making the point that in life some things are more important than football. But anyway you haven’t come to read my thoughts. You’ve come to read Pete Sixsmith’s and here they are.
SWANSEA CITY (HOME)
And so it was that I said goodbye to the seat that I have occupied in the Stadium for the last thirteen years. East Stand Row 30 Seat 404 has given me some good memories: Carlos Edwards scoring a belter against Burnley. Ji Dong Won poking one over the line against Manchester City . Committed team performances against technically superior opposition on a number of occasions and a feeling that we were never too far away from getting it right.
Twelve months ago I saw us come back from 2-1 down to beat Chelsea and all but secure our place in the Premier League and then four days later, see off Everton and Roberto Martinez on a raucous night that was reminiscent of the big nights at Roker. Lamine Kone scored two and was touted as the next Charlie Hurley. Wahbi Khazri sparkled and under the wily guidance of Sam Allardyce, we looked forward to at least one season of security in the Premier League while Our Friends from the North lurched around in the Championship.
What a difference a year makes. Lamine Kone looks more like Steve Hetzke than Charlie Hurley. Wahbi Khazri’s sparkle has dulled to the extent that he rarely starts a game and Allardyce is now engineering another relegation fight at Crystal Bloody Palace.
His replacement, a man once touted as the future at Old Trafford and who arrived at Sunderland with enough good will to fill a convoy of Wearside built SD 14s, is now seen as a manager with no imagination, no tactical nous and who the majority of the support now want to see consigned to the history books. This, after a season that is as bad as anything that Monsieur Salut and I have experienced in our 50+ years of watching a club that we fell in love with in the 60s but one with which we are rapidly becoming totally disillusioned.
For my final appearance in the aforementioned seat, I witnessed a performance that was a complete and utter disgrace and an insult to the support that turned up (about 28,000 I would guess), to those who have lost their positions at the club due to the ineptitude of the manager and to those all over the world who have to carry the stigmata of “Sunderland Supporter” as in “Gan canny with him/her, he/she’s a Sunderland supporter so there’s bound to be gloom in their lives.”
(There is a classic line in an episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads which goes something like ….”you must remember her man! Devout Methodists, went leafleting every Sunday morning. Lived above a fish and chip shop. Her dad was a Sunderland supporter so it was hardly a house of joy and merriment.” Forty odd years later and still relevant! Ed)
We don’t like losing but we accept it as part and parcel of the game (Arsenal fans take note). We accept that, from time to time, a poor performance will be turned in but we wake up the next day looking forward to eradicating that memory and getting on with things. We even accept the odd relegation. Hark back to 2005-06 where the players were known to be limited, the manager also and there was no booing, no turning on Mick McCarthy, just a realisation that we were not good enough in every department.
But this relegation is the nastiest one I have experienced. The link between club and support has been stretched so far that it could well be irretrievably broken. We have seen a generous and well meaning owner make a complete arse of things in his eight year tenure to the extent that we now await any passing Chinese or Middle Eastern consortium to buy the club and pour limitless funds into it so we can clamber back into a Premier League that we have never quite been able to get our heads round.
This abject and toe curling defeat to an organised, committed and well supported Swansea side, really was the nadir of our time at The Stadium of Light. The team selection was awful as were the tactics and the commitment to the cause was as believable as a UKIP leaders CV. It really was a disgrace and it led to loyal supporters either not turning up or leaving the ground as Kyle Naughton found a hole in our defence big enough to steer that convoy of Doxfords SD14s through, to fire home a splendid second goal and possibly seal Premier League football in South Wales for another season.
We were already a goal down from a Swansea set piece. Surely the players had been told not to give away free kicks anywhere near the box. Surely they had been told that Llorente had headed more goals than any other player in the Premier League and that he needed to be marked tightly. Surely the goalkeeper had enough confidence in his central defenders to trust them on this.
The answer is obviously “Nay.” Anichebe, his cult status now well and truly gone, fouled Naughton on the right. Up stepped Swansea’s classiest player, Gylfi Sigurdsson, to deliver the kind of free kick that we can only dream about, heading straight for the napper of Ferdinand Llorente. Jordan Pickford made the wrong decision to come for it and was nowhere near the ball as the man with six headed goals made it seven with a thumping header to set Swansea on their way to a crucial win.
From that moment on we looked what we are – a side who do not believe in the manager, who do not believe in his tactics and who in too many cases, do not want to be here. Denayer went off with an injury, no doubt thinking that there was little point in aggravating a knock when he will be looking for another (better) loan deal come August. He was replaced by Gibson, a player who has not made an auspicious start to his Sunderland career and who did absolutely nothing to show that he will be an asset in the blood and thunder of the Championship next season.
