Monsieur Salut writes: at around 8pm, I switched on my phone after landing at Stansted, noticed the signing of George Dobson had been announced and prepared to write our usual welcoming piece on the train into London. Fat chance. The sun had come out and there were no trains. Nor any notice to that effect obviously visible in arrivals so passengers had to traipse all the way down to the platform only to be sent back to the terminal to queue for National Express tickets and then traipse one floor back down to locate the coach station. It was a grim ride into the capital. Probably unfair to blame Brexit but I’ll doubtless find a way. But here’s the delayed welcome …
Monsieur Salut writes: by tradition, Salut! Sunderland reproduces the Who are You? interview that has won our top HAWAY award. There is a twist, and a much-appreciated one. Doug Shields, a Bristol Rovers fan and the author, said he would prefer his prize to go to ‘a decent charity in Sunderland’. The runner-up, Richard Hall (Walsall), immediately made a similar gesture, asking for a replica top to go to an inner-city Sunderland school, perhaps as a prize for its summer fete. There you have it: football’s antidote to the shame brought by lowlife hoodlums running amok in Portugal in pretence of supporting England.
I shall offer an Art of Football print – the Sunderland range can be seen here and is superb – to the newish Sunderland fans’ museum and am open to suggestions as to the school. If I receive more than one approach or recommendation, I shall draw a winning school at random (provided it broadly fits Richard’s geographical preference). Thank you, genetlemen …
The season is over and Sunderland couldn’t quite get across the finishing line. But there were positives, says Monsieur Salut, despite the failure to achieve what everyone wanted and the club needed.
Salut! Sunderland‘s modest contributions to the season’s brighter aspects included a good deal of fine writing for which credit is due to Pete Sixsmith, Malcolm Dawson, John McCormick, Wrinkly Pete, Rob Hutchison, Bob Chapman, Paul Summerside, Bill Taylor, Lars Knutsen, John Marshall and whoever I have overlooked.
And then there were the Who are You? interviews, in-depth interviews with fans of opposing teams before each game.
Our fellow League One clubs proved a tremendous source of wit and wisdom as the interviews mounted up. It is now time to offer some rewards to those responsible for the best of them.
It has become a bit of a stuck old gramophone record, Salut! Sunderland‘s pride in a tremendous season of Who are You? interviews with opposing supporters.
Judging is at an advanced stage for our HAWAYs – annual awards for Highly Articulate Who are You?s – and with only a couple of sets of votes still awaited, front-runners are emerging.
League One has been a goldmine for the series (not forgetting our cup-game interviewees from other divisions)
As Monsieur Salut put it when writing to the judges: “I could have put them all in a hat and drawn three at random, so good have so many of the interviews been.”
Pete Sixsmith reported windy weather before trotting off to the SOL yesterday and Walsall duly put the wind up Sunderland, who produced yet another shaky start. It turned out well enough in the end, with four of the top six drawing and the seventh-placed club losing, to once more put us in control of our own destiny.
With no game between now and the Checkatrade Trophy final, the Salut! Sunderland team will no doubt be racking their collective brains trying to think up articles that will keep the readership ticking over. By contrast the past few weeks have been pretty hectic and in order to give Pete a bit of a break and allow him some time off to enjoy his other interests, Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson once more borrows the soapbox to report on yesterday’s game against our visitors from the West Midlands.
Back home, after a long time on the road, with a depleted squad and a serious need to keep in touch with the top two, which suddenly looked doable once again, especially after Gillingham twice equalised against Luton, Pete Sixsmith wearily texted the early Walsall goal to absent friends. Then Cattermole smashed in an equaliser off a defender and our illustrator Jake decided head to go out so sent a banner with 1-1 as the final score. Benno was full of praise for Luke O’Nien, getting stuck in all over the pitch. But it was the introduction of Wyke that turned the game as he did himself and Will Grigg a great deal of good, his assist setting up Grigg for a fine finish and winner.
Pete will send his full report in due course. For now, here’s his instant post-whistle text, and Jake emailed to say he’ll send a suitable graphic later, just to make a good day that little bit better
Malcolm Dawson writes….this Saturday will be the fourth time I will have seen our visitors this season and I still haven’t seen us win. I can’t think that Luton and more importantly Barnsley will win all their remaining games so it is vital that we don’t drop any more points this weekend. Can Donny do us a favour this evening?
