FAR be it from me to suggest that Sunderland’s league victories this season have not exactly fallen upon us from the trees, but it was worth taking an opportunity to revisit last week’s thumping of Fulham.
I was at Craven Cottage, but have been quite temperate in reliving the afternoon. In the two days afterwards, I confined myself to viewings of footage on just Match of the Day, Match of the Day Two, Sky’s Game of the Day, Sky’s Match Choice, BBC Look North, Tyne Tees News, YouTube and a couple of others.
The post-match jabbering on television, radio and bar stool was of the stunning performance by Adam Johnson. There is a commonly used and descriptive metaphor to describe what Johnson did to John Arne Riise that I wish we could print.
But there must always be a chirruping, nasally voice and on this occasion it was Mark Lawrenson’s.
Speaking of Johnson, everyone’s boring uncle said: “You know what? If he had anything about him he’d have stayed at Manchester City and made it there.
“I think it was too easy to go and I just wonder how professional he is. He’s got all the all the ability in the world. I only hope he’s not one of those who we all say ‘great ability, but you know what; he let himself down.’”
Overlook the sheer offence of this drivel to both Johnson and SAFC and examine why Lawrenson said it; aside of the fact that he is paid a stupid amount of our money and therefore has to say something – even that.
At City, Johnson gathered medals for winning the Premier League and FA Cup. He also won 11 England caps.
However, 34 of his 73 league appearances for City were as substitute. In his final season there, he made just 10 starts and played 90 minutes in only four games.
A reasonably intelligent pundit could see why he went to Sunderland. Lawrenson, on the other hand, could only defame the winger and his professionalism
Johnson probably felt that it would have been “just too easy” to stay in Manchester, picking up medals in exchange for bit-parts, so he returned to the North East for first-team football. Of his 54 league appearances so far for Sunderland, only six have been from the bench.
Johnson decided to “let himself down” by coming to Sunderland for first-team football because he loves playing the game. This is something that Mark Lawrenson, in the course of saying the first thing that enters his head, does not seem to have grasped.
Players must enjoy their wealth and lifestyles, but more than that, they love to play football. Johnson does just as Lawrenson used to.
I used to – and I was rubbish (I would occasionally be picked for the school team during a flu epidemic, but that was about it; although I still maintain that Paul Redman was only picked ahead of me because he always handed in his maths homework on time, not that it bothers me after all these years; no way).
Lawrenson was actually a wonderful defender in his day. It’s a shame that we now have generations of football fans who only think of him as an inarticulate nonentity.
It is worth mentioning that after retiring as a player, Lawro had two stabs at management, at Oxford United and Peterborough. Both were shortlived failures and he has not managed since 1990. Since demonstrating his incompetence in this area, he has devoted his professional life to a hitherto unrealised ambition of saying something clever or amusing.
So he hasn’t done any real work for 24 years. You know what? If he had anything about him he’d have stayed in management and made it there. I think it was too easy to go and I just wonder how professional he is.
However, judging from the unhaltable codswallop that he vomits out from the BBC each week, it cannot be surmised that he’s got all the all the ability in the world as a pundit.
It is worth repeating what we said earlier; Mark Lawrenson is paid for what he does. But at least we know that when he goes to “work” he will open his mouth and either irritate or bore us.
Unlike Adam Johnson, he is very, very, very, very, very, very (I’m paid by the word) consistent.
ONE of the benefits for Mike Ashley in having Alan Pardew as an employee is that he has found a manager every bit as classy as himself.
The Newcastle boss had every right to feel aggrieved last Sunday when his side had a goal disallowed after a decision by referee Mike Jones, the likes of which we have not seen since the heyday of Beadle’s About – or Kevin Friend at the Stoke-Sunderland game in November.
The ever-yobbish Pardew responded in his customary fashion, yet again trying to pick a public fight with the opposing manager, much as he did as West Ham boss with Arsène Wenger, at the Sports Direct with Sunderland’s Martin O’Neill in 2012 and a linesman on the opening day of last season.
You would be shocked if it didn’t happen so often.
Last month, Pardew, with bucketful of hypocrisy, sniffily described a brawl between a member of his coaching staff, Andy Woodman and Southampton’s Dani Osvaldo as “pretty pathetic”.
