ALL things considered, Sunderland’s support on Saturday was quite marvellous, both in quantity and quality.
Regrettably, there was little by way of a reward for these supporters.
That the performance was an improvement on the previous week’s goes without saying – so don’t say it. It is rather like attempting to compliment someone by mentioning that they aren’t entirely ugly.
Assuming that all 44,449 in attendance had the full complement of digits, then 444,490 toes must have curled at the sight of both the goals. This makes the general lack of dissent among the crowd all the more commendable.
Yet, as always, there is an element among the home following who would seemingly prefer to complain than see their team do well.
When Arsenal’s first goal went in after half-an-hour, one gentleman who had been sitting not far from me, headed for the exit in the most theatrical look-at-me manner, singing See You Later Alligator with bitter humour to emphasise his feelings.
I could only welcome his departure and hope that the club will benefit from his continued absence; although this column has nothing if not a scrupulous regard for fair play, so we have to compliment the fellow on his singing voice – he had several octaves.
However, there is more to being a football supporter than the possession of a pleasant light baritone. The conduct of this bloke suggests that he bought a match ticket with the sole intention of moaning, which is the very antithesis of “supporting.”
No doubt he was later boasting about flouncing out because he “knew” that the game was over at 1-0.
Oh that he were alone. There are plenty of this sort bellyaching online, although we are not convinced that most of them actually attend the matches of the club they profess to care about. If you are really unlucky, you may meet them face to face.
It has not escaped those of even the jolliest disposition that things are not going well and that improvements must be made. Certain players are just not up to it, others are underperforming, while certain tactics, selections and substitutions have been questionable.
We are all aware of the results and the league position, but football teaches us that nothing is certain, last season being an obvious case in point – and not just at Sunderland.
At this stage a year ago, Sunderland and Crystal Palace were the Premier League’s bottom two and we all know what happened. The season before, Southampton were down there and were just fine at the end of it.
We can also ponder that a mere three points more would put Sunderland mid-table. A badly needed result at Palace on Saturday can hardly be taken for granted, but neither would it be a miracle and the world will look a better place if it does happen.
Feel free to say out loud: “But this is Sunderland and we’re rubbish and won’t win any more games. Everyone else does things properly and never makes bad signings. We’ll always be a yo-yo club. Yakkety-yak-yak-yak.”
This sort of outburst is usually spoken in a whining, reedy voice and is now being said for the eighth successive year – in my experience by the same people who have been 100 per cent wrong for the previous seven. Yo-yo club?
The reasons for the gloom are obvious. The reasons for queeny indignation are not.
Anything can happen and we may have something to really moan about on May 24. Yet things were looking reasonably perky after the win over Stoke.
Two defeats to sides who are – let’s face it – better than Sunderland are not catastrophic (however embarrassing the first one was). Nor would two quick wins mean that all is dandy.
I am well aware that everyone is entitled to their opinion on issues at Sunderland AFC.
Happily, everyone is also entitled to an opinion on those who imagine it is clever and wise to vomit negativity and make unfunny jokes about anyone who dares to dispute that the world is ending because yet another stupid goal has gone in.
Southampton was in all probability a freak result. The Arsenal result (which could easily have been a draw had certain players not been so damn silly) was pretty regular fare of the sort that has not done too much damage to SAFC since they were last promoted.
Everyone hopes ultimately to do something better than merely remain in the Premier League at the end of each campaign, but they would take that for now. In the meantime, let’s get a grip.
But let’s end this piece in the spirit it began and say very well done to the overwhelming majority of Sunderland fans for their backing of the team. Your support is an enormous help.
The “support” of certain others is not.
REASSURANCE at present comes only from looking at the nine other teams in the league who do not look great either.
Burnley look like goners already. A good win on Monday notwithstanding, QPR will have to spend their way out of trouble (which sadly they might just do in January).
Aston Villa, Palace, Newcastle, West Brom, Leicester, Hull, Stoke – and Sunderland – are much of a muchness.
But to really cheer up, we need to do something that never fails (other than watching Sweep singing Nessun Dorma on YouTube again). We need other people’s misfortune; always a crowd pleaser.
We are therefore grateful to Leeds United. The club where, for some reason, they sing about being champions of Europe (they never were you know, we checked), are 18th in the Championship and are now on to their fourth manager of 2014. It isn’t even Halloween.
