Monsieur Salut writes: just as well I have Boro-supporting relatives. Another Boro fan, exiled down south and writing about another Championship side for a living, had instantly agreed to sit in the Who are You? hot seat only to let us down a few days later (no names as he may have a good excuse). But my nephew Andy Falconer, who did a good job of answering the questions back in November, came up with a pal, Alex Gunn*, who readily stepped into the defector’s shoes … he thinks Boro will win but offers us two consolation prizes: nominating Sunderland for an imaginary ‘loudest away support’ award and saying we’ll scrape 21st place, ie survive …
Monsieur Salut writes: a very happy new year to all Salut! Sunderland readers, editors, contributors and advertisers/sponsors. As well as featuring the thoughts of a Barnsley supporter, this is the place for entries in Guess the Score. There’ll be a prize as usual – a book or mug, to be sent to a UK delivery address – and Barnsley supporters are very welcome to have a go.
Thank heavens – though not always – for Twitter. It is, or at least can be, a fruitful place to find supporters of other teams. I was fearing a blank Sunderland -Barnsley ‘Who are You?’ until I found Craig Robinson*.
Craig’s replies, like those of the fan who sat in the same hot seat for the game at their game at Oakwell, are realistic and to the point …
John McCormick writes: a midwinter journey to one of the proper clubs. Founded 1865, occupying the same ground during three different centuries, and they had the sense to take on the best manager we never had. And then it all went wrong.
But it looks like it’s going right again as we welcome Forest season ticket holder Dan Watts, founder of Talk Forest TV and spotted for us by our own Pete Sixsmith, to give us the lowdown …
Monsieur Salut writes: in a 46-match season plus cup ties, it is a distinct possibility that there will be gaps in the Who are You? series. This was nearly one of them. In a way, it is one of them. Dave Eyre*, who did the honours for the home game between our side and his earlier in the season, tried to find us someone but said we’d left it a little late. Other feelers led nowhere; sometimes it’s simple to find a fan, sometimes it’s as if you’re asking a stranger for an unsecured no-interest loan of £10,000 with no repayments necessary for five years.
So Dave graciously agreed to update us on his thoughts. I think the best way of approaching this is to let him have his say on the way he sees the Blades’ season going and then run a selection of the more timeless responses he gave us back in September (which you can see in full as they appeared then by clicking this sentence). Happy Christmas, Dave; I hope you have a magical 25th to compensate for a disappointing 26th …
Over to Dave:
We are going through a bad patch since the loss of Coutts for the rest of the season with a broken leg. My own thoughts are this has not been the disaster people think – the loss of both right wing backs (Baldock and Freeman) has been a much greater setback.
We took fellow promotion candidates Bristol City apart and then lost the other midfield stalwart (Fleck) to a sending off – probably deserved – though having watched Harry Kane’s tackle this weekend there seems to be a different law in the Premier League sometimes. Last minute winning goal to Bristol.
Moving Basham to right-wing back has been our undoing – we miss his forward runs from the right -hand three of the centre halves linking up with the right wing back. Also he is weak as a full back at championship level, just that little bit slower. But the loss of two of the best midfielders in the division at the same time has not helped.
We have also lost a couple of games badly – Millwall and Preston – and Wilder has made his feelings known about this. Not a man for mincing his words.
Thus we come into a Christmas period with three tough games: Villa away; a recently revived Sunderland at home and Bolton at home.
The fans still trust Wilder – we are still in a play-off position so it is still marching on for now and into January. I do believe he has his targets and the money – he has said publicly he wants to get the business done early in the transfer window. Which probably means it is done already.
I think we’ll be OK. In Wilder we trust.
Local joke. Our bitter rivals Sheffield Wednesday have not won a game since Coutts went off injured.
Salut! Sunderland: will you be at the game and what will be the score?
Dave: I’ll be there. 4-2 to us.
And here, a promised, some of the questions and answers from when we first encountered Dave in September.
Is it really true, as a survey suggested, that Blades fans are the most obsessed in the country?
Dave: I doubt it though they are very passionate. We got brilliant crowds when last in the Premier League averaging over 30,000. A lot of teams currently in the Premier League cannot get that into their stadiums. We had a pre-season game this year aganst Malaga in an obscure ground (Malaga’s training ground at Coin). Despite the cost at the height of the holiday season about 200 booked flights. And we have a great song that no one has ever stolen!
Chris Wilder had a long but unspectacular playing career. But do you see him as a top quality manager?