Did Mr Woodman appreciate being so openly admonished by a serial touchline lout?
This came after Pardew’s usual tactic of laughing off yet another disgrace had failed; much as it did when he described his shove on that linesman as “comical really”.
We heard Pardew’s view of what Woodman did. It would be interesting to hear what Woodman thought of the language that his manager so publicly spat at Manuel Pellegrini last week; language so appalling that Pardew’s mouth had to be pixelated by television.
And what do the FA think of this litany of thuggishness?
Following the Wenger incident, Pardew was mysteriously cleared, possibly out of pity as West Ham had sacked him by the time his case came up.
After his “pretty pathetic” goading of Martin O’Neill, the association said: “The FA is satisfied that no further action is required in this instance.
“It is important to recognise that football is full of passion and emotion; that is why we have to distinguish between spontaneous reactions and direct confrontations.”
Weird. Just because Pardew had directly confronted O’Neill, the FA did not consider it to be … er … a direct confrontation.
Weirder still, both Newcastle and Sunderland were fined for “failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and/or refrained from provocative behaviour,” following some run-of-the-mill pushing and pulling during the same match.
Even the FA found the gumption to fine and ban Pardew after he shoved the linesman; so would they throw the book – or several books – at him following his nauseating conduct towards Pellegrini?
Pardew pre-empted things with some predictable “heat of the moment” waffle and the FA fell for it. They have “reminded him of his responsibilities”. Ooooh.
Some decent minded people were naively expecting something a little more draconian. They’ll learn.
What will they do the next time Alan Pardew decides to publicly threaten, abuse, goad, shove or gloat at someone else on the touchline (and we’ll give it six months)?
He should be OK as long as he has some robust mitigation; such as a big boy made him do it then ran away.
HULL City owner Assem Allam is determined to change the name of the club to “Tigers”.
Who could quibble? Tigers City has a certain ring to it and would be a fitting tribute to these magnificent beasts, which can be regularly seen roaming the boundless plains of Kingston-upon-Hull during the warmer months. Although, at this time of year, they tend to migrate south to Cleethorpes.
Dismissing the fanciful notion that winning football matches is the only way to raise a club’s profile, the demure Mr Allam has threatened to walk out should he not get his own way.
Previously he had offered an olive branch to those against the proposed name change, by tactfully suggesting that: “They can die as soon as they want.”
This week he was given the backing of one of the most respected politicians of our times, the former Hull East MP John Prescott. This is in recognition of Mr Allam putting more than £70million into the club.
This glowing philanthropy will be rewarded in heaven. In the meantime, there is the completely unexpected perk of lower corporation tax for Allamhouse Ltd, Hull City’s Jersey-registered parent company, owned in turn by the Allam family.
They’re creepy and they’re kooky, the Allam family.
But they’re big-hearted too and the losses of £27.8m that the football club reported for 2012-13 is something they are prepared to endure, although the resulting tax charge liability reduction for Allamhouse Ltd may help to sugar the pill.
Incidentally, how does an owner just walk out of his club “within 24 hours” as Assem Allam has threatened?
Excuse the lack of business know-how, but to divest himself of Hull City, wouldn’t he need to find someone to buy it?
BEFORE Gus Poyet arrived on Wearside, there was a melancholy resignation that Sunderland were going to lose to virtually anyone they played; be it Arsenal or West Brom, Chelsea or Crystal Palace, Barcelona or Hebburn Argyle.
There was one point from seven games to endorse this thinking. In a perverse way, I kind of miss the certainty of those days.
It will not have escaped your attention that by the time you read next week’s column, Sunderland could occupy a relatively lofty 15th position in the table, have reached the League Cup final and be safely into the last 16 of the FA Cup.
All of this recently unearthed hope is causing havoc with the sleeping patterns of people across Wearside.
Finding reasons to hope has been a theme of View From the Bridge this season.
Now that we have discovered some, it is unfeignedly worrying.
To cheer yourself up, remember that by the time you read next week’s column, it is also possible that Sunderland will have returned to rock bottom of the league, been scudded at Old Trafford and embarrassed by Kidderminster Harriers.
Feel better now? Me neither.
As Aristotle once said, or was it Bobby Ball: “I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.”
Taken from Saturday’s Football Echo.
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