Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: Marshalling his thoughts from the Reading draw

With both Pete Sixsmith and his normal stand in Bob Chapman both electing to give this game a miss we welcome a new contributor to the ranks of Salut! Sunderland and a fine job he does too. John Marshall is from North of the Tyne and like many children of the North East, moved away from the region to find fame and fortune, but whilst that river is sometimes seen as a dividing line between red and white and black and white hinterland, just as many sons and daughters of County Durham have gone over to the dark side, John saw the light at an early age and has been red and white ever since.

He did in fact spend some time in the Royal County and returned there yesterday to see a spirited performance and a fighting draw marred by a couple of defensive lapses of the type that we have seen all season to leave us 24th out of 24 with time running out.

Over to John……

Sixer’s soapbox sees another new occupant.

It is indeed a rare event when Pete Sixsmith and Bob Chapman both miss a Sunderland game, so it was an unexpected pleasure to be invited to do this report. A big task though, as both are excellent writers, while my journalistic experience is limited to articles in the school magazine – so a bit like David Corner stepping in for Todd and Watson, but hopefully without his mistakes.

A brief intro to myself; despite being born in mid Northumberland, I chose in 1964 to decline the Mags and to follow the Black Cats, going to my first game at Roker during the 66 World Cup. I met Bob in Sheffield in 1973, and have steadily migrated further away from the North East ever since, and have been ensconced in north Somerset for the past 20 years. This means I only get to 5-10 games per season, with my appearance determined by where , when and whether I can get a ticket.

This is only my fifth game this season (and my last thanks to Sky), in a town I am very familiar with, having lived, worked and married in Reading; I was there for four years in the early 90s and was an occasional visitor to Elm Park and the Madejski. We haven’t played them much in the past and like the town, games I have seen have been good and bad, with a couple of wins and a 4-0 thrashing under Reid. Remarkably, after that game we went unbeaten in 16 and reached the playoffs, while Reading went down.

It being a weekend, trains for Bristol were disrupted and after a longer journey than usual though rural Wiltshire, I arrived in a very sunny Reading and settled into a nice pint of pale ale in the Greyfriar, a Camra listed craft beer pub close to the station. It’s always good to meet up with friends pre-match and I was soon joined by Mick, Bob’s Bedford-based cohort, Spenna, and Pete, my Cardiff supporting mate, who was in a more buoyant mood than the rest of us.

And so to the match.

       Paddy McNair back and on the scoresheet

I didn’t have great expectations. Both sides have similar records in terms of goals scored and lots conceded and that they are struggling but ahead of us down to their ability to hold on to win games. They had in fact won the last two home games 1-0, after replacing their manager. We lined up without skipper John O’Shea, replaced by Wilson, with returns for Oviedo and McNair and a surprise start for McManaman.

The atmosphere inside the ground was deafeningly quiet and it was all a bit like a gentle pre-season in the sun. We looked untroubled but not too threatening ourselves, while they settled and waited for our inevitable mistake. Camp gave us three – firstly a shanked kick out straight to their midfield, then spilling the ensuing tame shot before finally grabbing the legs of Bodvarsson instead of the ball. Clear penalty and 1-0.

We responded positively, Fletcher, who had a good game, shot across goal against the post, and McManaman’s follow up effort was headed off the line. But we were still one down at half time.

Back when he was one of ours.

Don Vito Mannone got a warm welcome but was soon soundly beaten by a screamer from McNair. He and an excellent Cattermole were controlling the game now and we deserved to go in front when Catts got his head to a McGeady free kick. Fletcher spurned a couple of chances as well, while McGready was causing problems on the left.

With 15 minutes to go Reading brought on the veteran Kermorgant and a couple of minutes later he got above Love to head past the hapless Camp.

The last 10 minutes were frantic, both sides having good chances with both keepers making crucial saves and several corners, but no more goals. Overall this was a decent team effort, with good performances from most players but a point which would have been appreciated in August is too little to prevent the inevitable now.

In my five games I’ve seen a real mix of performances. We’ve rolled over at Cardiff, fought back at Bristol and looked uninterested at QPR. We are poor, but so are lot of other teams in this division. We should not be in this mess and as Reading showed, a competent goalkeeper and experienced strikers can just about keep you safe.

