Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: a wet weekend in Accrington

Jake: ‘that wasn’t in the script’

Play this and read on!
LA = Lancashire – Accrington

Malcolm Dawson writes…….there was a gathering of the clans in Accrington on Saturday. A veritable Salut! Sunderland fest before kick off.

Fawlty Towers anyone?

At this time of year Pete Sixsmith is otherwise engaged bringing joy to the young of the North East so I arranged to meet up with associate editor John McCormick (who was making use of Sixer’s ticket) in the Peel Park Hotel, adjacent to where Stanley used to play many years ago. It’s a very cosy boozer with a good selection of real ales and it worked out that John and I found ourselves sitting next to Rob Hutchison and his daughter Olivia, both of whom contribute to the pages of our humble website from time to time.

At the same time as the Accrington branches of Wickes and B&Q were rapidly running out of stocks of gopher wood, Rob was nervously checking his phone to see if the game was still on.

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We decided that if it should be called off before 2.00 p.m. Rob would have a few more pints before making his way back down south and as I had driven there, I would see if the Peel Park Hotel was an actual hotel that did bed and breakfast, so at home did we feel and so quaffable was the Copper Dragon Best Bitter – brewed to suit that special Northern palate according to the tasting notes I read.

But the news came through as the downpour subsided to a drizzle that the game would go ahead so John and I took the car nearer to the Crown Ground (WHAM Stadium) and making the last part of our way there on foot, bumped into one Paul (Sobs) Dobson. Sobsy is better known for his contributions to ALS and seems to be the BBC Look North’s go to guy when they need a vox pop of a Sunderland fan. Sobsy will be contributing something to our advent calendar on Christmas Day, so don’t miss that when it will be a bumper edition. Take a look while the kids are tearing the Christmas wrapping off their prezzies, while the sprouts still need another hour of boiling or when Her Majesty is rabbiting on about Brexit or whatever else is on the agenda this year. Oh and be warned “The Great Escape” is a film with Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasence and not a biopic about Paulo de Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat or Sam Allardyce. 

Inside the away section

The rain had subsided briefly but it started again as John and I entered the ground, and got heavier as we passed the double decker bus selling beer and the row of portaloos supplementing the normal facilities. Taking my seat who should I find next door but one? None other than Peter Lynn, “Wrinkly Pete” of this parish. It got even more torrential as the players were trying to warm up and just before kick off Heart of England branch stalwart Terry took his seat next to me, looking like the proverbial drowned rat, took one look at the state of the pitch and predicted there would be some shenanigans in front of goal later. He was remarkably accurate.

I’m finding it difficult to recall a lot of detail about what there was of the game yesterday, partly because of where I was and partly because of the weather. As usual at away games the whole of the away crowd was standing, and despite being in a section of the ground with seating I had to put my arthritic knees to the test, but being almost at the end of the stand, the far nearside corner was completely out of my line of vision and a lot of the play seemed to take place there. 

The conditions were making play difficult. On a couple of occasions a high ball played towards McLaughlin just didn’t bounce. The ball was sticking in the clarts so some short passes were not reaching their intended target, some balls which initially looked to be over hit stopped dead allowing the player to recover and sometimes if McGeady, Gooch or Oviedo went off on a run they would leave the ball behind. 

It looked to me that Stanley had adapted to the conditions better though I don’t remember McLaughlin having to make a save in the first half, whilst Power sent a rasping shot wide and McGeady saw a powerful effort fly over the crossbar after some good work from Maja down the right wing and Oviedo hit a free kick through the legs of the Stanley wall, after Maja had been brought down on the edge of the penalty area, forcing Accy keeper Ripley into low save, which I think was the only shot on target all half. Nil – nil at the break.

The rain really came down second half and at times it was like watching through one of those metal beaded curtains that you see in butchers’ doorways, designed to keep the flies from the dead meat. John’s mobile footage shows just how bad conditions were, but please note, the slope is just from the angle of the camera – the pitch itself does not resemble Lords or the home grounds of Yeovil Town or Tow Law.

We took the lead when Maguire showed his energy and sprinted yards to close down their keeper, who had started off in acres of space controlling a long back pass. As the Scotsman quickly closed him down he went to hoof the ball upfield but Maguire jumped, turned and the ball hit the back of his shoulder. We watched as bounced into the net much to the chagrin of Ripley who tried to convince the ref it had struck Maguire’s arm and to the delight of the Sunderland support. The Accy fans behind the goal, who had been noisy all game with their two drummers leading the way, went silent for a time as Maguire celebrated in front of them before running across and doing the same in front of us. 

We just about deserved the lead I thought, though we by no means were dominating in the Lancashire mud bath. Not so long after Stanley equalised and it could all be put down to the conditions. McLaughlin failed to hold on to a low shot from close range, Flanagan slipped trying to get to the rebound, a third effort was scrambled off the line before the ball was finally bundled into the net with James (or it might have been Gooch) just failing to do enough to prevent the equaliser.

