Monsieur Salut writes: Bob Chapman, standing in for Pete Sixsmith (absent on Santa duties), has the sort of home-and-away record of attendance at SAFC games that cries out for a gong in the New Year’s honours list. Today, he saw a valiant backs-to-the-wall display by Sunderland that won an unlikely point at the league leaders Wolves. I had only Nick Barnes and, as another stand-in, Marco Gabbiadini to go by but they seemed as impressed by the resistance as they were appalled by the inconsistency of the referee Jeremy Simpson, sending off Catts as much for being Catts as anything else and missing a number of Wolves challenges of at least equal culpability to the two that earned Catts’s yellows. Look at our Who are You? series: so many of this season’s interviewees say refereeing is poor at Championship level
Marco rated the shifts put in by O’Shea and Wilson. Both he and Nick Barnes saluted an overall performance that, taken on its own, offers modest hope … as Bob’s verdict shows …
Malcolm Dawson writes……the last time I went to Wolves, if I remember rightly, Stephen Elliot equalised with about 10 minutes to go and it was the last time I was seriously worried for my personal safety at a football match.
I had arranged to go with a female friend of mine who had been born in the Black Country and claimed to be a Wolves fan, even though she was more into rugby and mixing with the hooray Henry types that sport attracted in rural Leicestershire. I should have known things were going to turn out awry, when I arrived to pick her up at mid-day to find a note (or by then it might have been a text) saying she had nipped out to the shops. The shops being Tesco and her weekly big shop, which of course all had to be unpacked first, then she insisted on a cup of coffee and a sandwich, all the time my fidgity unease becoming a virtual panic. Eventually we set off at around two but by the time we got near the ground, the designated away parking had all gone and I ended up having to leave the car some way away, near the centre of town. We made it just in time for kick off. Wolves led for most of the game then with minutes to go we scored.
As I left the ground in my red and white shirt I was spat at and called a Geordie b*****d! Of course the stock reply is “call me a b*****d but don’t call me a Geordie!” but it was then a more amenable home supporter advised me to remove my Sunderland top before venturing into the underpass that led to the car park. That was the last time I accompanied that particular lady to a game.
Now, in the latest part of his series in which he recalls his own first encounters with the grounds SAFC visit this season, Pete Sixsmith remembers Molineux from a year when The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde, The Mighty Quinn and Cinderella Rockerfeller were all topping the charts and the nation held its collective breath to see if Congratulations would see Cliff come back to the UK with the Eurovision trophy …
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 …
The way hope was brushed aside as if no more than a slow, low-flying insect hardly inspires great confidence as Sunderland travel to Molineux, where Wolves are top, 10 points ahead of third place and winning games for fun, the last five of them on the trot.
Come back tomorrow and you’ll see why our Wolves “Who are You?” interviewee predicts an emphatic home win despite having a soft spot for Sunderland, having once lived on Wearside and been a Roker Park regular.
They do not come much easier than Leo Bonatini’s first goal of the season, a mighty Sunderland-style defensive blunder by the Boro defender Daniel Ayala setting up his chance, well as he then took it.
But the Wolves striker has been on fire since, his total of nine including five goals in October and that is what made him the PFA Bristol Street Motors Championship player of the month as voted by fans.
Sunderland’s Lewis Grabban was one of five other nominees but came last in the shortlist with just three per cent of the votes cast. In fact, Bonatini polled more than all five rivals combined.
But hang on a second. Bonatini plays for the club currently topping the table and we all know which position Sunderland occupy. If we think about it for, say, half a second, we can probably hazard a guess as to which of them enjoys the more creative, thoughtful and effective service. So Grabban’s eight goals can be seen as an achievement no less than creditable than Bonatini’s nine – and he, too, scored five of them in October.
Monsieur Salut writes: so now we know the who and the when of our Championship opponents for the coming season. We haven’t the faintest idea who will be managing Sunderland, owning Sunderland or playing for Sunderland except that – news update – it won’t apparently be Fulwell73, but the fixtures list doesn’t wait for such trivialities to be resolved. I believe we’re entitled to reproduce the full list these days and will do so in due course. For now, Pete Sixsmith casts an entertaining eye over the good, the bad and the ugly of the season to come – and it’s here in full at the Sunderland Echo site …
The fixtures have arrived. We know where we are going and when. We can start to plan our holidays (a week in Barnsley anyone?) and decide which trips are do-able (Sheffield United on Boxing Day) and which aren’t (Ipswich Town on a Tuesday night – [who are these clowns to allow such a thing – Ed?].
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.
Jody Craddock was a terrific servant to Sunderland AFC. He went on to play as wholeheartedly for Wolves, so much so that the initially unimpressed Molineux faithful sang one of those ‘used to be s****, now he’s all right’ songs in his honour. Salut! Sunderland is delighted his testimonial match – Wolves XI 4-1 SAFC XI, Niall and SuperKev included – drew a 9,000+ crowd. Read about it at the Sunderland Echo – http://www.sunderlandecho.com/sport/sunderland-afc/wolves-beat-sunderland-in-jody-craddock-testimonial-1-6598428 – but let us recall the Who are You? he kindly did with us before the last game of the 2009-2010 season …
Following on from Pete Sixsmith’s comments on the Guardian’s take on Premier League statistics, John McCormick decided to do his own piece of number crunching and what follows is the fruit of his labours. His piece was completed before the Hackers disrupted the site and before the Spurs game kicked off.
