als home

 

 

 

 

 

 

MURPHY'S LAW 
EURO 2016 IS ABOUT WINNING GAMES, NOT PLAUDITS

During ITV’s stellar coverage of England’s humiliating defeat to Iceland, a fantastic phrase was uttered by Clive Tyldesley. After Iceland netted their second goal, the winning goal, commentator Tyldesley said: ‘England have failed to capitalise on their superiority’. While I understand what Clive was implying — superior possession, chances created, and general control of the game — the phrase humoured me in its demonstration of why England continue to fail at major tournaments.

There are two things that matter in a game of football: scoring goals, and not conceding goals. If you can do one of these things then you might have a basis for a decent football side, if you can do both of them then you’re in business. If you can’t do either of them however, like England, then you will end up going out of a major international tournament faster than Roy Hodgson can say his own name. Playing a certain style of football may see you right over a 38-game league season, but in a tournament as short as this one, all that matters is outscoring your opponent. The only superiority, as Tyldesley would put it, is in winning.

WINNERS AND LOSERS
One of the most entertaining aspects of Euro 2016 so far is how competitive it is. There is no outstanding team as such, and none of the quarter finalists have an unblemished record at this stage of the tournament. Belgium, France, Germany, and Wales have each won 3 games out of 4, showing they have no trouble in finishing sides off. Germany and France are also undefeated, with the Germans showing great defensive stability, and France always with a late trick up their sleeve. Draw specialists Portugal may not have won any group games, but matching their opponents goal-for-goal means they are yet to lose a game as well. The tiny nation of Iceland is also undefeated at Euro 2016, having taken at least something from every fixture thus far, winning 2 of them. Astonishing, really.

There is no clear favourite. There are always teams you would expect to do better than others, but England fans would tell you that expectations are worth less than the pound sterling these days. On the basis of what really matters in football however, scoring goals and not conceding goals, who are the best team in the tournament, and in theory, the team that will go on to win it?

GOALS SCORED
Belgium entered the tournament as the highest-ranked team, and their goals department appears to reflect that. They have netted 8 times so far, averaging out nicely at two goals a game, although four of the goals did come against Hungary. Wales are only a goal behind them, however, and have showed that they aren’t just a one-man team, even if that one man is extremely important for them. Robert Lewandowski and his Poland side will definitely be concerned with their lack of firing power, having only scored 3 goals so far in France. Given that Lewandowski scored 5 goals in 9 minutes for Bayern Munich last season, however, Pepe and the Portugal defence certainly won’t be giving him an easy ride in their quarter-final fixture.

GOALS CONCEDED
Goal-happy Belgium have conceded just two goals so far, but that is by no means impressive given Germany’s record. The Germans are renowned for their disciplined defending, and after four games at the tournament they still haven’t conceded a goal. You’re looking at around 370 minutes of football there. For perspective, England conceded 2 goals in 12 minutes to Iceland, so aye. Newly signed Bayern Munich defender Mats Hummels is justifying his £30m transfer fee by showing consistently solid performances for Germany, while Jerome Boateng looks a different player to the one who was kept out of the Man City team by Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott. Yikes.

At the other end of the spectrum, both Iceland and Portugal have conceded four goals. For Portugal, three of those goals came against Hungary, so they are no strangers to a defensive meltdown. Iceland will hope that their tenacity in attacking will see them through, as they have been known to park the sledge. While England and Wales couldn’t break them down, you would think that France have the attacking and midfield quality to do so.

CONCLUSIONS
With an overall goal difference of 6, both Germany and Belgium are winning the tournament on paper. Both teams know how to score goals, and their impressive defensive records show that cohesion and understanding is high in both camps, perhaps this is due to both squads having played together at youth and professional level for, in some cases, well over a decade. Maybe this explains why the England side never prospers. Alternatively, under-performing England players may be being punished for their sins in a past life, or at least that’s what Glenn Hoddle might say.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

DEAR ALS
TO THE FANS

Dear ALS

It was back in those far flung days, long before Stuart Hall was revealed as a pervert, and the BBC was an organisation with our best interests at heart. The days of It’s a Knockout now creepily idiosyncratic. The days of the long, entertaining and joyous road to Wembley on TV for a team lined up against the might of Leeds United. A truly David and Goliath encounter that no-one doubted the outcome. I too sat and watched more for the fun on display than any serious interest in the match. I sat giggling at the antics of the giant puppets occupied by the citizens from the respective finalists gave friendly and competitive battle.

After the fun it got serious as the kick off loomed. Interviews were made with the pundits of the day, the experts and the punters were all of the same frame of mind, how many were the invincible Leeds United going to win by.

Then there appeared on screen this man sat on the train, to me as a boy he looked quite elderly but was probably in his forties with his cloth cap and long overcoat he sat passively on his journey to watch his beloved team Sunderland FC. It may well have been his first time to the Capital, for me, I had never been nor had any inclination to until this frail-looking, humble man spoke when asked by the interviewer in a clipped and noticeably condescending accent who he thought would win in the final.

The man removed his cap, aware he was on camera and talking to people at home and leaned forward slightly and quietly and unassumingly replied. ‘My head tells me Leeds, but my heart says Sunderland.’ And that was that. I remarked to my dad (God rest him). ‘I’m supporting Sunderland dad.’ Good for you son he commented, most likely smiling at the naivety and innocence of the still very young.

But as we all know what happened on that extraordinary afternoon and the quite extraordinary scenes of the beautiful Bob Stoke, (God rest him) overjoyed and running across that pitch as if wings were on his feet to celebrate with a bunch of lads who with heart and courage seldom seen with footballers snatched victory for all the no-hopers in a world dominated by the mighty and they had been humbled and hope for the masses of ordinary people had been restored.

It has not been an easy journey supporting Sunderland especially in a place like Belfast. I catch glimpses of that fateful day in the army of Man United and Liverpool shirts and the same condescension when it comes to our encounters with them. Some things will never change, like my support for SAFC.

Laurence Todd

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

DREADFUL DEFENDERS
BY JOSHUA CARR

THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON 

Over the years we’ve signed some fantastic defenders. The likes of Mickey Gray and Danny Rose have graced our left side, John Mensah and Jody Craddock have stood strong at centre back and Chris Makin and Phil Bardsley have impressed on the right side.

But since the Premier League started in 1992 we have signed many more dreadful defenders than decent ones. So many that you could probably fill all the pages in this magazine and still have a few players left over.

So, who are the worst defenders to wear the red and white shirt in the Premier League?

Marcos Angeleri
Where better to start than with the “beautiful Argentine”? Angeleri made a mere 3 appearances for the lads and it’s no mystery why. Despite featuring so little, we all have fond memories of the Argentine.

His saving grace was his beautiful, black locks, reminiscent of a member of Hanson but with a beard. You could almost forgive him when he made his final appearance for Sunderland and fell over the ball within seconds of coming off the bench.

My fondest memory of the Argentine comes during a pre-season game v Benfica in the Algarve. Angeleri had the ball at the corner flag and instead of clearing it, he weaved his way towards our goal, taking on 3 Benfica players before trying to clear the ball in a panic, directing his clearance at the bemused Simon Mignolet. Angeleri is currently a regular in the Malaga side, which is completely baffling if you ask me.

Ondrej Celustka
Despite having an outstanding debut against Fulham, this Czech Republic international right back, who was signed on a season-long loan under Paolo di Canio, soon saw his Sunderland career go right down the pan. He was slow, didn’t do much when he had the ball, and wasn’t actually very good at defending.

Somehow the defender did make an incredible 21 performances and was an unused substitute in our 3-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup Final. It makes you wonder why we don’t delve into the academy, when we sign players like this.

Calum Davenport
Calum Davenport began his career at Coventry and made a great impression in his 75 appearances for the Sky Blues. But after he left to move on to bigger and better things, the controversial defender never made more than 20 appearances for any of his future sides.

Davenport never really brought anything to the table and seemed a pretty pointless signing. He managed just 8 appearances for the Black Cats and it is safe to say he is better known for his off-field antics.

On his return to West Ham, Davenport was charged with assaulting his sister before he and his mother were both stabbed in the legs by two attackers. His career then came to a sudden halt and he ended up playing for amateur side Elstow Abbey, where he was later expelled for allegedly assaulting a teammate. Clearly a radge packet!

Wayne Bridge
Some of you may forget we once possessed a weary looking Wayne Bridge at left back. You would be forgiven for not noticing, as all he seemed to be was a name to fill the team sheet.

Bridge had a glistening career at Southampton before being snapped up by Chelsea where his career began to spiral out of control. Manchester City tried to save him but ended up shipping him out on loan. One of the teams at the receiving end was Sunderland.

His eight appearances were completely forgettable and when he left I don’t think one Sunderland fan batted an eyelid. He merely faded into the abyss, and retired after being released by Reading in 2014.

Sortirios Kyrgiakos
The wild Greek defender was anything but the calming influence Sunderland needed in their defence. Apparently, he was only signed because there were worrying rumours that Marcos Angeleri wanted to leave Wearside because he had no one to compare hair products with.

It is maybe harsh to describe Kyrgiakos as one of the worst defenders ever to wear a red and white shirt in the Premier League era as he only made three appearances. However, it is probably also a good thing we never got to see more of the clumsy Greek defender.

Kyrgiakos went on to sign for semi-professional side Sydney Olympic where he made just two appearances.

Paul McShane
I don’t know if it’s just me but it amazes me how Paul McShane is regarded by Hull fans as a decent defender. The Irish defender was signed for £1.5m under Roy Keane and made 24 appearances for Sunderland.

Of what I remember, his career on Wearside was littered with mistakes and he would probably fit perfectly into our current calamitous defence. This makes it even more incredible that he has made 31 appearances for his country.

The honey monster lookalike is currently lighting up Reading’s defence in the Championship.

Andrea Dossena
Dossena was another one of Paolo Di Canio and Roberto De Fanti’s odd signings. Although, it was one the Sunderland fans were slightly optimistic about. For the first time in a long time we’d signed a genuine, left footed, left back.

The Italian had enjoyed impressive spells at Udinese, Liverpool and Napoli before signing for Sunderland. And After a solid performance in the fiery 2013 2-1 derby day victory, Sunderland fans had every right to be optimistic.

But just one game later, Dossena proved what a poor defender he was. After cyphering down David Meyler at Hull, the mad Italian was sent off, and from that moment on, he seemed to lose the plot in every game. Almost as if hacking down wingers was something of a hobby.

There are so many more names that could be added to this list. Unfortunately the likes of Titus Bramble, Carlos Cuellar, Greg Halford and Pascal Chimbonda didn’t quite make it. Nor did the likes of Talal El Karkouri or Tal Ben Haim. I’m going to have to stop this because it’s just becoming embarrassing…

It is incredible how easy it is to compile a list of horrendous defenders who have donned the Red and White. It would be our wildest dream to one day possess a defence complete with quality.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

STAY SAM...
DEALS BUILDING

Sam Allardyce is concentrating on that task ahead at Sunderland, despite being third favourite for the England manager's job. Allardyce said: "I think for me, I had the experience a few years ago when I was at Bolton and I think I'm focusing on Sunderland at the moment. That (the England job) isn't on my mind. At the moment, my focus is on Sunderland."

Next England Manager Betting: 7/4 Gareth Southgate; 7/1 Harry Redknapp; 9/1 Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew; 10/1 Eddie Howe; 12/1 Alan Shearer, Glenn Hoddle; 16/1 Gus Hiddink, Gary Neville, Laurent Blanc.

Jermain Defoe reckons that Big Sam could do well with England, while admitting he wants him to stay at Sunderland. Defoe said: “He (Allardyce) should be (linked with the England job), although I hope he doesn’t leave Sunderland. I’ve always known about Sam, but it’s only when you play for a manager that you actually realise what they bring to a team and what they bring to a dressing room. I remember when I was young, at West Ham, playing against his Bolton team and travelling up to the stadium thinking ‘It’s going to be a difficult one against Sam’s team’. It was so direct, and we always used to say it was a horrible way of playing, but so effective. He came into Sunderland and gave us the basis of how to win games, and that was it. He didn’t really complicate anything. On a Thursday, he would do the team shape and say, ‘This is what I want’ and ‘This is how we are going to win today’. It was always different depending on who we were playing against. ‘This is how I feel like we are going to win’. He could transfer that (to England), 100 per cent. If you look at the players we’ve got, especially the young players with the legs and the energy, then 100 per cent (he could do it). Obviously I want him to stay at Sunderland, but maybe he could do both.”
 
In other news, Emanuele Giaccherini, who is doing so well at the Euros, would love to join his national team manager, Antonio Conte, at Chelsea this summer, his agent has revealed. "I'd like to see him at Fiorentina, undoubtedly, but we have other situations at stake now. This is probably the high point of Giaccherini's career. If Conte calls, we'll fly to Chelsea."

Meanwhile, Giaccherini reckons his own pre-match speech helped Italy to a 2-0 win over Spain! "I made the speech to the players before the game, telling them we needed heart because tactics can only take you so far, and we had heart. A different player makes the pre-match speech every time as we are a group and everyone plays their part. "It should’ve been more than 2-0,” he continued. “We suffered towards the end of the second half, as we got too deep and they have exceptional players. We had so many chances and could certainly have finished it earlier.”

Now some good news, Rubin Kazan manager Javi Gracia reckons he doesn't want Yann M’Vila in his squad next season, despite M’Vila returning to Kazan last week for pre-season training. So fingers crossed we can do a deal with the Russians. “When I arrived at Kazan, there was a list of players to train with the first team,” said Gracia. “They were not included on that list. I can’t say at all that I am unhappy with them, they just weren’t on the list.”

Elsewhere, Marseille are also in for Sunderland target, Bafetimbi Gomis, who Swansea are looking to move on.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

TWO EURO EXITS IN A WEEK
BY FRANCIS TODD MALONE

Now the dust has settled, or more accurately, with the shit dried nicely on the walls and desks of the FA's headquarters having been flung there by an Iceland-shaped fan last night, what can we make of England's Euro 2016 campaign?

The latest exit from a tournament was not unexpected - but the manner in which it happened was. After qualifying impressively and raising hopes with a few decent pre-tournament results, England failed to find form in Group B, and - although they got out of it - a failure to win the group meant a tricky run of games awaited. That was assuming we beat Iceland, which was universally fancied given our supposed quality and resources and the fact that they are part-timers, plucky underdogs, glad to be here and all that.

As we all know, it didn't pan out that way. Within a quarter of an hour of getting the early goal they wanted, England found themselves trailing to a couple of soft goals. Then, with confidence drained and fearing the reaction if they went out, Hodgson's men showed a woeful lack of confidence and quality. Although some of them clearly had the desire to take control and try to bring about a change in fortune, they weren't up to it, consistently making the wrong decisions and failing even to do the basic things right. Crossing - a weak spot all tournament - got even worse, as did the shooting, while the introduction of the promising Marcus Rashford came too late. 

Of course, upsets happen in international football just as they do in the domestic game. There have been some bad England performances over the last 30+ years and in Nice the Three Lions looked relations of the one on the Wizard of Oz. None of this was lost on the punters. The phone-in shows which specialise in giving irate punters a platform to spout off after a disappointing defeat were doing good business - and for a change the callers were not OTT with their reactions. A quick glance at the ratings given to the players by some of Fleet Street's finest backed them up.

It was only minutes after the final whistle that Roy Hodgson was reading a statement announcing he was offski. Apparently the players had been fantastic and committed to the cause. Really Roy? Apparently he had written his farewell speech in the dressing room after the game too. Again, really Roy? Maybe he can rustle up a sequel to War and Peace while having his morning dump too. Clearly Hodgson's been around a bit but I'd wager a farewell speech is at the bottom of a manager's list of priorities in the immediate aftermath of crashing out of a big tournament. It's not controversial to suggest he feared the worst and was well prepared for it, just like the FA - who weren't far behind with their own statement. 

Who next? There are a lot of depressing names around. Pardiola is among the bookies' favourites, while Shearer threw his hat into the ring, speaking of experience. I've not heard Big Sam's name mentioned, which is just fine by me. Keep your grubby mitts off our man. 

Arsene Wenger looks to be a good fit. He's someone who would have no problems commanding the respect of players, meaning the days of knowing what our team will be 24 hours before the game, thanks to a mole in the England camp, would be gone. Has to be a good thing. The FA could offer the Frenchman an easy route out of a job where he seems to be increasingly unappreciated. Gareth Southgate and Gary Neville could learn a lot working alongside this guy, someone with serious experience and knowledge. He'll make sure his players know exactly what's needed of them - and they'll grow in stature as a result. Okay, so it might mean we start seeing a bit more of Theo Walcott again - but is that such a bad thing if it's at the expense of Raheem Sterling?

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

KNEE JERK REACTION
BY SOBS

A "knee jerk reaction" said the gaffer. Fairly obvious, I thought, after another in a long line of England exits that make following Sunderland sort of understandable and a lot more than acceptable.

We'd seen the reaction to qualifying after all those changes, and it generally wasn't pleasant. But we were through. Roy could pick his bestest chaps, apart from Lallana, who'd got some ice stuck on his foot. Well, shit happens in major tournaments, and folks have to deal with it. Apart from Germany, because they plan too well, despite their flamboyant hairdos and all of those tattoos. Priorities? You decide.

Of course we were favourites. More people live in Leicester than Iceland, so there was no way they'd get the better of us. OK, he's unsure of the attack, but the defence is sound- or so we thought.

If you'd ordered a pint of Guinness at kickoff, you'd have been lucky to have knocked the froth off before Iceland levelled. Everybody's current fall guy, Sterling, has been comprehensively flattened by the keeper and the ref said pen. Rooney fired into in the corner with a      couple of minutes gone, and we quite naturally expected a deluge of goals. Sterling was sort of doing what he'd been picked to do, and was a nuisance, but a nuisance with no final ball or shot.

Did we get it? Oh no we didn't. There was plenty of attacking play, and a few choice saves by the Icelandic keeper, but most of the time we were fearing another defensive no-show like the equaliser, when our back post had been left woefully bereft of white shirts to allow the easiest of finishes. For all the possession there were precious few clear-cut opportunities, and as the clock struck 18, what looked like a fairly harmless shot from the edge of the box went through a few legs and, not for the first time this tournament, trundled into the net in a cloud of dandruff. Howler.

Still, well over an hour to go, I thought as I dodged and weaved to see the big screen past the West Ham shirt that continually moved instinctively to obscure my view.

Roy brought on Wilshire at the break, then Vardy, then Rashord (for Rooney, who at least had looked interested) but reverted to Kane, who's second half showing was abysmal, taking corners and shooting from free kicks over 40 yards out. Corners? Why, when Wilshire was on the field?

Last time I'd watched a game in the Scillonian Club (Portugal's 1-0 the other day doesn't count), it was in the company of a dozen German yachtsmen as their team dismantled Brazil a couple of years ago. This time, there was only one tipsy lady who kept shouting "come on Iceland" but I strongly suspect that I was the only person in the room to have actually visited the land of fire and ice (Ferryhill) and Iceland.

You do wonder what the coaches spend their time doing in the England camp, as players ran into each other and misplaced passes, but it certainly doesn't appear to be the basics of team play.

I'll not tire you with my detailed analysis of individual performances save to ask why Smalling continually risks penalties by shirt-pulling in every challenge in the box, and where Cahill was for the first goal. The rest? Disjointed is the nicest I can be. Sturridge had to come far too deep to get the ball, and Vardy, again, had a crowded box to run into.

Now Roy has handed in his letter of resignation (I wonder when that was written) and will be standing behind David Cameron in the dole queue shortly, that's another tournament of inexcusable inefficiency from England. I stood up for them and the manager after the last game, but I won't stand up for them after failing to dispatch a team from a nation with a population smaller the Leicester. Whatever your opinion of Roy's team selection and tactics, you have to question the disorganization that the Prem's best bunch of Englishmen displayed. They managed 17 shots, sure, but only four were on target and one of those was the penalty. It's easy for me to say, but Defoe and Townsend represent a simplicity that was shamefully lacking. Shoot when you see the goal, run in straight lines at the opposing defence.

The future? For me, it's seven o'clock and the sun's out, so I'm ok. For England, another over-badged dullard who hasn't cracked top- level management awaits. Gareth Southgate was a cracking player and seems like a nice enough bloke, but....aww, ha'way.

Anyway, my cousin Lily's grandma was Welsh, so I'm swapping allegiance until they show their essential Englishness and crash out in a cloud of shredded leeks - look, they can't be that good, cos England beat them.

Anybody want to buy an England shirt?

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

SPAIN V ITALY, 27TH JUNE 2016
BY IAN MOLE (LINES FROM LONDON)

Bradley’s Spanish Bar in Hanway Street W1 is my favourite bar down here and the main barman impressed me by remembering after just one brief meeting what I usually drink and which team I support. As I strolled in at around 4.30 he had the pint of Mahou flowing without me asking and announced, “He’s not playing!” He was referring to Giaccherini but quickly corrected himself as Emanuele’s face appeared onscreen. There were a lot of Spanish fans present as kick-off approached and their side was unchanged yet again. Spain had a good idea maybe when they decided not to have any words for their national anthem but I was impressed with the way all the Italians belted theirs out as if their lives depended on it. I had to try to hang on to five seats for some new American relatives of mine and that can be tricky in a busy bar.

There were some cries of “Vamos!” (Haway!) as the game started but it was Italy who really got going from the off. Despite the sudden pouring rain, which caused several players to slip, the Italians looked like they really meant business and their domination culminated in an eleventh minute overhead kick from Giaccherini that De Gea did well to save before it was booted off the line. A London guy near me announced, “This is just Italy kicking the ball around” and the Spanish fans in the bar were ominously silent. After about twenty minutes Spain started to get back into it and just before the half-hour they mustered their first decent shot on target. This renaissance was short-lived as Italy soon won a couple of corners and then a free-kick in a dangerous position. The kick was shot low and De Gea managed to block it but as Giaccherini raced in to pounce on the rebound he was brought down by De Gea and in the melee it broke loose to Chiellini who smashed it in from close range. My Americans folks had meanwhile arrived and squeezed themselves in next to me and one of them looked a bit alarmed as I showed my approval of the goal. I don’t know what Giaccherini’s plans are but after getting the Man of the Match award in his first match in this tournament he was again playing great, rounding off a fine first-half performance by lashing in a shot that De Gea did well to tip out for a corner. As far as I recall Giacchs was already out of the picture before Big Sam arrived so I hope they’ll be having serious talks soon.

Because of the cramped nature of the room and the fact that I was sitting right next to the bar I began to be called upon to assist sundry patrons with their orders, passing pints over heads and forwarding payment and change in opposite directions. I noticed that a few of the Spanish lads also spoke very natural English and were probably second or third generation. 