Anichebe was the next one to go off. He has cut a forlorn figure wide on the left and showed as much interest in this game as I do in the Eurovision Song Contest. He needs to play through the middle where he can use his considerable strength to challenge central defenders, not stuck out wide and having to track back against marauding full backs. I can see that, the people sat around me can see that and even the Man in the Moon can see it. David Moyes can’t. Anichebe limped off, with all of us knowing that there would be no contract for next season.
In fact of the 13 who “played” the only ones who will be starting at Burton or Brentford or Birmingham will be Jones, Ndong (again our best outfield player) Gibson and probably, O’Shea. Pickford, Kone and Khazri will be sold. Defoe will leave. Manquillo and Denayer will return to their parent clubs, who will be hoping that they have not been permanently scarred by the miserable year they have spent at Sunderland. There will be no new contracts for Anichebe, Larsson and Borini (the biggest disappointment of the season for me). Mannone will leave as well as will the likes of Lescott and Pienaar. We appear to be stuck with Rodwell and Djilobodji. Championship teams will make hay against those two.
As for the manager, he must have a Teflon skin. He was jeered throughout and the chants for his departure spread to the usually placid occupants of the East Stand. An impeccable source tells me that when he walked through the restaurant of the Hilton adjacent to the Stadium, he was told “to get out of here” by one of the diners. Restaurant, club or city? Take your pick.
There really is little more to say. The best moments of the afternoon were 1) Rob Mason’s interview with Nick Barnes about being ‘let go’ by the club from his exemplary editing of the club programme (another rotten SAFC decision, but what a noble interview without a trace of bittneress) and 2) the sight of Bradley Lowery being carried on to the pitch beforehand by Jermain Defoe. For the rest, David Moyes got it right a couple of days ago – he and the players should have been hanging their heads in shame. Here are his usual post-match thoughts, …
Monsieur Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith wondered at half time, Sunderland two down and looking like little boys lost, whether it was worth staying. He did. And continued to see a team devoid of leadership, character, flair or even – in many cases – passion. Embarrassing, Sixer said later. As bad as, if not worse than, anything he had seen in 53 years supporting our club. His seven-word verdict below is unchanged from half time, after which we had a clear penalty denied and a good chance spurned by Billy Jones but never truly seemed able to save the game …
Having led us to this sorry moment, our esteemed owner Ellis Short and his chief executive Martin Bain were watching from the stands. They, like the manager and players, should have been hanging their heads in shame – and not least because of their thoroughly rotten decision to get rid of the SAFC programme editor Rob Mason, a wonderful club historian and servant who deserved better than this shabby end (his pre-match interview with Nick Barnes oozed class, dignity and total lack of rancour) …
Peter Thomas, like most of the contributors to Salut! Sunderland, has been following his team since the time when we only had two black and white TV channels to choose from and Swansea City were Swansea Town. The Black Cats did his side a favour last Saturday on the East coast, but this weekend will be looking to reciprocate by throwing Hull City the same lifeline when The Swans come to the Stadium of Light. Peter is a fan who knows his club, knows his football and can identify with us and our current plight. (Interview – Colin Randall)
So it’s come to this. By the time this appears, you’ll be another step closer to or further from relegation. Your assessment of where you are now and what is likely to happen?
After an amazing Saturday, thanks in large part to you guys and a decent performance from us, we’re back in the ballgame. It’s tempting to think that we can do it now (stay up), but most Swans fans I know are more realistic – we’re hopeful but far from certain. We can veer from the sublime to the ridiculous not just from week to week but in the same game. If the attacking team we can be turns up, as against Everton last Saturday, we’ll give you a decent game and I believe we can win, but we can’t afford to be complacent. We’ll have to earn the victory and the same applies to the Home game against West Brom. At least it’s in our own hands now.
Bob Bradley was obviously a mistake, you seemed to get rid of good managers before him and now you have the impressive Paul Clement. What part has all this change played in your struggles?
The Managerial decisions have been crucial. The first mistake was to give Guidolin a 2 year contract in the off season. The club should have said “thank you very much for keeping us up last season” and Ciao Francesco. He was an obvious non-fit which the Board realised after our dreadful start. They then compounded the issue (no – made it worse) by employing Sideshow Bob ( I think that was the Americans Kaplan and Levein exerting their power) and by the time they realised he was burying us they at least did the right thing by jettisoning him. We were very lucky that someone of Paul Clement’s calibre was available and able to come in. The way he’s transformed the team (Club) is obvious not only by the football we’re playing again but his relationship with the players and we fans. He “gets” us as a Club.
The neutral looking on might be tempted to criticise the owners and chairman and wonder why the Swans Trust wasn’t able to make its view more loudly heard. Fair or misinformed?