Pete Sixsmith missed our F.A. Cup tie at the Bescott, owing to his Santarial duties, but he made the replay and he’d seen them play on Wearside twice before – once in the league and once in a long forgotten trophy, which has been replaced by a competition that has seen Sunderland followers clamouring for tickets. Pete and I will both be at Wembley but he was at Roker Park for that earlier knock out game and the only league fixture the Saddlers have played at the Stadium of Light. He recalls both here.
The Saddlers ride up to the Stadium of Light on Saturday for the second time in the Football League. A similar result to their first visit in 2003 would be satisfactory – we won 1-0 – but we do not want a repeat of the FA Cup replay of December.
They haven’t got a great league record on Wearside. They have been here five times, have lost three, drawn one and won one, with two of the defeats being heavy ones in the early 1960’s. The 5-0 walloping in October 1962 which saw goals from Jimmy Davidson (2), Stan Anderson, Brian Clough and George Mulhall contributed heavily to Walsall’s relegation that year as they went back to Division Three (One in new money) on goal average.
Note for younger readers (if we have any). Goal average was when you divided the number of goals scored by the number of goals conceded. Walsall’s goal average was 0.59 while Charlton’s was a relatively comfortable 0.65. Ours – we finished third that season when only two went up – was 1.52.
My first view of them was on the 6th February 1988 at Roker Park in our first shameful excursion into the nether regions of the Associate Members. We were top, they were pushing for a promotion place and we came off the back of four successive league wins, hoping to strengthen our lead over Notts County. A good crowd of 18,311, two thousand up on the previous home game, sat back and waited for the visitors to collapse. They didn’t. They took the lead through Mark Goodwin mid-way through the first half and we had to wait until the 66th minute for Gary Bennett to equalise and we failed to go on and win the game, although we did retain the top spot.
The teams that day were;
Ian Hesford; Jon Kay, John McPhail, Gary Bennett, Reuben Agboola; Paul Atkinson, Paul Lemon, Steve Doyle, Gordon Armstrong; Eric Gates, Marco Gabbiadini subs; Frank Gray, Keith Bertschin
Fred Barber; Mark Taylor, Graeme Forbes, Peter Hart, Ken Mower; Craig Shakespeare, Phil Hawker, Mark Goodwin, Trevor Christie, David Kelly, Willie Naughton subs; Paul Jones (for Taylor 73), Richard O’Kelly (for Hawker 83).
There are a couple of interesting names there.
Fred Barber was a Ferryhill lad, although he spent his formative years in Darlington. His Auntie Edie was one of the cleaners at Ferryhill School, a real character, who would stop cleaning and start gossiping at every opportunity. What I didn’t know about the nocturnal events in her part of the village wasn’t worth knowing. Fred signed for Darlington and made 153 appearances for them before making a move to Everton as understudy for Neville Southall. He quickly realised that waiting for Big Nev to lose form or get injured was not a great career move (keepers were not on the bench in those days) and he moved to Walsall with The Toffees making 100% profit on the deal.
He settled at Fellows Park, turning out 153 times and seeing them into Division Two on our coat tails, although they only lasted one season and like us, suffered consecutive relegations. Barber left on loan, pitched up at Peterborough United for a couple of years and then got more loans than a desperate gambler before going into coaching. He became renowned for coming onto the pitch in an old man mask (he removed it before play started) and in his time at Peterborough was a cult figure. He wasn’t a bad keeper, although his lack of height (he was 5’10”) told against him.
His coaching career started at Bolton Wanderers where he spent 15 years and was instrumental in the development of Jussi Jasskelainen, who retired last year and Adam Bogdan who is now at Hibernian, so his pedigree is pretty good. He even did some work at Sunderland when Sam Allardyce was spreading hope and optimism amongst the support and he is now on the coaching staff at Crewe Alexandra, where Jaaskalainen’s son, Will, is one of the keepers.
