Wahbi Khazri: forget Saint-Etienne – you could have played at Grimsby tonight

How the French turned ‘Sunderland, the play’ into ‘Saint-Etienne, the film’

As Sunderland rceord a first pre-season win, 1-0 at Grimsby, we also say farewell – or another one since he’s long gone any way, if previously on loan – to Wahbi Khazri.

Read moreWahbi Khazri: forget Saint-Etienne – you could have played at Grimsby tonight

Norwich Guess the Score: to think we’ll be at the World Cup

Enter for fun or to win a mug

Monsieur Salut writes: a family holiday looms so this is being prepared between Black Monday, perhaps the defining moment of a wretched season when even a half-decent performance was undone by the usual defensive frailties, and whatever happens at Leeds. I leave it to Salut! Sunderland colleagues to update this introduction as they see fit after Elland Road. For now, I shall combine the usual prize Guess the Score competition for the next home game, Norwich City and a rare chance to record a double, with some thoughts from elsewhere on a competition that seems to have little or nothing to do with the preoccupations of a club heading for League One (or not, according to results) …

Read moreNorwich Guess the Score: to think we’ll be at the World Cup

Sixer’s Bury Soapbox: get ready for the cheesy chips

Malcolm Dawson writes…..it’s good to know some things in life are safe bets. One is that Pete Sixsmith can find a game of footy to watch whenever the mood takes him – which is frequently. Fresh from Shildon’s victory at Dunston on Tuesday and Bishop Auckland’s loss to Consett in the F.A. Cup on Wednesday he made it to the land of black pudding and the birthplace of the man who invented the modern police force for last night’s game, before he takes in another two matches on his way to Carrow Road. What did he make of last night’s win. Let’s find out……..

 

BURY (a)

One banana skin avoided and another one to come.

After dispatching Second Division Bury, we drew Carlisle United at Brunton Park in Round Two of the English Football League Cup. Two decent draws and hopefully some progress in a competition which could lead to us devouring huge quantities of “cheesy chips on Wembley Way” – as the old song has it.

This was a competent performance in a season where competence is going to be the norm. We are getting an idea of what a Simon Grayson side looks like. Pressing, high energy, a solid back four and quick breaks – the exact opposite of the ponderous and painful football we played last season.

Granted the opposition will not be blessed with world class opponents like Sanchez, Coutinho and Ibrahimovic, but it is refreshing to see Sunderland players putting in a real shift and still looking reasonably fresh at the end.

Grayson turned a strong team out at Gigg Lane. Matthews came in for Jones (not much difference there), O’Shea for Kone (ditto), Gibson for Cattermole (different style) and Khazri for Vaughan (of which more later). The rest had played in the mildly encouraging draw with Derby on the Friday night and the temptation to chop and change wholesale was given up in favour of promoting a more cohesive team effort.

By and large it worked. O’Shea for Kone saw no great diminution in the middle of the back four. As always the Irishman went about his job in an effective way, reading the game well and talking young Browning and Galloway through a couple of sticky periods. I have a lot of time for O’Shea and will watch his coaching and managerial career with interest.

Darron Gibson has been on the back pages for all the wrong reasons but last night it was for the right ones. He controlled the midfield and cruised around the areas 40 yards either side of the half way line. His presence allowed the quietly efficient Didier Ndong to do what he is good at, as he won the ball and used it well. When Cattermole plays alongside Ndong, there is a feeling that both are doing the same job. Gibson has a different role. In this (now) 49-game marathon, the combination of two from three will be a valuable asset.

Check your studs Wahbi!

Khazri’s presence did not add a great deal I’m afraid. He could have been sent off for a petulant challenge on a Shakers player but the referee Robert Jones erred on the side of leniency. Add to that, a spectacular fall when he was clean through and it wasn’t a great night for the Tunisian and he was rightly withdrawn with 15 minutes left.

By that time the excellent George Honeyman had put us ahead with a delightful chip over Bury Keeper Joe Murphy. Honeyman had moved to the left after the withdrawal of the ineffective Aidan McGeady and looked far more comfortable there than he did on the right. He worked a good break with Joel Asoro and didn’t panic or fall down when he got into the box. It was a good way for him to open his account at first team level and he will clearly have an important part to play as the season grinds on.