Spain had a very good chance three minutes into the second-half but Morata headed straight at Buffon in goal. Cries of “Puta!” (whore, but really a catch-all term of abuse) began to be uttered around the bar from then on and the mood among the Spanish fans near me was reminiscent of that in the Roker End and at the SoL for too many matches over the last five decades of my attendance. Spain had a few short decent spells but the Italians looked controlled and very sharp on the break. Vasquez replaced Morata with twenty minutes to go and this was met with great approval in the bar and as time ticked away Spain produced two very good chances, firstly a long-distance Iniesta shot that Buffon tipped over and then a Pique effort that was well-saved. The youngest of my American rellies knew a great deal about Premier League football but it was all rather new to his parents. I think I’ve sown the seed of affection for SAFC in them but maybe I shouldn’t have.. Spain were having a go but they didn’t look really threatening and the mood in the bar continued to be sombre. Four minutes of stoppage-time were announced and rather than sit on their slender lead, Italy powered forward and scored a great second goal. The Spanish were stretched and there was oceans of space down their right as the ball came over and was promptly passed back across the box. It took a slight deflection off a defender on the way and that was just enough to place it in front of the onrunning Pelle, who whacked it home. Several Spanish lads next to me promptly stood up and left. So, it ended 2-0 and despite being labelled by some Italian pundits as the worst squad ever/the last fifty years etc, this Italian side are into the last eight and are going to take some stopping.

If you’re in London and want to watch the Germany v Italy match on Saturday evening with a load of Italian fans, I recommend in the street outside Bar Italia in Soho. It’s only a little telly but the atmosphere is great.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

ENGLAND V ICELAND, 27TH JUNE 2016
BY IAN MOLE (LINES FROM LONDON)

If England win, I feel a vague glow in my mind but if they (not ‘we’, notice) lose, I don’t care. What I don’t like about a lot of England fans is this delusional belief that England are a top team. Apart from the World Cup in 1990 and the Euros in 1996 there’s been precious little evidence of this since 1966 and that’s a very long time ago. The Italians were saying before this tournament that their current squad is the worst ever; well, I’d swap them for the England squad any day. So, I didn’t care whether England won or not as I made my way to the Nordic Bar in Newman Street W1. I knew it was a place where Scandinavian fans gathered to watch big matches and as soon as I walked in I could see men and women wearing Viking horned helmets and looking full of hell. I got a pint of super cold Carlsberg (£4 a pop, which is very cheap for here) and threaded my way through the buzzing crowd to a rear area. I got a good standing spot with a decent view of a screen and there was a mix of England and Iceland fans around me; they were all speaking English.

As for the match, all the important action occurred within the first eighteen minutes. Four minutes in, England won what to me looked like a bit of a soft penalty and Rooney struck it well to put England one-up. I thought that would knock the stuffing out of the Icelanders but quite the opposite as within a minute or so they were level through a classic poacher’s goal from Sigurdsson (R). There was much roaring all around me with cries of “EECE-LAND” and maybe it’s the Viking genes in me but I have to say that I felt a bit pleased. England won a couple of corners in a row but it was Iceland who took the lead when Sigthorsson struck a low shot that Hart really should have stopped. On the telly, the Iceland fans had a scary chant that got progressively louder and sounded like “OO-AH!” Hmm, it doesn’t look very scary on the page but it spooked me a bit anyway. For both of their goals England’s defending left a great deal to be desired. Given what happened in the matches against Slovakia and Russia, it wasn’t hard to imagine how the rest of the game would pan out i.e. Iceland would play deep and defend their lead and England would struggle to break them down. That’s exactly what happened and despite having much more of the ball, Iceland’s goal was rarely threatened. Wilshere came on for the second-half and then Vardy replaced Sterling on the hour but things were going from bad to worse with lousy shooting and little in the way of inspiration. It wasn’t till Rashford replaced Rooney with four minutes on the clock that there was a spark but it was clear that an equalizer wasn’t going to come. How can a country with the population (forget Leicester) of Sunderland manage to defeat a team from a population of sixty-odd million? I don’t know for sure but team-spirit and the will to win must be major factors and I didn’t see much of that from England’s players. The Iceland fans in the bar were lashing down lots of bottles of Einstok Icelandic White Ale and getting stuck into all manner of meaty and fishy snacks as I left them to it.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

SAFC CONFIRMS VENUES FOR PRE-SEASON GAMES
NEUTRAL VENUES

The venues for Sunderland AFC’s trio of games in France next month have now been confirmed. The week-long trip begins when the Black Cats take on FC Stade Nyonnais on Monday 25 July, followed by Dijon FCO on Wednesday 27 July. Both games will take place at the Stade Camille-Fournier, Évian-les-Bains. The tour concludes with a fixture against Montpellier HSC on Saturday 30 July, at the Stade Jacques Forestier in Aix-les-Bains. The three stadia are located in and around the Lake Geneva area and are neutral venues, not the home stadia of the teams involved. Tickets will be priced at £12 for adults and £6 for under 16s and over 65s.

ALS are running travel to these games and will announce hotel deals ASAP click here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

MY SUNDERLAND PREMIER LEAGUE XI
BY CRAIG CLARK
THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON 

I was born in 1986 so the vast majority of my footballing life has been dominated by the existence of the Premier League. Sunderland have also spent a decent amount of time in the top tier of English football since 1992, so I thought it might be interesting to make up a team of players who have made the most appearances in a Sunderland shirt in the Premier League in their respective positions. Here it is.

Goalkeeper: Thomas Sorensen
A hugely popular figure with the Stadium of Light crowd, the big Dane’s Sunderland career is best remembered for THAT penalty save at St James Park. Not only did it prevent Alan Shearer from scoring, it pretty much secured three points in the process. That aside, he racked up 126 top flight appearances for the club, putting him some way ahead of nearest rival for the position, Simon Mignolet.

Right Back: Phil Bardsley
Bardo currently holds the record for the most number of appearances in the Premier League for the Lads. After Roy Keane signed him for a paltry £1m, he saw managers come and go with alarming frequency, yet almost always finding a way into their sides. I was among his critics, but it’s hard not to look back on his time here with some fondness. He gave me one of the best moments of my Sunderland supporting life when he equalised in the League Cup semi-final at Old Trafford, which also marked the completion of his redemption after being frozen out by Paolo Di Canio.

Left Back: Mickey Gray
It’s always nice to see a local lad do well and Mickey certainly did that. His partnership with Allan Johnston was a joy to behold. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see him link up with Magic in the top flight, but Gray continued to be an impressive force without him. His ability to overlap and provide crosses for Quinn and Phillips to thrive on was one of the driving forces behind our two consecutive seventh place finishes under Peter Reid.

Central Defender: John O’Shea (captain)
A mainstay in our defence, O’Shea recently reached a personal milestone by playing his 400th Premier League game. The Irishman has come in for some stick during his time at Sunderland, but when he eventually calls time on his spell at the club, I think he’ll be remembered with affection. His importance to the side is most evident when he’s missing. Without him in the team, our defence has the solidity of a blancmange. He may not be the quickest, but he’s certainly a leader with a quick mind, and that makes him the obvious choice to captain the side.

Central Defender: Jody Craddock
To create a team of players in their correct positions, I had to overlook one or two wingers who made more appearances than Jody, but at least he’s not an unwelcome inclusion. Craddock is a likeable lad who played a vital role at the back during the Peter Reid years. Not only did he put in one of the greatest recovery tackles I’ve ever seen at the Stadium of Light, unfortunately I can’t remember the opposition or division we were in, he also seems like a top bloke. It was great to see him recognised with a Wolves testimonial involving a Sunderland XI not so long ago.

Right Midfield: Sebastian Larsson
Seb’s best years at Sunderland have come in central midfield, but he was signed by Steve Bruce to play on the right hand side. It’s a position he’s more than comfortable in, having made the majority of his international appearances for Sweden as a wide player. He hasn’t always been a popular figure amongst the Stadium of Light faithful, but his work rate and energy have finally won just about everyone over, earning him the player of the season award in 2014/15.

Left Midfield: Kieran Richardson
Like Larsson, Richardson was signed to play on the wing, before being played in just about every other position but that one. Not quite a central midfielder, a number 10 or a winger, he was probably best as a full back. His electric pace was undermined by wayward passing making him a frustrating player to watch. I was quite surprised to see he’d made 134 top flight appearances for Sunderland, comfortably making it into this team. Whilst he wasn’t always loved here, he’ll never be forgotten for that incredible free kick that broke our home hoodoo against the Mags.

Central Midfield: Lee Cattermole
A firm favourite amongst the vast majority of Sunderland fans, Cattermole will surely break Bardsley’s Premier League appearance record before his career on Wearside is over. What is there to say about the Teessider that hasn’t already been said, and frankly, what’s not to like?

Central Midfield: Jack Colback
An unfortunate blight on this team, I had to check my calculator several times before I admitted defeat and let him in! Best remembered for shushing St James Park after scoring in one of our countless 3-0 wins over them.

Striker: Kevin Phillips
Whether he was your favourite or not, Phillips is undoubtedly the best player we’ve had in the top flight in recent history. Alongside Quinn, he was an unstoppable force of goals, sticking them away with right foot, left foot, head, knee and knob. He was just as comfortable scoring a wonder goal from 30 yards as he was tapping them in from in the six yard box. Chips, lobs, long range screamers, all our players had to do was give the man a sniff of an opportunity and the ball would find the net. In fact, he scored so many goals that he won the European Golden Shoe in the 1999/2000 season, which was a quite incredible feat.

Striker Niall Quinn
One of the most important men in the club’s history and not just as a player; without Saint Niall we probably wouldn’t even be in the Championship let alone the Premier League. Whilst things didn’t start well for him as a player in our final season at Roker Park, he was simply incredible once he’d overcome his injuries. He formed the perfect partnership with Phillips, proving to be a real touch of class. An incredible player and it’s fitting that he leads the line in this XI.

Subs Bench
In order to create a balanced bench, I’ve left one or two out who made higher appearances than those listed. You’ve got to have at least one striker on there.

Simon Mignolet, Darren Williams, Gavin McCann, Kevin Kilbane, Steed Malbranque, Kenwyne Jones

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE FOOTY FAN
BY SOBS

THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON 

Apparently, there’s a formula which is used to generate the Premier League fixture list, one that contains algorithms which take into account who’s playing in the Europa League on a Thursday, or Champions League on a Tuesday, how tall the kit man is, and who you’re playing the week before or the week after. Very clever, you say, until both SAFC v Swansea fixtures this season are on a Tuesday, and the Welsh version is four days before our trip to Spurs. Is that really the best option the formula can come up with? Anyway, it can’t be expected to cope with the FA Cup draw, so the trip to Arsenal three days before we go to Swansea means that those attending all three games will rack up 1785 miles in eight days. Nearly as far as Gareth Hall could trap a ball.

Of course, mad fixture combinations are nothing new, our last three games at Palace have been on a Monday night, for instance, so it occurred to me to have a look at marathon efforts put in by our fans over the years. For the sake of my calculator, I’ve assumed that everyone starts in SR5, in our madness have decided to follow Sunderland to the ends of the earth whatever the day of the week, and have taken a week to be Saturday to Saturday. I’ve also used the current road network, which includes many more motorway miles than it did in days of yore, so most of these journeys would actually have been longer than indicated as I waffle on.

Take, for instance, December 1970, when we travelled 306 miles to Cardiff on the 12th to see Joe Baker’s consolation in a 1-3 defeat, with Richie Pitt scoring at the wrong end, before going 267 miles to Watford. Alan Brown replaced Martin Harvey and Baker with Cec Irwin and Dave Watson a week later, and we held on for a 1-1 draw after Dave Watson’s debut goal, in the days when he was the forward Alan Brown had signed him as, was equalised by a late penalty. Watford included Ray Lugg and Ron Wigg, names straight out of Roy of the Rovers. Colin Todd played in both games; two months before we received a club record £175,000 from Brian Clough at Derby for him. As Clough had managed Toddo and the rest of our youth team that won the Youth Cup in 1967, he obviously knew he was worth it. That was 1148 miles all told.

Ten months later, in October 16th 1971, there was a 203 mile trip to St Andrews to see Bobby Kerr’s 6th minute strike equalised by Bob Latchford seven minutes later, which was followed by a Tuesday in Charlton, where a 2-2 draw was gained thanks another 6th minute strike, this time from Billy Hughes, and another late in the first half by Phil Warman. Never heard of him? That’s because it was an OG, and four days later we were at Oxford, losing 0-2, and completing a round 1500 miles for the week. Eight men played in all three games, and only one substitute was available.

A decent cup run obviously necessitates the rearrangement of league games, which is why on the Monday 7th May 1973 a Vic Halom equaliser earned us a draw at Cardiff, a week after David Young’s only Sunderland goal, after just two minutes, won a point at Orient with debutant Trevor Swinburne in goal, and Ian Bowyer featuring for the home side. In between those games was a quick trip to Wembley to bring back the FA Cup and make a total of 1702 miles that week. Only fourteen players were used over the three games, proving that they were fitter, tougher, and dafter than their modern counterparts and probably didn't moan as much and just got on with it!

Our first away game of the ’75-76 season was at Bristol City on Tuesday August 19th, a shambolic defensive display that proved Jackie Ashurst was no full-back, and Trevor Swinburne had picked the ball out of the net in front of the unhappy few huddled on the terraces twice in the first half. It resulted in a miserable 0-3 defeat and an equally miserable overnight journey home, unless you went camping in Cornwall, as some of the Trimdon lads did. For them, that made a slightly shorter journey to Oxford on the Saturday, where Bob Stokoe replaced Swinburne, Ashurst, Longhorn, and Porterfield with Monty, Malone, Towers, and Tommy Gibb (aye, Tommy Gibb). Bobby Moncur’s first Sunderland goal, watched through a Pernod-induced haze by certain sections of the visiting fans, was equalised in the last minute by Derek Clarke, brother of Richie Pitt’s mate Allan, to earn us a point. A mere 1228 miles, or 1330 hitchhiking and 30 by bus if you happen to be writing this. Pfft.

Fast forward a few seasons to Easter Monday 1980 and we’d had two days to celebrate beating the Mags with a Stan Cummins goal as we travelled to Wrexham with promotion in mind. Alan Brown scored the only goal, which was nice, as we had to go the Shrewsbury the next day, which was more than a bit mad. Even madder was that nine of the Lads played in all three games, and two of them, Pop Robson and Stan Cummins, scored in a memorable 2-1 win. The round trip was 836 miles, but if you had access to a car, a tent, a day off work, and a willingness to spend the night in the Welsh Marches, you could do it in a loop of 440 miles. Double pfft.

The madness of the fixture list reared its ugly head again in February 1995, with us sitting in 21st place (of 24, so not a good place to be with four to go down) in the second tier, as it took us to Watford on Tuesday 21st. Mick Buxton’s team, on paper (insert usual joke here about grass) looked strong enough to win, and they did, thanks to Craig Russell’s early goal, moving us out of the relegation zone. Watford’s squad included the fabulously named Perry Digweed as an unused substitute goalkeeper, of whom a Watford fan once said “I’m going to ask Digweed for his gloves. I’ll do the washing up in them.” Someone who did play against us that day was a short-house striker called Kevin Phillips. Whatever happened to him? Saturday 25th saw us trek to Southend, avoid Eastenders on a short break, and this time it was Steve Agnew’s turn to score. His goal at the end of the first half lifted us to the lofty heights of 17th, and, for the record, a total of only 12,875 watched the two games, Peter Reid came in and kept us up despite having to play Brett Angell, and we travelled 1,020 miles that week.

In October 2000, the fixture computer could hardly be blamed for the League Cup draw, which sent us to Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Ground. Those of us who remembered Eastville as dilapidated could understand the move to Twerton Park in Bath and the subsequent share with the Rugby Club at “the Mem”. In League two at the time of this visit, they had a lively forward by the name of Nathan Ellington, and it took Don Hutchison’s first goals for us either side of his strike, all in the second half, to get us to the next round. That was on a wet Tuesday 31st, and four days later we were at Spurs, where Hutch scored again. Unfortunately, they scored twice to win, but at least the delightful Ben Thatcher was sent off for a nasty challenge in the last minute. That raised the second loudest cheer of the day from the away end, who remembered his assault on Nicky Summerbee when we played Wimbledon at Selhurst. When it comes to holding a grudge, we’re bloody good, and at least it gave us something to smile about on the last 275 of the 1,150 miles travelled that week.

Let’s finish this off with a London double. With games a whole week apart, it just sneaks in as awkward, as, over the years, you get used to travelling to the capital on consecutive weekends. On April 20th 2002 we were in a precarious 15th in the Prem when we nipped down to West Ham. We were rubbish, and Joe Cole tore us apart, having already having a goal incorrectly ruled offside before setting up Trevor Sinclair for the first half opener. Why did we never sign him? Steve Lomas and Jermain Defoe (who?) finished us off, meaning we were in 17th place when we fetched up at Charlton on the 27th. There were four changes, and by the time we’d found our seats it was 1-1, with Kilbane equalising Euell’s first minute goal in the second. Phillips put us ahead in the 11th, and it looked like we might claim all three points until Lisbie became the third Kevin to score that day (surely a record?) with less than ten minutes to go. The point lifted us to 17th, where we stayed for the rest of the season, preserving our Premier League status for another season. 1116 miles travelled.

So, of all the marathon journeys we’ve made in support of the Lads, and we’ll leave out the obvious trips to pre-season jollies in mad places like the west coast of the USA and Singapore, the first one of 2016 is the longest, but only by some 83 miles or so, of those I’ve remembered. There might well be some other long-distance nightmares that I’ve overlooked, because a) even I’m not old enough to bring them to mind, b) because I’ve simply forgotten them, or c) they were just so horrible that my mind refuses to cope with them. I vaguely remember a game being hastily rearranged at Selhurst Park about fifteen or sixteen years ago after the weather got in the way, necessitating two trips to Croydon, but I can’t work out when the original game was scheduled. Either way, there will have been many fans who made these journeys, as missing a game involving Sunderland is/was simply not an option.

Sunderland’s travelling Red and White army, we salute you.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

Out Of The Euros
By Sobs

Votes have been cast and counted. Democracy says that the UK no longer wants to be part of the European Union. This is a football /page/blog, so I'll refrain from making any political comments on this. Which I always do, because football and politics have nowt to do with each other (insert huge winky emoticon if desired).

However, the outcome, like it or not, could have huge repercussions on the English game - and probably the Scottish game as well (no, seriously). Sitting, as I am, in a compact and bijou holiday flat on Scilly, which is the furthest you can get from a league club (Plymouth, if you're asking) as you can get, taking a break between beach, pub, and whatever next, the implications of brexit on my football life should be the furthest thing from my tiny mind. But they're not. Euro considerations are now not how to get to our continental games this summer, but how to keep hold of our continental players.

Had we not been in the Euro, we'd not have been able to sign the likes of Vito, Kirchoff, Lens, M'Vila (having seen the Russian fans' antics in Marseille, do you wonder he allegedly kept an axe under his bed?), Borini, Kaboul, PVA (due to regulations concerning solvent content) and Toivinen? OK, mebbe forget big Ola, but you get my drift. Oh, and how would Arsenal have managed without bringing in 16-18 year-olds from abroad? That particular bit.might have meant better chances for British kids, and thus have given England a backhanded advantage in terms of an increase in decent players having the opportunity to get a break at an English club.

In the prem as a whole, there are 108 players who wouldn't have satisfied the criteria regarding the number of international games played to stay in that league. You might well say that gets shot of a lot of dross that has been clogging up the road to first team football for British players, which it does (bye bye, de Michaelis), but it also means that had we not been in the Euro, Chelsea and City would simply been unable to win the trophies they have in the last few years. As for us, we'd probably have been knackered without the season-saving antics of Borini, Vito, PVA, Kirchoff, and a few others. Up the road, Magxit would have happened a few years earlier and the Quayside bars would have gone bust without the hordes of overpaid French poseurs masquerading as footballers.
It'll undoubtedly take a while for all, or indeed any, of these rules to kick in, and bearing in mind who owns Chelsea, don't bet against things staying exactly how they are. If, however, the song remains the same (copyright Led Zep, just in case), we, along with the rest of the league, and not just the Prem, will have to seriously change the way we recruit and buy players.

The decision has been made by the Electorate, and it was democratic. Like it or not, we have to live with it, and whatever else it brings as a consequence (think mad blond hair, ill-fitting suit, and someone already saying " Yoiks, well, we don't actually have to leave just yet, because I've got what I wanted and that's Dave's job. Blimey!") so football will have to change its way of thinking. Passports for Swansea, anyone? No, that would be silly.

Aside from that, day one of brexit has made Ellis Short's fortune 7.5% larger, as it has the fortunes of all American owners, so happy days. That's a few more Bridcutts to the pound.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

EUROS ROUNDUP
BY FRANCIS TODD MALONE

It's fair to say no team has stood out. Italy looked a class act in beating Belgium, who recovered from their setback with two wins you'd expect from a side with their quality. Germany's passing in their win over Ukraine was near enough perfect but they're not taking their chances, France have been little more than functional but - like Germany - have that 'will take something special to knock them out' air about them. Spain and Portugal? I wouldn't back either.

That said, Iceland's late goal against Austria was good news for England. Sure, they've proved they're no mugs - but it's fair to say they don't have a world beater in the Ronaldo bracket. He woke up against Hungary, just in time to torment Roy Hodgson's lot again, so it's a good job their paths won't cross in their next game.

As for England, it's the usual tournament story. Players who've looked decent week in, week out, in the company of some of the best players in the world pull on the Three Lions and don't perform. Harry Kane being the most blatant example. The bloke has been nigh on unplayable all season, blasting in goals from all angles and rarely failing to work the goalkeeper. Then he pulls on the Three Lions and goes all Lilian Laslandes, although you have to think 60+ games might have something to do with that. Not that it helped that he was given dead ball duties against Russia, not quite sure what that was all about. As for Jamie Vardy, most would have backed him tucking away his first-half chance against Slovakia - and they'd have lost.

England's best players so far? Dier, Lallana, Rose - in that order, I reckon. At the other end of the scale we've got the perpetually frustrating Raheem Sterling, whose underwhelming form looks to be due to a lack of confidence. Not something he's struggled with before.

Somewhere in between is Jordan Henderson, who looked all right to most of us against Slovakia and was credited for his display by well respected journos. He tried to make things happen, valued possession and pinged a couple of decent balls in, yet seemed to be the scapegoat for the result on social media. It's cretins like these that keep me detached from England. I can sort of accept over the top bobbins I see and hear about Sunderland after a bad show - but if it comes from our fans I can deal with their opinions, whether I agree or not. Reading the OTT ramblings of Reading, Exeter and Halifax fans bleating about players I couldn't give a toss about is a different story. Jordan's the exception though cos he's one of us isn't he? I'd love to see him prosper. Of course he's nowhere near the finished article but I don't recall too many world-beating performances in tournaments from the more experienced Gerrard and Lampard either.