The other connection is David Kelly, a man with a good goal scoring record at all of the clubs that he played at bar one – us. He rattled in 192 in 600 league games, a total which included 35 in 70 games for The Mags. You don’t need to be Einstein to work out that that is an average of1 per 2 games. And 2 was the total he scored for us in the 35 games he appeared in before he slipped away to Tranmere Rovers (and obscurity in a small town near Oswestry).
The last time they were here for a league game, was in October 2003 when 36,278 turned out to see a Mick McCarthy team which was heading for an unsuccessful FA Cup semi-final and an equally unsuccessful Play Off semi-final. Those disappointments were still in the future as we triumphed 1-0 thanks to a 42nd minute Marcus Stewart goal.
Our team that day included Mart Poom (he of the header at Derby County), Joachim Bjorklund and Alan Quinn. A prize of a bag of nuts if you can remember him.
Jamie Lawrence was welcomed back to the Stadium and they had Gary O’Neil, then a sprightly youngster, on loan from our EFL Trophy opponents Portsmouth. At 35, he is currently playing and occasionally getting paid by Bolton Wanderers.
Walsall were relegated at the end of that season as well, this time on goal difference rather than goal average, and their current form is not good, with only three wins this calendar year. Portsmouth beat them at The Bescot on Tuesday. We’ll be hoping to emulate that on Saturday.
We are getting to the fag end of the season and while it looks likely that we will finish in the top six, with Luton and Barnsley in the driving seat, we have to win these games if we are to have any hope of automatic promotion.
Ha’way the Lads.
Fred Barber coaching clip posted on YouTube by Spootboot, 2018 If there is any copyright claim, not answered by “fair comment” on the video or images used in this report please let us know and we will remove or acknowledge as required
Monsieur Salut writes: we heard a little from Darren Fellows* after the first of our earlier games against his club, Walsall.
This time, his answers arrived as both of us nervously awaited Tuesday night’s fixtures. We managed a draw at Barnsley, a result that was good in isolation but left us still chasing the top two, while Walsall did us no favours, beaten at home by Pompey. Over to Darren, who thinks we should be doing so much better this season than to risk having to accept a playoff place.
It’s another interesting set of answers, though Will Grigg’s friends may want to keep it from his eyes …
Monsieur Salut says: we will go early with Guess the Score for this Saturday. Pete Sixsmith’s Soapbox from Barnsley will not be with us until later in the day and we also need to check whether our headlines are being ‘grabbed’ by the newsnow.co.uk aggregator (Sixer’s Sevens seems to have avoided their radar last night) …
A draw at Barnsley can hardly be described as two points wasted. Sadly, coming after the disappointing stalemate (and very nearly defeat) at Wycombe, the reality is that automatic promotion is looking a lot less likely.
We can but hope that Sunderland will at last stamp some authority on League One and find winning as easy as Luton Town, nine points clear of us at the top. Even then we need them or Barnsley to falter.
Malcolm Dawson writes……. Pete Sixsmith is usually very busy at this time of year, and although he was at the Stadium of Light last night is otherwise engaged this morning, so once again he has asked me to climb on the soapbox for the Salut! Sunderland take on our FA Cup defeat.
Make no mistake. Walsall deserved to win this game. They were busier, harried and hassled whenever we had the ball and looked dangerous on the break. Technically, I thought we looked to have the more gifted individuals, but Watmore apart, all seemed lacklustre and battle weary. This was certainly not a great display from the home side, though unlike some of the crowd around me, I didn’t feel it merited the four letter synonyms for manure and excrement that they chose to describe our performance.
With four fullbacks unavailable, JR chose to start with O’Nien on the right hand side of a 4-4-2, with the now regular partnership of Baldwin and Flanagan in the centre and Oviedo as an attack minded left back. Power and McGeouch sat just in front of the back four, Maguire nominally wide right and Honeyman buzzing about all over the place and Watmore and Sinclair up front but both playing more towards the flanks than providing any direct threat in more central positions
I am beginning to find Sinclair frustrating. I like his effort and industry but he seems to be having little effect on the play at the moment. I can’t fault his energy or willingness to get involved but he does appear to rely on his right foot. The fact that he often turned up on the left wing last night meant that instead of looking to play an early ball into the danger area, he would look to cut inside first which often resulted in the attack breaking down before there was any real danger of someone threatening Roberts in the Walsall goal.
