What a result that was, says Monsieur Salut. But why does it always seem to happen like this? A player goes months without scoring, a club keeps losing as if for fun, a manager is sacked … and then we come along. The variation of the theme this time is that Wimbledon,rock bottom of League One, suddenly hit a flash of form and dispatched Premier League opposition in the FA Cup. I heard a Hammers fan on TalkSport yesterday and he was apoplectic that his team – otherwise going nowhere special, upwards or downwards – couldn’t muster the spirit and quality to overcome such a modest obstacle to progress in one competition where glory might just be possible.
Our first of possibly two Wombling Who are You? interviewees, Mark Sturges*, answered the Salut! Sunderland questions before the FA cup tie, but his additional thoughts were invited. It’s fair to say there was an air of grim resignation about his original replies but he now adds ths: “The team played very well- surprising as we’d lost 0-3 at home to Fleetwood on the Tuesday. This team has proved we can compete so must start showing that in the league IF we are to have a chance of survival before it’s too late’ …
Another game, another prize Guess the Score. Be first to be right, have a UK delivery address and – whoever you support – you will win the mug (a Wimbledon or neutral winner would be found something suitable).
We need to start winning again and we probably didn’t need Wimbledon to have a morale-boosting FA Cup victory over West Ham United.
But in a spirit of friendship, we hand over the rest of this edition of the competition to Gary Jordan*, one of several Wimbledon supporters who responded to a plea for help with the Who are You? interview.
There has been a lot of anger and a fair amount of gallows humour among West Ham fans at the choice of our old friend David Moyes to replace the sacked Slaven Bilic as manager.As far as Monsieur Salut can tell, Moyes has not yet announced that the Hammers are in a relegation scrap. Nor has he said the players he needs in January won’t be available to him. Why, he hasn’t even told anyone from LBC Radio she deserves a slap or apologised – yet – for being self-defeatingly dour, honest and ever-so-sure of his ability.And with supreme faith in their new man, the West Ham board has made the appointment for all of six months, ie to the end of the season. That’s the stuff!
Earlier this week, the West Ham United fan site asked for reciprocal links with Salut! Sunderland, now established. I invited my contact there, Ade, to share anything his site did by way of covering Moyes. And here it is, with some mischief-making along the way drawn from other sources …
Monsieur Salut writes: in fact there were many more cheers for a decent 70-minute outing for Duncan. The crowd watching the Sunderland Under 23s against West Ham appreciated his running, his passion and the mere fact that he’s back. If Pete Sixsmith offers two cheers not three, it is because he also noticed a familiar Watmore failing: what to do at the end of one of his bursts of speed that leave opponents trailing behind. But it will be good to have his flair and his commitment back in the side.
I wrote recently about the death of a friend and former colleague Charlie Whebell, a West Ham supporter of the old school. He’d have enjoyed watching his young ‘uns remind everyone of the importance of taking chances (and been impressed by the willingness of the subs to chat to spectators) …
Monsieur Salut writes: Charlie Whebell was just 64 when he died at the beginning of this month. He was not a Sunderland supporter but a Hammer through and through and right down to his solid East End roots. He was a treasured colleague, both in London and Abu Dhabi, and his presence, sparkle and wit seemed to enrich the lives of all who came across him.
Not one of us maybe, but his beautiful words – Charlie was a gifted writer – did grace these pages just 16 months ago, when he mused poignantly from the Middle East on his sense of loss at the end of an era, West Ham’s final home game at the Boleyn or, as we call it, Upton Park. He said later that he recognised Sunderland supporters, by implication the older ones with their memories of Roker Park, as kindred spirits.
Read it in full at this link and you will see why it was warmly received by our readers.