Elsewhere, Croatia have been good to watch so far. Plenty of spirit, no little quality, and the wand of a left foot of Ivan Perisic, who's looked the part for Wolfsburg and Inter Milan but still represented too much of a risk for me to plonk him in my Fantasy League team - doh. Two goals already and it could have been more. It was great to see two of our former gaffers, Keano and Martin O'Neill, share a tender moment after they'd made Italy pay for resting nine of their regulars, while Wales, Northern Ireland, Iceland and Hungary have all bloodied the noses of those who thought they'd be the runts of their groups. If you want proper schmucks, Russia probably edge Austria, although they're more convincing winners off the pitch thanks to the exploits of their black-shirted bell-ends. Gumshields and calling cards? FFS.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

WHY DON’T CAMBODIANS PLAY FOOTBALL?
BY SOBS

THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON 

Why don’t Cambodians play football? Perhaps because an area the size of a football pitch contains on average 3.5 anti-personnel mines and 33 pieces of other unexploded ordnance. Beyond belief, really, and Sunderland businessman Alistair Newton, who visited the country recently, is doing the Fan-Dance in the Brecon Beacons (part of the SAS & SBS training schedule) in January to raise money to help rid Cambodia of this menace. He takes up the story…

I was aware of the situation before I arrived in Cambodia, having had many hair-raising Skype conversations with my nephew who works in forestry there (planting, not cutting down.) He told me they cleared an area for planting, and at the end of the week had a collection of unexploded mortar bombs, bullets, and larger ordnance to be disposed of. Frankly, he and his team were taking their lives and limbs in their hands, but if they didn’t do something about the explosives, they’d never get any work done. I knew a little of the history of the country, but wasn’t prepared for the reality.

Everywhere there were people suffering the consequences, be they amputees asking for help on the streets, or just getting on with it as best as they can. Whilst the deaths and injuries affecting people who weren’t even born when the landmines were laid are terrible, there are unseen consequences: huge areas of land in one of the earth’s most fertile regions cannot be farmed because of the risks, which leads to food shortages and malnutrition. 20% of all villages are contaminated by landmines and cluster munitions, which makes even going to school potentially lethal.

The Cambodians love football and I’ve sat in a bar with them in Phnom Penh watching Sunderland beat Southampton (May 2nd) and the noise was incredible, brilliant atmosphere! But all those mines make it a hell of a risk for any kids who want a kick-about. Their passion means that there are great talents going to waste, lads who could be playing Premier League football and making a difference back home. Imagine SAFC sponsoring one or two of those talents and bring them up to professional standards? The average income in Cambodia is £625 per year. How long would it take for a Cambodian footballer to change his family’s or village’s living conditions? Obviously, they’ve got to be safe to play football first, so they need the landmines and bombs cleared. We can help them do that.

The reason I’m supporting CMAC (Cambodian Mine Action Centre) is because it’s Cambodians helping themselves, not waiting for anyone else to get involved, but the country is so poor they need funding to pay for equipment and training.

A few facts: 2.7 million tonnes of bombs (including cluster munitions) were dropped on Cambodia during the Vietnam War, which they weren’t actually involved in, but no-one seemed to care. For comparison, it’s about the same size as the UK, with a population at the time of about 7 million. That’s 380kg of bombs per person. During WW2 just over 30,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped on the UK, and the Allies dropped 2 million tonnes of bombs in all theatres of war, Europe, Japan, Far East, Africa, etc.

There are estimated to be about 6 million landmines still buried in Cambodia, mainly in the north western provinces, but they are found everywhere. The problem is that there are very few maps of the minefields and the survivors who laid the mines in the first place cannot remember where they put them.

There are a reported 40,000 amputees in Cambodia, which is one of the highest rates in the world. The last official figures are from 2013 which showed that there were 111 casualties including 22 killed and 89 injured. But just last week I saw an article which reported (in the Phnom Penh Post) a little boy who found something while swimming in the local river. He’d taken it home in the hope that they could make a couple of dollars by selling it in the market. Unfortunately, it was a 40 year old US grenade which exploded, killing his mother and wounding him and his little sister. It’s hard to imagine how that boy feels. How is his dad going to look after 2 injured children, keep them fed and clothed, and earn an income? I don’t know how I would cope, and I’ve got all the advantages of an excellent modern healthcare system, trauma therapy, state benefits and so on. They don’t.

I was challenged by a friend to take part in the Fan Dance a couple of months ago. There will be a few of us in our team, which is basically from St. Andrews’ Church with me tacked on the end. We’re raising money for different things, and it seemed a perfect vehicle for me to help CMAC.

I’ve been touched by the friendliness and hospitality of the Khmer (Cambodian) people despite their situation and have every intention of helping make a difference in that beautiful country. I have a small business based in Sunderland, which is starting to operate in South East Asia, meaning that I’ll be in Cambodia a lot. Part of the plan is to create jobs for local people with which I shall have some help from a friend who, although he’s from the ‘dark side’ in Newcastle, is involved in a Social Enterprise Hub in Siem Reap (North Cambodia). Part of any profits will be donated to CMAC. There is also a bicycle challenge from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon, Vietnam) to Phnom Penh in spring next year which I’m contemplating. So, one way or another, my support for CMAC will be ongoing as they are doing a fantastic job in extremely difficult circumstances.

I was born in Sunderland and went to my first match, carried to Roker Park on my Dad’s shoulders, some 40-odd years ago. I always have been and always will be a Sunderland fan. Sadly, I work away a lot so don’t get many opportunities to go.

I think it’s because he’s the ‘keeper, but for me, my favourite current player is Pantilimon. It has to be the toughest job in any squad, and I don’t think he gets a fair crack of the whip: if he lets one in he’s at fault, and if he saves, well, that’s his job, isn’t it? It’s hard to pick an all-time favourite, but I used to get into the Copt Hill and spent hours listening to the crack from Jimmy McNab, Monty, Bobby and the rest of the crew. We would sit spellbound by the tales. Magic!

My favourite game has to be ‘the Gary Rowell’ one, doesn’t it? I should have been preparing for my ‘O’ Level mocks, but, well, some things in life are more important.

I haven’t been to many away grounds but when I lived in London, the Boleyn Ground was local, and I saw Sunderland win there in the early ‘80’s. Don’t remember much about it as I ended up in the King Eddy in Stratford, worse for wear. So that has to be my favourite. I was lucky enough to go to the fabulous Estádio da Luz when I worked in Portugal, much to the disgust of my friends who were all Sporting or Porto fans.

Sadly, I don’t get to many games now because I work away so much, but my last game was against the Mags in October 2015, what a laugh!

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

RANDOM TRANSFER GOSSIP...
THIS & THAT

It looks like Leeds United still hoping to sign Liam Bridcutt despite his wages of £26,000 a week. Bridcutt, who has 12 months of his contract left to run at Sunderland, said: “For me, yes I’d like to stay at Leeds if the circumstances are right. But I do want to play in the Premier League. I’ve been at that level before. Every club I’m at, I want to be aiming high and I want the club to aim high. If Leeds are willing to do that in the summer then I’d be happy to stay.”

Sam Allardyce added: “We’ll address the situation as part of the big summer turnaround. We’ll try to get them back out on loan again at the earliest opportunity, if we can’t move them on permanently.”

Meanwhile, SAFC are keen to bring DeAndre Yedlin back to the Stadium of Light, if we can broker a decent deal with Spurs. Yedlin said: “I wouldn’t mind going back to Sunderland, whether it be on loan or whatever. I think it’s a great club and I had a great experience there, so I’d be open to that.”

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

GERMANY V NORTHERN IRELAND, 21ST JUNE 2016
BY IAN MOLE (LINES FROM LONDON)

I didn’t go to the pub last night to watch the England v Slovakia match and just listened to it on Five Live at home. I must admit that I was so bored I nodded off for thirty minutes or so in the second-half. Anyway, I wanted to see how Northern Ireland would shape up against world champs Germany so I chose one of the best places to watch German games in London i.e. the Octoberfest Bar in Fulham Road SW6. It’s really a place for Australasians and others to meet and try to piece together what happened at the Munich Beer Festival but on days like these there’s always a good turnout of German fans. I got there about 4.30 after having reserved a place online for £5 but I could see that I needn’t have bothered as there was a lot of free space. I did get a free pint of Kaltenberg lager in return for the admission price and it just about matched it. There was a largish room with a number of benches and a big screen at the end as well as a smaller room with two flat-screen tellies. As time went on around seventy-five people turned up, many wearing Germany shirts and some bedecked with flags or bunny-ears. There was continuous waitress food-service from young women in traditional Bavarian checked dresses and many people were tucking into the meaty menu. A group of lads built like house-ends occupied the next table to me and they put Desperate Dan to shame in their meat-intake. The TV commentary was naturally in German.

As for the match, Germany gave Northern Ireland a real pasting but could only manage one goal. This was largely down to a splendid display in goal from former Hamilton Accies’ McGovern, who time and again was there to block shots from Gotze and Gomez. He’s certainly put himself in the shop-window. In addition Muller hit the bar and the post in the first-half while Ozil mishit the ball horribly after about ten minutes when he looked certain to score. The Irish were clearly there for a point and the stats showed that the Germans increased their possession in the second half to 75%  while managing five times as many passes. The Northern Ireland defence actually looked pretty cool a lot of the time with our former player Johnny Evans putting in a solid display. They managed one effort on target in the first-half, a shot by Ward in the twenty-eighth minute, but none in the second. They did create a micro flurry around the hour-mark, winning two corners in a row in the middle of which a decent Evans header was deflected over. The Irish fans were great though, bouncing away and singing like mad while one was wearing a very stylish George Best T shirt. Germany brought on Schurrle and the very popular Schweinsteiger but they couldn’t increase their lead and while I, as the only person there supporting Northern Ireland, was dreaming of a late equalizer, it never looked like happening.

Surprisingly, to me at any rate, Northern Ireland have still gone through to the last sixteen as one of the best third place sides so that’s great news. I was disappointed by the atmosphere in the Oktoberfest Bar today as although the Germans roared a little when they had a good chance, there was nothing in the way of chanting. I suppose the comparatively early start and perhaps the belief that they were going to walk the game might have been responsible for the fairly low turnout. It’s usually crammed in there with a lot of noise. I don’t know who Germany will have in the next match but if you live in South-West London, you could do a lot worse than watch a game there.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

COME ON ENGLAND!
BY SOBS

Here's a question: what was England's aim?
Here's an answer: to qualify for the next round.
Here's another question: did they achieve that aim?
Here's another answer: yes they did.

Which naturally prompts yet another question (sorry, I'm in an inquisitive mood): what's all the moaning about? We (that's England for the duration of this piece) did what was required and qualified, yet I spent the last five minutes of the game arguing with a bloke in the Longboat in Penzance who insisted, loudly and often throughout the second half (and probably the first as well, but I watched that in the One for All next door) that we were "shit".

I tried to explain that if we'd been shit, we'd have been losing, and that we'd have lost to Russia and Wales. His understanding of football was probably summed up by the fact that his cartoon fan mate (England shirt, shorts, pint of Stella, skinhead, overweight - the stereotype so beloved by the media) spent the last 20 minutes with his back to the telly, recounting tales of what a funny lad Gazza was. He did comment, unprompted by me, that Defoe would have scored - which is quite perceptive when you're not looking at the action, but shows that it's not just us Sunderland fans who think he should have been taken to France.

Now we're through to the next round, we'll come up against teams who know that "parking the bus" is not enough. Draws won't do, Vardy will have space to run into, Sturridge will have spaces to wriggle through, and Kane will have spaces to turn in.

Last night our defence was fine, apart from Smalling's moment of madness that almost gave the Slovaks an unlikely lead (now, THAT would have been undeserved). Henderson, despite people claiming he was rubbish, was the instigator of most of Clyne's runs down the right, which is where most of our chances came from. OK, he hit a couple of poor dead balls, but would probably have scored but for Slovakia's 39th block of 54. Lallana did well, refusing to be distracted by the mirror placed in a prominent position by the cunning opposition manager in the hope that Adam would do his usual thing and stop to preen himself.

Wilshire - well, he managed not to get hurt, which is a positive. In the side to carry the ball through the centre of midfield, which he is apparently the best at doing, he was a let-down. Carry the ball forward:check. Have the ball nicked off his toe:check. Pass to the opposition:check. He should have gone, in Rooney's favour, at half time, and I'd also have replaced Vardy rather than Sturridge when Kane came on, as the team as a whole were so far forward that he had nowhere to run into.

We're through, which is satisfactory and therefore good enough, and I look forward to the next game, to be watched somewhere on Scilly in my case - it might be a holiday, but football doesn't stop.

Back at Sunderland, our version of the Euros has been announced, and I'm trying to find how to get to the wonderfully named Cashpoint Arena. Visions of its appearance are already floating around my head - will the seats line up with the numbers? Will it have part of last night's kebab stuck to it? Will some people take 20 minutes to gain entry? Will there be time to nip into Lichtenstein or Switzerland, which are close by? Get yerself there if you can -life's too short and you might not get the chance again. As if to emphasise that point, it's a whole two decades since Quinny first arrived on Wearside. An inauspicious start to his career with us ("us" being, obviously, Sunderland for the remainder of this piece) gave us no indication of the impact he'd have on the future - the very existence, even - of the club we hold so dear to our hearts. It's also a whole decade since he galloped back up Houghton cut on his white horse to save us, bringing in Irish Drumaville madness and eventually Ellis Short. In short, we wouldn't be what, or where, we are without Quinny. Thanks a million, big fella.

The man who brought him celebrated a significant birthday the other day. Peter Reid turned 60, and should be remembered for keeping us up in 95, promotion in 96, and those four (almost four, to be honest. We'll forget the early autumn of 1997) seasons of swashbuckling fun. Football, fun, and Sunderland? That seems an age ago, but the last few months showed that the three words can be used in the same sentence without being sarcastic. Read what Defoe says about being part of that, and feel rightly good about being a Sunderland supporter.

Happy belated birthday, Reidy - you'll always be a bit older than me.

Come on England!

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

pre season complete...
Borussia Dortmund confirmed

Sunderland AFC will play Borussia Dortmund in their final pre-season game at the Cashpoint Arena in Austria, the home of SC Rheindorf Altach, on Friday 05 August, at 7pm. Here is our pre season fixture list in full.

Hartlepool United, Thursday 20 July, 7.30pm, Victoria Stadium, Hartlepool.
Rotherham United, Saturday 23 July, 3pm, AESSEAL New York Stadium, Rotherham
FC Stade Nyonnais, Monday 25 July, 7pm, venue TBC
Dijon FCO, Wednesday 27 July, venue and time TBC
Montpellier HSC, Saturday 30 July, venue and time TBC
Borussia Dortmund, Friday 05 August, 7pm, Cashpoint Arena, Altach, Austria

ALS are running coaches to Hartlepool and Rotherham click here

We are also looking to run a travel package to the Nyonnais, Dijon and Montpellier games. Send us an email to receive info

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

QUICK CATCH UP WITH...
JOHN CORNFORTH

THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

Every now and then (well, most matchdays, to be honest) a player crops up in conversation and you wonder “what are they doing now?” Wikipedia can generally help these days, but there’s nowt like talking to the man himself, especially in this case, when the aforementioned website’s first suggestion is someone who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

John Cornforth was one of those players who looked to be destined for good things at Sunderland as a central midfielder who could spot a killer pass, but found it necessary to move on in order to get regular first-team football. I asked him to sum up his football career, sat back, and listened.

I started with football at Marden Bridge and Monkseaton High school, then joined Sunderland. At the end of 84-85 we were already relegated and I think a few spat their dummies out and claimed injuries. Len Ashurst told me he’d run out of right backs, and asked if I’d play there in the last game against Ipswich. Of course I said aye, no problem. I was only seventeen, and I’ve always been confident, but lining up in the tunnel at Roker opposite Terry Butcher got the nerves going a bit. I’d always played centre mid, for school and the county, and I don’t think I’d ever taken a throw-in before. I did about three foul throws in the first half, but in those days it was quite easy playing full back, if in doubt, do a Cruyff turn and give it back to the keeper, who could pick it up back then. Then McMenemy came, I get on all right with him now, but not then. He lost his first five games, and was getting slaughtered off the press. My old man was sports editor of the Shields Gazette, and McMenemy was convinced I was a mole in the camp, and I was getting nowhere near the team so I went on loan to Shrewsbury, Lincoln, Doncaster. Donny wanted to sign me, but McMenemy kept asking an extra five grand, then, ten grand, then fifteen. So I stayed.

When Denis Smith and Viv Busby came, it was like a breath of fresh air. They’d take the team to the races, to Spain at Christmas time. Denis was a great man-manager and it was good for team spirit, and Viv was a very good coach. We had a hell of a side that season and won promotion.

Coach Frank Burrows had tried to toughen me up as a youth by kicking the shit out of me in training. I was once on the treatment table, and had just had a perm, as footballers did then, when Frank came in. “I’ve just taught ye how to f###ing tackle and you turn up looking like Shirley Temple.” He was a character, hard but fair, and had eventually become manager at Swansea. We were on an end of season break in Ibiza, having just been relegated again, when Denis told me Frank had been on the phone. I wasn’t getting a regular game, so I went to Swansea. Frank was years ahead of others tactically, the best manager I worked for, but I broke my leg in my third game and missed six months. Great start, but I got meself fit and went from strength to strength. I got the captain’s armband, scored in a penalty shoot-out at Wembley to win the Johnston’s Paint Trophy, and got into the Wales squad along with Vinny Jones, because of my grandma, and got a couple of caps. To play alongside the likes of Giggs, Neville Southall, Dean Saunders, Gary Speed, God bless him, was brilliant for a lad from Whitley Bay. How that team didn’t qualify for anything is a mystery.

There were some ex-Sunderland lads at Swansea. I’ve known Westy (Colin West) since I was about four or five ‘cos he played with me brother for Harton Youth club, when I’d watch him. Frank had known Reuben Agboola since he was a youth at Southampton, and for me Reuben was one of the most under-rated fullbacks around. One of the best two-footed players I’ve played with, even if we did have to remind him which way to kick in the first half at Sunderland. A proper character, and we had Colin Pascoe as well, so we should have got promoted but got beat off West Brom in the play-offs when Westy came on as sub and got sent off.

Barry Fry then signed me for Birmingham in March 96, and I started at Roker in April (alongside Gary Breen) in a 0-3 defeat, but Barry got the sack at the end of the season, in came Tricky Trevor Francis and he just brought in big names like Steve Bruce. Me and Mike Newell had to train by ourselves, and I used to have a go at Francis on a Monday for not playing me, and he would send me back home to Swansea, so I spent most of my time at Brum watching Swansea. Then John Gregory came in for me to join Wycombe in December, and sod’s law, I did me Achilles on Boxing Day and that was a while out. John was an outstanding good coach, and I scored a few goals there. While I was at Wycombe, Frank Burrows, by then at Cardiff, asked me to go there as captain, but to be honest, my kids were born in Swansea and it’s a bit like Sunderland and Newcastle, I’d been so long at Swansea that I couldn’t bring myself to play for Cardiff. Eventually, though, Frank persuaded me to go there in 99, but when they read my name out before the games both sets of fans would boo. It was paying the bills, but I couldn’t stay. My legs were starting to go a little bit, so I went to Scunthorpe with Brian Laws, then to Exeter as player-coach for Noel Blake. When Blakey got the sack, I’d had to retire because of problems with both calves being kicked so much over the years, so I became manager. I brought in a few decent players from Swansea, but the owners changed and Uri Geller became vice chairman, so soup was straight off the menu. Then Michael Jackson and David Blaine turned up, and David Prowse (Darth Vader) was on the board, it was a complete circus. I got the sack, Exeter went bust, and I never got paid off. I took over at Newport but didn’t like the non-league side of things, with players having to miss training for work. So I went to Torquay and signed some decent players, but one day Ian Atkins turned up, having been given my job, and I got the boot.

I got a bit disillusioned with the whole thing, so I went abroad to the Philippines, South Korea, Kuwait, coaching in the sun. It was fantastic, getting so much respect for being a coach with English league experience, and I think I’ve still got a lot to offer football-wise. After that I went back to Devon, where my kids are based, then I got offered a job up here in the North East, about four and a half years ago, working for Cancer Research. I work closely with the nurses, and they do a fantastic job. When we set up in the street in Shields or wherever, we get blokes especially who don’t want to talk to their doctor, but they’ll say go to the nurses and say “can I have a word?” and then they get their treatment and come back afterwards having had the all clear. That’s fantastic, and it shows that things are improving in terms of survival, but there’s still a lot to be done. Completely different to football, but immensely satisfying. So that’s me….

John Cornforth, SAFC 1985-1991, 38 games, 2 goals

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

jd, lovin the fans...
tears & emotion

Jermain Defoe has been sating loads of nice things about our fans. What a nice man.  “They turn up in numbers every week. I always say to my close friends and family - obviously the ones who haven’t been to the games and had that experience - that it doesn’t matter how the season’s gone or even at times when we’ve not played well, the following week they always turn up. And then after games they always stay behind - it could be snowing but they’re always still there after the game just waiting for the players to get autographs and stuff. You don’t always get that at football clubs. There’s times when naturally people get frustrated but at this club it’s different. It’s unbelievable and they’re unbelievable people. I think when you come here as a player and you experience that you just want more and more. I don’t think it’s one of them clubs where players come and just want to go. You come and it’s like a family club. I remember saying to Younes (Kaboul) when he came, ‘You need to see what it’s like and then speak to me at the end of the season’. And then against Everton he was crying on the pitch. I just looked at him and I said I told you, and he just said ‘JD it’s unbelievable’. And Younes is like a proper guy. Younes is one of those people who if he says something you listen because he speaks from the heart. When he cried as well, it wasn’t crying like tears in the eyes, it was crying like when you’re watching a film and they’re rolling off your face. It was unbelievable. But it’s because of the fans - they’re special.”

He continued: “I never expected to have this relationship with Sunderland fans so soon. I was at Tottenham many years, and sometimes it does take time to actually get that relationship with the fans. I never thought I would go to another football club and have that again. So I came here and as I keep saying all I wanted to do was do well and score goals, and to help the team push on. Then I scored that goal against Newcastle and obviously I cried on the pitch. So yeah the feeling I got then was just unbelievable. But even before then - from day one to be honest - the fans have always been unbelievable with me. From when I scored my first goal to all the goals I’ve scored this season - just unbelievable. The fans definitely won us the game (against Chelsea). That day we were playing Chelsea at home and Newcastle were playing Aston Villa away. Most would have looked at that fixture and thought Newcastle are going to win and we’re going to drop points. At one stage it didn’t look like we were going to win but the noise and the atmosphere was just incredible, and when you have that as a player - even if you’re tired - it just drives you forward. The fans definitely won us that game, and getting three points on that day was special. That’s the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in. That’s beyond even Premier League standards. Obviously the Premier League is known for being the best in the world and having the best fans, but that day at the Stadium of Light was something else - it was electric. I had family in a box who were crying. It’s like sometimes when you go to a concert and you’re just like ‘wow’ as you get caught up in the moment. It’s just amazing. To be lucky enough to have been on the pitch and score, those are the moments you never forget.”

In other news, Emanuele Giaccherini is hoping to join Antonio Conte at Chelsea this summer, according to his agent Furio Valcareggi. Giaccherini won two Serie A titles and a Coppa Italia in two seasons under Conte at Juventus and has been pulling the strings for Conte's Italy team at Euro 2016 and scored a great goal for his country against Belgium in Lyon last week. "Giaccherini is a player who played 80 percent of the games for a Juventus that had [Paul] Pogba, [Andrea] Pirlo, [Arturo] Vidal and [Claudio] Marchisio in the midfield," said agent Furio Valcareggi. "Conte likes him a lot and Chelsea would be a dream. It's still too early to talk about his future. After the Euros, whoever wants to buy him will not have to pay a high price to Sunderland."