Last season was the first in five years where goal difference
has determined the title, and only once in those five years has a relegation been decided on goal difference.
How do I know? I’ve been playing around with the interactive tables on the premier league website (http://www.premierleague.com/en-gb.html). If you pay that site a visit in the next few days you’ll find their half-term report, where experts give opinions on best goals and managers, and predictions for the top four. It’s a good site but I couldn’t find any picks for relegation or teams that will scramble to safety, and there was no mention of SAFC. No wonder Sixer can’t find anything in “The Guardian” if the Premier League ignores us.
But what else can you expect when the Premier League lacks the top-class team you will find writing for the Salut site? Good though we are, though, we don’t expect to be taken too seriously. We’re a fans’ site for fans and we want to provide banter and fun that you won’t get from a club or the premier league, along with analysis and content that will get you thinking. I believe we succeed in our aim and in that vein, here’s my last posting of 2012. It contains some figures that Sixer didn’t find and comes with my my best wishes for 2013.
At the start of the season we had a solid defence. We couldn’t buy a goal, but we didn’t concede many and our goal difference remained relatively healthy. Then things changed. Our scoring improved but our defence became leaky. As a result our goal difference became negative.
This got me thinking. Can goal difference tell us anything? I began to look into it, starting with mid-season positions and goal difference over the last five years.
In some years teams arrived at 19 games at different times, so I had to work backwards and forwards to make a table which shows the situation for the last five seasons:
The following table shows Premiership position and goal difference after 19 games:
In every season some teams with a poor goal difference have stayed up at the expense of others in better positions. For example, last season Wigan went into the new year at -20 but survived, whereas Blackburn and Wolves, both with -13, didn’t. The season before Wigan had -14 after 19 games and stayed up while Birmingham had a goal difference of -6 and then won a trophy but still slipped through the trap-door.
There’s something else. In all but one of the last five seasons a team outside the bottom five at the half-way stage has gone down. Most had been recently promoted, although our friends up the road proved an exception. They had all been in mid-table with, Burnley excepted, goal differences that gave little concern.
Goal difference can’t help to identify escapees and even a mildly negative goal difference is no guarantee of safety. It doesn’t let us form rules, or even make a prediction. We can say Reading are bottom at Christmas and therefore doomed and I’d say QPR, bottom after 19 games, will be joining them. However, this is a result of their failure to win points and not their poor goal differences.
We, of course, have just enjoyed seasonal good cheer by the barrowload. Does this mean we have turned our season around? I’d like to think we have, and maybe in such cases goal difference will give us confirmation. (Written before the Spurs game – Ed) I’d expect goal differences between the top and bottom clubs to widen between Christmas and May. I’d also expect the gap to increase more or less proportionally if teams stay as they are, as a goal difference of +20 after 19 games will have grown to +40 after 38 games, and -20 will become -40.
Are these assumptions correct?
They are for most of the clubs who find themselves in the bottom five after 19 games and who then go on to be relegated. However, the teams that stay up invariably improve their goal difference in relative terms. In our first season back in the premiership Derby went from -34 to -69, Birmingham from -9 to -16 and Reading from -11 to -25. They were relegated. We, on the other hand, went from -21 to -23, indicating a massive improvement. It appears that, for the bottom teams, an improved goal difference in the second half of the season is a key factor in survival. This shouldn’t be surprising as it requires either an improved defence or attack, or both, so points are not lost to defeats and may be gained by wins.
Where teams improve equally those starting with fewest points will always lag behind. Last season Wolves went from -13 to -42 and Blackburn from -13 to -30 and both went down. Bolton bucked the trend by ”improving” from -19 to -31 but they couldn’t catch QPR who also ” improved”, from -15 to -23, or Wigan, who did even better and remained at -20.
So, while looking at goal differences at any single time is of little use, observing trends might have possibilities as a predictor. This season’s midpoint has seven points separating six teams occupying 13th place downwards to the third relegation slot. This group includes Fulham, whose goal difference has drifted from +5 to -5, and Villa, whose goal difference has recently dropped like a stone. Who is at greater risk? An 8-0 thrashing wrecks goal difference but only loses three points. A series of 1-0 defeats loses many more points but goal difference only drops slowly. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the five whose goal differences show the greatest improvement in the second half of the season will avoid relegation, irrespective of their points on Boxing Day, and a consistent decline will point to the doomed team.
And which way is our goal difference heading?
We’re heading downwards, which is not promising but we aren’t plunging off a cliff. We are overcoming our weakness in attack, so to reverse this trend we just need to get our defence back to what it was at the start of the season. Clean sheets against Southampton and City suggest we might be doing this. I’ll revisit around the end of January to see if we are. Until then, keep the faith.
After weeks of suspense, Sunderland AFC finally confirmed the signing today of the Wolves striker Steven Fletcher.
It is such a welcome announcement that we will even spare SAFC our customary criticism of the absurdity of seeing all kinds of figures bandied about before coyly saying we paid “an undisclosed fee”. But we will remind all concerned to bite their lips before rebuking anyone who speculates wrongly at £10m, £12m, £14m or, for that matter, below or above.