View from the Bridge: Result was everything ... and more

Sunderland's Steven Fletcher (right) celebrates scoring their third goal against Crystal Palace.
Sunderland's Steven Fletcher (right) celebrates scoring their third goal against Crystal Palace.
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LIFE felt rather better yesterday morning. In our house, even the fact that someone had used the last of the marmalade could not dischuff me; such was the importance of Sunderland’s win at Crystal Palace the previous evening.

Does anyone round these parts particularly care how it came about? A somewhat low quality game at QPR in August was won by the home side. On Monday Sunderland pulled one back.

It could be argued in the circumstances of the previous game against Arsenal, that the performance was more important than the result (although I would have taken an even worse showing in exchange for a scruffy point), but that was not the case at Selhurst Park. The result was everything.

No one is denying that Palace should have had a penalty after two-and-a-half seconds or whatever it was. Nor will it have escaped Mr Poyet’s attention that some of his team’s ropey passing would have been throttled by better opposition. Then there is the injury to Patrick van Aanholt and a suspension for Lee Cattermole to consider.

But those worries are for the Everton game on Sunday.

That non-penalty was overdue good fortune for Sunderland and we will never know what would have happened had the referee got that very early decision right, yet the visitors went on to deserve their win.

All three of their goals were badly defended but well taken. Palace had virtually all of the game to overcome their bad luck, but only managed one shot on target, while their red card was both correct and unlikely to have affected the result (in fact Jedinak was lucky because his second yellow should have been a straight red). They also fluked an equaliser.

Fletcher, Pantillimon, Reveillere, Gomez and O’Shea all played very well, while the team as a whole were unflustered by the nastiness of the home support.

The league table does not fib after 10 games as it does after four or five. Sunderland’s start has been sluggish and the next few fixtures do not look amusing.

However, it is worth noting that, for differing reasons, Johnson, Giaccherini, Álvarez and Rodwell did not feature at Palace.

It’s a big old “if” – but if they can all play to their potential, we might even have some fun. It is allowed.

ALL the top managers are bad losers – and so is Neil Warnock.

After the game on Monday, I plumped up the cushions to listen to what Crystal Palace’s manager and head of Misfortune Exaggeration had to say. He was possibly more entertaining than the match itself.

Proving that there is such a thing as certainty after all, he snorted about bad refereeing decisions. Fair enough; they all do that. But then he appeared to go completely off his onion.

He said – and we’re not kidding: “I thought we were superb tonight. They couldn’t have given any more, the lads. They were brilliant tonight.”

Like a young Bob Hope, he added another one-liner: “I don’t know how we’ve not won the game.”

If Monday is what passes for “superb” and “brilliant” at Selhurst Park, then life should be a little easier for the other 19 clubs.

Sunderland fans listening to Warnock may have debated with themselves: “Is he insanely biased or is it me?”

A peek at the Palace fans’ message board provides the answers.

Gentle hints can be found in threads entitled “Is Warnock for real?” “Warnock watching a different game” and our favourite; “F****** garbage!”

SPECIAL praise must go to the referee Andre Marriner this week after he only made one appalling error on Saturday – a personal best.

The gormless official failed to show a red card to Newcastle’s Moussa “Bruce Lee” Sissoko for his high lunge on Liverpool’s Joe Allen at the Sports Direct Arena.

We can’t expect Mr Marriner to make the correct decision, solely because he had a perfect, unimpeded, close-up view of the “tackle” (which drew a chuckle from Alan Shearer on Match of the Day). We would expect it of a competent referee, but not Andre.

Nor is there any need for newspaper columnists to point out that Sissoko went on to set up the only goal of the game. It’s unnecessary.

So another clanger can be lobbed upon the groaning pile of Andre’s cock-ups. Why should the Premier League take any notice – it’s not as though he has ever done something truly reprehensible; like attending an Ed Sheeran concert.

Mark Clattenburg was suspended for driving off alone after the West Brom-Palace game on October 25, to see the Oor Wullie lookalike perform at the Metro Shed in Newcastle. Match officials are supposed to travel to and from games together, in case they are followed home by some bad boys.

A more serious charge is that Clattenburg spoke on the telephone to Palace manager Neil Warnock (him again) by telephone after the game. Warnock was in a customary huff about something or other (he was still burbling about it on Monday), but it is not clear who called whom. Perhaps it should be.

Mr Clattenburg’s integrity is under issue here (for the phone call, not for his concert attendance which no one gives a toss about), so it would be best to establish who made the call, whether the recipient knew who was calling and how numbers were obtained.

Mr Warnock, a qualified referee as well as a serial fight-picker, can answer all of this but has refused to do so.