For the full tale it’s worth going on to the Swans Trust website and reading Trust Chairman Phil Sumbler’s detailed exposition. Not only was the Trust kept completely in the dark and out of the loop but our esteemed Chairman Huw Jenkins and each and every member of the old board, have alienated a huge proportion of the fans – 70% perhaps by their actions. We all understand that their share sale made them millions but it could have been done such that it further strengthened the Club and Trust. Kaplan and Levein (the new owners) have spent the time since seeking to make amends through a greater involvement of the Trust (genuinely I believe) but this whole tale has a great deal further to run.Relegation would further muddy the waters and survival in the Premier won’t put off the reckoning forever..
Tell us who has been doing well for you and who really need a kick up the backside this season?
The amazingly gifted Gylfi Siggurdsson is the real gem in our team. Even if we survive I’ll be astonished if Everton or some such doesn’t offer a lot of money in the off season. Tottenham bought him once and sold him back to us for Ben Davies and a dog biscuit. And they say Daniel Levy is clever. If he’d been in their team this season they’d have won the League. Fernando Llorente is a “proper” footballer – no flash, trains hard, works hard, humble (a World Cup winner) and scores terrific goals. We love him. The Club, and Clement, were very successful in the January window. Tom Carroll is excellent as is the ageless Leon Britton’s successor, Martin Olsson who has fitted in wonderfully well and Jordan Ayew is proving that far from being big brother Andre’s lesser brother, he’s his equal. Plus we’ve got a decent keeper in Fabiansky. Then there’s Alfie Mawson, we’ll talk about him next, he’s already decent and could/should be very good going forward. I hate criticising our players because they are ALL genuine triers but whoever sanctioned the £15m purchase of Borja Baston (not because he’s poor but he’s just not proven or ready, he may be one day – the jury’s out) has some answering to do. That’s the sort of decision that can break a club like us.
And how crucial was the loss without adequate replacement of Ashley Williams?
It was a huge loss – he’d been the heart and soul of the club for six years and to start the year without a direct replacement was so foolish. Alfie Mawson was signed but Bradley changed the side so often he never got a decent run out till the New Year. Now he and Fernandes look a decent pair of CB’s. Van der Hoorn and Amat, the other CB’s, are squad players.
If worst came to worst, would you do a Newcastle or linger in the Championship – and what would be the state of fans’ morale?
I suspect we’d be unable to bounce straight back, although I do believe that whatever happens we’ll keep Paul Clement and that’s hugely important. If we were cherry picked we’ve got an Under 23 side that won its League this year (PL Reserve League 2) and got promoted to the top PL Reserve League, so with progress from some of them, judicious signings and decent coaching we’d be OK. The fans are fairly sanguine much like myself. We know our place in the grand scheme of things. The past six years since we got up to the PL have been a fabulous adventure, let’s see if we can have six more.
What about us: serial strugglers, finally unable to fight our way out of trouble. Did you see it coming?
I’m sorry to say I suspected you might struggle along with us. You’ve had many of the same problems – constant managerial (and hence player) turnover, boardroom unrest, an owner who seemed to almost lose interest and was maybe minded to sell. Worst of all, the previous 3/4 years’ struggles weighed heavily.
Any other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, Moyes, Borini?
I like Sunderland, both the city and the club. You’re like Fernando Llorente – you’re a “proper” football club supported through thick and thin by real people. Your ground and your training facility are first class and just like us, if you can get decent people running the show properly you’ll be successful. I think Moyes was badly scarred by his Old Trafford and Spanish experiences (he should never have gone to Spain) but I think he’s a decent man and manager. I think he’ll get it right, if allowed to. I’d have Borini back in a heartbeat, even now. When with us he played where Defoe does for you now and did really well.I think it depends on what sort of squad you can put together. I think it may take you a couple of seasons maximum but with your reputation and heft (you really ARE a big club) you surely will get it right.
Your best and worst moments as a Swansea supporter?
Two fairly recent moments stand out – being at Wembley when we beat Reading 4-2 to get into this madhouse (the Premier League) and at Wembley again for the 5-0 League Cup win against Bradord. Close second was beating Arsenal, Man Utd or Man City at the Liberty (any of those three). Worst moment was seeing Ferrie Bodde, our midfield genius, rupture and destroy his knee and career in an innocuous challenge against Birmingham City in the Championship. He was as good (some say better) as Gylfi is now.
And the best you’ve seen or wish you had seen in Swansea colours?
I’m old enough to have seen the great Ivor Allchurch (look it up, kids) and Alan Curtis and Robbie James were bloody good in the 80’s. (We’ll forgive you picking an ex Mag Peter – Ed)
Do you ever miss Vetch Field?
Not in the least. Romanticism be blowed, I can still remember the smell of the toilets .