So it was a competent rather than spectacular team performance and goodness, how we craved for those last season. By the end of this month we will know who is going to form the backbone of this team and games like this give us a clear indication of the manager’s thinking. No Djilobodji on the bench and younger players like Embleton and Greenwood left at home to play for the Under 23s against Tottenham tonight.

I shall miss that one as I am making a weekend of the trip to dear old Norwich. A couple of nights in Kings Lynn allows me to take in games at Fakenham Town (nicknamed The Ghosts for some unfathomable reason) and Boston Town (The Poachers for more fathomable ones).

The journey there and back cannot be as difficult as yesterday’s. A road traffic incident on the M1 had closed the road at Garforth so we had to go through Leeds to pick up the M62. On the way back our beloved Highways Agency had closed the 62 east and west between Saddleworth and Huddersfield for resurfacing, so we had a scenic tour of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire. I love places like Rawtenstall, Skipton and Ripon – but not at 11 o’clock at night. A two-hour trip took three. Bah!!

A first league win on Sunday would set me up for the long slog across the A47 and A17.

Ha’way the Lads………

Who was at Hibernian 2-2 Sunderland? Tell us what you think

Pete Sixsmith had other plans after the Bury game so no one from Salut! Sunderland was at Easter Road for the 2-2 draw against Hibs.

Khazri and, believe it or not, the lesser-spotted Jeremain Lens scored good goals to put SAFC in a commanding position that was duly sacrificed as the home side scored two in three minutes and then went close to grabbing a winner. The clip shows excellent finishes for our goals and woeful defending for theirs.

Both of our scorers were surely in the shop window though imagine what assets they could be in the Championship if they stayed and were committed to the cause.

Read moreWho was at Hibernian 2-2 Sunderland? Tell us what you think

Sixer’s Sevens: SAFC 2-2 West Ham. Welcome fight too little, too late

Jake: ‘the game’s up but at least Khazri’s “Killer Korner” raised smiles

Monsieur Salut writes: awful defending cost Sunderland the goals that made the start of each half so disappointing but at long last, effort was matched by an ability to score. Wahbi Khazri added pressure on David Moyes to explain rationally why he has been used so little with his astonishing curler directly for a corner and Fabio Borini grabbed the second equaliser after Victor Anichebe caused problems in the West Ham penalty area. Ndong had early missed a sitter and, of course, even a win would not have been enough, but at least we say plenty of fight and Pete Sixsmith is right in his seven-word verdict in thinking we might well have taken all three points …

Jake: a point that hardly helps

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: SAFC 2-2 West Ham. Welcome fight too little, too late

From our own correspondent at AFCON: out of Africa with Ndong and Khazri

Jim Minton, with new friends

Jim Minton makes a welcome return to the pages of Salut! Sunderland with a Sunderland fan’s eye witness appraisal of the Africa Cup of Nations. He has been there with a Chelsea-supporting friend, watched two SAFC players (but not, sadly, Kone) in action and offers these impressions before he heads with heavy heart to the Hawthorns on Saturday …

The African Cup of Nations gets a bit of an unfair press back in the UK. Managers and fans tend only to bemoan the loss of key players to what they perceive as a Mickey Mouse competition involving countries that most of us couldn’t readily locate on a map.

That’s a pity, however, as AFCON is, behind the World Cup and UEFA European Championships the third biggest international competition, with many top quality players spread throughout the 16 teams.

And while pretty much the only stories you read about African countries in the news are that they are dangerous, war torn or poverty stricken, being present at the tournament is a welcome reminder that for the most part the continent is peaceful, friendly and an amazing place to spend time.

Gabon is the host country for AFCON 2017, and me and my mate Mark decided, to the slight puzzlement of some friends, that we fancied a bit of an adventure. So we have spent a week here in Libreville enjoying the sights and sounds of the first week of the tournament.

For the uninitiated, Gabon is on the coast of West Africa and straddles the equator. “Just below the armpit,” one local told us. Which is appropriate, given the amount of sweat the tropical climate has wrung out of me.

Gabon is also, by coincidence, the birthplace of Sunderland’s record signing, Didier Ibrahim Ndong. Like the tournament, Didier himself divides opinion, with some believing we’ve overspent on an average player while others, like me, see a lad with potential, but struggling for consistency in an awful side.

