When Mackem passion nearly muzzled the swaggering Gunners

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In the first of his new series of articles for Salut! Sunderland – under the working title of Sixer’s Soapbox (let me know if you come up with something better) – Pete Sixsmith draws huge encouragement from a gutsy Sunderland performance, while finding the Emirates well-mannered but soulless

Getting up at 2.45 on a Sunday morning is not, I think, a particularly good idea.

At 12.20pm it seemed to be the worst idea since Mr Punch put his head down the crocodile’s mouth to attempt to retrieve the sausages. I was all for making my way back to the Wetherspoons on Holloway Road.

By 13.10, all thoughts of leaving had gone and rising that early didn’t seem too bad after all. And even though things went downhill at 13.40, the six-hour trip back was tolerable due to the fact that I had seen a Sunderland side compete in the Premiership for the first time since Boxing Day 2002 at Blackburn.

Of course Arsenal are a better side than we are.

At times their attacking play purred along like the Baby Bentleys so loved by our pampered superstars. But at times we made their defenders look like a Friday Afternoon Special Austin 1300 and, just like one of Longbridge’s finest, they shook and rattled all over the place.

After the Blackburn game I told all and sundry in my usual quiet and reserved way that we had Championship players playing at Championship levels and that they had to lift their game pdq.

This they did!!

Liam Miller showed us on Sunday how good a player he can be on. He passed, tackled and probed so well that you can understand why Celtic and Manchester United fought over him.

Kenwyne Jones dominated their defenders and, had it not been for a ridiculously soft booking early on, would have terrorised Almunia even more. He is quite the softest keeper I have seen in years. At times he showed as much heart as the Straw Man and as much courage as the great Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion. I don’t want to start rumours off by saying that he was looking for his friend Dorothy, but you know what I mean.

Wallace, Leadbitter and Collins did really well, Chopra ran himself into the ground, McShane was all heart and commitment (although I don’t think Mrs Hleb will necessarily see it like that) and Yorke was almost as classy as van Persie, the difference being that he didn’t clatter one of the opposition and get the mildest of mild tellings off from Rob Styles.

Gordon kept goal well and almost saved the winner. The man behind me thought he should have got to the free kick. But the man behind me must have been drinking turpentine.

So, a good day. Some pride restored and a first look at Ashburton Grove. It’s impressive but I didn’t warm to it. Arsenal personify the bourgeois take over of football. The fans are well dressed, look as if they keep to a healthy diet and applaud and cheer in all the right places. Give me a thunderstorm on the old uncovered end at Boundary Park where my brother contacted hypothermia in the 80s rather than the cushioned seats and clear sight lines of AG.

And what about this ridiculous ritual of the announcer reading out the first name and the crowd shouting out the surname?

Me and Colin weren’t brought up on shouting “USHER” as the team warmed up in front of an uncovered Fulwell End. Forward with the Revolution – and let’s bring back standing, preferably on Rob Styles’s throat.

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