Always difficult to tell what any manager will do. Judging by his progress so far his chances must be good. He learnt his trade in the lower leagues and he has been on an upward curve ever since.
At Northampton where he had to cope with severe financial problems off the field, he succeeded in winning promotion. At Bramall Lane where the expectations are high he has won the hearts of the fans. 199 points in the last two years is good going and few other managers have ever achieved that, let alone with two different teams. A number of great managers have had unspectacular careers, some great players have tried and failed. The local saying is IWWT – In Wilder We Trust.
Who are the players who can cause problems in the Championship and where does your team cry out for strengthening?
Sharpe has had plenty of Championship experience and will always score goals nowadays. Clarke also, though he may not last the season as centre-forward. But they both lack a lot of pace and that will be our downfall. Hoping for a pacy young forward from the Permiership pool.
I watched a young Dele Alli run rings around us when he played for MK Dons whilst a Tottenham player. Someone like that would be fine.
Young star David Brooks coming on and causing problems up front and also in midfield will be a revelation to some. He lacks a little in the strength department but if you ever saw John “The Ghost” White play – well he looks the same. Won player of the tournament in Toulon for Young England earlier this year.
In midfield Paul Couts (out injured) and Samir Carruthers both look as if they can hold their own. Of the defenders Jack O’ Connell is outstanding; Richard Stearman has loads of experience at this level and has performed well so far. Our 3-5-2 puts a lot of emphasis on positional sense and the three defenders (Basham is the other) seem to do well. Both Basham and O’Connell get forward as part of their general game and not just at free kicks. And then there is Ched Evans.
Did you welcome Ched Evans back?
He was finally found innocent, so to me that is the end of it. There will be some name calling from the opposition when he comes on and this will set our fans off with retaliating chants, So long as it stays like that it’ll be OK. His appearances so far have shown he has lost none of his beefiness. He was just getting into his stride when jailed. No doubt in my mind that his loss cost us promotion that season. We were one of the highest scoring teams in western Europe when we faltered.
Your best and worst moments as a supporter?
One thing about supporting the Blades – they are consistent. They always let you down. Highs are promotions – Darlington from the Fourth; up from the Third last season; away at Leicester to go into the Premier League. Hammering Wednesday 3-1 at Hillsborough. Lows? Dozens. Failure of three managers who ought to have done better – Weir, Robson, Adkins. And of course losing on Boxing Day to Wednesday.
The players who have given you most – and least – pleasure in your colours?
I watched Jagielka as a youngster and saw him mature into an England player. Least pleasure – Don Givens. No competition. For those of your readers not familiar with the story, he missed a last minute penalty against Walsall which sent us into the Fourth Division as was.
Tell us a little of your club’s association with culture – not forgetting When Saturday Comes and The Full Monty
We seem to be very media friendly at Bramall Lane and we were of course the very first United before a team from Stretford also took the name. The TV series starring Cherie Lunghi, The Manageress, was filmed at Bramall Lane in the main, and Dave Bassett had a camera with him the whole year when we were promoted to the Premier League.
That was fun in parts. There is a great museum at Bramall Lane – and it seems I missed many of the glory days at the turn of the 19th century. I was there for When Saturday Comes (the penalty scene was filmed at a half-time). Sean Bean has a Blades tattoo which say “100% Blade”. Rumour is that he had a flesh coloured plaster over it when performing in Lady Chatterley. One of my favourite actors Robert Carlyle wore a Blades shirt in The Full Monty. There is a wonderful local artist called Joe Scarborough who does great paintings of the local scene. I can’t afford an original but I do have a couple of prints of United related material including a limited edition print done for a promotion.
I think United are a very working-class club. I was at a game versus Forest a few years after the miners’ strike and as the Forest came out there was a huge cry of “scabs”. My friend, naively I thought, suggested we had long memories going back to the 1984 miners’ strike. I pointed out that that was for 1926.
* Dave Eyre on himself: my first Blades games was way back in 1959 when I reach the age of 16. I had supported Chesterfield until then, but my parents judged I was old enough at 16 to travel to Sheffield on my own. Work took me all around the country for a few years from 1962 onwards and I rarely got to see them. Came back to Sheffield just as Tony Currie was at his height and I was at Old Trafford stood right behind George Best as he scored a goal for our first defeat that season on our return to the old First Diivision They showed it for about two years as part of the opening sequence for Match of the Day. Been there through the doldrum years. I became a mature student and then college lecturer and actually taught footballers as YTS apprentices though few actually made it, Carl Bradshaw and Wayne Quinn being the most notable. My hobby is folk music and I had a live show on Community Radio for seven years. Whilst broacasting this live show I tried to mention Sheffield United as much as I could even if the Sheffield Wednesday folkies stopped listening. Happily married to the same woman since 1972 – though she is barred from football at Bramall Lane since a 0-0 league cup draw with Aldershot. Both my kids would call themselves Blades though they have never been to a game. It’s in the blood you see!