Ndong

 

So as well as offering the chance to experience a new culture, see different cities and sample exotic foods, the tournament presented an opportunity to see Ndong in a different context, alongside his Gabonese colleagues, as they played out their opening matches at the Stade Amitie in Libreville.

The stadium was built for the 2012 tournament – which Gabon co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea – and is in very good condition. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for transport access.

As in much of Africa, infrastructure is a big challenge in Gabon: simply, the population and the number of cars have grown far faster in recent years than the government’s ability to build roads. Hence, gridlock. If you think the new West Ham ground is a pain to get to, try sitting in 30 degree heat for 90 minutes in non-moving traffic, being serenaded by lorry loads of horn blasting, dancing, exuberant young men. Like an Eddie Murphy film, it’s fun for a while, and has memorable moments, but in the end you can’t wait to get out of your seat.

The tournament scheduling gave us the chance to see two days of double-headers within Group A, featuring the hosts Gabon, unfancied Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso – who’d reached the final in 2013 – and one of the big guns, Cameroon.

Our friendly Gabonese host purchased our tickets locally for 2000 Central African Francs (or about 3 euros) for the first pair of games. We met a lad from Ireland who’d bought his through a travel agent, shelling out an eye watering 80 euros for the pleasure.

On both days, the atmosphere in and around the ground was fantastic – just as exciting as being part of a big crowd at a game in England, but different: although supporters here passionately back their team – through costume, song and dance – it feels celebratory rather than confrontational.

This may partly be explained by the fact that as a relatively rich country, Gabon hosts a large number of workers from other west African nations= So the guy we sat next to was a Cameroon supporter, who like many others in the stadium had built his life in Gabon. But without being starry eyed about it, there did seem to be a camaraderie and spirit of supporting “the game” as well as the team.

This makes it easy as a neutral to enjoy matches, and it is certainly colourful and noisy. Also despite the heavy corporate sponsorship – which may grate on some – the advertising hoardings at every game do carry a message on behalf of the AFCON Foundation which expresses hope for a healthy, educated, empowered youth to make a better future for Africa, which feels a positive and welcome statement.

All photos taken or supplied by Jim Minton

The four matches we saw were overall pretty good – and the consensus among the fans was that this tournament has already created more on-pitch quality than previous editions managed.

The hosts, Gabon, look the weakest of all the Group A sides. Their talisman and main striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has so far kept them in it with a goal in each of their games (one from a penalty he won) but on both occasions they’ve ended up drawing – first to Guinea Bissau, then Burkina Faso – and could have easily lost.

Sunderland’s Ndong has played in both games. Being the only Gabonese in the premier league, he is something of a celebrity here, but chatting to the fans in the bars around the ground their view was that while Gabon generally were “not good enough”, Didier was, “just about better than most”.

In the first game he was tidy, heavily involved and composed throughout; in the second, however, he turned in an error-strewn display – no worse than most of his team mates, but not really much better. Let’s hope he will do himself justice in the last group game versus Cameroon on Sunday.

Cameroon look the strongest side in the group. They drew versus Burkina Faso, shipping a late equaliser after missing some good chances but turned round a one nil deficit to beat Guinea Bissau 2-1 in a tremendous game featuring one of the best goals I’ve seen for some time: Bissau’s Brito Silva “Piqueti” ran virtually the length of the pitch before lashing the ball home to wild applause all around the stadium.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/p81bnhdHM_M” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Guinea Bissau look a team that is much better than the sum of its parts – largely Portuguese second division players – but, like Iceland last year, a lot can be achieved with good organisation and team spirit. And Burkina, who have two creditable draws, look good while lacking cutting edge.

Our days between games gave us the chance to watch the rest of the tournament in the comfort of Libreville’s beach bars. The highlight so far has been Zimbabwe surprising – and almost beating – Riyad Mahrez’s Algeria.

The Zimbabweans recovered from going an early goal down to lead 2-1 and had chances to extend their lead before Mahrez struck his second with less than 10 minutes to go.

As a measure of the interest here in the tournament – and perhaps a reality check to the cheerleaders for the Premier League’s global dominance – in a busy bar in Gabon, the locals voted overwhelmingly to keep watching the Afcon game, even though Man United and Liverpool were grunting out a 1-1 draw on the other channel. We voted with them, and we were rewarded with a classic.