Ha’way the Lads – see you in League 1.

If there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions on the images used to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested.

Barnsley vs SAFC Who are You?: ‘not a plaything for the mega-rich’

Dan Tate: ‘what it feels like when Adam Hamill scores our second goal in the 3-1 playoff final defeat of Millwall – at least I think it was the second goal because the first was so early I’d have had a pie in my hand’

It may never have been quite like watching Brazil. But fans of big clubs can have no real concept of what it means to be part of the sort of occasion that gripped Dan Tate 14 months ago. As part of a 51,000-strong crowd, Dan experienced a great afternoon in the history of his club. He had willed himself to believe in a playoff final victory whoever his team, Barnsley, came up against and so it proved. Barnsley 3 Millwall 1 after a comfortable dismissal of Walsall in each leg of the League One semi-final. Dan is a season ticket holder at Oakwell and needless to say, will be there when Sunderland visit on Saturday. He ‘diplomatically’ predicts a draw …

Read moreBarnsley vs SAFC Who are You?: ‘not a plaything for the mega-rich’

Vito Mannone’s proud, emotional farewell to Sunderland (fans) as he joins Reading

Vito: the sweetest of parting messages …

The news that Vito Mannone was leaving came as Sunderland prepared for the friendly win at Hartlepool. In itself, it was not surprising; nor, given our club’s wretched history in the transfer market in recent years, has been the realisation that we did not appear to have had anyone lined up. With the start of the season so close, that might have seemed a given  but then this is SAFC.

Mannone himself leaves after four years with heaps of goodwill. That penalty shoot-out save at Old Trafford that took us to a Wembley final stands out. So do his heroics in a number of vital survival games.

Read moreVito Mannone’s proud, emotional farewell to Sunderland (fans) as he joins Reading

On Sunderland beating Hartlepool 2-1 and Mannone ‘heading for Reading’

An unofficial edition of the series …

This is not really Sixer’s Sevens, much as it relies on Pete Sixsmith’s reflections from Victoria Park, where Sunderland’s pre-season campaign continued with a 2-1 win against Hartlepool – and news of Vito Mannone’s likely departure.
 

Read moreOn Sunderland beating Hartlepool 2-1 and Mannone ‘heading for Reading’

Winning becomes a habit as Sunderland beat Notts County. Wolverhampton Wanderers next

Pete Sixsmith and memories of a cup run, as opposed to el Alamein
Here’s one we made earlier: no prizes for guessing which of these gents is Pete Sixsmith

Snow in South West Durham ruled out Pete Sixsmith‘s first choice of football on Tuesday evening, just up Busty Bank and along the road from him at Shildon’s own threatre of dreams, Dean Street, but didn’t stop him making his way up to Sunderland for the Under 21s or whatever number you choose at home in the cup to Notts County …


Two games and two wins.

After the triumph against all the odds in Dorset, the Under 23s, or 21s or whatever they are restored pride to the club by battling back to beat our old friends and rivals from Nottingham in a pulsating thriller of a game at the Stadium of Light last night.

Read moreWinning becomes a habit as Sunderland beat Notts County. Wolverhampton Wanderers next

Our best defenders: Part 1, individual comparisons

Lies_player

When I did my analysis of our midfield I said it would probably be one of two posts but there was so much to collect and compare that I decided to split the second part into two.

To begin, I’m using stats from  hosted stats.com, Squawka.com and my own sums to look at individual performances.

Who do you think is better – Coates, Kaboul or Koné? How do they compare to John O’Shea?

And would you rather have Billy Jones than DeAndré the Throw-in Slayer?

Read on, and all will be revealed.

Or maybe not.

Read moreOur best defenders: Part 1, individual comparisons

Sixer’s Everton Soapbox: banishing the blues on Wearside (part 2)

Jake - "for goodness sake let me celebrate" - edited version
Jake – “for goodness sake let me celebrate” – edited version

Malcolm Dawson writes………if Saturday was immense then Wednesday night was immenser! The first part of the job was completed at the weekend with victory over the Blues of Chelsea. The crowd was there to see the team complete the job against the Blues of Everton and my word were they up for it? What an atmosphere, what a noise! This was the best home support ever at the Stadium of Light, even eclipsing some of those fantastic games we saw in the Peter Reid era. We can truly say the Roker Roar is alive and well.