The other threat down the left came from Oviedo but too often for my liking he appeared to want to beat his man once too often so after showing some fancy footwork to get into a position where a dangerous ball into the box looked on, the opportunity would vanish as the defence got into position and he was closed down.
Maguire’s ball retention wasn’t great. He never stopped trying but he will know this wasn’t one of his better performances. He was guilty on a number of occasions of trying the fancy flick or blind pass and ended up giving the ball away when easier options seemed to be on the cards. It was an ill judged back heel that led to Walsall’s goal. Hemmed in on the right touchline he gave the ball away and although we had plenty of defenders in position, the ball was pushed forward and bobbed about a bit until it was headed back from just outside the penalty area by number 3 Luke Leahy to Josh Ginelly on the left wing and his short side footed pass to Liam Kinsella saw the midfielder drive in a right footed thunderbolt from all of twenty five yards that Bobby Charlton in his heyday would have been proud of and gave McLaughlin no chance.
The goal came early in the second half and we still had plenty of time to get back into the game and whilst it was frustrating and our scoring opportunities were limited, just one goal would have brought extra time and the possibility of a penalty shoot out, so please explain to me the logic of those who started leaving the ground when there was still plenty of time on the clock. Unfortunately last night they didn’t get to miss another hour or so of drama but oh how I wish they had.
Walsall also had the most clear cut chance of the first half, which was entertaining enough without setting the pulses racing, when Osbourne played a short ball to Gordon just inside their own half. He in turn played a lovely forward pass to Ferrier on the left wing who got past Flanagan and squared the ball into the onrushing Gordon, five yards out in front of what looked to be an open goal. Somehow McLaughlin got down and smothered the Walsall man’s side footed effort from point blank range.
We had a few chances of our own. McGeough, Honeyman and Sinclair all combined to set up a position where Power had a clear site of goal but his effort from distance went wide. Watmore who looked delighted to be back and why shouldn’t he after his injury nightmares, was willing to take on defenders and shoot whenever he could but in truth never really looked like scoring in that first half. Like McGeady did, he will need a couple of games to get back to his best but he’s a welcome addition to the squad.
A better opportunity came his way later on and his curling shot would probably have found the far corner or needed a smart save from Roberts, but number 34 Martin was in the right place to head Roadrunner’s right foot effort round the post.
Oviedo had a decent free kick which he fired in towards the far post later on and although it looked as if the Costa Rican was looking to score himself, neither Maguire nor Flanagan was able to get a head on it and it curled around the post with the keeper nowhere.
Maja and Cattermole had replaced Watmore and McGeouch but neither could exert any influence on the game. Mumba came on towards the end and looked lively enough to perhaps justify more game time but overall this was a more lacklustre performance from our boys.
Baldwin and Flanagan defended well enough last night but both were wasteful with the ball at times. I was surprised that Ross didn’t give at least one of them a rest last night. Loovens and Ozturk both looked OK last week and maybe instead of playing O’Nien in an unfamiliar role he could have played a back three with Oviedo and O’Nien or Mumba as wingbacks. Just a thought and perhaps he was taking the opportunity to take a look at a few options in case Matthews, Love, Hume and James are all out of action again.
Positives to take from last night?
The team didn’t panic and looked to play patient football and keep possession, even when we were behind, but too many times sloppy passes gave the ball away unnecessarily.
Portsmouth lost and so didn’t widen the gap at the top, though their result does mean Charlton are creeping up behind.
Exiting this competition doesn’t mean that we now have to fit in another fixture or two but does now mean we have only one chance of a visit to Wembley left this season.
With only the East Stand open to home fans I found that, unlike two years ago, I could get up and down the steps of the upper tier with no problems, the improvement in my mobility reflecting the improvement of the health of the stadium which looks so much better than not so long ago.
Well Bristol Rovers on Saturday is a game we would expect to win but is another of those slippery yellow fruit peelings that can cause someone to go apex over elbow. Let’s hope not.
Ha’way the Lads