The other games haven’t hit those heights, but Wahbi Khazri put in an excellent performance as a second half sub for Tunisia against a strong Senegal; he had a number of efforts on goal, including a trade mark in-swinging corner which looked like it crossed the line (but there is no hawk-eye in Gabon) and made himself busy and productive over a very good 45 minutes. Tunisia failed to take their chances, though, and ended up losing 2-0.

Our trip ended after a week. It had been a great adventure, and the few days had given us a great flavour of what – despite snootiness of the Premier League and its acolytes in the British media – is actually an exciting and good quality tournament, worthy of support and respect from anyone who enjoys football.

For anyone interested, the next African Nations’ will be in Cameroon in Jan-Feb 2019. If you like football, good company, a bit of an adventure and can stand the tropical heat, then why not give it a try. At least you’ll see a tournament where you won’t have to worry about England disappointing; and you never know, a Sunderland player might make himself a global hero. Although he’d probably still have his critics back at home.


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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 Sevens: Sunderland 3-2 Chelsea. The stuff off dreams. Magnificent, Lads

Jake: 'One word: magnificent'
Jake: ‘One word: magnificent’

Colin Randall writes: Sensational. After a heartbreaker of a goal at the end of the first half, Sunderland came back from 2-1 down to win with wonderful strikes from Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe to add to Wabi Khazri’s first-half screamer. The referee Mike Jones had a stinker and at times made it look as if SAFC were playing 12 men with some crazy decision all over the pitch. He should have sent off Cahill in the first half (Terry did go right at the end) and repeatedly got his calls utterly wrong. Never mind. One win – at home to Everton on Wednesday – and Sunderland are safe yet again. Expect Pete Sixsmith‘s considered account to be somewhat upbeat; this is where his seven-word instant verdict appears …

Read moreSixer’s Sevens: Sunderland 3-2 Chelsea. The stuff off dreams. Magnificent, Lads

Sixer’s Newcastle United Soapbox: we let this one slip – again!

Jake: 'nerve-shredding'
Jake: ‘nerve-shredding’
Malcolm Dawson writes………the fact that those supporters in black and white were euphoric at the end, whilst those in red and white (or their free green) appeared dejected said it all really. Both sides picked up a point in the chase to catch Norwich but while we saw it as two points dropped, they celebrated like they had won the Cup. Not for the first time we started off much the better side but once again after a bright start, where we pressed high up the pitch and restricted our opponents to a few ineffective attacks, a combination of tiring legs and a nervous desire to cling on to the lead saw us drop much deeper and allow a side we had dominated to get back into the game. Van Aanholt might have had a good effort saved but don’t forget M’Vila’s goal line clearance. We could just as easily have lost this one. Pete Sixsmith was there and reports on events in his customary style.

SOAPBOXmags

NEWCASTLE (AWAY)2016

At half time, I was considering which photograph to put on my Facebook page. Would it be Messrs. Brynner, Vaughn (Robert not David), Coburn, Bronson, Dexter (Brad, not Ted), McQueen and Bucholz? Would it be those forerunners of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – The Temperance Seven with their wonderful singer “Whispering Paul McDowell” or would it be the cover of the Enid Blyton book, “Well Done Secret Seven”?

As it happened, Aleksander Mitrovic, with a little help from Gini Wijnaldum, Dame N’Doye and De Andre Yedlin (fine English names there), made the choice unnecessary as he headed home his first goal since Tito led Yugoslavia, to give the Mags a point that they probably just about deserved but which we should never have allowed them. Forget the errors leading up to their equaliser (although it will be a long time before I can cast Yedlin’s abysmal foul throw that led to them moving forward to the memory banks) and think about the amount of play that we had in the first half and the opening 15 minutes of the second. For all that control and possession, we only scored once and as we all know, that is not enough for a team who cannot keep the proverbial clean sheet.

The first half was a non-contest as we played some crisp, clear and convincing football. The defenders never looked threatened by a feeble Newcastle attack and we controlled the midfield with consummate ease. Kirchhoff turned in another outstanding 70 minutes, breaking up the opposition attacks and moving the ball on to Rodwell, M’Vila, Khazri and Borini, who used it very effectively.