Top four in order and bottom three?
Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool. Middlesbrough, Sunderland (sorry), Hull City
Diving: a dead issue as every team has its cheats or still worth trying to eradicate?
We Swansea fans sometimes think we don’t have enough (cheats, or cloggers, that is). Personally, I feel it’s time for the video ref for both penalties and offsides and I’d also convene a Monday panel that looks at every blatant dive and bans players for 3-4 games.I’m sure that would stop it. Marcus Rashford, I’m looking at YOU.
Best ref, worst ref?
Best Ref Michael Oliver. Worst Ref Mike Dean.<
One thing the authorities or Swansea should do to improve the lot of the ordinary fan?
Sell decent food and drink inside the ground at decent prices (how hard can that be?) instead of the corporate slop we currently get. Cap ticket prices and do away with the absurd gradations Cat A, Cat B, Cat C. Greedy nonsense.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
I can’t make it this weekend but our players have paid for the tickets for up to 3000 fans so I’m hoping a lot of our supporters can go. I have to say I think we’ll win 2-1
Finally: an update on who you are, what you’d do, your site, history of supporting the Swans.
Hi, I’m Peter Thomas and I sit in G120 in the Lower West Stand at the LIberty. I’m 67 yrs old and a Retired Secondary School Teacher. I saw my first Swans game when my Dad took me to the Double Decker in 1964 at the Vetch Field against Ipswich Town. I’ve been a supporter ever since and have been a ST holder for the past 10 yrs when I moved back to Llanelli (my home town, about 12 miles from Swansea).
Monsieur Salut writes: talk about killing two birds with one stone. Peter Lynn has put away – probably smashed – the crystal ball that kept telling him we’d stay up. But he hasn’t lost the faith in an broader sense. He was at Hull and will, I imagine be at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
So read on, enjoy Wrinkly Pete’s reflections – and then guess the score in SAFC vs Swansea. Anyone can enter and the first reader to predict the correct result will eventually get a prize. Usual prizes – a suitable mug or the Nick Barnes Matchbook mini-version, either producing a small donation to the Bradley Lowery appeal fund – – and usual rules …
Peter Lynn, also known as Wrinkly Pete, has an an imaginary crystal ball that enables him to predict the outcome of each game and check how it affects his once-firm belief that Sunderland would survive on 37 points. That tally is now pretty much impossible but Pete still sees us finishing on 35. Probably not enough and there’s also a health warning: some of those predictions look a little optimistic – as well as pre-supposing that Hull and Swansea take no more than five and seven points respectively from their remaining games…
Monsieur Salut writes: I had an itch to get this week’s Guess the Score out there, but an e-mail from a Hull City supporter exiled in Sri Lanka removed any doubt. You may recall that last week, despite Sunderland’s inactivity, we offered a mini-edition of Nick Barnes’s splendid Matchbook for the first to post correct scorelines in two games of interest to but not involving SAFC, partly because some unexpected advertising enabled us to do so and partly because the publishers, Tales from Red and Whites are paying £5 into the Bradley Lowery fund for each copy bought. So there were two winners – a Hull supporter and Bradley. Read on …
When I last reported in with the Salut Sunderland relegation watch we had had some recent wins but were still in the relegation zone, along with Swansea and Hull. (Swansea weren’t one of the clubs chosen in our start-of season poll but I included them in December on the grounds that some people did vote for “another club” and they had begun to fit that bill after a decline).
That was only a month ago, just after the transfer window closed, since when new signings have had time to settle and new managers to generate – but maybe not sustain – a bounce. With a cup weekend giving most of them a breather we have another chance to review the situation.
But before I do, I have to congratulate West Bromwich Albion, who passed through our metaphorical barrier with ease. Would that we could reach such heights.
Monsieur Salut writes: please see John McCormick’s fine piece on Barca 6-1 PSG. My view from France? The PSG collapse was lead item on the French lunchtime news, which I found shocking given there is also a presidential election campaign and a gruesome family murder in Brittany. I am quite pleased about PSG’s heavy defeat but only because I regard them as a fairly loathsome club and don’t (yet? really?) feel the same way about Barcelona. And now for some Salut! Sunderland housekeeping …
It boils down to an invitation to Guess the Score – in the absence of a Sunderland game – in either of the two matches affecting us, Bournemouth vs West Ham and Hull vs Swansea. Be first to be right in either case and you can either have the mini-version of Nick Barnes’s Matchbook, knowing a fiver will go to the Bradley Lowery fund, or – if, say, you support one of the teams involved – a mug reflecting your allegiance … in the latter case, Salut! Sunderland would pay the fiver into Bradley’s fund
Goes without saying that two first-to-be-correct scorelines = two prizes. You must have a UK delivery address.