In Leeds, you are now more likely to avoid jury service than a stint at managing the city’s football club. But no one does the job for long.
The latest lucky punter is Neil Redfearn, who has previously been caretaker manager at Elland Road on four occasions. His other experience consists of two more caretaking spells at Halifax Town in the old Third Division, another at York City in the Conference and eight months at Scarborough, also in the Conference.
His last “permanent” appointment as manager was his three months at Northwich Victoria in 2007, where he resigned after the club took only one point from their first nine games leaving them bottom of – you’ve guesses it – the Conference.
He can now look forward to becoming the 40th manager to be sacked by Leeds’ loopy owner, the Italian entrepreneur and convicted con-man Massimo Cellino. That day could be as far away as January if Redfearn does especially well.
Leeds United and Mr Cellino are at least appreciated by us newspaper columnists as he saves us work. It won’t be long before I have the opportunity of copying, pasting and slightly tweaking the last few paragraphs. Again.
In even greater schtuck are Birmingham City; a Premier League club just three years ago.
Their caretaker-manager for two games following the recent sacking of the useless Lee Clark, was none other than Malcolm Crosby, who led Sunderland to the 1992 FA Cup final.
His first game was last week’s 1-0 defeat at Blackburn; the second an 8-0 home defeat to Bournemouth.
Can you imagine losing 8-0? Shut your eyes tight for a moment and try to think what that would feel like.
Speaking before the Bournemouth game of his chances of landing the manager’s job, Crosby said: “If I am going to become the manager at Birmingham I am going to have to start winning a few games. That helps.”
Malcolm Crosby is a lovely man and a very good coach who long ago earned our good wishes. He doesn’t deserve to be laughed at; but we’re only human.
Whatever happens at Selhurst Park on Saturday – things could be worse.
ON Sunday, the BBC kept breaking into football commentaries to give us updates of an NFL game at Wembley.
NFL stands for National Football League, although the sport in question isn’t football at all and the nation is America; so why were they telling us about it?
It is irritating enough when footy coverage is interrupted for British rubbish like rugby, golf and car racing. But American football updates can only have been introduced to irritate all right-thinking listeners.
This daft game lasts for 60 minutes notionally, but takes over three hours to play and feels like even longer. The BBC will no doubt defend their interest in the NFL by pointing out that Wembley was almost full for Sunday’s encounter between Detroit and Atlanta.
But this should only discourage further coverage. Surely anyone in this country who is actually interested in this farrago of foreign nonsense was in the stadium and didn’t need radio updates.
The most worrying aspect of the NFL coming to town is that it gives greedy people some abhorrent ideas for football, such as playing the last game of the Premier League season overseas to milk further cash with which to overpay the players even more.
I have nothing against American culture and customs – in America. This is Britain. We don’t want our shopkeepers telling us to have a nice day. We prefer “what do you want?” followed by “there you go” then “bugger off.” It’s traditional.
Well done then to Middlesex County Cricket Club, who this week took a stand against creeping Americanism by abandoning the ludicrous name Middlesex Panthers in favour of plain old Middlesex.
Reason took hold when someone pointed out that no panthers had been spotted prowling around Hampton Wick high street for some years.
The chairman of Hull City feels differently, but these names just sound silly in England. In the USA, they have sexier animals and more spectacular weather from which to derive the names of their sports teams.
They have the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins; Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Cyclones. We could only offer Cold Hesledon versus Windy Nook. The winners will play East Rain-ton.
It just doesn’t work over here.
STOKE City chairman Peter Coates is in the huff with John Hartson.
The pundit said on Match of the Day Two that Stoke’s Victor Moses “cheated” by diving for a penalty during last week’s win over Swansea.
The bickering between the two clubs has continued. It began with their managers. Now Mr Coates has joined in.
He said: “He (Hartson) spoke like what he probably is - a Swansea fan.”
Quite. But you don’t suppose Mr Coates is a Stoke fan by any chance?
He added: “We’re very angry about our player being called a cheat.”
Tell him not to cheat then, because he did. At least spare us the humbug. Victor Moses is hardly unique in taking a tumble, but this doesn’t put him above reproach.
In the interests of transparency, I am genuinely neutral on the matter, because when Stoke play Swansea I truly do not give a toss what the score is.