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

THAT TIME I BUMPED INTO SUNDERLAND’S ARCH NEMESIS...
BY ANDREW ROBSON
THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

If you were asked to name Sunderland’s bogey player of the 21st century, ignoring players we’ve actively recruited, candidates are aplenty. Yaya Toure customarily scores world-class goals against us. Or at least he did prior to eating grass in Ivorian Mortal Kombat against Kone the Barbarian a few months back. Dishonorable mentions to Gabriel Agbonlahor and Shola Ameobi also. But I’d argue one player sits above the rest. That man is Tim Cahill; and, as fate would have it, I happened to run into him in a bar not too long ago. The Australian unequivocally leads the back for post-millennium Mackem dream-dashing. Two particularly painful memories stand out.

One. When Tommy Smith and recent darts sensation Kevin Kyle somehow inspired us to the 2004 FA Cup semi-final, we were handed the dream draw. All we had to do was see off Dennis Wise’s Milwall at Old Trafford and a first Cup Final since ‘92 was all ours.

We bossed it that day. John Oster caressed a free kick onto the underside of the bar in the opening minutes. I recall George McCartney, having a phenomenal season at left-back, shaving a layer or two off the far post. But late in the first half, a tea-coloured Australian midfielder swept in what would be an utterly undeserved winner. Cahill had surely cost us our best opportunity of making a major Cup Final in a generation.

Two. Fast-forward 2 years, Everton at home on New Year’s Day and a genuine relegation six-pointer. We’d been promoted, freeing Mick McCarthy to recruit invisible central midfield players alongside distinguished talents like Andy Gray and Anthony Le Tallec. And our French loanee, along with video-killed-the-video-star Liam Lawrence, both spurned excellent chances in another game that we completely dominated.

Everton, in deep trouble themselves, had shrewdly rescued Cahill from South London that summer. And, right on cue, a stoppage time corner from one Kevin Kilbane, himself a self-inflicted Sunderland bogey player in the early 2000s, landed straight on Cahill’s prolific bonce. New Year’s Day 2006 haunted with that horrible corner flag celebration and an ominous but eerily familiar sense of inevitable relegation, which we delivered in record-breaking fashion.

I have a strange knack for spotting footballers in bars. Just last December, I caught the eye of none other than Crystal Palace’s fourth choice striker Dwight Gayle across a packed East London bar. And a few years ago, whilst killing time in Kuala Lumpur airport, I clocked a rotund Premier League goal machine supping a crafty pint at the bar. None other than Merseyside’s Monopoly-man, Robbie Fowler. But this was different.

January 2013. Footloose and completely grudge-free, I ventured out for a few quiet midweek drinks in New York, where I’d moved a few months previously. In that short time, I’d quickly grasped that stepping out in the Big Apple can be quite different from your average night on the tiles in Sunderland, Manchester or London. A British accent, even a Durham pit village accent with six years of subtle southern dilution, can legitimately open some doors for you, just like a Richard Curtis movie.

One of those trans-Atlantic differences and a real danger in New York is that you can find plenty of bars that will open till 4am on any given night of the week. When the clock strikes 12, packs of Jersey-born Wall Street wolves gather outside these danger-bars looking to spend their soft-earned dollars on bottles of premium vodka they’re ill-equipped to drink. Yet a Mackem exile, buoyed with with three pints of conversation, can quickly befriend a bouncer and sneak in to the kinds of places where NYC-based Sunderland nemeses hang out, without the need to part with a month’s worth of Tesco shops for the privilege. As I smuggled myself inside, there was Tim Cahill.

Now, as a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of Australians. With the exception of Richie Benaud (god rest his soul), I’d genuinely struggle to name one I’d consider a good bloke. On top of that, I’d always felt that Wearside’s tormentor-in-chief seemed to give off an odious smugness. In his defence, this character trait isn’t exactly atypical amongst his antipodean brethren. Former leg-spinning waxwork Shane Warne, Billy Kennedy from Neighbours and Ian Thorpe, the only living human being with feet bigger than Nyron Nosworthy, all exhibit that similarly nauseous brand of Australian egotism.

Unperturbed, I composed myself to Jan Kirchhoff levels and made my approach. I wasn’t about to waste this opportunity to confront the architect of so much personal and collective pain. Cahill was typically bronzed, his deadly jet-black barnet shimmering in the light of the disco ball. He was flanked by a textbook herd of Yanks. Much like our Mackembauer, I glided my way through the baseball caps, successfully retaining possession of my bottle of Bud Light. Ending the Kirchhoff metaphor, I took a shot and offered my opening gambit. Expectations could not have been lower.

To my amazement, the reality was a revelation. How many people would respond to “you absolutely ruined my New Year’s Day a few years ago mate” with anything other than profanity, a finger or a cold shoulder? Put this kangaroo in the Richie Benaud column. Affable and noticeably humble, not usually qualities you’d associate with Ozzies, he chuckled at my Cahill-driven tales of red and white woe. He asked what had brought me to the States and offered me a drink from his inevitably spendy table.

Prolific as I am at running into random footballers, this encounter with our nemesis was without doubt the most pleasant, changing my opinion of him entirely. Wikipedia reveals he scored at better than 1 in 2 in internationals and around 1 in 4 in the Premier League, a phenomenal career return. We’ve not had a free-scoring midfielder with that kind of goal record, well, ever. Perhaps with the exception of a fleeting season from Don Hutchison at the turn of the millennium. I think he’d have fit right in at Sunderland. He definitely hates the Mags as well, straight from the horse’s mouth, pun intended.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

HILLSBOROUGH: THE TRUTH
BY SOBS
THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

Have you ever been to Hillsborough? Specifically, have you ever been in the Leppings Lane end and had to use that bloody tunnel? It you have, and there was anything like a decent crowd there, you’ll know that despite it being part of the 1970s “upgrade” of the ground, it was a horrible experience even if everything was going smoothly. When things didn’t go smoothly, as they most certainly didn’t in 1989, the combination of that tunnel and the fences erected to prevent trouble (allegedly) produced one of world sport’s biggest tragedies.

The immediate reaction was, obviously, of shock and horror, but amongst those who’d experienced that particular part of that particular ground it was coupled with a feeling of inevitability. It could so easily have been me, us, or any other ordinary follower of any other club. It could so easily have happened elsewhere, as inadequate, unsafe grounds were policed in a manner completely at odds with the interests of those attending.

Back in the 70s, the West Midlands police had a bit of a reputation for their heavy-handed dealings with football fans. By 1989, the miners’ strike had been and gone, and hardened the already condescending attitude of government, and those in their control, including the police, towards certain sections of the population. Sunderland fans in particular were subjected to some very questionable policing in South Yorkshire. Back then we knew it was wrong, but we’d been treated like criminals for the twenty years I’d been watching football by 1989, so we expected and sort of tolerated it. Hillsborough was the horrific, and entirely avoidable but inevitable, outcome of this attitude.

People will inevitably, and quite rightly, ask “what about Heysel?” Without doubt, hooliganism from both sides was the main contributor, but the ground was a crumbling wreck, not fit for purpose as well. When I visited it during Euro2000, in was completely unrecognisable as the same stadium, having been totally rebuilt with the safety of fans very much in mind.

The truth, the inquests concluded, 27 years after the event, is that the 96 Hillsborough fans were unlawfully killed. This is slightly at odds with “The Truth” printed in The Sun just after the event, whose version was that fans had picked the pockets of the dead and dying, urinated on the police, and attacked a policeman giving the kiss of life. Sorry for getting political, but this was the paper that had got the Tory government into power a decade earlier, and any doubts about its loyalties were dispelled by their part in the biggest cover-up in sport and probably judicial history.

Protecting their own, those very own who continue to bury their heads in the sand even after the verdict. Press secretary to Mrs Thatcher from 1979 to 1990, Bernard Ingham, has flatly refused to apologise. Twenty years ago, he responded to Hillsborough campaigners with “who if not the tanked up yobs…caused the disaster? To blame the police, even though they may have made mistakes, is contemptible.”

This would be the same police an officer of which, in response to a comment about how attitudes had changed a couple of years later, replied “We f***ed up at Hillsborough, we have a lot to make up for.” They knew it then, but the cover-up has meant that it’s taken a ridiculous length of time, more than a lifetime for seventy one Liverpool fans, for the truth to be allowed to emerge. The efforts of the Hillsborough campaign to expose this cover-up prompted our current Prime Minister to say in 2011 that their search for the truth was like “a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.” After the verdict David Cameron paid “tribute to the extraordinary courage of the Hillsborough campaigners in their long search for the truth.”

That cover-up included twenty reports by police officers being altered (I believe the trendy word is “redacted”) to remove anything which could be taken as critical of policing at Hillsborough. It began with the match commander lying about a gate being open. Did the police begin the cover-up and then gain the backing of the government, because it was only football fans, or did the police tell the government they’d cocked up only to be told to bury it and blame the fans, the easy targets?

During those intervening years, with The Truth according to the Sun staining the characters of all football fans, match-goers had to constantly watch their backs, as turning up at a ground after a couple of pints automatically made you a tanked up yob with the potential to cause death and destruction. And they wonder why football fans feel they were treated badly. Especially the younger generation of match-goers, many of them weren’t even alive in 1989. They’ve grown up in the sanitised world of Sky TV football and the Premier League where everybody loves each other (except, of course, the teams Sky deem deadly rivals), and the police smile at fans and actually talk to them.

The jury had to answer fourteen questions about the cause of the 1989 disaster, and to only one of them (“was the supporters’ behaviour causing danger?”) was the answer “no.” Police planning error, police turnstile error, police commander opening gates error…thirteen ”yes” votes.

These are all questions that could and would have been answered in identical fashion 27 years ago, but the families of the 96 have had to fight the government every step of the way to this conclusion. During that time, it has emerged that at least one victim could still have been alive at 15:45. What’s certain is that 96 of them are still dead, and no amount of apologising will bring them back. The Suspended South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton apologised "unreservedly" to the families and says his force accepts the jury's conclusion, but the passage of time means that some of the original campaigners are no longer here to see justice prevail.

What now? After the longest jury case in British legal history, during the latter stages of which the campaigners had to sit in strained silence as a conclusion approached, they were finally delivered the truth and the judge allowed them to shout with delight and punch the air without fear of “contempt of court”. The truth, that we all knew anyway, is now out there, and two criminal investigations continue. One is led by the police themselves, the other by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), and rumour has it that they may be concluded by Christmas. The suspects are both individuals and organisations, and it seems likely that someone might be convicted of something.

The truth? 96 people went to a football match and didn’t come back, and it could have been me and it could have been you. For 27 years, it was their fault. We, the fans, always knew it wasn’t, but now it’s official.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

SOBS ON THE EUROS
HOTTING UP

Well, it’s been and gone – the biggest International derby since 1996, and it went OK. Away from England v Wales, the super-efficient Germans came up against Polish solidarity and the outcome was the tournament’s first goalless draw. Two consecutive games without Mr Lewandowski scoring must be some sort of record. Across France, Norn Irn had to follow up their stage-struck opening performance with something different – and they did, with five changes. Naturally, most football fans side with the underdog, or in our case any team in red and white, so I wasn’t alone in wishing the Ulstermen well against Ukraine. They only went and did it, with a gutsy performance that gives them a real chance of progressing, and the shouts from the Welcome when the second went it were probably heard back at my house. Well done.

The main event saw many businesses closed for the afternoon, or even the full day, and big screens installed at those who chose to stay going. Of course, the best place to be, apart from Lens, was in a pub full of Englanders, which is where I found myself. It took all of seven minutes for the Green Tree to agree with my pre-match displeasure at the sight of Sterling taking to the field. Lallana’s run down the right was determined, the cross was perfect, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that Danny Graham would have put it away with his eyes shut. There were murmurings all around the bar that involved the word “Defoe” – and it wasn’t just the Sunderland fans. Sterling hit it too early, hit it wrong, and put the ball high and wide. He should have been hauled off right then, but Roy stuck with him as England dominated and Wales watched at Kane miss-hit a free kick from distance. They won a dead-ball of their own as half time approached, and Joe Hart allowed Bale to again take advantage of iffy keeping and score.

It’s easy to say we didn’t deserve to be behind, but if the opposition score and you don’t, that’s what will happen. Back in the TV studio, Shearer could hardly have been more damning of Sterling’s performance. Kane was perhaps a little unlucky to go off, as the service to him had been poor, but the change brought about by the appearance of Vardy and Sturridge was immediate. Suddenly, we had pace up front and two players who injected a spark into the game. Ten minutes in, the ball fell to Vardy off Williams’s head, and it was volleyed home without hesitation. Up went the arms in the tree as the air was punched in delight, and the team went for it. Rooney had pushed a bit further forward giving us a genuine three man attack, not that nonsense when two wide men are counted as forwards in today’s terminology, and saw a shot pushed round the post just before Vardy scored. Sturridge miss-hit a volley, then shot just over. Lallana made way for Rashford, who, after a couple of dodgy minutes, had Wales wondering what to do against yet another forward.

It looked like another frustrating draw as the 90 minute mark was passed, but it wasn’t to be. Vardy and Alli passed their way into the box, and when Sturridge found the ball at his feet he wriggled free and poked the ball into the corner to send the commentary box wild and the Green Tree into raptures. Our Ian’s mate Marley’s online bet for Sturridge to score came good, and silly little drinks were bought as the final whistle went and Wales collapsed to the turf. They needn’t despair, as all they need to do to progress is not to lose to Russia, while England need to do the same against Slovakia. Mind, they’ll need Bale to do a lot more than he did against England, with the goal and a header wide near the end being just about the sum total of his contribution. Ramsey was by far their best player, while their defence worked well to snuff out England for the first 45.

A good day at the office? In the end, yes, but the first half showed where things were wrong with England. At least Roy had the guts to change things – let’s face it, he had no choice – and swapped things around to good effect. It also showed that there’s no place in the side for Sterling, and that Townsend would have been a far better bet on the wing. I don’t fancy Raheem’s chances of getting a game under Pep at City, where passing quickly and accurately will be the minimum requirement next season. They’ll be lucky to suffer less than a £48million loss if, and probably when, they get shot of him. Slovakia should be facing a genuine two up front on Monday, and England will surely concentrate on getting the ball to them as quickly as possible. Goals win games, not relentlessly passing the ball around midfield, so let’s go for it, Roy.

When do the TV companies pick the first round of Premier League games?

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

FRANCIS TODD MALONE BLOG...
FIXTURE REACTION

Can't complain too much about the fixtures. I like a tricky game to start (no form, might nick a point), then first up at the SoL a decent home match, Boro. Wouldn't be surprised to see at least one of those two on the box.

Certainly, we've got a few tricky away games before the clocks go back - but we've got some winnable home ones too. To a team who start as slowly as we have for the last 20+ years and really could do with a decent run of games to change that, we could have been dealt a far worse hand.

The really good news is there's no proper arse of a month. Previously we've had killer runs, which has put the pressure on when you're not exactly a specialist at seeing off the also-rans. Yep, my feeling is the fixture list for the 2016/17 campaign means we can break into the 50-point bracket, there I've said it.

Sam moaned last season that playing a round of Premier League games a few days after FA Cup third round weekend was a bad idea. I've a bit of sympathy with the League as the season needed a quick finish for the Euros and with European action and cup weeks, it's not easy cramming them in. Then there's the weather. A bout of really dodgy weather could cause proper carnage. Yes, yes, I know we've got undersoil heating and state of the art stuff but we had an August home game postponed due to a waterlogged pitch in 2012 - and there's always the danger that even if our surface can handle the action, safety reasons means matches are called off because fans can't get their toboggan out of the garage. Anyway, next season there's no midweek action after the FA Cup third round. 1-0 Sam.

However, there was a kickback. The computer likes to play tricks and it got its equaliser soon enough. With no derby anymore, I'd wager most of us looked at first game, last game - and Boxing Day as the three key fixtures at 9am yesterday. We're away in all of them, United and Chelsea the opponents. Bit rough that. At least we're not alone though. Stoke, Tottenham, West Brom and West Ham are all in the same boat on those dates, while five others get lucky with home games on all three. Burnley are one of those teams. I've had a couple of good nights out there so looked for that one too. Away again - but at least it's on New Year's Eve, so I might still get that decent night out

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

EURO UPDATE...
BY SOBS

Today’s the day; apparently, of the biggest international derby game in twenty years as England take on Wales. In the last couple of day, we say the prancing show pony (aka Ronaldo the incredible sulk) take to the stage – and be firmly upstaged by Iceland, now everybody’s second team, I think. Despite going behind to a goal from Michael Jackson – sorry, Nani, the men from the competition’s smallest nation (less than a third of a million people, which is about 50,000 more than the City of Sunderland), all with fantastic names, fought back to deservedly equalise. Their fans produced the chant/clap of the tournament to date, with that synchronised, slow clap and shout “ooh” thing, which could well feature in the coming Prem season. Ronaldo accused them of having a “small mentality” (whatever that is) after slumping off in a huff after pointedly not shaking anyone’s hand. To be fair, he’d probably seen Pepe rolling around clutching his face after a particularly vicious handshake from Alfie Finnbogasson and kept himself out of harm’s way. As for Pepe, I’m with the Athletico Madrid manager – a retrospective ban based on video evidence is the least he deserves for his shameful playacting virtually every week. On the other hand, despite not condoning violence on the field, I dearly wish that an opponent becomes so incensed that he takes one for the football family and punches Pepe very hard on the nose.

Hungary played some nice stuff to see of their former empire-partners Austria, now without Hans Krankl to score the goals (I know he’s 63, but he’s the only Austrian footballer I have any memory of - apart from Macho, obviously), then yesterday Romania and Switzerland drew 1-1 in a game with lots of shots and some clever play, particularly from the Swiss in the last ten minutes. Russia seem to be doing their best to make their suspended disqualification unnecessary, losing to Slovakia, and France left it really late before Payet added to Griezmann’s almost as late header to see off the Albanians. 90 minutes and 90 + 6 minutes really is leaving it a bit late, and they can’t rely on waiting that long every time, especially when they were their only efforts on target.

As British fans have been gathering for today’s game, the English and Welsh seemed to get themselves together and show a united front against the Russians – but so far (thankfully) the Soviet Ultras have only shown up in small numbers, if at all. One or two were apparently seen making a hasty exit when some device that made a loud bang was hoyed at English supporters, but thankfully the Gendarmerie have been proactive rather than reactive – having learned a thing or two in Marseilles. Perhaps their better organisation has put the Russian Ultras off, or perhaps a quick call from the Kremlin told them “job done, get yerselves home before we get chucked out of the competition – we’ve got a world cup to plan” - or words to that effect.

Apart from all that international nonsense, the small matter of the fixture list appeared yesterday. I kept away from the phone/tablet/TV/laptop as I feared they’d explode, and, like exam results, they’d be the same in a couple of hours. Etihad first up, then the Boro at home, then a couple of lengthy treks to Spurs and Southampton just to ease us into the season. With the club having launched that clever thingy that plonks the fixtures into your online calendar, I only had to write them on the paper one on the kitchen wall. I’m not planning too far ahead, because, unlike exam results, they’ll change in a few days. Thanks to that aforementioned clever thingy that plonks them into your online calendar, the dates will be automatically changed so I only need to apply Tippex to the kitchen calendar.

In the meantime, we eagerly await some friendly games on foreign soil to add to the romance of the trip to Hartlepool and the scouting trip to Rotherham on behalf of our friends on the Tyne. Our Ian’s desperate to see us abroad, or nip over to the madhouse that is St Pauli in Hamburg. Perhaps a double header around the first weekend of Bundesliga 2 is a possibility.

As for today – God Save the Queen or Land of my Fathers? Well, as the land of the fathers of nine of the Welsh squad is actually England, which sort of puts the skids under Gareth “the divine man-bun” Bale’s claim that their lads are more patriotic than ours. England win, no problem.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

AMERICA'S PAOLO DI CANIO MOMENT
BY CHARLES LINEHAN
THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

I lay in bed the other night staring at the ceiling thinking the kind of sober thoughts I imagine many of my fellow Americans are thinking these days: Will the apocalypse involve zombies, like in The Walking Dead? Or will it be a more subtle kind of reckoning, like in The Leftovers? And exactly how small are Donald Trump's hands anyway?

These are the kinds of questions no American who is paying attention in these troubled times can avoid pondering in the dead hours between midnight and 5am, when there are no merciful distractions, no screaming children, no nagging bosses and no waiting tax returns to take our minds off the joke that our country has become. And yet, as cuckoo as the American Presidential campaign season has been, I couldn't help feeling I'd seen it all before. As sleep finally washed over me and my subconscious mind was freed to start making the kinds of random connections that occasionally result in passable journalism, it struck me: Donald Trump's inexorable run for the Presidency is America's Paolo Di Canio moment.
 
Think about it. If the American people are like the Sunderland fans, and the members of Congress are like the Sunderland players, then Donald Trump is our Paolo Di Canio. Which I guess makes God, in his eternal benevolence and occasional fallibility, our Ellis Short. Let me explain.

In 2008, Sunderland fans were fed up. Ours was a club with a proud history on the wane. Sunderland exceptionalism was a concept without much basis since before the Second World War. Sure, there were positive stretches. Well, a positive stretch, anyway. But a decade into the new millennium, more than a quarter-century after Bob Stokoe's '73 miracle run, the fans, particularly those paying the price of a season ticket, could be forgiven for their deteriorating patience. Off the pitch, rumors proliferated of a club drink culture and an anarchic dressing room atmosphere. On the pitch, the players' performances were erratic at best, displaying none of the heart and tenacity you see at the clubs that live at the top of the table. At one point, a player was filmed rolling around on a bed of cash in a local casino, effectively thumbing his nose at the supporters. Something had to change.

Hearing our prayers, Ellis Short delivered a little spark plug of a manager in the form of Paolo Di Canio. The outspoken Italian was well-regarded for his coaching ability. And his passion for the game and, seemingly, the club, reminded us of our own. Most importantly, PDC seemed to have heard our complaints. Instead of just paying lip service to what was needed to right the ship, he took on the player culture, instituting some sensible (as well as a few silly) new rules. In effect, Di Canio was saying to the players, "The fans are giving their hard earned cash to support us; we owe them."

Now to America. The reason conservatives like to reference American exceptionalism so often is because it hasn't been much on display lately, at least not from their perspective. I would point to the fact that we twice elected Barack Obama to our highest office by wide margins as evidence that American exceptionalism is still very much alive, and traditional conservative ideology is dead. But I digress.

It's 2016 and America's working and middle classes are hurting. There are no new jobs, and the old ones have a way of moving overseas or being filled by recent immigrants willing to work for less. At the same time, their kids are being shipped off to fight wars they don't believe in, and the legislators sent to Washington to do their bidding mistake a love of God and guns for work, all the while kowtowing to the lobbyists who infest our nation's capital like locusts. The discontent is palpable.

So God, having a sense of humor, sends us Donald Trump. Trump says a lot of the right things and taps into a well of anger that runs deeper in some Americans than a lot of us realized. Close your ears to half his message for a moment and you can almost kinda start to think he makes some sense.

