Monsieur Salut writes: I have offered the view of Sunderland AFC as I understand it at this link. Here is Pete Sixmsith with a wonderful tribute to Rob Mason, reluctantly departing editor of the award-winning SAFC matchday programme …
One of the consequences of relegation is that there are changes behind the scenes. Players move on to better things if they are lucky but those who work in hospitality, ticketing and admin find that their services are no longer required as there is less demand for pre-match entertainment when the visitors are Cardiff rather than Chelsea.
One of those leaving is Rob Mason who has edited the club programme for many years. He is a supporter who has always attended games, coming back from university at Sheffield to watch the lads in the early 70s. The programme he has produced has been consistently excellent, rarely reflecting the action on the pitch in that it was interesting, well put together and was most certainly value for money.
I got to know Rob through the much missed Dave Lish. They were both from Ryhope, went through school together, particularly the old Ryhope Grammar School, and remained friends until Dave died in 2008.
Rob revelled in the fact that he was doing a job he loved having left the teaching profession – sensible man. He had taught English in Washington and Belmont before landing the full time job at Sunderland.
Trying to get something sensible out of our succession of managers must have been similar to drumming An Inspector Calls into the recalcitrant Year 11s.
As well as producing the excellent and award winning programme, he was a prolific author on all things SAFC. His Complete Record is invaluable for hacks trying to cobble together accounts of relegation seasons, his Cult Heroes is a cracking read with excellent chapters on the likes of Joe Bolton, Chris Makin and Vic Halom and his book of Number Ones even finds something positive to say about Iain Hesford.
And that is Rob. He is a man who, in the words of the old song, “accentuates the positive, eliminates the negative” and always finds something which offers hope for the future.
During the many flirtations with relegation, he always looked to the next game as an opportunity to “pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over all over again”. But I fear that this season has seen even his limitless positivity stretched to breaking point.
He is also a very good judge of a footballer. A few years ago he rang me and asked if I would like his second ticket for a game at Hartlepool United. They were playing Southampton in a Division One fixture and former Sunderland forward David Connolly and alleged goalkeeper Calamity Kelvin Davies were featuring for the Saints.
We sat at the back of the Mill House Stand and after a few minutes he turned to me and said something along the lines of “that youngster in the Southampton midfield is an exceptional player. I think there are other clubs looking at him.”
Adam Lallana (for it was he) scored twice that night with Ricky Lambert getting the other. He wasn’t wrong….
Other players who featured that night were Morgan Schneiderlin for the Saints and Billy Greulich-Smith who is a terrace idol at Dean Street, Shildon, where Monsieur Salut and me cut our footballing teeth way back in the days when Del Shannon topped the charts, Billy Cotton appeared on television and the Daily Herald put forward the Labour Party’s views.
The division featured Leeds United, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion who have all been or are about to be Premier League clubs…. and Stockport County who play in the same league that Spennymoor Town and Blyth Spartans have just won promotion to.
I get the impression that Rob’s departure from his full time role, while not by mutual consent, has been reasonably amicable and that he will continue to perform his valuable role as club historian.
When his Newcastle United counterpart left his role as programme editor in the wake of their relegation in 2009, it was anything but and he has refused to set foot inside The Sports Direct ever since other than for a couple of Northumberland Senior Cup Finals, so at least the club has avoided this.
I also gather that Rob’s wife has opted for retirement from her teaching post and, with the family grown up, they can now plan a new life in South West Scotland where the midges bite and the locals show how friendly they are by building huge wicker figures while extolling the name of Christopher Lee.
His Saturday afternoon may well be spent at Palmerston Park, Galabank or Stair Park or even at Dalbeattie Star, St Cuthbert Wanderers and Threave Rovers. Once the word gets around, what are the chances of him getting roped into producing a programme for them?
His skills, patience and general good company will be sorely missed. If successive managers and players had shown the diligence, eye for detail and commitment that Rob has over the years, we would be preparing for Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Bruges rather than Burton, Brentford and Bolton.
On behalf of all at Salut Sunderland, I wish him all the best for the future and look forward to bumping into him sooner rather than later.