Charlie was looking forward to lots of golf and football in retirement. Illness put paid to that, with cruel haste. But wherever Charlie was known, among friends still in the UAE or dispersed around the word (many of whom knew him far better than I ever did), glasses have been raised in his honour. I raise mine now …
John McCormick writes: I get regular
abusebanter from certain people who believe Anfield is a good value, top-class stadium. It isn’t, as I keep telling them, and now there’s proof.
But first I must make mention of Huddersfield, whose fans were told – some nine or ten years ago, apparently – that any who kept their season ticket would be able to renew it for £100 in the event of promotion. That’s not a bad way to reward loyalty and it surely resulted in the best value season ticket in the premiership. In contrast, former “who are you” guest Will Panduro paid about £1500 for his ticket at White Hart Lane last season, admittedly for a pretty good seat.
You might be tempted to say that Londoners earn a lot more, so can afford to pay higher prices but that’s not necessarily so, which poses the question “whose season tickets are the most affordable?” One answer comes from Ticketgum.com, via one of Colin’s colleagues at journalistic.org.
And where do you think Liverpool, Huddersfield and Spurs come in Ticketgum’s quite impressive analysis? Read on, ladies and gentlemen, and all will be revealed.
John McCormick writes: It has been a strange day. First, an e-mail from Pete Sixsmith asking if I’d voted and including and article. I had, but closer examination revealed the article was his report from the Hull game and the e-mail was dated 7th May.
Then came an e-mail from Oddbins telling me time was running out – what do they know about our search for a manager?
It wasn’t until 5pm that normal service was resumed, with a request from Colin asking if I could post this short article, from one of our occasional guests, Abby Chinery, of journalistic.org.
Happy to oblige, Abby:
Malcolm Dawson writes………..if you believe the official figures, there were over 40,000 world weary souls at the Stadium of Light yesterday but that statistic includes all season card holders and by the number of pink seats visible, a good number of those had opted for another way of spending their Saturday.
Pete Sixsmith wasn’t one of them and was there as usual to witness a game highlighted by slack marking and missed opportunities from the home side. What made this different to so many others was that the boys in red and white actually found the net twice and it wasn’t Jermain Defoe who did so.
Pete’s report came in early this week as he is off to witness the delights of Ashton in Makerfield and other grounds on the North West Counties “Easter Ground Hop” itinerary, relaxed in the knowledge that next weekend he won’t have to file his copy to M Salut, what with Arsenal playing at Wembley and that.
WEST HAM UNITED (HOME)
I wonder what David Moyes is thinking now? Is there some satisfaction about breaking the run of defeats and ending the goal drought or is there the disappointment of failing to win and putting pressure on Cities Hull and Swansea, both of whom were well beaten away from home?
Is he satisfied with an improved performance from his players or is he seething about basic errors which cost us two goals as well as us missing at least one good chance to win the game?
Is he sanguine about the fair number of supporters who gave him the bird whenever he emerged from the relative security of the dug out or has he taken it to heart and is perhaps contemplating whether he has a future on Wearside?
One thing is for sure, the metaphorical nails are being banged into the metaphorical coffin and to mix metaphors, we are sliding through that trapdoor which will see us locking horns with The Bees from Brentford, The Robins from Bristol City and The Wolves from Wolverhampton. The Championship is awash with animal teams – alas, almost certainly no Magpies.
This was better in parts. There was a bit more verve about our play. From the kick off the recalled Wahbi Khazri ran with the ball and attacked the opposition – and we almost fashioned a chance. Up went the ball to the other end and your friend and mine (and I mean that most sincerely, folks) Mr Andre Marriner, booked Lee Cattermole for a collision with Andre Ayew. That meant our midfield maestro had to negotiate a possible 89 minutes without incurring the further wrath of a man who has sent him off twice in the past.
