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What a summer for sports fans. As a tournament, Euro 2000 was great viewing, though it was a shame that fate and folly combined to exclude the involvement of a single Sunderland player… next time perhaps. The pre-season tours were suitably mad – weird places (Porto, Sittard, Mechelen), crazy results (Apledoorn, 9-0) and some good performances from some suprising players (Kilbane, Thomas Butler) – leaving us drooling at the season ahead. On the other hand, we begin the campaign with a number of crucial injuries, on the back of some mediocre pre-season performances. Our fingers are crossed that everything will fall into place and we can improve on last year’s seventh spot – the very least our fans deserve.

At the top end the squad is improving slowly. The additions of Hutchison and Varga look like significant steps forward, and we all hope that the influx of quality does not stop there. Reid’s other summer acquisitions also seem to be improving the squad at the other end – with Macho and Peeters clearly prospects for the future. We welcome them all and wish them the very best during their time here.

For many of us, however, a characteristic of Reid’s tenure has been the out-flow of good players and on this note we were particularly sad to see the departure of David Duke to Swindon on a free, without ever been given the chance to impress in the first team. Thomas Helmer’s lack of squad number appears a statement of intent and we all await the outcome of the Summerbee saga with interest – in his absence, there is no obvious successor on the right wing, and it was ominous to see that Peter Reid played a number of pre-season games with only one winger. Games like Leeds at home last season were very frustrating for fans who feel that the best available players should be on the field at all times, regardless to internal politics.

Kevin Phillips’ lack of a pre-season is our biggest worry coming in to kick-off 2000/01, and the thought of starting any Premiership match without him is terrifying given his dominance last season. Milton Nunez has been performing with style and skill of late, and hopefully he will find time between international commitments to do a job and justify his £1.6m price tag. It is up front that we require reinforcements the most, though one answer may be to give young Kevin Kyle a chance after some assured performances pre-season.

Elsewhere the Stadium of Light welcomes an extra 6,000 Mackems a fortnight, and with the financial commitment the fans have shown in filling it for the Arsenal game, everything is in place for our most successful post-war season. The gulf that we saw last season between the teams at the very top of the Premier League and the rest must be breached before it becomes too wide, the best team in the history of football must be returned to its rightful place.

On a personal level, Sex & Chocolate is absolutely delighted to have come a close second in the Total Football Fanzine of the Year competition, one percent behind eventual winners, A Love Supreme – our sister publication. To collect our second fanzine award after two years in existence is an achievement we are immensely proud of. Nevertheless, regular readers may notice a few changes in this season’s S&C as a result of the many and varied comments our end of season poll brought in. We have taken praise and comment on board, and where a number of fans made suggestions, did something about it. Who knows what this season will bring with it? Chris Makin’s late conversion into a deadly striker proves that anything can happen, and when it does, we will be wherever it happens with you.


End of 1999-2000 season poll

While the rest of S&C were merrily getting lost on their many alcohol-fuelled journeys watching Sunderland in Europe, some of us were left behind with the graft. I got the task of sorting out the readers' poll, so, armed with a sharpened pencil and my GCSE calculator, I came face to face with the contents of an unhappy postman's sack. In true Terry Wogan, Eurovision style, here are the results from the 1999/2000 ALS Publications Readers' Poll:

Best player: Phillips 93%, Quinn 2%, Makin 2%, Others 3%

Best young player: McCann 57%, Reddy 19%, Oster 6%, Thirlwell 4%, Others 14%

Worst opposing team including Newcastle: Newcastle 93%, Bradford 2%, Wimbledon 1%, Others 4%

Worst opposing team excluding Newcastle: Wimbledon 46%, Bradford 24%, Middlesbrough 13%, Chelsea 6%, Others 11%

Best opposing team: Man Utd 38%, Arsenal 22%, Leeds 19%, Aston Villa 8%, Others 13%

Most improved player: Makin 46%, McCann 40%, Rae 7%, Butler 1%, Others 6%

Favourite player: Makin 36%, Quinn 27%, Phillips 23%, Butler 3%, Gray 1%, Others 10%

Coolest player: Schwarz 34%, Dichio 28%, Makin 23%, Phillips 11%, Others 4%

Hardest player: Makin 36%, Rae 32%, Butler 21%, Ball 11%

Best match for atmosphere: Newcastle 61%, Chelsea 16%, Middlesbrough 9%, Man Utd 6%, Others 8%

Who at the club deserves a pat on the back: Too varied and numerous to list as percentages, but popular answers include John Cooke, Bobby Saxton, Ricky Sbragia, Bob Murray, Samson and Delilah, SuperKev, Nicky Summerbee, Stefan Schwarz, Gavin McCann, Niall Quinn, Chris Makin, Jody Craddock and Steve Bould.

Did we strengthen the squad enough: No 77%, Yes 23%

Which position do you want to see strengthened: Midfield 41%, Central Defence 23%, Left Back 16%, Right Winger 11%, Others 9%

Marks out of 10 for Peter Reid’s performance over the season: 7.9

Marks out of 10 for team’s performance over the season: 8.3

Marks out of 10 for board’s performance over the season: 5.3

Will we spend enough money in the close season: No 54%, Yes 46%

Which player do you most want to see signed: Top of the shopping list were Flo, Scholes, Solskjaer, Butt, Sutton and Thatcher. And for those people who voted whilst in their sleep, or under a watchful eye of the men in white coats, names like Rivaldo, Zidane, Costa, Figo, Ronaldo, Del Piero and Maldini were all commonplace, unlike the suggestion that Reid should buy the entire 1970 Brazil World Cup Squad.

Most positive aspect of the season? A selection: "Challenging for a European Place." "Excellent league position." "Four points from the Mags." "Going second from top, instead of bottom." "Finishing above the Mags." "The way the team adjusted to the pace of the Premiership." "No panic buys around deadline day." "Quinn seeing off the likes of Stam, Campbell and other defences." "Consistency and 100% effort."

Least positive aspect of the season? A selection: "Not applying for the Inter Toto Cup." "The scandal at Prenton Park." "Failure to capitalise on a fantastic start." "The period from Everton away to Southampton away." "Lack of cover for injuries." "Watching the lads getting booed off the pitch home and away." "No silverware." "Reid and his petty arguments." "Players' attitudes towards fans in terms of acknowledging them at the end of away games and not turning up to supporters' events. They've all gone big time."

Best thing about S&C. A selection: “Honest reviews and articles.” “Integrity, it is important to make constructive criticisms about the way our club is run by those in charge.” “Its funny to read before I go to bed." "Humour, it’s a refreshing change.”

Worst things about S&C. A selection: “Whinging letters in the letters page.” “The songs are silly.” “It’s too small, the public want more."

Anything else: "No."

Compiled by Ross Palmer

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