Except Donald Trump is more like Paolo Di Canio than you might imagine. Beyond his up-with-the-working-man message, he's batshit crazy and he has a predilection for quoting the Fascist Mussolini. He's also a bigoted, racist, xenophobic, misogynist asshole, qualities which were not among PDC's shortcomings. And yet, when Di Canio finally crossed the line, Ellis Short pulled a timely deus ex machina and replaced him with Gus Poyet. The occasional misstep notwithstanding, Short truly seems to want the best for the club and the fans. Presumably God feels the same affection for the American people.

So as I waked from my dream, I felt a surge of hope. All is not lost. God has heard our prayers over on this side of the Atlantic, right? He will not permit this demagogue to win the Presidency, right?

America will not be relegated.

Right?

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

2016/17 fixtures...
man city away first up

Well the fixtures are out, so despite it being mid June, I guess we can all start thinking about the new season already! We kick off our campaign away to Man City on August 13 and our first home game is against Boro at home a week later, which should be a feisty one, even though we'd probably prefer to avoid newly promoted teams so early in the season. The festive period brings us a trip to Old Trafford on Boxing Day and Liverpool at home on January 2. Hopefully we won't be fighting against the drop (again) this year, but if we are desperate for points our final run in is not too difficult, as we face Bournemouth (H), Hull (A), and then Swansea (H) but finish off with a difficult trip to Chelsea. Fixtures in full here

And for those hardy souls who follow the team home and away, here's are our coach prices and times for next season

Big Sam is up for it! "Fixture release day is always an exciting time for the fans as they get set for the new campaign. We have a tough start, facing Manchester City in Pep Guardiola's first game on the opening day of the season, but it's definitely a fixture we'll be looking forward to, you’ve got to relish these games. Meanwhile Middlesbrough in the first home game is a great fixture.. We know we need to start better than we did last season and everything we do in pre-season will be geared towards making that happen. There's only a couple of weeks to go until the players return for training and then the hard work will begin."

As well as bringing in new players to bolster the squad, Big Sam is also working to rid us of the deadwood that previous managers have built up. Santiago Vergini falls into that category and thankfully Argentine giants Boca Juniors are looking at the skilful centre half. Other players that he's working to rid us of are: Adam Matthews, Liam Bridcutt, Will Buckley, Charis Mavrias, and Jordi Gomez. Meanwhile, Mikael Mandron has agreed a two-year deal at National League outfit Eastleigh.

On the other side of the pond, DeAndre Yedlin is not having such a great time on international duty in the Copa America, after being sent off in the final group stage match against Paraguay. The USA and SAFC right back will now miss the game against Ecuador in the quarter finals. He had this to say: "You're always learning. You talk to Clint [Dempsey] and he's still learning. a player if you're not learning every day then you're not improving. Obviously, I'll learn from this one and move on to the next. But I think I've learned how to become a well-rounded player. Being with Sunderland, especially the defensive side, made me a more well-rounded player." Yedlin added. "And not so much on the field, off the field just growing as a man and growing as a person. I've had to live on my own and I didn't really know anybody over there, so you make new friends. It's something you have to go through but I'm glad I'm going through it at this stage because I am still young. I still have a lot of time to improve."

USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann added:"You cannot overreact after something goes wrong. The first yellow card he was too emotional about it. He was too upset about everything, himself, the call. That's when you have to be calm. And this will come over time. It's an age-related issue. You're just too pumped up in that moment and he will learn to breath a second, walk away from it, think about it a second, get back to your game and after a couple of minutes it's all good. This is Copa America, knockout stage. You're not getting any bigger than that."

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

LE BRACE, STILL ACE?
BY SOBS

THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

Who’s the gadgie in the shorts? You know the one, almost every club has one. The middle-aged bloke who insists on wearing his boots and shorts although said boots were hung up twenty-odd years ago. The one who sits on the bench and whispers sweet nothings into the managerial ear at crucial points in the game, Arsenal's Steve Bould being probably the most prominent of them. Ours is Paul Bracewell, who has more Sunderland connections than Monkwearmouth telephone exchange. How did he get there? What’s his story, football glory?

Technically, he’s a Scouser, hailing from Heswall on the Wirral, but his family moved to Shropshire when he was about ten, so I don’t know what that makes him. Salopian? Anyway, Stoke spotted him playing at County level when he was 15, as he did his best to avoid being kicked to bits by much bigger, rougher opponents. He’d racked up 141 appearances for Stoke, after his debut against Wolves aged 17, by the time he was 21, learning his trade alongside Howard Kendall and managed by Alan Durban, so it was no surprise when the tenacious midfielder re-joined Durban at Sunderland. Our manager rated Brace so highly that the Welshman sold Ally McCoist (aye, that one who went on to score 4,000 goals for Rangers) to raise the £250,000 required to prise him away from the Potteries in 1983.

Alongside fellow debutant Paul Atkinson, Brace’s first game in the stripes was a home draw with Norwich. In typical Sunderland fashion, Brace’s four goals in 38 league games that campaign weren't enough to keep Durban in a job, as the season was deemed a failure despite us finishing thirteenth. Imagine finishing thirteenth? Mid-table obscurity, and being regarded as a failure! In came Len Ashurst, who was, as we were soon to discover, mad. He didn’t fancy Brace, sold him to Everton for £425,000, and then guided us to an unsuccessful League Cup final and relegation. Now, that is a failure of a season.

Brace made his Everton debut in the Charity Shield at Wembley, against Liverpool, which isn’t a bad place to start, especially when you win thanks to an OG from Bruce Grobelaar. Over his five seasons at Goodison, Brace was an integral part of arguably the finest Everton team ever, alongside Reidy in the middle and with Trevor Steven and Kevin Sheedy completing the midfield. While there, he won five England caps, the League Championship, and the Cup Winners Cup. His 145 games came despite missing the best part of two seasons with an ankle injury, sustained at Sid James Park and involving Billy Whitehurst, on New Year’s Day 1986, that would plague the rest of his career on and off.

 In 1989, Denis Smith brought Brace back to Wearside, initially for a six-game loan so that Everton could assess his fitness. When the Toffees didn’t like what the doctors revealed about that ankle, the move was made permanent, and Brace went on to play a crucial part in our road to Wembley play-off defeat and promotion. He even scored in a 2-0 win at his old club, Stoke. Thanks must go to Swindon’s accountants for that play-off nonsense, but we did beat the Mags in the semi-final, in case you’d forgotten. The ankle problem which had influenced Everton’s decision to let him leave meant that he’d spend most Saturday evenings with a bag of ice on the offending joint. Unimaginatively, his team-mates allegedly nicknamed him the Ice Man, adding yet more fuel to the argument that footballers aren’t that clever. The fans continued to refer to him as Le Brace, presumably because he was cool and classy, and fans are much better with nicknames than players are.

Sadly, relegation followed (this is Sunderland we’re talking about), and at the end of the third season of his 138-game second spell, we offered him a one-year contract. With his 30th birthday yet to arrive, and having just collected his fourth FA Cup runners-up medal (ooh, unlucky) in 1992, Brace felt he deserved a longer one. It wasn’t forthcoming and he did a naughty thing by signing the two-year deal offered by them up the road, although it was reported that we got £250,000 for him. Three seasons there in the top flight, including the first two of the Premier League, were enough for any man to spend there, and he moved back to Roker in 1995, reuniting with his old Everton team-mate, our new manager Peter Reid.

The next three seasons were eventful, as we were promoted (yay!), relegated (boo!), and lost that mad play-off final against Charlton (boo!), but Brace was long gone by that memorable game. He’d assisted Reidy with managerial duties, but after just one game, as a sub, of the 97-98 campaign, he joined up with the Permed One at Fulham as a player/club-captain/coach/assistant-manager in September. We even got £75,000 for him! As he, like Keegan, still lived in the North East, there was ample opportunity for discussing football with Sunderland fans on the train back from the capital after games in The Smoke. I’m sure Keegan loved having his hair ruffled.

He took on the top job at The Cottage when Keegan went to manage England at the end of that season, and hung up the aforementioned boots in 1999 after helping Fulham to promotion. He signed Andy Melville from us when the Welshman’s contract was up, leading to a five-year spell there for Mary. Ambition on the banks of the Thames saw Brace sacked in favour of Jean Tigana in March 2000, which was followed by a short, and deserved, spell of relaxation. This ended with him taking on the Halifax job, and keeping them up by just the one point, but after he only won 11 of the 41 games he oversaw, he jacked in that one early in the 2001-2002 season, later saying that it had been his hardest job in football.

He then did what many footballers do, and worked in coaching. For over two years, he was an FA National Coach, working with England U-17 talent that included Wayne Rooney, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, and a grinning youth called Steven Taylor who, even then, had a penchant for sunbeds.
After quarter of a century in the professional game, Brace decided it was time for a change in footballing direction, and became director of Complete Leisure, which ran a football academy in the North East. This involved children aged five and over, right up to veteran level, and basically concentrated on grassroots football and community projects run by Sunderland and the Mags.

In 2013 he joined us for the fourth time, as development coach for the U18 and U21s, working on their players moving towards the first team. During the latter days of last season, he stepped in to help Dick Advocaat engineer yet another Great Escape, for which we forgave him his time on Tyneside and rewarded him with promotion to First Team Coach in the close season. On the arrival of Mr Allardyce, Brace moved up again as Big Sam made him Assistant Manager, and that’s where we find him now.

Paul Bracewell, 270 Sunderland appearances and 6 goals out of a career total of 719 appearances and 27 goals. Promotions, relegations, England caps, coaching badges, and all those runners-up medals. That’s a proper football man, hence the shorts.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

JUST ANOTHER EURO MONDAY...
BY SOBS

Another day, another bunch of matches ticked off. Due to fantastic planning on my part, the whole of Monday was available for the televisual delight that was the first Monday of the Euros. Cushions on the couch fluffed up, Czech republic and Spain at the ready, and they were off. Off being the operative word there. Ninety minutes plus of what the Spanish football public have to put up with every time their team turns out – fantastic midfield, from which Mata was excluded presumably because he scores goals now and then, but about as much cutting edge up front as Danny Graham and Jon Stead rolled into one. Call me hyper-critical, but it was a bit like watching Swansea three or so years ago – they can pass the ball all day long, and have 80% of the possession, but all you have to do is keep them at arm’s length (out of the box) and you’re OK. Well, maybe Spain have more beards than Swansea did, but their first instinct is to pass backwards, sideways, and any other way they can think of that doesn’t include the word “forward.”

Just when I’d decided that I was thoroughly sick of their inability to score, up popped a defender to do just that with only a couple of minutes remaining. Game over.

A quick shuffle of the cushions and up came Eire. While there had been no SAFC connection in the earlier game, John O’Shea was wearing the armband for the Republic and Seb, just past his 31st birthday, was on the right for the Swedes. This was more like a game of football – Brady and Hendrick looked the business in midfield, forever trying to get forward while O’Shea and his fellow defenders did a proper job on Zlatan (copyright). I’d be happy if Sam put in a bid for Hendrick, as he looks a bit too god for the Championship, and showed great energy as well as hitting the bar. Of course, JoS will still be having nightmares about the one that was just too far off his toe-end early on, but can be satisfied with his performance overall. Of the three Norwich players on the pitch, Hoolahan was probably the pick with a great goal. A bit of a strawky equaliser when Clark simply had to get in some sort of header got Sweden back into it, and on came everybody’s favourite bampot, James McClean – and yes, the Swedish fans knew their stuff and gave him the traditional welcoming boos. My telly showed a message that read “ a 3D signal has been detected  - put on the 3D glasses and select the 3D button.” So I did, felt a bit sick for five minutes, and reverted to good old 2D.

The St George’s flag with SAFC Ryhope was cleverly positioned in an area that could have been Swedish or Irish, the game was played in a decent spirit with Zlatan just managing not to blow his top at the lack of space afforded him by the Irish, and a draw was about right, if a little disappointing for the greens.

And so it was off to match three – sorry Springwatch, I can catch up in the morning. Sunderland connection? Giaccherini, who hasn’t kicked a ball for us in ages but has had a good season out on loan in his homeland. After a bright Belgium start, the Italians took hold of the game and the wee fella produced a good finish on the half hour to knock the stuffing out of the Belgians. They’re a bit like Man City, those Walloons and Flems – fantastically skilled players, but barely a hint of a formation. Maybe it was Fellaini’s funny hairdo (sorry, funnier hairdo) that put them off, but they seemed intent on running into opponents, and when Pelle finished them off in added time, they looked a sorry bunch. Perhaps Sam can find room in his heart for Giaccherini, but if not, then his price must have gone up by a few Euros.

Today sees Portugal v Iceland, and the two ends of what football is all about these days – the undoubted excellence of the prancing show-pony that is Ronaldo, and Pepe, the man whose disgraceful playacting in the Champions League final should have resulted in a lengthy ban. Get great odds on him falling down holding his face when the ref blows his whistle to start the game. Horrible little cheat. If we can tolerate that, we get to Wednesday morning and the fixtures, and worry about them while the Russian Ultras reload their weapons in readiness for Lille later on and Lens on Thursday. With the threat of expulsion from the tournament hanging over England’s heads, and further violence threatened to our fans by the Russians, these are a worrying couple of days

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

SPAIN V CZECH REPUBLIC, 13TH JUNE 2016
BY IAN MOLE (LINES FROM LONDON)

There’s only one place to watch a Spanish match in London and that’s at Bradley’s Spanish Bar in Hanway Street W1, which just happens to be my favourite bar. Last time I watched a Spanish game here they got thumped 5-1 by Holland in the World Cup first round and I really doubt that they’ll manage to win the Euros three times in a row. Apart from being the underdogs, I’ve got a soft spot for the Czechs as I’ve become pally in the last year with a great band from Prague called Mydy Rabycad and was sure they’d be watching the game. Anyway, it was chucking it down as I got to the bar shortly before kick-off and maybe it was that or more likely the fact that the game was at 2 pm on a working day but there wasn’t much of a turn-out. I got a pint of Mahou lager in and took up a good viewing position next to a trio of American lads.

I was familiar with most of the Spanish starting eleven but of the Czechs I only knew Cech and Rosicky. It was good to see del Bosque’s characterful face again as I thought they’d got shot of him. The Czechs started out brightly, winning two corners and a free-kick in a dangerous spot within the first five minutes but they couldn’t capitalize on them and the game soon settled into a pattern of Spain dominating the attacking play, making lots of short passes around their opponents’ box, while the Czechs defended resolutely. Morata had a couple of decent scoring chances that he should have made more of but with a keeper of Cech’s quality only the best would do. Morata had taken out a linesman in the tenth minute and left him on the deck and the commentators joked that revenge would be taken. I found it rather a boring game as Spain were so dominant but it livened up a bit in the closing five minutes of the half with Iniesta, Silva and Alba all having decent efforts. Even the Czechs made a very rare foray forwards and Necid had a decent shot that De Gea held at the second attempt. He was probably nodding off back there. It remained goalless at the break and maybe the Spanish would come to regret not playing Costa or even Torres.  

The bar had livened up a little bit as the second-half got underway and we soon had a bit of drama on the pitch with Hubruk almost scoring an own goal. Things quickly settled down into the earlier pattern of play and it seemed very unlikely that the Czechs could hold out indefinitely but for a period of ten minutes or so around the hour-mark they started to have something of a purple patch culminating in a Selassie header that was cleared almost off the line. The Spaniards would have been mightily narked if they lost this one but stranger things have happened. Morata and Fabregas were substituted by Aduriz and Thiago and the former produced a scissors-kick that went narrowly wide. Spain kept racking up the corners but still they couldn’t make them count, while the minutes were ticking away. Then suddenly with about three minutes on the clock they finally took the lead when Iniesta crossed from the left and Pique headed it into the bottom right to give Cech no chance. The bar had been very quiet till that point but the very rock and roll young couple across the way from me suddenly revealed their Spanish roots. That goal had been a very long time coming but the match wasn’t quite over yet. Rosicky had been subbed straight after the goal and clearly wasn’t best pleased about that and then in the third minute of stoppage-time Dorida produced a great shot that de Gea managed to save well. It ended 1-0 and nobody could have argued with that. Spain were no great shakes though and I can’t see them doing much in this tournament.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

SOBS' EURO 2016 BLOG
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE

As the dust settles on the opening weekend of the Euros, and we anxiously await the really important stuff – Wednesday’s announcement of the coming season’s fixtures – the eyes of the football world are all on the so-called English disease again. That’s the English disease shown by the frighteningly well-organised and well-armed Russian thugs who attacked the English, the hit-and-run French gangs who attacked the English, and those among the English who were happy to join in. Not the vast majority of English, who are now seemingly lumped in as guilty with the minority of Russians who broke through the stewards in the stadium after the game to attack them. Eye-witness accounts tell of the police turning up late to trouble in the town, chasing off the French instigators, and tear-gassing the English who had nowhere to go. Bags weren’t searched as fans entered the stadium – this is France, remember – and there were no police to help the stewards in the ground after the match. English disease my arse.

Of course, I wasn’t there, so I’m only going on what people have told me. Among the usual keyboard-warrior bravado online, boasting “if they want it we’ll give it to them”, there are several really well-written responses from people who were caught up in it. Check out Facebook for the stories from Sam Leach and Iain MacIntosh, and read about the experiences of people who were there.

Anyway, apart from all that, there was a football match. Opening day had passed with the hosts squeezing past Romania thanks to a couple of familiar Premier League goals – a Giroud header, courtesy of a typical big-tournament goalkeeping flap, and a Payet belter. Switzerland beat Albania, and Wales beat Slovakia to give England something to chase. The papers say that it was a 4-1-2-3 formation, but it wasn’t – it was 4-5-1, or more realistically 4-4-1, given the contribution of Sterling. To say that England controlled vast parts of the game is a bit of an understatement, as Rooney sat in the centre of midfield and sprayed passes about, and we managed thirteen attempts to Russia’s four – although we did concede a ridiculous fourteen corners. Half time was reached with no goals, and murmuring about what we would have done with a real goalscorer on the field to help Kane began. They grew louder as the second half progressed – Rashford and Sturridge were on the bench, as was Vardy, so the options were there – with Defoe’s name being mentioned regularly. We won plenty of corners – nine, if you’re asking – but deployed our six foot two, twenty-five goal centre forward to take them. That’s not clever, Roy.

Resignation that it just wasn’t going to happen was beginning to set in when Alli was fouled not far outside the box, and we wondered why on earth Dier, who’d had a fine game in the Kirchoff role, was standing over the ball. Boom, that’s why – a tremendous free-kick to the keeper’s right which goes into the lengthening list of contenders for goal of the tournament which meant that England had sixteen minutes to hang on in a game in which they should really have been comfortably ahead. Jack Wishire replaced Rooney soon after – a strange move when Sterling was still on the field. Just like he had in the game at Sunderland, Mr Sterling had shown tremendous ball-control but absolutely no sign of a football brain as he continues to morph into the next Shaun Wright-Phillips (but with a more flamboyant hairstyle and more tattoos). That he lasted 87 minutes was ridiculous, as his replacement, the 7 out of 10 every game Milner, produced more football in the five minutes he had on the field.

Just when we thought it was all over, Rose, who’d had an otherwise cracking game (we taught him all he knows, y’knaa) found himself jumping at the back post against a much bigger opponent, and the header looped across the goal and over Hart for an undeserved leveller. I say undeserved, but if you’re only a goal behind and you keep plugging away, you deserve what you get. The whistle went, which seemed to act as a cue to the Russian fans, who immediately stormed the England seats – but we’ve had enough of that already.

A draw is nowhere near the end of the world, as some glass-half-empty fans claim. They need to remember that whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, there is always the chance to fill it up again. That chance comes on Thursday afternoon against Gareth Bale – sorry, Wales. That will be eleven Premier League players against one from Real Madrid, half a dozen from the Prem, two or three reserves from the Prem, and bloke from Wolves. In theory, England should know all about most of the Welsh team and have enough about them to win – but football’s not like that, and the whole is quite often larger than the sum of the parts, which is why we love the game.

By the time that one starts, we’ll have had a day and a bit to plan next season in the real world, which will no doubt include our annual Monday night trek to Palace. Then they’ll announce the TV schedule, and we’ll have to alter our plans accordingly. In the meantime, we’ll hope for a more efficient performance in terms of goals and a draw between Russia and Slovakia so that we can hop to the top of the group table. C’mon England!

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

UKRAINE V GERMANY, 12TH JUNE 2016
BY IAN MOLE (LINES FROM LONDON)

I got to the Ukrainian Social Club in Holland Park Avenue about twenty minutes before kick-off and purchased a largish bottle of 1715 Ukrainian beer for £3 before heading through to the large function room at the rear of the basement complex and finding a seat. I’d been there a few times before and had always just walked straight in without anybody challenging me, finding people there to be friendly and courteous. Tonight was no exception and there were about fifty people present, mainly sitting at folding tables, many of them bedecked in Ukrainian shirts and scarves while two of the numerous women present were wearing the traditional flowered garlands on their heads. As kick-off approached the number swelled to around a hundred and I felt obliged to stand with the rest of them as the national anthem played. Loads of them were singing along and had their hands on their hearts. To me their anthem sounded as dull and boring as ours.

Anyway, everyone expected world champions Germany to give Ukraine a good hiding so I was hoping for a shock. I teach English to overseas people for a living and have had a few very nice Ukrainians in my class recently so I was supporting Ukraine. The BBC commentary was being aired but the sound wasn’t that great, though the big screen compensated for that. Ukraine had the first good effort after five minutes when Kenoplyenko received a low cross from the right and blasted a great shot that Neuer in goal did well to turn out for a corner. Germany were having the bulk of possession but their long-distance passing left a lot to be desired. Kroos had swiped Kovalenko in the face and escaped punishment before Germany took the lead with a great set-piece in the nineteenth minute.

After Muller had been fouled near the right angle of the Ukraine box the free-kick was met by Mustafi amidst a number of defenders and headed home while goalie Pyatov barely moved. Silence broke out in the hall around me but Ukraine mounted a spirited fight-back and the rest of the half was most entertaining. Germany, with their very good close-passing, put on a lot of pressure for a while but then Khacheridi had a great header from a corner and forced Neuer into another very good save. Folks around me started chanting and it sounded like “OO-CRY-EEN-IA”. Khedira should have made it 2-0 on the half-hour after running on to a great long ball but he shot straight at Pyatov, who bundled it away. Germany were dominating possession but Ukraine always looked like they could pull something out of the bag and with eight minutes to the break it looked like they’d equalized as Boateng performed acrobatics under his own bar to hoof it clear and the goal-line technology showed that it wasn’t a goal. There were screams and shouts all around me as everyone leapt to their feet and I needed the replay to figure out what had happened. In the closing minutes Ukraine piled on the pressure and looked confident as they back-heeled it now and again. A garlanded Ukrainian woman was highlighted on the screen to much applause from those in the hall. It remained 0-1 at the break but I thought Ukraine were capable of getting one back.

Once I got to the bar for a half-time slurp and realized that the sound quality in the telly there was much better, although it was much smaller, I decided to watch the second-half there. The fact that I could stand next to the bar and get served very easily also helped to sway me. There was a good crowd of partisan fans there too.