Not long after referee Oliver Langford had a word with both managers and the fourth official before taking the players off. Mixed comments from the Sunderland contingent leaving the ground, most seeing it as a sensible move but some complaining that the ref should have ended the game when we were ahead in the misguided belief that the result would have stood. 

So another rearranged game to fit into a busy programme and a Checkatrade draw that pits us at home to the Mag’s U21s. I bet after what went on at Port Vale in the week, the club and the local police can’t wait for that.

Wrinkly Pete: accept the situation Sunderland fans and get behind your team

Malcolm Dawson writes…………Our mutual friend, Peter Lynn aka Wrinkly Pete, despite living in the West Midlands is still a regular at the bleak house we know as The Stadium of Light, still keeps the faith but calls upon the fans of Sunderland AFC to accept their fate and get behind the team during these hard times.

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

Great Expectations

Inspired by the output of our own literary genius earlier this week, I turn to Dickens for inspiration for the title of my latest modest contribution to the Salut! Sunderland site.

The article started life just over a month ago, when The Guardian covered the Arsenal AGM on two consecutive days. It had coverage of the stormy meeting and the rescue of the club at that very same meeting by the eloquent, yet often under fire, Arsene Wenger. However what really caught my eye was a statistic that showed that alongside their past ten years’ final league positions (one second place finish, four times third, four times fourth and twice finishing in fifth spot) that they were actually the most successful PL team of all, when measured by the number of points gained in relation to transfer expenditure.

Now I think that is a reasonable yardstick to have used and I also think that most Sunderland fans, myself included, would be delighted with one fifth place finish during our ten years playing alongside them. However, as we all know, (and if you are like me find hugely amusing) a large proportion of Arsenal fans are not at all happy with this record. I am not sure I know why but I think the reasons are quite complex and involve the price of their season cards, the rivalry with Spurs and I think, an unrealistic level of expectation.

If you are still reading, here is what this has got to do with us.

I am of course dismayed that we were relegated last season and now play at the second level. However I have accepted it. I don’t believe that is the case for many of our fans, judging by some reactions. Take last Saturday’s game at Burton for example.  It took some time for our boys to break down the home defence and indeed the Brewers had chances of their own. There was understandable frustration amongst the away contingent but there were some near me who shouted at the tops of their voices “Come on Sunderland, this is Burton, for f—s sake.”

Wrinkly Pete sees things differently to some of those around him at Burton Albion

Now, I am thrilled we beat them but strictly speaking they have more right to be in The Championship than us. They were promoted rather than demoted to it and had survived in it, which we have yet to do. So why is there this level of expectation amongst our fans and an arrogance that somehow “we are better than where we are”?

I believe like that with Arsenal’s support, it is complex and is tied up in our glory days, the size and grandeur of our stadium, the derby rivalry and our huge fan base. I am not sure though that the arrogance is helpful as it can create an almost automatic expectation of success which if unfulfilled, quickly leads to bitterness, that most evil of emotions.

Let’s look at why we are in The Championship. No John McCormick needed here.

In the same ten years that Arsenal were flying high we once finished as high as tenth (and most of us agree that was in part due to fluke final matches results) and the rest of the time have flirted with relegation for large parts of most seasons. More tellingly perhaps, during each of our final five seasons we occupied a relegation position more than any other position. No one could reasonably argue that what finally happened, which had seemed inevitable in the previous four seasons, was unexpected. Thus like it or not, we are where we are on merit. It may not be where we want to be but let us accept it. To do so means we can embrace the task and give full support to the players and our new manager.

 

Wrinkly Pete’s Crystal Ball: Middlesbrough suddenly make the screen look clearer

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

So has our Wrinkly one, who also answers to Peter Lynn, finally seen the light staring back at him from his imaginary crystal ball?. We regret to say he has. Scroll down for the updated predictions and his thoughts on a grand evening out to Middlesbrough. Well, the company was good, not to mention fish and chips at Wetherby and slices of Mrs Wrinkly Pete’s cake …

Read moreWrinkly Pete’s Crystal Ball: Middlesbrough suddenly make the screen look clearer

Kate Bush says ‘Don’t give up’, and so does Wrinkly Pete

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

John McCormick writes: So you think it’s bad, do you?

In this post Wrinkly Pete opens with a reminder of a time when the mortgage interest rate was just about dropping into single figures after peaking at 15%+, Sunderland were struggling in the bottom half of the second division and averaging gates of under 20,000, and down here in Liverpool the militant tendency were about to send my redundancy notice out via taxi.

Then he jumps forward almost thirty years to bring a simple message to all our readers.

Read moreKate Bush says ‘Don’t give up’, and so does Wrinkly Pete

Wrinkly Pete: Nice legs, shame about the football.