Rodwell had another quietly efficient game and looked a far, far better player than Shelvey. Where Shelvey tried to boom the ball around the pitch, occasionally hitting a black and white shirt, Rodwell looked for the simple pass and made sure that it went to a Sunderland player. He could have scored early on, but Elliott made a fine save from a header that, had it been placed a yard either side of the keeper, would have put us ahead.

Class
Class
Borini was another who had an excellent first half and tortured Colback, who was very fortunate to stay on the field. Both he and Janmaat were booked for crashing tackles on our wide players as they skipped past them almost at will.

The goal came from poor defending as Elliott pushed out a shot from Borini and Mbemba (also booked – 3 out of 4 in the defence saw yellow which tells you how much we were in control) headed it to Defoe who volleyed it in. Cue for great celebrations on Level 7 as we went in for the break. The feeling was that one more goal would see the home crowd turn on their team and we could pick them off at will.

We nearly got it when Van Aanholt forced an excellent save from Elliott, who was by far the busier keeper, but it seemed to stir the black and whites and they dragged themselves into the game. They pushed us back, Shelvey sat deeper and tried to pick us off and they took both full backs off and replaced them with midfielders.

Unfortunately, we were pushed back too far and it began to look as if we were under pressure.

The equaliser came when Yeltsin produced a throw in that Brandon and Byshottles Under 8s would have been ashamed of and from the Newcastle throw, they moved forward. The hitherto anonymous Wijnaldum skipped past a static N’Doye and produced an exquisite chip that Mitrovic headed in at the far post. He then made an arse of himself by ripping off his shirt and tripping over the obligatory portly pitch invader as the home crowd stopped thinking about how they were going to explain this one away and made a noise for the first time in the game.

So, why did we fail to win this one? Some on the bus home pointed the finger at the manager for his substitutions. Kaboul, who had had an excellent game alongside Kone, had taken a knock and seeing he is as robust as Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army, he was replaced by O’Shea, who did not bring the same authority to the game. Maybe Kaboul would have challenged Mitrovic for the header and not Yedlin, a player not noted for his heading ability. Cattermole came on for an exhausted Kirchhoff, which also made sense, but the contentious one was N’Doye on for Khazri.

Jake - quality
Jake – quality

Khazri is another player who has found the mental intensity of the Premier League difficult. Every game is played at a ferocious pace and there is little time to think. Ligue 1 is not at all like that and that is why some French players struggle. By all means replace him but by someone with pace, not a rather lumbering centre forward. Lens might have been a better swap here or even Toivonen. But Sam likes N’Doye and on he went. He should/could have tackled Wijnaldum but didn’t and the rest, as they say, is history. The former Hull man did carry the ball out well a couple of times after that, but the damage had been done.

The result makes a Wear-Tyne derby in the Championship more, rather than less likely. Norwich winning at West Brom was not a good thing and although Palace continue to be in free fall, they will still take a lot of catching. We have the players to do it and for much of this game we looked organised and played well. But our inability to go through 90+ minutes without conceding is going to drag us down. The next two games (West Brom at home, Norwich away) are vital and a minimum of 4 points is required from them. We need to either score six in the first half or the only goal of the game in the 97th minute and even then I would be worrying that it could all go wrong.

We have a free week again next week and then the real stuff starts as the ever popular Tony Pulis brings Messrs Gardner, Sessegnon and McClean back to the Stadium of Light. That’ll be two respectful rounds of applause and a Colback like reception for one of them then.

I’ve seen Man United fall, now I’m off to Montreal, Martin Bates, Martin Bates

Excuse the coat. It was freezing
Excuse the coat. It was freezing

John McCormick writes: I’m not sure if the title line will make sense to you but when I was putting it up a song was going through my head and I thought…

“…why not, Martin Bates deserves a bit of appreciation”.

The only problem is I couldn’t fit Toronto in, so he’ll have to make do with Montreal.

Here’s the final part of Martin’s trilogy. By now he should have have winged his way back across the Atlantic but, after this game, he probably didn’t need a plane. What a send off.

Hope you enjoyed the trip, Martin, and thanks for the reports.

Read moreI’ve seen Man United fall, now I’m off to Montreal, Martin Bates, Martin Bates