Interview: Colin Randall
Colin Randall writes: Just as our Kevin Ball deserves a free season ticket for life at the Stadium of Light, their – Birmingham City’s – Kevin Ball* has earned one to Salut! Sunderland after all his visit to this illustrious series. But think about it: who would you turn to, if looking for candidates, other than someone bearing that name? So Kev’s back for the much-copied Who are You? (I always imagine our confreres at other sites making a painstaking note of all our interviewees before flattering us by imitation). Enough of that: from deepest Devon, the Bluenose version of Kev answers out questions once again …
Monsieur Salut writes: I had a dream; Sunderland beat Fulham 2-0 before my eyes to end the home hoodoo. A likely outcome? Russ Goldman*, a USA-based Fulham fan who hosts the Cottage Talk podcast (as well as a New England Patriots podcast, disagrees as you would expect. He is not too downbeat about his club’s failure to live up to expectations so far and believes they will end up in the top six. He also expects them to beat us on Saturday …
Andy Nicholls* , moderator at the Wolves fan site Molineux Mix, is another old friend to this site. Seven years ago, he appeared here for a joint interview with a Sunderland-mad Silksworth lass, then his partner. They are no longer together but still speak.
Andy is naturally as thrilled by the football he is currently seeing as we are dejected by what has befallen SAFC. He lived on Wearside for a time and retains happy memories, which are described below, leaving a mark strong enough to make him look for our score once he knows what has happened to his own team, though he feels we’re in for a pasting on Saturday (as Wolves bounce back from winning only 1-0 away in midweek!)
PS Jody Craddock is aware of – and appreciates – Andy’s kind words …
Monsieur Salut writes: what’s the betting on Chris Coleman making his home debut as Sunderland manager with a win against Reading (and football accumulator pages may well be the place to find the answer)? After the relief of the win last Saturday – our first league victory since mid-August and only the second of the season – there is pressure to make it two-in-a-row but also a degree of momentum and the confidence winning brings to any team. To Newcastle fans, that translates as thinking beating Burton is roughly the same as winning the World Cup.
Our Reading Who are You? interviewee, Anthony Smith, warmly recommended by Terry Pattinson, a New*as*le supporter who has previously done the honours and may well do so again unless we go up or down), covers Reading for Berkshire newspapers. He’s grown to like the Royals despite roots in South Wales – his club is Swansea – and an inexlicable fondness for Spurs. He overcame a formidable workload to find time to answer our questions. I couldn’t have taken it solely on the word of Terry, a Mag let’s face it, but Anthony comes across as the top bloke he said he was – and he clearly knows his stuff …
Dave Child* is a fan of the old school. Burton Albion through and through – ‘who are Derby County?’, he asks when pressed on the competing attractions of other local teams – he was among the 11,000 travelling fans who made Old Trafford less of a library than usual for a cup replay. And he’s an epxert on the pies served at football grounds and hostelries that welcome away fans (if you;’re going, scroll down to see which one Dave thinks you’d enjoy).
And what was he doing with Paolo Di Canio? Interviewing him for local radio when PDC was Swindon manager and they played Burton…
Salut! Sunderland: stuck with us in the relegation zone, Burton would probably be expected to struggle even if neutrals would love them to survive. How is it looking for you?
Dave Child: yes we are in our usual position and not really surprised, the aim as we head towards the festive fixtures is to stay out of the bottom three, then come January Cloughie can work his miracles in the loan market bringing in Gareth Bale and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and make a late charge for the play offs!
Josh Henwood* was an Aston Villa ‘Who are You?’ interviewee more than seven years ago. Our clubs have fallen on harder times since then though after a lean first season down in the Championship, Villa under Steve Bruce are now challenging hard for promotion whereas we, well, we aren’t. A warm welcome back to these pages, Josh (check out his Twitter page).
Josh reckons Villa will win. Try free betting if you want a flutter on all sorts of sporting events, including a tasty package on Bayern, Barcelona, Man Utd and PSG all to win their Champions League games on Wednesday …