The second-half was dominated by Germany and they produced a number of good efforts that were saved or went wide while Ukraine’s best effort was a free-kick from Rakitsky about twelve minutes in that Neuer again saved well. Ukraine substituted Kovalenko and Zozulya to try and spice up their attack but as the game went on Germany tired them out by making them run around to try and get the ball and with ten minutes left a Ukrainian guy left and made that sideways motion of the hands that means it’s all over. Ukraine weren’t quite finished though and a careless back-header by Mustafi in the closing minutes almost gifted them a goal. Neuer helped by seemingly barging the attacker over. Schweinsteiger had been waiting to come on for a while and when he did he made a real impact by receiving a great pass from Ozil in the second minute of stoppage-time and blasting it into the net to confirm Germany’s victory. As the whistle went nobody in the bar seemed too upset.

I reckoned Ukraine looked capable of beating both Poland and Northern Ireland so maybe they could still go through.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

EURO 2016 BLOG
BY FRANCIS TODD MALONE

Speaking up for England fans isn't usually my thing but after the events of the last few days in Marseille, I'm going to break the mould.

Sure, you might not find too many of us hanging off a street sign singing songs about the IRA, getting out of Europe, or German bombers. But personally I was more offended by the reaction of the outraged who took to social media and branded every travelling England fan a bottle and chair-hoying nut job, while ignoring the fact there may just have been something else going on the other side of the cameras.

Then came the developments at the final whistle at the Stade Velodrome. Until the end of the England v Russia game, the tournament organisers had shrugged their shoulders and said they couldn't do a lot about what had gone on around the streets of Marseille - but that changed after TV coverage focused on Russian fans breaking through flimsy segregation to confront England fans, few of whom were in the mood to offer much resistance.

No doubt some of the Twitter warriors would have advised our lot to simply walk away. As we all know, casually walking the other way when there are large numbers of people all around and chaos descending is not easy. Plenty of us will have seen moods go from happy to threatening in double-quick time over the years, with little warning, even if most disturbances are usually between individuals who are happy to get involved. Saturday night at the Velodrome did not look to be one of those days. I did spot a small Sunderland flag in the ground and hope the owner writes to ALS when he gets back and offers his version of what went on out there, as the TV pictures I saw did not show a glut of loons in that England section (loons don't choose to walk away from a scrap, scale a fence and take their chances with a drop of a good few feet the other side). All I saw were people who cared about their country and just wanted to see their team win. For all following England isn't my thing, even if my dream remains to watch Sunderland in Europe, I can see there's not a lot of difference between following club and country - mainly decent people and a few wrang'uns, thrown together by the same fixation.

As well as threatening the England and Russian Football Associations, UEFA would do well to check their security arrangements. The build-up to the tournament was full of talk about passports being confiscated, rigorous security checks and fans not being able to get anywhere near a turnstile if they haven't got a ticket and God help them if they're carrying anything other than a bottle of pop. Fast forward a day or two to firecrackers in the Russia section and more flares than a Bay City Rollers concert and it begs the question who on earth was doing the patting down outside? Did they have those joke foam hands on?

On the pitch, England probably should have won. I sympathise with those who got frustrated with seeing Harry Kane on constant dead ball duty, knowing the threat he poses centrally. There looked several other options ahead of Eric Dier - but when he took advantage of a free-kick in a decent area things looked good. But it was not to be, the usual underwhelming England start to a tournament was ensured when a late header found the far corner, meaning a failure to beat Wales on Thursday will really heap the pressure on. As for Wales, I won't slag the quality of their winner off, because at least they got one and showed more heart than England.

I've just seen Northern Ireland lose to Poland and although they weren't outclassed, the result was hard to argue with. The lack of quality in Michael O'Neill's squad is well known and they didn't threaten much. I've yet to be really impressed by any side...

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

WHERE ARE THEY NOW
BY DAVID JOLLY
THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

Thanks to the breakthrough of academy product Jordan Pickford and youngster Duncan Watmore, who signed from Altrincham, there has been a lot of attention on Sunderland’s youngsters of late.

Watmore and Pickford along with Rees Greenwood and Josh Robson have all signed extended contacts. Young prospect George Honeyman, who featured on the bench against Manchester United, has recently said that under Sam Allardyce “there is a better pathway than there ever has been to the first team squad”.

One of Sunderland’s biggest academy success stories is Jordan Henderson, who was transferred to Liverpool for £16m and is their current club captain. But for every success story, there are many who didn’t make it and several “what if” stories.

Henderson played in Sunderland’s 2007-08 youth side who were knocked out in the FA Youth Cup semi-final by eventual winners, Manchester City. The lads in that side are now in their mid-20s and each have their stories, from a prison sentence for a bomb hoax, causing controversy by slating Sunderland fans on social media, gaining a degree at Sunderland University, and a certain midfielder joining rivals Newcastle United.

Players who were touted for big things, like Nathan Luscombe, can prove to be a warning to any young aspiring players, whereas Henderson is an inspiration for them all.

Here is my report on what happened next after the FA Youth Cup semi-final:

Dan Staples
FL appearances: 0
What has he done since?
The goalkeeper joined Wrexham but left soon afterwards due to homesickness. In January 2012 he was sentenced to six years in jail for a bomb hoax where he demanded £10,000 from Coral bookmakers in Annfield Plain. He now plays his football in the Northern League with Bedlington Terriers, having overcome a gambling addiction and a brain tumour scare.

Michael Kay
FL Appearances: 36
Sunderland Apps: 1
What has he done since?
Left Sunderland in 2011 for Tranmere Rovers in 2011, having had a loan spell there in the 2010-11 season. He joined newly-formed phoenix club Chester FC in 2013 but, as of December 2015, Kay is taking a break from football.

Michael Liddle
FL Appearances: 73
What has he done since?
He made five caps for Republic of Ireland U21s before leaving SAFC in 2012. Liddle joined League Two side Accrington Stanley and played there for two seasons before being released. He is currently a free agent.

Liam Noble
FL Appearances: 188
What has he done since?
Liam Noble caused controversy after leaving Sunderland in 2012. While at Carlisle, he tweeted that Sunderland were a ‘s*** club with s*** fans’ and was reprimanded by his club. He spent two years at Carlisle, where he won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley. Noble now plays for Notts County, where he has made over 50 appearances.

Joe Cornforth
FL Appearances: 0
What has he done since?
Left Sunderland in 2011 for Rabat Ajax, of the Maltese Premier League, but he has been off the radar since around 2012.

Niall McCardle
FL Appearances: 0
What has he done since?
Captained the Sunderland University football team during his time there, until he graduated in 2012 with a degree in BSc Sport and Exercise Science. Signed for Irish team Malahide United back in August 2014. Previously with Whitley Bay, South Shields and Sunderland RCA.

Jordan Henderson
FL Appearances:  223
Sunderland Apps: 71
What has he done since?
Henderson is the success story of the 2007-08 youth team. He moved to Liverpool in 2011 for around £16m and has worked his way up to become the captain of the club. He is also a regular with the England national team and has earned 22 caps. Henderson won the League Cup in his first season at Liverpool and was back, as a fan, watching Sunderland’s League Cup final against Manchester City.

Jack Colback
FL Appearances: 219
Sunderland Apps: 114
What has he done since?
Colback spent a few seasons as a regular in the Sunderland midfield, where he played 115 times in the Premier League scoring 4 goals, including a goal against Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby in 2014. Colback then controversially moved to the Mags in 2014 on a free transfer, where he still remains, generally being a failure.

Conor Hourihane
FL Appearances: 198
What has he done since?
Hourihane left Sunderland for Ipswich Town in 2010 to join up with his former manager, Roy Keane. Conor spent one season with the Tractor Boys before moving to Plymouth Argyle where he played for three years before moving to Barnsley, in League One, for a fee of £250,000.

Martyn Waghorn
FL Appearances: 171
Sunderland Apps: 8
What has he done since?
South Shields born Waghorn left Sunderland in 2010 for Leicester City where he stayed until 2014 when he moved to Wigan Athletic. He is now with Rangers in the Scottish Championship after joining them in the summer.

Nathan Luscombe
FL Appearances: 26
Sunderland Apps: 1
What has he done since?
Seen as a potential star, Luscombe suffered a serious injury while playing for Sunderland. He left the club in 2011 and signed for Hartlepool United. Luscombe struggled with weight problems at Pools, where he made 26 appearances in two seasons. He was last playing for now defunct Celtic Nation in the Northern League in 2013 and is currently not involved in football.

David Brown 
FL Appearances: 0
What has he done since?
Brown left for Gateshead but saw little game time and was released soon after joining.

Martin Hunter
FL Appearances: 0
What has he done since?
Moved to the United States and played for the University of Memphis for a couple of years. Martin is now back in England and has played for a couple of Northern League sides including Hebburn Town and West Allotment Celtic. Hunter is currently working as a personal trainer.

Jordan Cook
FL Appearances: 99
Sunderland Apps: 3
What has he done since? 
Cook left Sunderland in 2012 for Charlton Athletic, after a previous loan spell with Carlisle United. Cook made just ten appearances with the Addicks before moving to Walsall in 2014. Cook is still with Walsall where he is chasing promotion to the Championship.

Andrew Galer
FL Appearances: 0
What has he done since?
Was released by Sunderland in 2010 and had trials with Gateshead, Falkirk and Hearts. Galer was last playing local football in the Sunderland Sunday League.

Gavin Scott
FL Appearances: 0
What has he done since?
Joined Consett after leaving Sunderland and is now working as Operations Manager at Stanley Travel.

Ryan Noble
FL Appearances: 28
Sunderland Apps: 6
What has he done since?
Scored a hatful of goals at U21 level for Sunderland but failed to make the grade at the Stadium of Light despite making five Premier League appearances for us. Noble left SAFC in 2013 for Burnley where he made just one appearance before moving to Gateshead. Now with Northern League side Whitley Bay and has previously been with Darlington, Esh Winning and Sunderland RCA.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

BETH MEAD: WHAT'S HER CRAIC
BY EVE SAYERS
THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

Last season may have been another fight against the drop for the men’s side, but Sunderland Ladies are actually rather competent and have had a decent term. The lasses finished fourth and certainly showed them tipping them to be whipping dogs a thing or two. One stand-out performer for the Ladies was Beth Mead. The striker was the league’s top scorer with 12 goals and had an excellent first campaign in the Women’s Super League. For her efforts, Mead won the PFA’s Young Player of the Year award.

We got chatting to Beth and got the lowdown on her career.

Have you always been a striker?
I was a winger when I was younger, a number 7, but since about 14 I’ve been a number 9.

With 77 goals in 78 games, is there a particular player, male or female, that you've tried to emulate or simply learn from? Which player did you watch as a child and think "I want to do that"?
Wayne Rooney, because I’m a Man Utd fan, but I’ve been watching Jamie Vardy a lot this season because we have similar strengths and playing style.

Is there much interaction between the men and women players at Sunderland?
We train in the same place and they do ask us about our results and games. A lot of them have congratulated me after the PFA award.

Which player have you enjoyed playing alongside the most over the years at Sunderland? Are there any you were sorry to see go?
Steph Bannon, because we are really good mates on and off the pitch and I’ve played with her for a long time. She’s a quality defender and a good captain. Most of them really because we are a really tight knit group, but most Vicky Greenwell, she was a good character in the group.

You arrived at Sunderland as the women's game was really starting to take off, particularly at Sunderland. Has the controversial exclusion of the team from the FA WSL on favour of moneybags Man City in 2011 acted as a spur to Sunderland Ladies, made them think "right, we'll show them"?
Yeah, it was incredibly disappointing when that happened, but we knew where we belonged. So, so many people have worked incredibly hard to get us there and prove to people that we deserve to be at that level.

The club’s first season in the WSL was an impressive one, and at one point, the club were tipped for Champions League qualification. Were you and the lasses always confident of doing well and proving everyone wrong?
We had a lot of people tip us for relegation, which sticks in your mind. We got belief when we started winning and that gives you confidence to snowball results and points.
 
You finished fourth last season, what are your aspirations for the coming season? Realistic or otherwise? Do you set a goals target?
To do better. That’s always our goal. To improve on what we have already done and develop. Both for me and the team.
 
Winning the PFA is a huge honour, which you rightly deserve, how are you planning to top that?
I guess to go one better and win the Player rather than the Young Player. But really that would be nothing compared to winning the league or a trophy with Sunderland.
 
The North East is often described as a footballing-hotbed, do you hope that the success of the Ladies team will inspire more young girls to get into football?
Yeah, that’s exactly what we all want, as a club and individuals. There is a great opportunity now that we have a professional team in the region. Girls who are talented here can stay and don’t have to leave the region as they have in the past. Hopefully that encourages them to follow that dream if they have it.

Well done Beth. Maybe Mead and the rest of the lasses can teach the lads a thing or two!

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

PLAYERS GOING, PLAYERS STAYING
GIACCHERINI & PVA CRAIC...

Emanuele Giaccherini’s agent reckons that the little Italian is set to join Torino for £2.5m. Furio Valcareggi said: “I can’t deny that I talked to Petrachi of Torino,” Valcareggi said. “Right now my client is only focused on the European Championships, but he’s pleased to be linked with a big club like the Granata. Sunderland want £2.5m, and we’re ready to knock on their door and negotiate his exit. With a nice project, Giaccherini would also be willing to negotiate on his salary.”

In other news, Patrick van Aanholt has been chatting about his news four-year deal at Sunderland. “I’m very happy to be part of the Sunderland family and I’m very happy to have signed a deal until 2020,” said van Aaanholt. “I think I had a good season and we stayed up so I’m looking forward to the new campaign. The club, the stadium and the fans [made me want to spend the next four years here], I like being here, I enjoy playing football for Sunderland and I want to stay here for a very long time. Two years ago I had no Premier League experience and that’s why I came here, so I think I’ve shown everyone what I’m capable here but now it’s time to develop it. Sam Allardyce gave me a chance; I didn’t start the season very well under Dick [Advocaat] but the new boss came in and gave me all the confidence in the world and I paid it back on the pitch. He’s worked with me in training and in games but it’s not just him and I’ve been working with all the staff so I’m very happy.”

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

at last some news...
season ticket renewal drive

Having extended his contract at the Stadium of Light until 2019, Jermain Defoe has been saying loads of nice things about the club where he intends to end his career. “I’m delighted because as a player when you feel at home, it’s always nice to, for one, be blessed enough to have been offered a deal and when it’s finally done it’s a great feeling,” he said. “I might sign another one after that! The manager (Sam Allardyce) did an article in the papers towards the end of the season saying I’m 33 but a young 33. I’ve always looked after myself; I think it showed last season with my performances and the minutes I played. I feel strong and already I’m looking forward to next season. I’ve set myself challenges already and I’m just delighted to have committed myself to such a great football club. Last season was my first full season and it was a dream to have scored that many goals. Some good signings came in, we finished the season strongly and I’m looking forward to next season. The key thing for me was playing in a good team and I believe with this manager that we can have a good season next year. The first few games of next season are important, you need to get points and not leave it towards the end. Our form towards the end of last season was unbelievable; it was Champions League form, top four form. If you take that into next season, get points at the beginning and try and maintain it, then kick on, you never know what we can achieve. When you come into a football club people expect you to do well and it’s a lot of pressure, it’s never easy to hit the ground running. But I came back for pre-season so focused, I just wanted to do well and score goals and show the fans what I could do. It was a dream how it went, to get the fans’ Player of the Year, I was honoured. That appreciation is amazing, and hard to put into words. It’s a massive club with unbelievable fans. At Tottenham (Hotspur), I always enjoyed coming here to play, you always knew the atmosphere was going to be unbelievable. It’s a proper football stadium. A lot of people have come up to me and said, for the goals I’ve scored, that they love me like Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn. When that happens it’s a dream. When I got the call from Gus (Poyet, head coach when he joined in 2014), I thought ‘It’s a massive club, if I go there and score goals I know the fans will love me’. I spoke to Darren Bent, they loved him because he scored goals. To actually do it is great but you can’t take your foot off the gas, it’s something that I want to do more and more, score goals and push this club forward.”

In other news, Vito Mannone is expected to follow Patrick van Aanholt and Jermain Defoe and pen a contract extension too.

Meanwhile, Lee Cattermole has been saying loads of nice stuff about the club too. I guess this is the season ticket renewal PR drive. “The more time you spend at a club, you get more amongst it don’t you?” said Cattermole. “Especially with me being from up here as well, you live around it. At Norwich (in April) it was a very friendly atmosphere. When Fabio (Borini) did his slide in front of the fans, it was all old faces in the crowd. Whereas up here, they live for every pass. We need to make that work for us."

Catts then went onto chat about all the different managers he's played under at SAFC. "The thing that killed me was when Brucey was sacked (in 2011),” he admitted. “That really hurt me. I always thought, ‘I’m not ever going to be involved in something like that again’. Even though I have been, I’ve never been involved to a point where I thought I could take the blame. I felt that under (Martin) O’Neill I did everything I could have done, and the same with Gus (Poyet). Dick (Advocaat) was obviously a different situation, but Brucey was different. I had injuries as well – I had a serious stress fracture of my back I tried to play with for months. I was having ridiculous amounts of anti-inflammatories which no one ever knows. Things like that happen in your career. I was 20 or 21, and I had to grow up quickly. As you get older, you obviously mature more and get a better understanding of the game, and I give Gus a lot of credit for that,” he reflected. “He was questioning us all the time on the training ground about different situations. It makes you think even more, and you start watching more and seeing what he’s on about.”

Elsewhere, DeAndre Yedlin has thanked Sam Allardyce for developing him as a player while on loan at Sunderland last season. “I have to give a lot of credit to Big Sam." Yedlin said. “I don’t know what it was, but he made something click in my head. Maybe it’s his defensive approach to playing. Every Thursday every defender would do strictly defensive drills, no attacking at all. And we hated it, because it’s not the most fun thing to do, but at the end of the day it helps. And you could see towards the end of the season, the last 11, 12 games, we became a lot stronger as a defensive unit.”

In other news, French full-back Djibril Sidibe has issued a come and get me message to the clubs that are in for him, which seem to include Sunderland, Monaco, PSG and Watford! “Yes I have seen the speculation and my friends have been regularly sending me texts to tell me,” Sidibe said. “I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all and I faced the same situation when I left Troyes. There has been contact, I don’t deny that, but that’s all. My agent handles that, but I’m not involved in any of the talks yet. I have a contract with Lille.”

Finally, a bank account has been created for those who wish to donate to The Charlie Hurley Statue Fund. Nat West Bank. Sort code 600927. Account number 79605796. If possible please send an email to mcmetcalf@icloud.com outlining your donation. Cheques, payable to Charlie Hurley Statue Fund, and cash can also be handed in or posted to Martin O’Neill, Sweet Home Alabama, 2 Fawcett Street, Sunderland SR1 1SJ. Receipts for all donations of, at least, £5 will be given. Plans are also being developed for registered collectors as well as public collection points and anyone donating, at least, £5 will be given a receipt. An announcement on this will follow shortly. Anyone who would like to discuss ideas they may have for fund raising should contact Tracey Hawkins (secretary) on 07736 464023 and tah65@icloud.com, or 
Martin O’Neill on 07723 814983 and martinmoneill@gmail.com or Mark Metcalf (treasurer) on 07392 852561 & mcmetcalf@icloud.com @Charliehurleystatue

The next meeting of the Charlie Hurley Statue group will take place on Friday 17 June at 6.30pm at St Mary Church, 27 Bridge Street, Sunderland SR1 1TQ

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

NEW DEAL FOR DEFOE...
TILL 2019!!

Jermain Defoe has signed a contract extension to keep him at the club until June 2019, by which time he will be 36! Sam Allardyce said: “Jermain is one of the greatest goal-scorers in the history of the Premier League and is a player that every manager would want to have in their team. He proved that beyond doubt last season by scoring 15 league goals, he is in fantastic physical condition and we are very pleased that we have been able to extend his stay with us.”

It seems that Big Sam is set to go back in for Swansea's Andre Ayew despite having a £10million rejected by Swansea for the player in the January transfer window. However, hearsay suggests that Ayew is happy to move on if a bid in the region of £15m was made.

Meanwhile, with the Euros about to start one of the Sunderland players over in France, John O’Shea, has been chatting about Ireland's game at the Stade de France where his country face Sweden on Monday. “The acid test is taking something from the game. But I’m making sure I get in the team, that’s my focus."

Ireland were beaten by, Spain and Italy in the Euros in Poland four years ago, but the Sunderland skipper is quite positive in his outlook for France: “It’s not about atonement, that’s done. After Poland, it was the next campaign, the World Cup. You have to move on. It probably lingered on a bit too much and affected the World Cup campaign. We had to dust ourselves down. The new management structure came in and after a few tough results we managed to dig deep and get ourselves to France. Now we want to really enjoy it. The only enjoyment you get is if you get to the knock-out stages. The days you remember most are the days that haven’t gone well, where you want to improve yourself. It’s not a case that you don’t look back at all. The bad times drive you on to be a better professional and to look at yourself even more. They’re the things that hurt you the most. You can't keep winning and it’s one of those where you have to use that negative thing to turn it into a positive. There are plenty of things that have gone on in the Stade de France that we’d have liked to have gone on our way. We have to use that. As a professional footballer, it’s why you’re in the game to get to these special moments. But you use those bad times as motivation so that they don’t happen again and to make sure there are good times -winning matches and getting to knock-out stages. Getting out of the group, that’s the big thing,” he said. “Get off to the best start possible. You need to take points from the first game; in particular, that’s the big one. You want a great performance, you want a couple of wins but ultimately you want to get out of the group. That’s what the manager is stressing, that we’re not going over here for just three games.”

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

FAMOUS ON THE FULWELL: ALY DIXON
BY CHRIS THOMPSON

THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

When Sunderland lass and long-distance runner, Aly Dixon, headed south to compete in the world-famous London Marathon, she didn't expect to return to Wearside to a hero's welcome. Aly's phenomenal performance in the event culminated in her being the first Briton over the line, which means that she will be competing at the 2016 summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Inheriting the interest in running from her dad, Dixon's love for racing began when she was just 11 years old when she joined her first local running club and began to run at a more competitive level. 26 years later, and with almost a lifetime of hard work behind her, Aly has finally reached her goal of qualifying for the Olympics. Although the athlete knew that she had the pace to achieve the amazing feat, it still made the triumph no less surprising.

“In athletics, there's no further you can go than the Olympics; that's at the top of the sport,” Aly explained, the joy in her voice audible. “It's just crazy. It hasn't really sunk in yet. You dream about it but you never think it's going to happen. In September I ran the Birmingham marathon and recorded the qualifying time then, so going into the London Marathon I knew that I just had to be in the top two Brits and my place was booked. But saying that, anything can go wrong in a marathon. It's 26 miles after all; it isn't like the 100-metre sprint where you only have 10 seconds to worry about!” Aly joked. “It's not like if something had went wrong I would have another chance next week. You can only really do two a year. So I did go into the race with expectations but then I knew how difficult it was going to be. It was also a British Championship run so I wanted to win that as well. The girl I was running with is from Wallsend originally, so I wanted to get one over on Newcastle too.”

