Monsieur Salut: would I have taken survival last season, would I take survival this season, if it depended on a blatant act of cheating by a Sunderland player? Easy to say no when, in the heart, you might mean yes, maybe or depends. But I’ll stick to my guns and say no. And whatever individual fans feel about matters affecting their teams, football as a sport should rise above natural human instincts to win at whatever cost …
A realistic breath of fresh air or a deplorable attempt to defend the indefensible? That appears to be our choice as we assess the Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino’s efforts to shrug off diving as unimportant.
Salut! Sunderland has never sat on the fence. Diving is cheating. It should have no place in the game. Perpetrators ought to be boiled in oil or, if medieval punishments are out of fashion, suspended for three or more games. When a Sunderland player dives, as Dele Alil does so often for Spurs, we make no attempt to defend or excuse.
Monsieur Salut is off to the Far East on a fact-finding tour holiday but puts off preparations to explain how one esteemed reader of this site can win not one mug, but two in this week’s competition …
Each matchday is preceded by a Guess the Score competition. And each week, most of Salut! Sunderland‘s loyal readers operate on the principle of blind faith and predict a win or a draw for the team they support.
Martin Cloake* is a Spurs fan and an author, notably of the People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur. Here, he previews our game, looks at what’s going on at both clubs and avoids any predictions. I must admit that while not all Spurs WAYs have endeared the interviewees to us lot, and Martin has a ‘without wanting to insult SAFC’ moment, I loved his response to who should never have been allowed inside their cosy little ground …
John McCormick writes: At the start of the year I was at White Hart Lane, subbing for Sixer. I saw Jordan Pickford and the Hoff make their Premier League debuts, some six foot backs crowding Jermain Defoe out of the game and some soft goals after PVA put us in front.
The final score was 4-1, which I don’t think anyone predicted.
Salut! Sunderland seeks out all manner of people for the ‘Who are You?’ series. It’s great to attract household names but some of the best interviews have been with ordinary fans, home-and-away regulars or armchair supporters. Richard Littlejohn* fits into the first category, familiar to most people from his TV series and strident Daily Mail columns. Monsieur Salut knew him when he was just one of the mob of hacks covering industrial relations. He’s a good lad, whatever you think of his views, he’s a real football supporter and he came third in our HAWAY awards. Here is the interview we ran before the 1-0 home defeat to Spurs in September …
The judges have spoken. We have winners in the HAWAYs, Salut! Sunderland’s annuals awards for best interviews given by opposing supporters in the Who are You? series. HAWAYs, as you will have worked out, are otherwise known as Highly Articulate Who are You?s.
Another season produced another crop of excellent contributions. And we are again indebted to our prize sponsors, the friendly folk at the famously half-decent football magazine When Saturday Comes and the purveyors of fine football tops at Classic Football Shirts.
For 2015-2016, the voting ended with a runaway victory in first place and a tight battle for second.
Dawn Astle, daughter of the late WBA legend Jeff, was the clear winner, our voting system giving her 38 points, 16 ahead of the nearest rival. Dawn wins a subscription to When Saturday Comes and her interview will be republished here tomorrow.
“An outstanding piece,” said John McCormick, associate editor. “For me, this was WAY ahead of the rest. “Well written and heart warming,” added Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete. Both had her in first place, as did Monsieur Salut while our deputy editor Malcolm Dawson placed her second, with Pete Sixsmith including her in his “highly commended” group.
“Another excellently scripted piece from a true football fan,” said Malcolm. “That her dad was one of the greats just adds to the relevance and her tireless work for the Jeff Astle Foundation deserves as much publicity as possible.”
Scant consolation for relegation but Gary Gowers pipped the Tottenham Hotspur-supporting Richard Littlejohn, unrivalled master of Mr Angry columns in the Daily Mail. He collects a £25 voucher towards any purchase from Classic Football Shirts.
For Sixer, who chose him for first place, Gary “sums up the ‘niceness of Norwich’ which will be missed next season. He fully understands the difficulties of keeping a (relatively) small club with no major financial backers in the top level and supports the manager who almost kept them up, but not quite. Lovely quote about Defoe and his entourage – ‘Norwich is a small city and would struggle to accommodate them all’. Just good writing from start to finish.”
Malcolm’s winner would have been Littlejohn: “Well written piece as you would expect from a professional journalist. Realistic and humorous. Liked the Wayne Bobbitt reference but, like Sixer, you won’t catch me buying a Daily Mail.”
Richard will win a suitably designed mug, which is unlikely to change his life.
If another of our usual sponsors responds belatedly and positively to our cap-in-hand approach for prize sponsorship, we will find another worthy candidate for a special late award. Contenders in that category would be Sam Myers (Everton), who won marks from Wrinkly Pete for declining to name any player who should never have been allowed to wear his club’s shirt; the Exeter City pairing of Paul Sussex and Neil le Milliere and Watford’s Ben Clarke.
Paul “Sobs” Dobson, the star A Love Supreme chronicler, was on his own in selecting Ben in any position and had him first for his interview, “a good appreciation of how their recent achievements have been accomplished and not getting too rose-tinted about the future”. Of Gary Gowers, Sobs said: “Realistic to the point of … well, I’d never be that realistic about a Sunderland team!”
Our thanks to the sponsors and to the judges, but also to all – or almost all – the interviewees we found during the season. There were honourable mentions for both Swansea City “Who are You?” candidates, Newcastle United’s Adrian Darnell and one fan from each of the Manchesters, United’s Chas Banks and City’s David Mooney.
We had perhaps better not adopt Sobs’s idea of an additional award for the most irritating interview of the season, and there are no prizes for guessing which two (this and that) he may have had in mind.
It is that time of year. Salut! Sunderland is preparing to make its annual HAWAY awards, honouring the best of our “Who are You?” interviewees among opposing supporters. The interviews ahead of each match often reach the highest standards (the answers, I mean with due modesty, not the questions) and we are delighted to offer awards to the best as voted by our panel of judges.
As Ed and the family headed off to Halifax for one birthday I headed down to London for another. When he was wandering round to find a pub in which to watch the game I was sitting in White Hart Lane’s West Stand watching the warm up.
I stayed for two and a half hours. I don’t think Ed ever found the game, although I’m sure he’ll have found a pub. If he managed two and a half hours in the warm, with a drink in his hand and something else on TV, he’ll have had the better of it …