It’s the new season and City have a new management structure and a much-changed squad many of us have yet to see in serious action. In the spirit of progression, MFW has improved/updated its website and is introducing (imagine a fanfare, we don’t do audio – yet) match previews. With help from the admirable Colin Randall of SalutSunderland, Martin Penney discusses what’s being served up for Sunday lunch. Please check their website – there’s a wonderfully whimsical article about both clubs on there right now that’s well worth a read:
Hiya Colin and haway the chat: Jermain Defoe and your club (along with Everton) got so much respect and love from all of across the nation for what he did for and with Bradley Lowery. Obviously we will all miss Bradley without ever having met him, but how much will you miss Jermain?
“Like everyone, I marvelled at Bradley’s spirited fight, hoped against hope for a cure or at least an extension of his pitifully short life and was devastated by his death. Jermain’s attachment to the little lad, and his family, was wonderful – Pete Sixsmith, one of Salut! Sunderland’s writers said he “came as a footballer, left as a man” – although other players (Vito Mannone notably among them) deserve credit for doing their bit, too. Like Pete, I will miss Jermain as a man, and as a player. If he could score for us, with wretched service, he will score for anyone he plays for.”
At this point Colin ticks me off for adding a final ‘e’ to Jermain. I didn’t even like The Jacksons, so only Lordy knows where that one came from. Suitably castigated, I asked Colin what he thought of the Lewis Grabban signing, pointing out that a lot of us couldn’t wait to get shot of him. We then mentioned James Vaughan, who is injury prone to put it mildly. Did Colin rate either of these signings?
“I have seen the negative comments. And we have hardly been ambitious in our inward transfer dealings. I hope he turns out to be an unexpected gem but this jury of one is still out.”
We moved on to the subject of Simon “Larry” Grayson (Colin is of my vintage so understood said reference). He is a well-known disciplinarian – can he blend your guys into a unit , I asked.
“He is clearly a seasoned Championship boss. I like what I’ve seen of him so far. He has been dealt a poor hand – little money available, quality players leaving etc – but seems already to be a vast improvement on the miserable, defeatist Moyes.”
Narrowly avoiding the jugular I asked Colin if he felt bad that along with Hull, Sunderland are not fancied by the bookies for a swift return to the PL?
“No. It is realistic. We have an owner who wants rid, players who want out, fans who are dismayed by years of turgid, unproductive rubbish on the pitch and precious little money for a new manager to rebuild. Top six this season would be a remarkable achievement.”<
Then came the cliche question: who might do us the most damage on Sunday – I asked Colin not to hold back and he didn’t.
“Grabban possibly, despite the negativity. Vaughan has so far failed to turn impressive workrate into goals. Maybe Honeyman’s League Cup goal at Bury suggests we can at last expect scoring contributions from midfield.”
Then common ground was again reached when I suggested the Mackems might be glad to have shed some of their overpaid and underachieving “players”, as we surely are?
“Sad to see Pickford go but completely respect his ambition and need to stay in the Premier League. He’s not paid to be a Sunderland supporter but, like the other Jordan (Henderson), will remain one for life. Defoe is a big miss, again understandable. Lens was an enigma, uninterested until returning from loan to put in an eye-catching pre-season (strategic perhaps!), but probably best for all concerned that he’s gone. Would like to see Kone and Djilobodji take their poor attitudes elsewhere and save us their sky-high wages”
Then in my own facetious style, I asked “what’s it like to get £30million for a keeper?”
“It would feel a lot better if even half of it had been available to Grayson. I doubt any player is morally worth that, even if Neymar’s obscene fee makes it look modest.”
I think we all know that feeling.
And as for being a Milk Cup veteran, Colin ticked the box, saying:
“You were able to buy drinks and take them back to your seat back then. That was probably the highlight. We (Sunderland) were shocking. The friendliness between fans was impressive, though. My favourite memory has nothing to do with me directly: read this old ‘Who are You?’ interview – v – for a terrific anecdote from a Norwich-supporting clergyman.”
And as for the Black Cats beating us at Hillsborough in the FA Cup semi-final?
“That was a better experience. George Orwell (or Eric Blair to me, ha!) may have said Sheffield was the ugliest town of the ‘old world’ but I’d take it any day over north-west London. And we won thanks to the goal-a-round exploits of Johnny Byrne. Pity he couldn’t stretch it to the final.”
I stated the obvious by saying we’ve always got along with the Sunderland lads and Colin responded:
“When I lived in the West Country, one of my best pals was a Norwich fan (he used to thrash me at badminton). And I’ve known or worked with quite a few others. Lots of interesting games with mixed outcomes. Coming back from 2-0 down to draw at Carrow Road in yet another of our relegation seasons many years ago. Watching us batter you senseless at one of the earliest games at the Stadium of Light but still lose 1-0. Those cup games.”
We’d both welcome safe standing.
“I’d happily see it introduced, selectively at first! But our fans have an away chant, ‘Stand Up if You Hate the Toon’ and , at my great age, I just change the words to ‘sit down’.
We have our own version for of that chant for 1p5wich, of course.
I pondered if getting up at the crack of dawn when it’s not even on the telly was a bit much?
“I must admit my life – part of year abroad, rest in London – makes regular attendance impossible. My pals will be on the road and home games for me, when I’m in London, mean crack-of-dawn starts.”
I will leave the last word to Colin:
“I’m an eternal pessimist, expect to be beaten while hoping for better.
“I left County Durham in 1973 and miss it every day. My wife is French and loves going back for football weekends (while hating football) but just laughs if I even half-heartedly suggest selling our little suburban house in London and buying a street in my home town, Shildon.”