Running is such an independent activity, and one that requires immense personal discipline, but Dixon believes that being based in Sunderland makes going out on long runs even easier, due to how beautiful the area is: “One of my favourite running routes is doing the coast. Just head down to the sea front, run all the way along past Latimers and onto the cliff tops, through Whitburn and on to South Shields, then all the way back. On a nice, sunny day running along those cliff tops, you could literally be anywhere in the world. You wouldn't believe it's just a few miles from the city centre. Another route is around Herrington Park and Penshaw Monument, then drop down the back onto the riverside. You're in the middle of the countryside, almost, but then again you're just a few miles from the city centre. We're really lucky with Sunderland because you have the countryside in one direction and the sea front in the other direction. There are plenty of great running routes for those who are looking to get into it but are deterred by the idea of running outdoors. The scenery is beautiful.”

Aly admitted being very grateful for all the media coverage she is receiving, as it aids greatly in her efforts to secure sponsorship, a huge element of being a professional runner. She explained “It's great to receive such positive attention from people in the region. Athletes such as myself rely really heavily on the generosity of local people and businesses to keep going. We don't receive a flash wage like Premier League footballers, which can make our careers hard to sustain given how expensive our kit can be. Media coverage is invaluable to us because sometimes you're living on the bread line until a generous local business will offer you something to help with your training or expenses. I just love running, so I'd prefer not to worry about things like that, but that's the way it is and you have to find ways to make it work.”

You can tell from speaking to Aly that she takes a lot of pride in being from the area, and this translates to her support of SAFC. Aly famously celebrated her finish in the 2015 Great North Run by 'doing a Borini'. She then repeated the celebration in the London Marathon this year. “It was a little bit of a bet. I spoke about it with my friend who I go to the match with. She said: 'do a Borini if you with the Great North Run', which obviously was just a bit of a joke. But I ended up doing really well in the race so I decided to do it as I was crossing the finish line. I did it again in the London Marathon because I knew Steve Cram would be commentating and that he would appreciate it. He was going mad! Because it was live on the BBC, there were a lot of people who didn't know what I was doing. Obviously everybody from Sunderland knew straight away, but people in London were asking: 'why is she doing a Hitler salute!?'”

Dixon notes the cup final in 1992 as her first real memory of, and her first of many heartbreaks, supporting SAFC: “I remember getting my face painted and everyone being really excited in 1992, but I vividly remember the play-off final in 1998 against Charlton, as I went down to Wembley to see it. The year after was a great season though, when we were promoted and won the [now] Championship. The season after that in the Premier League was great as well, everybody thought we would just go straight back down but we finished really high in the league. I remember the parade after we were promoted, it just felt really special."

Dixon is a noted female athlete, and she is delighted to see that more girls are attending football matches, which she believes is partially attributable to the women's game: “There are a lot more groups of girls going to games now, which is great. I think women's football has helped to highlight that there is an interest there for young girls as well. I train with some of the SAFC girls and they are real athletes, I think that sportswomen can learn from working with each other. Football is becoming more of a family affair now and the crowds are no longer male dominated.”

Thank you to Aly for the interview and the best of luck to her when she represents Sunderland and her country at the Olympic Games. You can follow Aly's journey to Rio de Janeiro on her website www.alydixon.com and with the Twitter hashtag #DareToDream.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

SOCCER AID BLOG
BY EVE SAYERS

Sunday’s Soccer Aid was my second trip the charity match which occurs once every two years.

That hoax quote from Roy Keane regarding the event sums it up perfectly. “Kids blowing horns”…after sitting next to a little boy who blew a whistle constantly for 90 minutes, I genuinely never want to hear another whistle again. I think it’d send me over the edge. And to make matters worse, his younger brother sat next to bawling his eyes out because of the whistle.

To that, add thousands of young fan girls screaming their lungs out at any mention of Louis Tomlinson or Niall Horan entering the field, plus several more thousand screaming women going mental at any mention of Robbie Williams.

That aside, it was great to see legends like Ronaldinho, Edgar Davids, Cafu and Fabio Cannavaro play. They’ve all certainly still got it. Which is more than can be said for Robbie Fowler, who seems to have added an extra pound, or two.

Surprisingly, however, it wasn’t any of the Rest of the World’s greats that took the man of the match accolade but TOWIE’s Mark Wright. And for some reason, because Big Sam happened to be manager, we’ve been linked with a move for him. Whilst Wright was excellent and did score that beauty of a free kick, if he cut it in the Premier League then Allardyce will be able to turn water into wine.

It was also nice to see Jermain Defoe run the show in the second half, and should have had four goals to his name. But seemingly officials are just as rubbish in charity games as they are in the Premier League. The Wearside saviour still managed to bag himself a brace however, after linking up with none other than Jack Whitehall, and then Kieron Dyer, whoever he is.

Despite the dodgy officiating, incessant screaming and whistles, it was worth it to see Big Sam’s safety dance, in the flesh for a second time. Never change, Allarydce.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

in for a right back/PVA NEW DEAL...
pre season craic

It seems that Big Sam is keeping his options open at right back, which is bad news for DeAndre Yedlin, because he's been in talks with French right back Jeremy Pied. However, both West Ham and St Etienne are after the free agent too.

Elsewhere, Patrick van Aanholt has penned a new deal at SAFC tying him to the club until June 2020. He had this to say: “I’m very pleased and happy to sign a new deal until 2020,” said van Aanholt. “I had a good season and we stayed up, so I’m looking forward to next season now. I’ve enjoyed playing football at Sunderland and I want to stay here for a long time. Two years ago, I had no Premier League experience and that’s why I came here. I think I’ve shown what I’m capable of. I’ve signed a new deal and it’s time to move on. I didn’t start the season very well under Dick (Advocaat) but the boss (Allardyce) gave me the confidence. I paid him back on the pitch and I think I’ve done that right.”

In other news, after announcing pre season games with Hartlepool and Rotherham (book here for ALS Coach travel), Allardyce reckons we'll also play some games in France, after the players complete a fitness regime in Austria between July 7-16. The gaffer said:  “We’re thinking of going to Avignon, which is where Germany are actually training at the moment. We’re thinking about France as they have improved their facilities so much for the Euros. So it will be Austria first, in the mountains, then into Europe for some competitive games.”

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

QUICK CATCH UP WITH: TREVOR CARSON
BY DAVID DREWETT
THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

Northern Ireland international Trevor Carson spent six years at the Stadium of Light as an understudy to the likes of Simon Mignolet and Craig Gordon. After leaving the club in 2012, Carson went on to join League One Bury, before a loan spell at Portsmouth where he fashioned himself as number one at Fratton Park. He then moved on to Cheltenham, winning their Player of the Year award and becoming a massive fan-favourite in his time with The Robins. Now at North-East neighbours Hartlepool, we thought we'd catch up with Trevor to see what he's been up to...

So Jordan Pickford, did he show the quality he showed last season when he signed five years ago? Could you tell he was going to be the great keeper he's becoming?
After Jordan's first training session with us as a 16 year old, I said to Mark Prudhoe (academy coach) that he will be Sunderland’s number one someday. He has it all, an absolutely fantastic goalkeeper who keeps improving year on year.

You were at Sunderland during some exciting times for the club; with the whole Drumaville takeover and promotion back to the Premier league happening when you signed. If you could pick one, what's your stand-out moment of your time with the Lads?
My stand out moment came as a 17-year-old, at Upton Park on a Friday night when Stephen Elliott scored to clinch promotion back to the Premier League. It was an incredible night, and the fact my best pal Ben Alnwick had a cracking game in goal that night made it even more special. The bus journey home was one I’ll never forget also, mainly because it’s the first time I'd ever had a beer!

You'll have played under a few managers in your time; not just at Sunderland but throughout your career. Who was the best one to work under, and why?
I've been so lucky in terms of playing for some massive characters, some of football’s biggest. Names that spring to mind are Mick McCarthy, Steve Bruce, Roy Keane and Martin O’Neill. They all have their own qualities but our best period was without doubt with Steve Bruce, who I think could have built a legacy at Sunderland. He was a fantastic person; a really down-to-earth man who got the best out of everyone who played under him. There was also a fantastic team behind him at the time, with Eric Black and Nigel Spink.

Onto Pools now, where you’ve quickly become a fan-favourite, much like what you did at Cheltenham. Is it good to be back in the North-East, considering the six years you had up here at Sunderland?
I’m really settled in the North-East. The Hartlepool fans have been great with me on and off the pitch, which I really appreciate. They’re a great team; I love the passion from the fans and everyone at the club.

At Hartlepool there's two very good goalkeepers at the club in you and Adam Bartlett. How beneficial is it for you to have competition as good as him, keeping you on your toes?
Bartlett is different class. He had a fantastic start to season when I was injured and I actually think he was a bit unfortunate to lose his place. But yeah absolutely, ever since I’ve been back in the side, knowing I’ve got Barts breathing down my neck has kept me on my toes. In addition to that, he’s a top, top guy who I now consider a mate, so the rivalry we have is a friendly one.

There’s a lot of travelling in League Two, with lots of games coming in midweek. Do you still find the time to get to go and watch games, whether that be at Sunderland or your boyhood club, Rangers?
I've been to a couple of Sunderland games, with it being close, but I haven't been to a Rangers game in a while. Usually Sundays are my day with my little girl, and when I’ve asked if she wants to go to the match or have playtime, it’s playtime every time. But of course, I’m still a fan.

Bit more trivial now, who was the best player you played alongside during your time at Sunderland?
That’s a tough one. In terms of best player, but maybe not at their peak when they arrived here you’d have to say Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, two Premier League legends. In terms of producing their best for us however, it’d have to be Steed Malbranque, he was a bit special. He was the quiet man, never said much but never had to as he let his feet do the talking. He could nutmeg a mermaid!

Finally, as I’m sure those who read this will know, you've been in the news lately for your mission to raise money for your sister-in-law's operation. Would you mind telling us a little bit about the campaign and how it's going so far?
Well Melanie has a disorder called EDS (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). She’s been bed bound since around the age of 12 and recently her health has seriously deteriorated. She is having up to 40 seizures a day and the only cure is an operation is America that will cost £130,000. I decided to do a 10km beach assault course, my aim was to raise £1000, but more importantly get the word out there and spread some awareness about Melanie's condition. So far the generosity has been incredible; I've raised nearly £1500.

If you’d like to donate to this cause, a link can be found on Trevor’s twitter page @trevorcarson24. He’ll be doing the 10km Beach Assault Course on the 16th June at Whitley Bay.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

A SUNDERLAND FAN THE IN LEPPINGS LANE END AS DISASTER STRUCK.
BY MICHAEL GOULDING
THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

It’s difficult to put into words how I feel in the wake of the Hillsborough Inquest verdict, so high are my emotions running. Twenty-seven years ago, me and my very good Liverpool-supporting mate Mark Grierson attended that game.

It wasn’t the first, or the last, time I’d accompanied him to big games to watch Liverpool. I developed a soft spot for Liverpool in 1962, the year of my first game at Sunderland as a nine-year-old, when we finished third (and failed to be promoted) in a Second Division which was won by a resurgent Liverpool under Bill Shankly.

Two years later, while we finally won promotion to the top flight with our famous 1964 team under Charlie Hurley, Liverpool were crowned English Champions. Merseybeat was at its height, and Liverpool soon changed their strip to the all-red version for which they’re famous. That strip, worn by Ian St John, Roger Hunt, Tommy Smith etc inspired me almost as much as The Beatles.

And so, as a lifelong and long-suffering Sunderland fan, Liverpool have always been the “other team” I like the most after Sunderland. And it was never hard to accept Mark’s hospitality and get away from constant failure at Roker Park, to enjoy “holiday” jaunts with Liverpool to Wembley, and to two FA Cup Semi-Finals at Hillsborough.

The first was in 1988, also against Nottingham Forest, when from our seats in the main stand we had witnessed a crush build up on the Leppings Lane terraces, causing Liverpool fans to be hauled up to safety into the seats above – an image which was to become horribly iconic a year later.

So in 1989 we were back, and this time were in the Leppings Lane End itself. Mark’s never been much of a drinker, and I was driving that day, so we omitted the pre-match drink which is my normal religious observance before all Sunderland games, and we went through the turnstiles early.

Never having been in that end before, we followed our noses straight ahead towards the only visible access to the lower terrace, which was through an awful, low-ceilinged, brick and concrete tunnel.

We then found ourselves in what was to become the infamous Pen 3, where most of the 96 deaths occurred.

We considered staying there, but remembered the previous year’s crush in that pen, and on looking around we saw that there was more space and a better vantage point to the sides, where the terraces nearer the corner flag rose up above the pens behind the goal.

So we got out, just a few minutes before it would have been impossible to do so. We knew from one previous visit that it was potentially dangerous in Pen 3, so how, I reasoned half an hour later, could the authorities in charge not have known?

One of my last memories from before the problems started was looking down on where we’d just been and seeing happy and boisterous fans carelessly batting about those inflatables and beach-balls which used to be so prominent at matches in those days. Then it turned bad, and we watched people struggling and... we all know the rest.

Like many fans of my age, I’ve been in big crowds before, where it can get scary when people move, you get squashed, and lose control of your feet. Those of us who remember the big games at the old Roker Park, when it held 60,000-plus, standing at the Roker End (which held 18.000 on its own) or the Fulwell, will know what I mean.

But I realised that this was an entirely different world, the moment a fan died in front of my eyes. The game had been stopped; fans were finally spilling onto the pitch after struggling to get over the fence; one fan staggered across the grass clutching at his throat, unable to breathe. He collapsed on the ground in front of us. Somebody knelt over him, tried to help, and finally put a jacket over his face. How could this be happening? At a football match? Hemmed in and unable to move, thousands of us watched in disbelief.

Then something happened which restores your faith in your fellow man. While the police, many of whom must have had at least basic First Aid training, threw up a uniformed cordon across the pitch and waited for further orders which never came, the fans, without assistance or prompting, took the situation into their own hands.

They created makeshift stretchers from advertising hoardings. They ran (ran!) the length of the pitch ferrying the dead and the dying and those in need of specialist help. They were the real heroes that day, while the police and ambulance people (barring a few notable exceptions) did nothing. The truth of these stories are all out now in the public domain, and finally justice has arrived on the scene, 27 years late, impeded on its way at every step by those whose job it was to ensure its speedy passage. The police, the politicians, in short, the establishment.

When we finally got out of the ground and started making our way home, our own inquest began.

We recalled that, on coming back out of Pen 3 through the tunnel (which still gives me a shudder down my spine when I think about it), it hadn’t been obvious how to get to the upper terracing to the side of the pens. We went through an opening and around a corner before we found the steps. What kind of design was that? Surely everybody on entering through the turnstiles would head straight for the tunnel in front of them? This simple fact was obvious to us even then, and we didn’t even know Hillsborough.

So I said it that very night, and continued to say it for years to anybody who’d listen, that the disaster could have been averted if the police had closed the entrance to the tunnel when Pens 3 and 4 were clearly full. This has been accepted for some time. But reading the evidence from the inquest is the first time I’ve been made aware that there was at the time an existing, established “tactic” for doing just that, the so-called “Freeman tactic”. A simple tactic that wasn’t used on the day, while lies were spread by the police about what had happened, to divert attention. Lies which became such a part of the public consciousness, that only a couple of years ago people were still saying to me that it was all down to drunken fans pushing and shoving.

And yet despite always knowing the basic truth, I’ve been shocked and upset by some of the evidence which has come out today. The extent of the police culpability, and their appalling behaviour, both during and after a tragedy which destroyed lives; and the callous and despicable way they treated the victims and their families, has left me angry and uncontrollably upset.

Aided and abetted by Thatcher and her obnoxious press secretary, Bernard Ingham, the establishment closed ranks around the fabricated police narrative, happy to accept and believe it until it was absorbed into popular mythology. The despicable but top-selling establishment rag The Sun thought nothing of p***ing on people’s grief and slandering the dead and the brave alike with their lies and vile accusations. And the Editor responsible still gets invited onto BBC’s Question Time.

So there’s a wider social context here, which goes beyond Liverpool and Hillsborough. Older fans will remember how hooliganism in the 70s and early 80s (always a minority feature of football) allowed the authorities to create a world where all football fans became “animals”.

We should remember the hostility to working class communities from Thatcher’s government; the attitude of the police to what they saw as the working class ‘mob’, and the disdain in which fans were held even by their own club directors.

The history of policing in South Yorkshire, and in particular how they had policed the miners’ dispute, had a real bearing on Hillsborough. Their priority to protect themselves and those in power by lying, fabricating evidence and engaging in a cover up already had a precedent in that dispute. But this mindset was shared by others throughout “the establishment”.

As a Sunderland fan, I remember how Roker Park changed, and the awful place it became compared to what we have at the Stadium of Light now. But we shouldn’t get too complacent, just because we’re more comfortable. Football fans were treated like animals back then, and still are in certain respects (although health and safety and human rights ameliorates that somewhat). Cages were built then to keep fans penned in like cattle, and did their job horrifyingly well at Hillsborough. They’ve gone now, but we are still not treated with respect. As football fans we are still subjected to indiscriminate searches, having our movement restricted, and having our property confiscated without compensation, on the basis of laws which do not apply to any other sport.

It seems to me that the Hillsborough Inquest verdict heralded more than justice for the 96. It's possible that a victory has been won in a wider context: which is that of ordinary people refusing to back down or buckle under establishment pressure.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

I LIKE SUNDERLAND, AGAIN
BY MICHAEL GRAHAM

THE BEST OF ALS: A SELECTION OF THE BEST ARTICLES FROM LAST SEASON

I can remember the precise moment, probably because, for a Sunderland fan, such joyous epiphanies have become far too rare in recent years.

It was against Arsenal at home. Jan Kirchhoff, who I love, imperiously striding forward and thwacking an inch-perfect 40-yard through ball with the outside of his right boot to Jermain Defoe, who I think is class, to fire an attempt on goal before Fabio Borini, who I kinda fancy a little bit in a perfectly fine, macho and fully heterosexual way, tried to pick up the rebound.

That was the moment, after years of feeling disillusioned and frankly increasingly bitter towards the men and mercenaries privileged to wear my club’s shirt, that I realised that, actually, I really like this current Sunderland side. That’s both brilliant as well as quite sad, really.

I remember the young me, obsessively writing the Sunderland team out on notepaper again and again. Back then clubs didn’t really have “squads”. They had eleven players who played every week, three or four more who would fight it out to be one of the, then, two substitutes, a reserve goalkeeper, who you saw less of than the relatives you only see at Christmas, and a youth team in case of absolute selection emergencies.

Those eleven players became just about every doodle in every school book I had. I could write them out in my sleep through muscle memory alone. ‘1 Tony Norman, 2 John Kay, 3 Rueben Agboola, 4 Gary Bennett, 5 John McPhail, 6 Gary Owers, 7 Paul Bracewell, 8 Gordon Armstrong, 9 Eric Gates, 10 Marco Gabbiadini, 11 Colin Pascoe.’

I didn’t even need to look it up now after all these years.

Yes, I know that there is always a lot more romanticism looking back. Your first team, the one who wore your club’s shirts when you fell for the game, is like your first love. They were far from perfect but your memory always applies a compulsory coat of gloss that never really loses its shine.

It also helped that they won plenty of games, of course. You can talk about connections between the terraces, as it was then, and the players all you want, but the fact is that as long as our team is winning games and producing moments worth remembering, we are going to like them.

I do wonder what my nine-year-old self would make of me now, though. My life and I are more intertwined with football than ever, but I can’t remember truly warming to a Sunderland team for many years.

There have been the odd players here and there that I’ve taken a shine to, often for literally no reason at all. I had a real thing for Ji Dong-won for a while there, and Lee Cattermole has certainly tackled and scrapped his way into my affections over the years. So it’s clear that the heart is still engaged somewhere, and I have to admit that there has been the odd time when I’ve questioned whether it was.

When Steven Fletcher was poncing around a pitch every week more interested in fancy flicks and fancier sports cars, I found it tough to like him, for example. When players, week after week, year after year, planted this club in a relegation fight without showing any inclination whatsoever it even remotely bothered them, I think I’d had itchy verrucae I’d genuinely found inherently more tolerable.

But that’s changed now. I like Kirchhoff, Borini and Defoe.

I like Lamine Kone’s bonkers tweets and determination to want to physically dominate anything that has the sheer temerity to move. I like Younes Kaboul’s puffed out chest and weirdly beautiful crossing. I like Patrick van Aanholt’s constant willingness. I like the weird psychological dichotomy that Vito Mannone has going on that seems to make him switch randomly between being an adorable emotionally vulnerable puppy and a right moody horrible bastard.

I like DeAndre Yedlin’s consistent improvement and what it says about his character. I like the way that John O’Shea never gives me even the slightest reason to question whether the club always comes first in his professional world. I like Whabi Khazri’s wriggly little ways.

I like Duncan Watmore’s endless enthusiasm and endearing, for now, naivety. I like Seb Larsson’s permanent grump on, even when things are going fairly well. I like Jack Rodwell’s... errrrrm… ok, so there are some exceptions.

The point is, though, is that I like these players. I always went and watched the ones I didn’t like, but it was more out of habit and stubbornness than anything else, like watching the final two or three seasons of Lost, I suppose. I knew it was almost certainly going to make me angry with its persistent propensity to insult every facet of my intelligence, but I said I was sticking with it and I’m seeing it through. That’s what it was like.

However, this lot I actually want to go and watch. I want to root for them. I want to do that weird thing where you refer to people you’ve never met by their first name and pretend to yourself that you’re buddies. I like the names on the back of the shirts as well as the name on the badge on the front of it.

It shouldn’t be a big deal, really. It absolutely shouldn’t be sufficiently noteworthy to merit a full article in fanzine.

It is, though. After years of believing that the players at my football club were doing nothing but abusing it, I now feel like we have a bunch who are proud of it and willing to work their nuts off for it, they will do just fine for me.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

IF I WERE A RICH MAN
BY SOBS

THE BEST OF ALS

It’s recently been revealed that the richest person in the North East owns a chain of tatty sportswear shops and a Championship football club. Hs name is Mike Ashley, and describing him as “North Eastern” is a bit rich. Like him, actually, as he’s just seen his fortune diminish by £250 million without it affecting his position at the top of the league, ‘cos he’s still got £3.5 billion left. No, I don’t know how to do that many noughts either, which makes our very own Ellis Short’s £1 billion nest egg, which hasn’t suffered any change in the last year, a bit easier to write down and take him into second place.

That’s either an indictment of the way the modern game has gone or an endorsement of it as a great place for attracting investment.

But is it investment? Can anyone seriously put money into a football club and expect a positive financial return? It appears that’s exactly what Ashley wanted to do, but no suitable offers have been made which would have turned a profit for him. Ellis Short? I can’t see that he sought to make a profit out of SAFC, especially when it was effectively sold to him, on Drumaville’s behalf, by Quinny. Big Niall wouldn’t have sold SAFC as a source of profit, simply because he knows about football and what makes the heart of a football club beat. When he brought in the Drumaville consortium, the due diligence seemed to take forever, but it was the right thing to do.