Chicken or egg? There’s no doubt in my mind that a positive mindset within the crowd spurs on the players, but Big Sam has engendered an ethic and workrate in his team that motivates the crowd. Last night every single player, not for the first time, gave far more than their utmost. Man of the match? For me Kaboul but only by a whisker. Everyone deserved a 10 last night, from Manonne who looked so assured and made some cracking stops, to Wahbi Khazri who ran around all night like (to quote Pete Sixsmith) a Yorkshire Terrier on acid. We have to give the manager credit for that and he revelled, quite rightly, in the adulation he received. We have all seen players who have bought into the club, Bennett, Gates, Hurley, Ball, Quinn, Arca, Gabbiadini etc. and I sense that there are some in the current squad who we can add to that list. Let’s get M’Vila signed on a permanent deal. Let’s make sure that Jermain Defoe entertains no thoughts of moving back to the south coast. Let’s turn over Watford on Sunday and take the momentum into next season. I can’t say we’ll do a Leicester but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect Big Sam to move the club into the dizzy heights of mid table security. The downside of that will be not having times like last night to savour.

Of course Pete Sixsmith was in the sell out crowd enjoying it as much as (if not more than) anybody. Now, after getting up early to do his paper round and walk next door’s dog, writing his bit for one of the nationals and doing his bit for the Northern League he still finds time to bring us his take on last night’s proceedings.

SOAPBOXeverton

Everton (H)

And so it came to pass that the Good Lord/ Supreme Being/Call Him What You Will allowed us to pass on the Pirelli Stadium and cancel the visit to The City Ground. Once again, for the tenth successive season, we will be trudging off to Eastlands and Ashburton Grove, while our avian friends can have days out in Wolverhampton, Ipswich and Wigan.

This time, as we have done for the last three years, we saved ourselves. Not by a backs to the wall draw against a washed out Arsenal side or a steady win over a West Bromwich Albion squad who couldn’t wait to get to the beach, but with a rip-roaring, rollicking, rambunctious win over the poorest Everton side I have ever seen. We scored three goals for the third time in five games with these three coming from defenders, ably assisted by an opposition goalkeeper who would have looked out of place in the Brandon and Byshottles Sunday League Division Three.

But that is nothing to do with us. We turned out a team that was determined not to mess up and send us into a potentially buttock clenching last day of the season. Jobs were allocated and jobs were done. The build up was patient, nobody panicked and there was a feeling that the goals would come.

Patrick van Aanholt

The first one came from Patrick Van Aanholt, a candidate for the most improved player on the club’s books. A defensive liability for last season and the first part of this, he has listened to advice from Allardyce and has responded positively. His fourth goal of the season, following on from ones against Spurs, Swansea and Stoke City was a well struck free kick which caught Robles wrong footed on its way into the net.

There was a mixture of jubilation and relief at this and like London Buses, another one came along a few minutes later – this one thumped home by Lamine Kone, nearly knocking the goal over in the process. Kone has been a sensation since he arrived from L’Orient in January. Big, strong and an inspirational character, he made his mark with the winning goal against Manchester United and then sealed his name in SAFC folklore with two in this stirring victory. Had we taken the plunge, there would surely have been a host of clubs enquiring about his availability. (Don’t forget his flattening of Yaya Toure – Ed)

Jake: 'two goal hero in a team full of heroes'
Jake: ‘two goal hero in a team full of heroes’

His partner at the back, Younes Kaboul was, quite simply, magnificent. Up against Romelu Lukaku, he dominated the Belgian international to such an extent, that he spent as much time in the Sunderland penalty area as Mick Jagger does in Britain – Jagger might have got nearer to the goal. It was an immense performance by Kaboul who started the season off being compared unfavourably with Sylvain Distin after that dismal defeat at Dean Court. Since building up his fitness and building a partnership with Kone, he has looked impregnable. Only Jamie Vardy has got the better of him since January.