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

John McCormick writes: Pete Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete, is no stranger to this website. Nor is he a stranger to the Stadium of Light, despite having to make a considerable effort to get there.

But make the effort he does, and sometimes the journey, if not the result, makes him wax lyrical. Here he is explaining in his usual inimitable manner why he enjoys the trip up north:

Read moreWrinkly Pete: Nice legs, shame about the football.

Wrinkly Pete’s SOS: the post-palace pennyworth

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

When Peter Lynn, young-at-heart  but prematurely aged physically by watching Sunderland, began his exercise in calculating how the rest of the season would go, he concluded that 37 points would be enough for survival – and that we’d get them.

After enduring the atrocious displays at home to Stoke and then at West Brom, even forgetting the equally clueless cup exit at Burnley in between, you might have expected him to chuck in the towel.

Not so.

Pete predicted no points against Stoke, knew we’d be booted out of the FA Cup at Turf Moor, and bargained on only a draw at the Hawthorns. He was wrong in his expectation of a win against Spurs.

And he was wrong in his prediction against Crystal Palace. But weren’t we all?

Now read on:

Read moreWrinkly Pete’s SOS: the post-palace pennyworth

Wrinkly Pete’s Crystal Ball: ‘don’t panic, it’s only Tottenham next’

   

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

                I’m sending out an SOS, ‘cos I’m in so much distress

When Peter Lynn, young-at-heart  but prematurely aged physically by watching Sunderland, began his exercise in calculating how the rest of the season would go, he concluded that 37 points would be enough for survival – and that we’d get them.

After enduring the atrocious displays at home to Stoke and then at West Brom, even forgetting the equally clueless cup exit at Burnley in between, you might expect him to chuck in the towel.

Not so.

Pete predicted no points against Stoke, knew we’d be booted out of the FA Cup at Turf Moor, and bargained on only a draw at the Hawthorns. So he has only one point to retrieve. Will it come? Where might it come from? Well, Pete reckons we’ll beat Spurs for a start, though he doesn’t say how beyond a call for 100 per cent support from the crowd and Honeyman-level commitment from the team ….

.

Read moreWrinkly Pete’s Crystal Ball: ‘don’t panic, it’s only Tottenham next’

Wrinkly Pete’s Crystal Ball: on course for survival, oddly enough, despite Stoke

 

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

Before the Stoke game, “Wrinkly Pete” Lynn calculated the points Sunderland might pick up from the rest of the season and concluded, perhaps generously, that we would snatch survival once again – even if we lost to Stoke, which we duly did and in style (what kind of style would require the sort of bad language Salut! Sunderland tries to avoid).

Using that article as his template, and then adding progress reports, Pete proposes periodic updates to let us all know how each result affects his prognosis. It could end in tears. Whether those tears are of joy or distress remains to be seen …

Read moreWrinkly Pete’s Crystal Ball: on course for survival, oddly enough, despite Stoke

Pop goes Wrinkly Pete again, charting SAFC’s escape even without beating Stoke

Peter Lynn, aka Wrinkly Pete

Peter Lynn dips back into his collection of dodgy old hits for inspiration as he does some back-of-envelope calculations on what David Moyes needs from the second half of the season if Sunderland are yet again to avoid the drop. He even allows for the unthinkable, losing at home to Stoke on Saturday , as he steers us to safety…

 

 

I’m sending out an SOS, ‘cos I’m in so much distress

So sang Edwin Starr on his hit Stop Her On Sight and I am hoping that I will not feel the same as I begin my four-hour drive home, post match on Saturday.

If David Moyes, pre-match on Saturday, can get his team to realise that this is War, another of Starr’s hits, then we might get a win and make a further small (?) step towards safety.

Read morePop goes Wrinkly Pete again, charting SAFC’s escape even without beating Stoke

The Things We Do For Love of Sunderland. And the winner is …

Ask Jeremy 'Clock Stand Paddock' Robson where Sunderland play and he'll say 'Roker Park'
Ask Jeremy ‘Clock Stand Paddock’ Robson where Sunderland play and he’ll say ‘Roker Park’

The Things We Do For Love competition attracted some excellent entries, some great memories. Choosing a winner of the above print of Roker Park – with mighty thanks to our generous sponsors http://www.wearedorothy.com – was tough.

Check out the earlier mentions of the competition here and, when Pete Sixsmith’s reminiscences on Sunderland in the European Cupwinners’ Cup in 1973, prompted more memories here.

But this, from Wrinkly Pete, aka Peter Lynn, is the winner on the arbitrary choice of Monsieur Salut. Out thanks to Pete, to all others who posted contributions and to the folk at Dorothy, who assure us the prize is in the post.

Read moreThe Things We Do For Love of Sunderland. And the winner is …