PGL: League football returns today! Praise the Lord! Sunderland arrive a changed side since we last met in a tie that we were lucky to come away from with a point. This week I’ve been talking to http://www.salutsunderland.com/ contributor Pete Sixsmith. Pete’s been watching Sunderland 47 years and his claim to fame is that he once taught Stan Cummins! He’s giving us the Black Cat perspective this week.
PGL: So, what’s been going on at Sunderland since we last met?
PETE: We have lost a manager and gained a coach, kept Kenwyne for the rest of this season, taken 4 points off the Mags and announced a reduction in season ticket prices. And slipped right off the radar as far as the national media are concerned. No-one is interested if you just get on with your job – there has to be conflict all the time.
PGL: How shocked were your fans at Roy Keane’s departure?
PETE: In truth, not many were. There had been ominous signs a few weeks before when rumours swept the area that he had gone. It was clear to many that he was struggling to cope with the demands of the job and the demands that he put on himself and for many of us his resignation was a positive move, as there were clearly problems in the dressing room.
PGL: Is Ricky Sbragia the man to lead the club forward?
PETE: He’s a lovely bloke and is well thought of in the footballing community. My godson was under his wing at York City and cannot praise him enough. He is a very good coach, but that doesn’t mean he is managerial material. He will get us through this season, but I feel that he will step aside in the summer and a new manager will come in. Ricky always looks so world weary in his interviews, as if to say “What the hell am I doing here”.
PGL: How important was it that he got Kenwyne Jones to extend his contract?
PETE: Very important. Kenwyne is the one player we have who has the potential to walk into any other Premier League side. His head must have been turned by Redknapp, but you get the feeling that he trusts Sbragia and that he feels he owes some loyalty to Sunderland.
PGL: How do you feel about Niall Quinn’s Atmosphere Before Income scheme?
PETE: We have a good atmosphere at the Stadium. Sunderland fans are not great singers, but that full throated, earthy roar that comes from 40,000+ is so important. Quinny knows the area and the people and he realises that times are hard. We don’t tap in to the middle classes as much as you do – a lot of our fans are still involved in manual work and the credit crunch is really biting in the North East. So, anything that helps people to maintain their undoubted love for SAFC and encourage the next generation is good by me.
PGL: We had to endure a very long and protracted transfer saga in January. Do you think the window system should be scrapped?
PETE: No. I like it. It should make clubs think carefully about who they sign and use the coaching staff to get the best out of them. Without it, you would get cowboys like Redknapp and Kinnear constantly spending money. Football is about coaching, not throwing money around. You should know that!!
PGL: What will Davenport and Ben Haim bring to your side?
PETE: Cover. We have two good defenders in Ferdinand and Collins, but we are short on cover since we lost Chimbonda. These two are decent players who will fill in for suspensions, injuries etc. Mind you, they are not very exciting are they? We are used to the likes of Carlos Edwards, Andy Reid and Rada Prica coming in in January.
PGL: Jones aside, what other players will we need to keep quiet if we want to win?
PETE: Why do you want to win? Surely you would rather gift us three points, thereby pushing your much loved local rivals further down the league. To paraphrase Kevin “Ooops, I’ve completely lost it” Keegan, I would love it, absolutely love it if either Spurs or the Mags went down. Both would be even better. So, for this to happen, give Cisse plenty of space so he can run on to the ball and don’t even think about marking Andy Reid. Then we win and you can see Spurs edging closer to a visit to Blackpool next season. Tee hee.
We have been a little toothless of late, but we are hoping the arrival of Arshavin will sharpen up our attack, what are your impressions of the player? (PGL Note: This question was asked before our 4-nil win and before Eddie’s injury was announced)
Never mind Arshavin, I watched Eduardo on TV last night and he will pep you up. He’s a very good player, although Cardiff gave a passable imitation of Bedlington Terriers on a bad day. I would imagine that Arshavin will need time to settle into the harum-scarum world of the Premier League. Russian football is much more methodical than ours and I wouldn’t think that he has ever come up against the likes of Phil Bardsley before. Give him time and he could be ok, but Russians don’t take kindly to criticism. Lenin never got over being booed when he played inside left for Sverdlovsk Rovers, and look what he did.
PGL: Will Ricky Sbragia set up to frustrate our attack or go all out for three points?
PETE: What do you think? He will have us well prepared, keep it tight at the start and try to catch you on the break. There, that’s my UEFA B badge done.
PGL: Where do you think the key battles will be?
PETE: For me, it will be in The Lamb in Bloomsbury before the game, when I decide whether to risk a third pint of Young’s Winter Warmer. On the pitch, I would imagine all over, but Kenwyne must fancy his chances against William “McMurphy” Gallas.
PGL: And finally, your prediction for the game?
PETE: If I take that third pint, I would say 6-0 to us. If I don’t, I am looking at a 1-1 draw – but it could go either way
PGL: I was talking to my brother the other day and he has dubbed this season our “Forest Gump box of chocolates season”… we never know what we’re gonna get… lets face it, that’s a pretty on the money description of our season so far. I was so happy to see us use the ball on the deck against Cardiff and I truly hope we do that from the off today. Vela must start!! And if he does I think he’ll score, the bookies have ten bob of mine on it. So, as ever, I think we’ll win. How and what score? Don’t ask me, ask Mr. Gump.