The newly slimline version of Pete Sixsmith has obviously been reading Salut! Live‘s interesting series Cover Story, comparing different versions of the same songs – health warning: mainly folk or folk-rock). He should actually be contributing to it.
Since it was written by a folkie, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, has been mentioned. Sixer adapts the song title to revive memories of when he first saw us up against the opponents we will face in the Championship. He may well turn it into a regular feature …
The season kicks off on Friday night with the visit of Derby County, once of the Baseball Ground now of Pride Park or whichever company has attached their name to this decent stadium, within walking distance of the excellent Brunswick Inn and the railway station.
They come to us after a disappointing 2016-17 which started under Nigel Pearson, continued under Steve McClaren and was completed under Gary Rowett. Interesting to note that Rowett was the only Derby manager not linked with us after the departure of David Moyes. I think we dodged a couple of bullets there.
Whereas our close season has been interesting for all the wrong reasons, the Rams’ has been for all the right ones. They have sold three regulars and brought in three new faces (well two and a familiar one) so a team that was good enough to finish ninth should be looking to improve on that by at least three places.
The three who have left have all gone on to better things. Tom Ince, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma – or just plain overrated – has joined Huddersfield Town in their sojourn in the Premier League.
Will Hughes, a hard working midfielder with a shock of blond hair reminiscent of me in my younger days (the hair, not the footballing ability) has moved down the M1 to Watford where he should experience at least three managerial changes in his first season. And full back Cyrus Christie has joined Middlesbrough as part of Steve Gibson’s attempt to “smash the Championship”.
Should Mr Gibson be as successful at backing football teams as he was at backing politicians (he came out in support of Tory James Wharton in Stockton South who lost his seat to howls of pleasure at Sixsmith Towers) Cyrus will be drifting around the Championship circuit for a while yet.
To replace them they have gone to Hull City for centre half Curtis Davies and midfielder Tom Huddlestone, who has done well to fit in some football between starring as Loki in Thor and Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager – or is that Hiddlestone?
Andre Wisdom has arrived from Liverpool, so here’s hoping he proves as calamitous as namesake Norman. Anyone signed Mr Grimsdale yet?
Add to that a good solid core which includes Cleator Moor lad Scott Carson, one time Keano target David Nugent, prolific Watford scorer Matej Vydra and former Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and they are tough opponents for a Sunderland side that is to put it mildly, floating around in limbo at the moment.
Every Sunderland fan of my vintage has a soft spot for the Rams because they had The Greatest Manager Sunderland Never Appointed in Brian Clough.
They also took John O’Hare (“When we want goals he’s always there”) and Colin Todd (“Son of God”) as under the Clough-Taylor combination, they won the league in 1972 and may well have won the European Cup (now the Over Bloated And Rather Tedious Champions League) the year after, had Juventus not beaten them 3-1 in a semi-final first leg which was dubious to say the least.
Archie Gemmill, he of the goal against the Netherlands and the balding pate, and Roy McFarland, almost as good as Dave Watson, were booked in the first leg and were ruled out of the second. Nothing wrong with that you might think.
But both bookings happened after Juventus midfielder Helmut Haller (a West German) accompanied the referee Gerhard Schulenburg (also a West German) into his dressing room at half time to have a chat about Gunther Grasse, Willy Brandt and whether he could see his way to booking Derby’s two best players – allegedly.
Check out the Salut! Sunderland home page for other news, including the build-up to Friday’s game …
I first saw The Rams in our relegation year of 1969-70. We were bottom of the league at the time while they were in the top four and were heading for a place in Europe.
We had drawn with The Mags the day before this game took place (Good Friday) with young Scottish midfielder Bobby Park levelling in the second half. Derby had won 1-0 at Maine Road thanks to a Roy McFarland goal, so you would imagine that there would be wholesale changes for both teams.
Not a bit of it. They were made of sterner stuff in those days and both teams were unchanged.
The teams lined up thus;
SAFC Montgomery; Irwin, Harvey; Todd, Heslop, McGiven; Park, Kerr, Hughes, Harris, Tueart sub; Symm.
Derby County Green; Webster, Robson; Durban (yes, Alan), McFarland, Hennessy; Carlin, McGovern, Hector, O’Hare, Hinton sub; Wignall.
We did well to grab a draw from that line up. We were a mixture of old pros and kids. They were a team on the rise with some very astute signings. Terry Hennessey was as underrated as Tom Ince is overrated and to have a striker as good as Frank Wignall on the bench showed what a good side Clough and Taylor were putting together.
It must have been strange for Clough to meet his great mentor Alan Brown on an equal footing (although I bet he called him Mr Brown) and renew acquaintances with former team mates Monty, Cec and the wonderful Martin Harvey.
Plus the younger players, Todd, McGiven, Kerr, Hughes and Tueart, would all have been coached by him when he was involved with the youth teams in 1964-65 before he took the plunge at Hartlepool.
The game ended in another 1-1 draw, with Gordon Harris scoring for us and John McGovern getting their goal. It did us no good in our struggles at the bottom of the league and we continued to draw games we needed to win, hence our relegation.
Incredibly, Derby played Leeds United two days later at The Baseball Ground and Clough rang the changes for that one. John O’Hare dropped out and Frank Wignall came in and Revie’s Cheats were dispatched 4-1.
They had an excellent team. I particularly liked Alan Hinton, an explosive left winger and Kevin Hector who I had seen score twice for Bradford Park Avenue at Darlington a couple of years before.
Their squad, like ours, was made up entirely of UK players including a good sprinkling of Scots. This season there will be men from Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Serbia and Austria – although looking at the potential Derby line up, Andreas Weimann is the only non-British Isles player in their likely starting 11.
I would be happy with a repeat of the 1969-70 score line…….