His answer to the query was: “Never you mind. One or two people have said it was. One or two people have said it wasn’t. But whatever will be, will be.”

He also declined to answer supplementary questions about what the hell that was supposed to mean.

So far Mr Warnock has avoided any recriminations over the affair. He is, of course, renowned for his sporting spirit and has generously allowed Mr Clattenburg to absorb any punishment.

He’s a real toff that Neil Warnock.

JOSE Mourinho has finally arrived at a conclusion that the rest of us reached many years ago.

Chelsea’s support is rubbish.

Following a win over QPR in a supposed derby that cemented the club’s position at the summit of the league table, the Ghastly One had a pop at the lack of passion from the bandwagon jumpers who go to Stamford Bridge.

He said: “At this moment it’s difficult to play at home because playing here is like playing in an empty stadium.

“When we scored was when I realised ‘whoa, the stadium is full. Good.’

“I took 30 minutes to understand that the stadium was not empty.”

The media has forgotten that it is not the first time Mourinho has made the point.

After an extremely fortunate draw with West Brom a year ago, he said: “We know Stamford Bridge is not a very hot atmosphere, not a very strong atmosphere normally and we accept that.”

Chelsea fans have retaliated to their manager’s dismissive attitude and have blamed the club’s pricing policy. General sale tickets for the QPR game cost up to £75 each.

Chelsea Supporters’ Trust chairman Tim Rolls said: “Young people, who are the most likely to sing and make noise, have been priced out of the game.

“It’s unrealistic to expect 18 or 19 year-old kids on the minimum wage to come to Stamford Bridge or any other Premier League ground. This isn’t just an issue at Chelsea; it’s an issue across the board.”

Mr Rolls makes a valid and important point. However, with specific regard to Chelsea, he has some way to go to convince.

The average age of a Premier League supporter, by which we mean those who actually attend matches, is 41. This means that a large majority of fans at all grounds have squeezed their last spot – yet most of those grounds have a better atmosphere than Stamford Bridge.

There is also an historical element here.

The glory hunters’ paradise at the Bridge began in the 1990s when Ken Bates racked up an enormous debt to win a few trophies. The real success came when the current creepy Russian owner bought the club in 2003.

Before that, Chelsea had only ever been champions of England once, clinching the title in April 1955, the same month that Churchill stood down as Prime Minister. Other than that, they have never amounted to much until recently – and this was reflected by their support.

In the first season of the Premiership, 1992-93, their season’s average attendance was 18,754. The following season, one home league game saw just 8,923. They had a decent, mid-table team, including Wise, Le Saux, Hoddle, Clarke, Burley and Townsend.

They have never had great support and the less said about certain other activities of their fans in the past, the better.

LABOUR MP Frank Field has been poking his nose into the finances of the Premier League.

Appointed by David Cameron as the government’s “Poverty Tsar,” Mr Field has written to all 20 clubs in the league to ask why none of them has committed to paying their staff the £7.85 per hour living wage (£9.15 in London), as set by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) on Monday.

There is no legal requirement for employers to pay the living wage, as distinct from the £6.50 National Minimum Wage. But LWF reckon that one in five UK employees are in “work poverty.” The idea of companies subscribing to the living wage has cross-party support. Boris Johnson is a fan.

For the benefit of those who live beneath rocks, “staff” in the instance of football clubs does not refer to the players.

Over 1,000 organisations have signed up to the living wage. Football observers are unlikely to have sat bolt-upright at the news that no Premier League club is among them.

Only six of the 20 have even bothered to reply to Mr Field. They were Sunderland, Arsenal, Everton, Leicester, Liverpool and West Brom.

SAFC chief bottle washer, Margaret Byrne, is always sent into bat when the club has to deal with something awkward.

She wrote: “I can assure you our football club meets and indeed exceeds all its statutory obligations in terms of care and welfare of its staff.

“To that end I do not feel the matter warrants further discussion.”

Some confusion there. The subject obviously does warrant further discussion, even if Ms Byrne would prefer to discuss the weather, or how long it is since next door washed their net curtains. But at least she replied.

Replies from the other respondents were also along the lines of we’ve-haven’t-broken-the-law. It is reminiscent of the MPs expenses scandal, when legality rather than morality was the only defence.

It is true that there are many, many other organisations out there that can easily afford to pay their staff £7.85 an hour, but choose not to. This is a “defence” that is always used in the futile hope that your behaviour will be deemed acceptable because you can point to someone who is just as bad, if not worse. Politicians use it every day.

Still, I can already hear the question; why single out football clubs?

Well, this is a football column.

The good news is that I, personally, am loaded.