Jake:solid as a rock and nearly scored
Jake:solid as a rock and nearly scored

The other stand out performance came from Yann M’Vila who produced a perfect example of what mid field play should be. Not for him the Shelvey approach of standing in the middle of the park and pinging the ball to the linesman. M’Vila reads the game, rummages around and is there wherever he is needed. He would be a great miss if he were not here next season. Sign him up Sam.

All of those who played last night covered themselves in what passes for glory in our corner of the world. We don’t ask for much but we do ask for effort and each and every player gave us that, from Mannone with a couple of excellent saves to Defoe, who worked the feeble Everton back four throughout the game.The atmosphere at the start was tense. Once Van Aanholt and Kone made the game safe, it was excitable and when Kone wrapped it up was a joyous celebration of our safety and the relegation of the Tynesiders. Of course it was parochial. Of course it was malicious. Of course it was great fun.

“Lock up your horses, there’s going to be hell” warbled the crowd. “The Mags are going down” and “We are staying up” followed. The splendid young man from Toronto sat next to me asked what they were singing. His grandparents were from Jarrow. This was his third game of the season. He got the horses reference – a true red and white. He had been over for a family funeral and this had made up for the sadness of that.

Now is not the time for looking at the whys and wherefores of the season. It hasn’t been a great one (surprise, surprise) but we have come through and have retained our place in the top league. We will be one of the first visitors to The Olympic Stadium and we shall be booking into Webster’s Guest House at Salisbury and supping in The Duke of York again. Shame we have to go to Middlesbrough.

The manager and the players have done well in the last ten games and very well in the last five. They do it for money but also for the supporters. Anyone who has listened to Mannone, Defoe and Borini this last few weeks knows how much they care.

And they also did it for those who are no longer here. Stuart Green would have been beaming after this. Steven Wilson would have been ecstatic and would have ribbed his best mate Brian Neil about the Geordies going down. And Suzi Horan would have absolutely loved it. Those three typify what our club – any club- is all about – the supporters.

Pete Sixsmith: 'sir, you look just like a real author!'
Pete Sixsmith: ‘sir, you look just like a real author!’

Ha’way The Lads!!!!!!!

Sixer’s Liverpool Soapbox: when even doing one’s best just isn’t enough

Malcolm Dawson writes……it’s hard to put a positive spin on another defeat when we are at least seven points off safety. But I’ll have a go. To anyone who would have settled for two draws this week I’ll say we’ll be better off if we scrape a win on Saturday. But nothing is guaranteed against a Villa side who are in even more desperate straits than we are and if the rest of the relegation contenders carry on picking up the odd point here and there, a victory might still be too little. Another positive was the mood in the ground. I’ll concede that the Norwich game was a shocker and I accept people who’ve paid good money can walk out when they like, but last night the followers of Sunderland AFC showed why they really are a special set of supporters. I’ll always argue that with the fans behind them the team will be less likely to let their collective heads drop. Last night there was no negativity and the atmosphere was fantastic even after we went behind. Though we never looked like equalising the only time we looked like conceding a second was when Benteke was clean through allowing Don Vito to show that maybe he is back to his best. Probably just in time to see him offloaded somewhere. To any Liverpool fans who may drift onto this site can I just applaud your lot for turning up in your thousands in midweek and totally respecting the end of year silence. A credit to the club. With regard to our on the field exploits at least, most of us will be glad to see the back of 2015. Pete Sixsmith certainly is and he’s not really looking forward to the rest of the season. Here he brings us his spin on yesterday’s match.

Happy New Year.

SOAPBOXliverpoolLiverpool (h) 30/12/15

And so the curtain came down on what has been a thoroughly miserable calendar year for the thousands who follow Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, in front of their laptops or in foreign climes. Three managers and only four wins more in the entire year, indicates what can best be described as a struggle and what is now looking like a serious attempt to renew friendships with Blackburn Rovers, Huddersfield Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The latest defeat was an improvement on the previous two. In this one we went an entire half + 38 seconds without conceding which is far better than being three and two down after 25 minutes. But once this team goes a goal behind, there appears to be as much chance of them levelling as there is of me being awarded an Oscar for my performances as Father Christmas.

The players, by and large, did their best. The problem is that their best just isn’t good enough. Not good enough to combat the pace of Watford, not good enough to combat the lifting of frustration at Chelsea, not good enough to combat the sheer quality of De Bruyne and Silva and not good enough to combat a limited but well organised Liverpool side.