Not surprisingly it stilted Cattermole’s game, although it did allow Gibson and Ndong to play a more prominent role. Gibson had his best game for Sunderland, playing just in front of the back four and one missed shot apart, making a generally positive contribution. It was nice to see a midfielder making the odd telling pass and being able to control the ball. Ndong was busy and effective and is beginning to look a decent acquisition. Whether he can produce the goods on a wet and windy night at Barnsley is still to be discovered but I was impressed with his athleticism and his ability to pop up in unexpected places. Unfortunately, one of those was on the end of a lovely pass from Khazri which the Gabon international managed to blast into the North Stand.
It was one of a trio of errors which cost us the win. The other two came in our box where Denayer failed to spot Ayew and he scored easily after Carroll had mis-kicked a cross from Byram. O’Shea pointed out to his central defensive colleague that he could have done better than he did. Denayer seemed to accept it. The other howler came a minute into the second half when a cross from Snodgrass was headed in by James Collins as our defence stood and watched him. Cue every one looking at each other and walking back to the centre circle sheepishly. Bah!!
To balance that, our two goals were also down to poor defending. The first equaliser came directly from a Khazri corner as Anichebe stopped the keeper from getting there first. Could have been an obstruction but really, Randolph should have done a lot better. For Borini’s goal, Randolph came a long way for a hopeful punt into the box and dropped the ball allowing Don Fabio to strike it cleanly into the net to salvage a deserved point.
It is too late to look for positives. Failure to win this game makes the task of staying up much harder but the team did show some fighting spirit and the team selection was better than it has been recently. Out went Kone who looks about as interested in being at Sunderland as George Osborne does at being a backbench MP. Out went Borini, a huge disappointment this season and in came Khazri. Out went Rodwell to be replaced by Gibson. Both of those changes were positive and made one wonder why both players had not been involved earlier.
Khazri looked the player he was 12 months ago and added pace and an ability to do something unexpected. It didn’t always come off but it was better than watching Januzaj ducking tackles (he came on and ducked one straight away) or Borini giving the ball away. But why was Anichebe played wide? We needed a win yet we still only played one man up front. In the past, Defoe has tortured Jose Fonte yet here, the far more robust Collins picked up our major threat. Had Anichebe been in the middle, Collins would have had to take him and that would have allowed Defoe to pile on the misery for the former Southampton man. But what do I know?
As for the manager, he is not popular. The boos that greeted him when he popped out of the dugout were extensive enough to worry him. The crowd have not yet turned but they may. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets at Middlesbrough a week on Wednesday from the travelling support. He strikes me as a man who will only change when he has to. I wonder how he felt when Khazri equalised and then went on to be our best player. Was Moyes genuinely pleased or did he grit his teeth and adopt a fixed smile? I hope Vikki Sparks wasn’t there to interrogate him post-match.
As for West Ham, they flattered to deceive as they usually do. I thought Snodgrass was particularly disappointing and looked poor value for money. I didn’t rate the keeper either and they may well be looking for a new coach in the summer. Bilic has probably done all he can with them. At least we will be spared a visit to their awful stadium – and probably for a few years.
We have another weekend off because of Arsenal’s involvement in the FA Cup semi-finals. Their fans will be sharpening the knives ready to plunge them into Arsene should Manchester City beat them. The pampered denizens of Highbury and Islington should try being Sunderland supporters; now that would test them.
John McCormick writes: post match, on radio five live, Fabio Borini hinted at changing-room issues. When asked to elaborate he talked about injuries but did nothing else to explain. Was something lost in translation? You might think not, given the way David Moyes manages to suggest everything’s hunky-dory in his post-match missive:
Only seven to go before ‘Who are You?’ researchers have to start turning their attentions to fans of Burton, Barnsley and Brentford. Pete May* is our West Ham guest, a highly respected author of books about the Hammers but also Sunday league football, the ‘joys of Essex’ and Dr Who. He senses Jermain may be due for a return to West Ham but that, unlike at Sunderland, he won’t be an automatic choice for the starting line-up. Read on for Pete’s interesting take on all things Hammers plus a cheeky offer to buy fellow supporter Keira Knightley a pre-match drink …