Nathan Carr*, all of 17 years old and a WBA season ticket holder, returns for another session of questions and answers to relaunch Salut! Sunderland‘s “Who are You?” series. It’s fair to say he wasn’t greatly impressed by the Baggies’ managerial choice …
Salut! Sunderland: Another season, both still in the Premier – more of a surprise for us than you. How will it pan out for the Baggies?
Well I’m trying to tell myself that it can’t get any worse than last season! The primary objective will once more be to survive but I think most Albion fans are intrigued as to how this season will develop with a new manager, and largely new team. Admittedly, we were extremely lucky to avoid the drop last season so major change is needed. Call me crazy, but I do have a sneaky suspicion that we may well have a good cup run. Watch this space.
Unfair perhaps, but Alan Irvine = Alan who? for many. The Everton academy part of the cv is interesting but what do you make of his appointment?
I’m going to be honest: when I heard Alan Irvine was appointed in the summer I was pretty shocked and also annoyed. He wasn’t really a front-runner for the role and as you say, his cv isn’t outstanding. He’s obviously experienced with youngsters but it remains to be seen if he can do a job in the Premier League – we must give him a chance, though, and not get on his back from the outset. Just don’t expect free-flowing, aesthetically pleasing football. That’s not his thing.
Ideye Brown: bags of goals for Dynamo Kiev, or whatever we’re meant to call them, and probably delighted to get clear of Ukraine. Great signing or jury out?
I don’t know too much about him but his goal record is certainly impressive in Ukraine. The question is can he make the step up? He’s got the physical build, pace and power to adjust and for £10m we’re all hoping he does! He’s our club record signing so understandably there will be lofty expectations. I can’t wait to see what he’s made of. Although it is slightly disconcerting that Irvine said he had never seen him play, only the recruitment team had upon his arrival. We’ll see…
What sort of pre-season have you had. Great, good or “all about fitness”?
Probably neither of those. I tend not to read too much into pre-season friendlies but perhaps what has been most worrying is not necessarily the results, but the nature in which we have been defeated. We traveled to the United States for a double-header against Sacramento Republic and that appeared to run relatively smoothly. Upon return, we played Nottingham Forest (lost 1-0), Port Vale (lost 3-2) and Porto just last weekend (lost 1-3). Key players were missing in all three of those but still, the team Irvine fielded for Forest and Vale was definitely good enough to win. That was disappointing and there’s still questions marks over what the system will be for 2014/15. So, all in all, pre-season wasn’t particularly promising.
What did you make of our wretched position for most of last season and then the great escape?
Taking a rather biased perspective, nothing ever beats our Great Escape under Bryan Robson in 2004-2005! But huge credit to Sunderland for exhibiting such a die-hard attitude and exemplary spirit in the face of adversity. I thought it was lights out for you but that game away at Manchester City was clearly a significant turning point. You’ve got a good quality, if a little eccentric, coach in the shape of Gus Poyet and he should take you places.
And should we have clung on to Sess?
I don’t know too much about your midfield situation at the time of his departure, but, he has been important in parts for us. He started with a bang by scoring on his debut before injury struck. He hasn’t featured that heavily in pre-season due to international duty with Benin in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers. Sessegnon is a talented player but he does tend to get frustrated in games quite easily; it’s crucial he has the ball because invariably he will create something.
What should we expect of Billy Jones and you of Craig Gardner?
Billy Jones is a solid, energetic and quickly improving right-back, but he can also fill in adequately at left-back. We signed him from Preston North End and I’d never heard of him. But he flourished under Roy Hodgson and his marauding runs up and down the right were a key part of the 2013/14 campaign, when he was fit of course. He was offered a new contract but he turned it down in favour of joining Sunderland, where I assume he will receive first-team matches on a weekly basis. In terms of Craig Gardner, on a free transfer he is good business. For me, he’s nothing spectacular but we do need a decent set-piece taker so at least he’ll do a job there.
Monsieur Salut on tour: see his preview of the match at Sunderland’s ESPN pages … http://www.espnfc.com/club/sunderland/366/blog/post/1983630/sunderland-smart-in-being-cautiously-optimistic
Best moments you’ve had as a WBA supporter?
My personal highs include the aforementioned Great Escape, when we were rock bottom of the Premier League at Christmas but still staved off relegation under the guidance of Bryan Robson. Beating Wolves 5-1 in their own backyard two seasons ago was incredible, Peter Odemwingie scored a hat-trick and we blew them away. That won’t happen again for a long, long, long time and will go down as one of the greatest Albion games I’ve ever been to. Also, Somen Tchoyi arriving at the club was a big high of mine. He left over a year ago and no-one has really heard of him since but the man, quite simply, is a living legend.
Relegation never left a particularly sweet taste in the mouth. Last season was pretty horrendous, on and off the pitch. Nicolas Anelka’s ‘quenelle’ celebration, losing to Stoke via a last-minute Charlie Adam winner on the last day and Diego Lugano were all contributory factors. Somen Tchoyi leaving was a big blow as a supporter, too. But I’d rather concentrate on the positives than negatives!
Best players ever seen in your colours, or wish you’d seen, and worst?
Kevin Phillips, who has recently retired and obviously was a big hit with Sunderland supporters, was a pleasure to watch live, banging in the goals. Robert Koren, Darren Moore, Zoltan Gera, Youssouf Mulumbu, Paul Robinson and Paul Scharner are others who I had the pleasure of watching and were all special in their own distinct ways. I wish I would had seen the likes of Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis, Tony Brown and Brendon Batson in their prime. That would have been amazingly good. Worst? Borja Valero, who now has a Spain cap, was an enormous flop in his short stint with us. Shelton Martis and Ryan Donk formed a woeful central defensive partnership. There have been a few down the years, believe me…
This season’s top four in order, and bottom three?
2 Manchester City
18 Aston Villa
Where, if not mentioned, will our sides finish?
We’ll finish 15th and qualify for Europe through the Cup (*note: this is an extremely optimistic outlook). Sunderland will finish 12th, strong mid-table position
Brazil 2014: already forgotten or a memorable event for you?
Definitely not forgotten. I thought as World Cups go, this year’s was very very good. It was the first real tournament I’ve truly taken in and absorbed and it was great to see so many goals, stellar performances, drama. A shame about England, but the winners Germany did deserve the trophy.
One hope for making football or fans’ experience of it better in future?
Continue to use growing technology that is available to us in football, without making the referee redundant.
Ibrahimovic has got the season off to a diving start, just 19 minutes into PSG’s first game before his Oscar-nominated plunge to win a penalty. Is the battle against cheats frankly a lost cause?
No I don’t think so. There will always be some cheats but introducing harsher punishments and sending out a message of intent from officials would help try to reduce diving etc. Giving up on this side of thing isn’t the answer.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
I will indeed. My score prediction is West Brom 1-1 Sunderland. Cagey.
Nathan Carr on himself: I am a 17-year-old West Brom season ticket holder. I’ve previously contributed to various publications and platforms, on WBA and general football stuff. If I remember correctly, my first Baggies match was at home against Charlton but I can’t recall what season or the score. Albion is in my blood – there have been some great memories thus far and I hope there will be many more to come. I am the founder of @BaggiesGalore and am aiming to forge a career in sports journalism.
Interview: Colin Randall
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