The Reds were no world beaters and look like a side who might scrape into a Europa League spot next season. But they were far too well organised for us, having a strong back four, some muscle in midfield and a bit of extra quality in the two Brazilians, Coutinho and Firminho. Against those two, our willing but limited midfield found it hard going. Cattermole and M’Vila toiled manfully in the engine room but there was no quality when we went forward. Johnson did what he has done ever since he arrived at Sunderland in that he flattered to deceive. One sublime ball to Jones (who then lost it) was followed by numerous episodes of him chasing his tail like an over excited terrier – and then losing the ball.

We looked reasonably solid at the back but it is impossible for us to go through an entire game without at least one catastrophic error. It duly came while the Hospitality Boys were still taking their seats after a good feed. Wes Brown (who had a sound game, considering his age, his lack of first team action and the fact that he was playing in our back four) lost his concentration and the previously anonymous Benteke played himself in to score.

And that was it. Some huffing and puffing and the sight of Vito Mannone charging up for a corner a la Mart Poom was all we had to offer as another three points disappeared down the A19.

Who can ignore his desire to win?
Who can ignore his desire to win?
There were some good individual performances (Mannone, Brown, Cattermole M’Vila, Borini) but that is what they were. At no stage did we look like a consistently homogeneous team and that will be our downfall. We have too many players who have been signed piecemeal as successive managers have brought them in and have attempted to create a “style” with players who do not fit it. We are now left with men brought in by Bruce, O’Neill, Di Canio, Poyet and Advocaat with the whole thing starting again tomorrow when Allardyce attempts to bolster this failing squad with a couple of players tempted to the Roker Riviera by the lure of money. Nobody comes to us in order to advance their careers – or if they do, they are soon shunted sideways.

I have little optimism with regard to the first half of 2016 as I am as sure that the burden of the last four seasons will prove to be too much for a group who have become convinced that they cannot win. I am ready for the barbs that will be flung at Sunderland supporters and can only hope that we can at least drag that lot from up the road down with us.

The latest defeat was compounded by the fact that we lost to a Liverpool side who are no great shakes and who failed to press home their advantage. Their manager is an ideal fit for them in that he preens himself and does not appear to see high self-regard as a drawback. His histrionics when Lens caught Sakho were worthy of Rodgers at his best. Fifty years ago, a Liverpool side containing real men like Billy Stephenson, Ron Yeats and Ian St John rather than softies like Sakho and Lallana won the league, while we bumbled along to finish fourth from bottom, with Blackburn and Northampton Town slipping out. The financial rewards of the First Division were insignificant compared to those that will be showered on the Premier League next season. Those that miss out may find it increasingly difficult to get back in.

And so we move on to the New Year. Lose to a wretched Villa side and that really is curtains for us. As always, we live in hope.

Jake: good riddance to 2015
Jake: good riddance to 2015

Gambles’ Rambles: Yes to Mannone’s humility, a resounding No to moneyback culture

Ken Gambles: 'charity begins at home to Arsenal'
Ken Gambles: ‘charity begins at home to Arsenal’

Just as old cynics – step forward Ken Gambles and also M Salut – were wondering what sort of reception Vito Mannone got in the dressing-room when he took the hat round for refunds for the fans (£50,000, £60,000, £70,000 in all or am I way out?), safc.com put out a statement saying this grand gesture was on. Ken, though, disagrees completely with idea of fans demanding their money back after wretched performances and would doubtless go along with the idea floated here of allowing their refunds to go to the Grace House children’s charity. All you need do is miss the deadline of Nov 5 for claiming the money. But let Ken have his say on the principle anyway …

Read moreGambles’ Rambles: Yes to Mannone’s humility, a resounding No to moneyback culture

Awards surely premature, but Mannone and Borini deserve their acclaim

Don Vito acknowledges the crowd as they show their appreciation
Don Vito acknowledges the crowd as they show their appreciation


It seems odd,
rather too soon and unnecessary to be naming players as best of the season.

With four immensely important games to go, and survival at stake, I’d say we should also avoid Villains of the Season awards.

Read moreAwards surely premature, but Mannone and Borini deserve their acclaim