In contrast, when Ashley bought the Mags, he skipped that bit and steamed in waving a monstrous wad of fivers (to be fair, it’s a tactic that’s served him well in almost all his business dealings outside of football) and got well and truly bitten on his not inconsiderable arse when the skeletons began falling out of cupboards, teeth gnashing. It cost him more than just wages and transfer fees to get the ship on an even financial keel, but he’s sort of got there by various convoluted means. Still no takers to buy it, though.

Ellis has thrown a lot of money at recruitment, many of which were on the back of woefully inaccurate advice from Di Fanti, meaning that he’s still paying wages to players who have no perceivable future on Wearside. Ashley’s policy of only buying players who’d have a resale value higher than their purchase price, regardless of their ability to fit into any system a manager may wish to implement, has meant financial gain at the expense of his team developing any sort of “style”, which is probably one of the reasons he’s had no buyers come forward. that and a couple of relegations too!

There you are, then. The region’s two richest people own the region’s two biggest football clubs, which is the reason they’re in the region in the first place. Without the football, Ellis would be in Texas, or Skibo Castle, and Fat Mike would be on Camden Market, shouting “two fer a paahhhnd!” Which poses the question, is it a waste of money for them?

In Ashley’s case, I’d have to say yes, because, of his own admission, he bought the club to sell on at a profit. In Ellis’s case, I’d say no, because he bought the club on the advice of someone who knows about football and persuaded him, as he’d previously persuaded a bunch of Irishmen “who liked a punt” that the ride with Sunderland would be something worth being part of. Probably “for the craic” as well. If I were rich enough, there’s nothing I would like to do more than own my beloved SAFC, and chuck unimaginable amounts of dosh at it until we won every club trophy from the Durham Challenge Cup to the Champions League and the World Club Championship and let everybody in for nothing: free pies, the lot.

I would argue that anyone who truly loves football would never buy a club with the intention of making a profit out of it. Where in the past, the local butcher (Man Utd), scrap metal man (Blackburn), or car dealer (SAFC) could back his local team with a relative amount of financial success (i.e. not get into too much debt before passing it on to his son), the top division required bigger investors from the day the Premier League came along. Jack Walker at Blackburn was the last of these to have any real success and he had to sell his business to raise the cash to bankroll their title win. Since then, we’ve rapidly moved through British millionaires to Russian Oligarch billionaires to Arab Royal families and I don’t even know the name for the amount of money they possess.

Suffice to say that City could afford to pay £12 million for eighteen-year-old Patrick Roberts (no, me neither), a winger who’d played a whole nineteen games for Fulham without scoring. He managed one game for City, as a sub against us, as they just squeezed past us in the League Cup last September. He’s now on an eighteen month loan at Celtic, where he’ll gain invaluable experience of winning non-contests every other week. A few years back, they paid Everton the same amount for a certain Jack Rodwell, prompting our Ian to say “I see Rodwell has given up on first-team football.” Sixteen games in two years was all he got before, well, you know the rest. City and Chelsea can afford to indulge their owner's desires by buying up anything with two legs that looks like it might be any good, and either doing nothing with their acquisitions, or sending them out on loan. Last September, Chelsea had thirty-three players out on loan, honest, emphasising just how much a game of Fantasy Football the Prem has become, with the clubs being nothing more than playthings for the scandalously rich.

Of the seven clubs owned in the majority by British people, only Spurs had a chance of topping the league this season. While City’s majority owner is Sheikh Mansour, a worrying 13% is owned by the Chinese Government, who are obviously just in it for a laugh.

The rest? I don’t know enough about the various owners to form a serious opinion on whether or not they’re not out to make a fast buck. Having met Ellis Short on the way back from West Ham, the conversation only confirmed my earlier supposition that he’s in it for sporting reasons, and I don’t think he’s in the minority. I think that most clubs are owned by people who are in simply to enjoy (if that’s the right word) having a football team, and possibly win things, rather than make a killing.

Is football in the Premier League a waste of money, or a rich person’s plaything? If you’re to make money out of a club, you need to buy, invest to develop an identity, win some things, and attract buyers. Not easy. If you want a bit of a laugh, have shed loads of cash, and are prepared for a bit of a cry in the Championship, it’s a great place to play.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

RADIO GA GA
BY CHRIS GROVES

THE BEST OF ALS

You never think your match day habits will get you into bother do you? You know, wearing the same scarf, going to the same pub. My wife and I have a lot of such superstitions. Our only excuse is that since we started our current crop of rituals, we haven’t been relegated.

I won’t bore you anymore on this point, except to say that predating every ritual I take a radio to the match. My excuse is I get instant feedback on key incidents and advance notice of pending substitutions. Most importantly, you get the correctly biased commentary. The BBC’s Gary Bennett and Nick Barnes are now the only local option as Metro and Century have hung up their boots. (The peak for latter being Simon Crabtree’s immortal “I’ve wet me knickers” comment when Carlos Edwards’ Exocet missile smashed into the Burnley net to put us 3-2 up in 2007 and virtually guarantee promotion.)

However, at away grounds (apart from the landfill up the road), these options are limited, Talksport or 5 live have to suffice, unless you can find, (and stand), the opposition’s local station, and then only if you are winning.

A further complication is that to avoid Mags games, you have to use a DAB radio at the SOL. Problem is, put it in your pocket, the signal goes. So I have to keep waving the thing about. I get the odd comment, but frankly don’t care as I’m now in my late 50s and the grandchildren have stopped coming to the matches with me, so I can’t embarrass them.

We have been “lucky" enough to get to a lot of away games in recent years. Last game we missed was the trip to Southampton in 2013. (That was the one where they pegged us back in stoppage time, which the Lads kindly re-enacted the other month).

So at Norwich in April, I duly plugged in my earphones and nervously started watching the game. The ritualistic listening alternated between 5 Live and Talk sport. But then Defoe got the second. Put this into context, failure to get the second had cost us in our last two away games. But, now Kirchoff and Catts were controlling the midfield, Fabio was looking more like the player we borrowed in 2013-14 than the one we bought. Vito was reprising his “player of the season days”. My confidence was growing. It’s not that I wanted to gloat, but something made me retune to Radio Norfolk.

The same thing that after six wonderful derby wins had me scrolling You Tube for “True Geordie’s” post stuffing rants (and yes I hoped my drinking offended him). I know we play Norwich for the Friendship Trophy and I’ve still kept my 1985 Milk Cup Final programme in pristine condition. I also suspect that Delia might have done her bit for the standard of match day pies. But we were suddenly back in with a shout of staying up again. Before the match we had to put up with the home fans waiving their inflatable canaries, and as for those bloody clappers their supporters were using…

Retribution was swift. Three stewards arrived, they were all unnervingly polite. “Can you come with us please sir,” followed by, “you are not in any trouble,” said in a manner that on TV cop shows always results in bail being refused. As I left the stand one of the stewards shrugged and walked away, to be replaced by another downstairs wearing a Sky TV lanyard. (Odd, as the match was on BT and on such occasions Sky don’t even have the matchday highlights). The politeness continued and the conversation was surreal. What was I doing exactly?

“Er watching the game.”
“Yes and what else?“
”Listening to the radio?"
"Yes what exactly were you listening to?”
"BBC radio.” Of course by then I was downstairs in the concourse and true to form my radio had gone off.

They used the silence to explain what this was all about betting. As there are loads of opportunities for betting before and during the game, how can it possibly be an illegal activity? Even if it had caused a problem or two for our shot-shy striker Michael Chopra. Not me, I say, I’m not into it. In fact the nearest I get is an each way bet on the Grand National.

But no, this had nothing to do with activities promoted by Ray Winstone’s disembodied head and the like. Apparently there are big illegal betting syndicates in China where massive sums are waged on any aspect of the game you care to mention. Problem for these betting establishments is that they don’t have any of the necessary pay TV stations. So they work by randomly placed fans at games providing illegal commentaries. Yep that’s what they thought I was doing!

This isn’t merely a Norfolk phenomenon, it happens at our stadium as well. Club staff turned out to be unsurprised when the ALS Editor later contacted them explaining what had happened to me. What I found surprising was the number of staff involved at Norwich, plus the time it seemed to take. They all had their own series of questions, Name, address, (including post code), phone number? Who had I travelled with? Had I any other devices? I proudly showed them my Blackberry, (really with it, I am).

Questions continued to the point of banality, “What time had we set off?” I must be “really pleased with this result” etc. It was getting to the point where I was almost expecting them to ask where the Missus and I were going for our holidays. Unfortunately they didn’t find the steward who made the initial report. With each introduction the new steward stressed that the details were needed as “a report would have to be made to the FA” and “I did agree, didn’t I, that this was a really important issue?” Years ago an old friend taught me an important lesson about dealing with officials at away matches (especially if you are winning) always be polite and smile. As not following his own advice caused him to miss a match at Birmingham City, I have always taken it seriously. In any case I’ve no objection to people doing their jobs. The staff at Norwich and Swansea, along with many others, are a fairly friendly bunch and over the years I have enjoyed lots of good crack and banter. Mind it's usually best when the stewards are fans of a club’s local rivals, (like the West Ham fan at Palace who was ecstatic when we won there earlier this season).

When I got back to my seat we were in stoppage time. Another fan turned to me and suggested I write to the FA as the steward who had reported me had then seen my radio, shrugged and said “He has done nothing.” Should I complain? We had got up at 3am, driven 20+ miles up to the Stadium, got the ALS bus at 5.30am, to attend perhaps the key match of the season, of which I missed 13 of the 90 minutes. A few months earlier we had been 2-0 down on 77 minutes at pre walk-out Anfield and we all know how that game ended. All I had wanted to do was get back to the game, so I could see what happened rather than be told about it. I was also stewarding our bus and beginning to worry not getting away from my inquisitors in time.

But then, I saw Watmore get the third. Ha’way the Lads. We were back in it. However, for the rest of the season my wife is insisted I leave the radio at home.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

TWENTY NIL. TWENTY BLOODY NIL!
BY SOBS

First question. Do you fancy playing at the SoL? That was the question I was posed last week. My answer? What do you think, man!

Dafabet, those nice people who sponsor the team and thus have their name on the front of your replica shirts, had the option to use the pitch, and the behind-the-scenes facilities, as part of their sponsorship deal, and they thought it might be a nice idea to offer A Love Supreme and Roker Report the chance to take to the field against each other.

Second question – will we be able to get a team together? That one was answered fairly quickly when over 100 people replied in a positive fashion to our appeal/competition for players, necessitating a training/selection session on Wednesday. It took some doing to whittle that lot down to the permitted squad of eighteen of a mix of ALS writers and competition winners, although “Taylor, S, centre-half, of Ponteland” was dismissed immediately from our thoughts, but somehow we managed, and so it was that we arrived at the SoL full of hope, hope that we don’t embarrass ourselves.

As Roker Report had bagged the option to wear the famous stripes, we nabbed the home dressing room and donned our natty ALS blue outfits. We took our preparations fairly seriously, having a manager (Martyn “Competitive” McFadden), a coach/assistant manager (Mal “worked with Cloughy” Bramley) and a player coach (me, I haven’t got a nickname, well other than Sobs). We also picked the starting eleven with four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards, and we stuck to that throughout an afternoon of continual rolling substitutions, whilst keeping the spine of the team in place, which we managed to rotate quite well, keeping most happy and give everyone a game. We also sported eight pairs of black boots amongst the seventeen on show.

The day was dry and almost sunny, the pitch was – well, perfect, which is probably easy to say when you plied your trade in the muck and nettles of Sunday morning football. We kicked off South, which is the way it should be for any side of mine at the SoL, and our selection quickly proved correct. With Harvey “Kirchhoff” Johnson and Joe “Kirchhoff” Mills at the centre of defence, fullbacks Paul “Kaysie” Robson and Adam “PVA” Williams provided good cover for keeper Adam “ Sørensen ” Baker. Centre midfielders Jonathan “Kirchoff” Linsley and Shaun “M’Vila” Graham proved the driving force in the middle of the park, setting up wingers Henry “Road Runner” Eastman and Ben "No nonsense" Rowlands to provide the bullets for strikers Anth “The Cobra” Carter and Matty “Sniper" Vant. It took a while to break the deadlock, as we missed a good chance and then hit the post, while forcing a string of corners.

“Once we get the first goal, things will change” was the cry as the gaffer and I patrolled the technical area like a pair of constipated cats – and they did. By the time we got to the break, we’d popped in five without reply, and with half an hour gone we felt confident enough to start the substitutions. We saw the first period out with Eve “Marathon Woman” Sayers filing in at right back and Adam "Lungs" Brown bossing the right wing and allowing Ben Rowland to move into a central striking role and give Matty a breather. Keep on in that style was the half-time message to the troops over the half-time platter of fruit, as we felt we had better fitness and organisation than Roker Report. Scott “Striker” Young went between the sticks. Paul “Summerbee” Bramley went close with strikes from both wings, Chris "The Hatcket" Thompson kicked on like Catts at right back and Russell “Looks like Steve Bruce” Price was solid and dependable wherever he played.

To say that our second half instructions to score more but concede none were carried out to the letter is a bit of an understatement. Scott came out of goal, with Adam Baker going back in, and scored. Anth continued to rattle them in, with one dummy miss-kick being a highlight that sent the keeper the wrong way, and Ben too scored seemingly at will. We even scored three while I enjoyed my fifteen minutes of relative fame. As it was, we scored every three minutes on average to fire in fifteen times before the end of the second half, despite being caught offside about twenty times. Over-eagerness rather than indiscipline, that and the opposition being too tired to chase back fast enough. 20-0 at the whistle, which must surely be a stadium record. For the record, the goals came from Johnson (4), Eastman (2), Young (1), Rowlands (6), and Carter (7). Man of the match was tricky, as there were a number of outstanding performances, but the bottle of bubbly went to Anth Carter, scoring seven at the SoL is worthy of an award of some sort, for sure.

It wasn’t so much about winning, but beating the opposition, and we played to win in a game that was played in a good spirit – there were a few hefty challenges flying in, but nothing too nasty and the officials officiated in the right way, although the liner on the west side must have had a tired arm with all the offsides. It was a great team performance from ALS, but I doubt if any of us will be in Sam’s thoughts for the game at Hartlepool or Rotherham. Shame.

Back to the home dressing room, then the players’ lounge for lasagne and chips. Did we enjoy the experience? You bet – as Mal Bramley said before the game – we have the chance to do what tens of thousands of fans would love to do, so enjoy it, and as Martyn chipped in, but when you tell people that you played at the SoL and they ask you if you won, make sure you can say YES! We managed both and had a great time doing it.

Twenty nil. Twenty bloody nil!

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

FRANCIS TODD MALONE BLOG
POST ENGLAND

Watch England last night? No arguing with grinding out a win when you don't impress but those tipping us to blitz all before us in France this summer were left clucking at the lack of creativity. The Carl Douglas red card aside, a strange selection of England dead ball takers was the main talking point, until someone with genuine ability out wide slung over a tasty cross which resulted in the only goal of the game. And then everyone started believing again. 

That's my nod to Hodgson's lot. For those of us for whom club matters before country, we're in that weird state of limbo, sort of knowing not much is going to happen at our place in the next few weeks, while keeping an eye on what's going on elsewhere. Andre Ayew seemingly remains top of our shopping list but it's managers rather than players who are currently more in demand nationally. Villa, Blackburn, Derby and Leeds have all picked their new man in the space of 24 hours, with Everton seemingly closing on theirs. Southampton fans must be thinking "here we go again" as they see another big club sniffing around someone who has helped make them stronger. Be thankful we've got a decent gaffer who is clear in what he wants and expects - but maybe doesn't fit the necessary "profile" to catch the eye of others. 

Sticking with managers, Brucie's back in the Premier. I had a feeling Wednesday would win the play-off final and hoped Ross Wallace would rise to the occasion - but there was no arguing with the outcome. It looked a game too far for Carlos Carvalhal's lot - something Sunderland fans heading to Wembley in the last 40-odd years know only too well. On reflection, Hull going up is probably no bad thing for us, as their resources don't match Wednesday's, therefore making them less likely to move above us in the pecking order. Either way, with Boro and Burnley also up it's good news for the north - and us, with less travelling as a result.

On June 15 it won't be the developments in Group A or B of the European Championships that we'll be keeping a close eye on, it'll be the unveiling of the fixtures. That's when everything will seem that little bit closer. I don't know what the computer's got down for us but a nice awayday jolly to start, and Boxing Day and final day games at home are what I usually look for, after the obvious check for the derby dates (tumbleweed moment). Spare a thought for them up the road, with games against Leeds just about as big as it gets next season. We should remember though, Rafa's back to deliver the inevitable 100-point plus Championship-winning campaign. And, with the title possibly wrapped up in March, they'll be well placed to give the FA Cup final their full focus. And, with an airport and everything, they won't just stop at the double. Success in Europe is bound to follow, then world domination. Poor old Wearside, home of little old Sunderland, little old Premier League Sunderland, can only dream of such things... 

So another relegation scrap next season? To the backdrop of a couple of corporate punters serenading a smiling Quinny with a version of "Disco Pants" half an hour after most of the punters had departed the Everton game at the SOL, Jamie Carragher said no, things look a lot brighter for us - and that's something many of us believe. In previous years we've limped over the line, knowing deep down the following campaign would be same shite, different netty. The way we finished 2015/16, losing only one of our last 11 (to the champions), playing free-flowing football culminating in six goals in two home games against sides we rarely get much from at home, means hopefully our days of flirting with the drop zone are done. 

See you the other side of the fixtures...

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

SAM HAS A PLAN...
GOMEZ LINKED

It seeks like Sam Allardyce is focused on new signing and not watching the Euros. And the first play through the door could be Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ibai Gomez. Allardyce said: “The club has got to try and get itself into a better position. This is the fourth season we have struggled against relegation. For the fans, especially, it’s about trying to stop the heartache that they have suffered for the last four seasons on the trot, and try to give them that little bit more. That will all depend on how good a pre-season we have and how well we recruit because we’ve got to try and get off to a much better start than the club has achieved in the last four seasons when they’ve not won any of the first four or five games and it’s always been a struggle from there on. I’m looking forward to the Euros to see hopefully this young England team coming to fruition and be much better than what they did in the World Cup, but my focus is on Sunderland. We have got a lot of catching up on with pre-season as we didn’t know what we would be coming back for.”

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

Scores On The Doors. By Eve Sayers...
THE BEST OF ALS

Well we stayed up and sent the Mags down, but we need to do better than that next season. Here's the scores on the doors for 2015/16...

Vito Mannone: 6/10

The Italian has firmly established himself as our Number One following Costel Pantilimon’s sale to Watford, and whilst Big Sam was clearly impressed with youngster Jordan Pickford, Mannone seemed be the man for him. Despite his distribution being poor, he is still a decent and reliable shot stopper.

DeAndre Yedlin 6/10
The right-back has generally been in and out of the team at the expense of Billy Jones. Pace aside, I’m not sure there’s a great deal between the two, Yedlin is better than Jones going forward, but probably weaker defensively. He could really do with working on his foul throws however, once is frustrating but five or six times is unacceptable, and when it costs you a derby win. Shuld we try and get him back next season? Maybe.

John O’Shea 6/10
This could be John O’Shea’s last season for us as a regular. The veteran put in a number of decent performances and still leads the line very well and there are no doubts that he will have tutored our newest defensive recruits. But Kone and Kaboul are the more favourable pairing at the moment and will take some shifting.

Younes Kaboul: 7/10
It's been a bit of a hit and miss debut season for the Frenchman. He missed a large number of games due to injury, but when he has played, he's defended competently. Kaboul also offers a little something going forward, as seen with his delightful cross to tee up Steve Fletcher against Newcastle. Finished the season well though and he and Kone look the real deal for 2016/17, if he can stay fit.

Lamine Kone: 8/10
It may have proved a power struggle to actually bring Kone to Wearside in the first place and having been threatened with numerous law suits and a points deduction, we finally got our man, and boy was it worth it. Kone is literally a defensive rock, his tackle to take out Toure on his debut epitomises his style of play. He should definitely be at the heart of our defence for years to come.

Patrick van Aanholt: 7/10
If PVA’s form under Poyet and Advocaat had continued then I’m pretty sure his score here would’ve been a 3/10, but the left-back has matured leaps and bounds under Allardyce. Though he can still fluster defensively, his overall game has improved massively and whilst he offers a great threat going forward, he now manages to do his bit at the back too. Although sometimes he can be caught sleeping.

Billy Jones: 5/10
My word. I’m not entirely sure what to say about Jones, it hasn't been a great season for the right-back, but then again it wasn’t really a great season for Sunderland. Jones just can't seem to find his feet and is too often poor, or poorly. The only thing bringing his score up to a five is his goal against the Mags. Then again, everyone but Rodwell and Altidore could’ve scored that.

Jack Rodwell: 4/10
£10million. Ten million pounds, ten million pounds of actual English sterling for this man. How and why Gus Poyet? I thought his last season was bad, but I can’t think of one thing he’s done of note in the 15/16 campaign. He maybe had one or two good games around March/April, but apart from that his appearances have been enough to move people to tears, especially when coming on as impact sub. His miss against Leicester sums up his time at Sunderland.

Ola Toivonen: 5/10
The Swedish Jack Rodwell maybe? Toivonen initially impressed, but after that, he just kind of fizzled out, really, really badly. I’m not sure how it’s possible for a Premier League footballer to be so slow, but somehow Toivonen has achieved it.

Lee Cattermole: 6/10
It’s been a tough season for our longest-serving player. A frustrating back injury and a massive dip in form found Cattermole left on the sidelines again, but after persevering in a new more attacking role Cattermole has recently managed to win Allardyce over.

Wahbi Khazri: 7/10
Our supposed marquee signing of the winter transfer window made an immediate impact with his set pieces and there was a noticeable improvement to our threat at corners. However, he faded after that, but came back strong for the final run in.

Yann M’Vila: 8/10
M’Vila is one of the classiest midfielders we’ve had at the club in recent years and he should be our first priority to sign permanently in the summer. The loanee has been a defensive rock in the middle but also has offered something going forward, as we have seen with his free-kick against Aston Villa. Although he dropped off somewhat after the New Year, he finished strongly and is still a great player.

Jan Kirchhoff: 9/10
Kirchhoff was undoubtedly our best signing of the January transfer window. The midfielder recovered from a nightmare debut at Tottenham to become the lifeblood of the team. Although the German often tires late in games, he makes the whole team tick with his quality and reading of the game.

Seb Larsson: 6/10
The sexy Swede hasn't featured as much as he should have this season due to injury and Sam's favouritism towards Jack Rodwell. But he has still preformed better than his fellow Scandinavian Ola Toivonen and the aforementioned waste of money they call Jack! Looks like Seb might move on this summer, which is s shame because he has always put a shift in for Sunderland and is a good honest pro.

Fabio Borini: 6/10
Borini won hearts over on Wearside for the second time after eventually signing for us on a permanent deal, but the Italian will be the first to admit that his return to the club took a long time to get going. However, he has netted some crucial strikes, his commitment and work-rate can’t be questioned, and it’s clear the lad genuinely cares about the club.

Jermain Defoe: 9/10
Where would we be without this little gem? in the Championship with Newcastle!. The 33-year-old will still be scoring when he’s 50 and despite some dreadful service he has still delivered the goods.

Duncan Watmore: 7/10
It's been a breakthrough season for Watmore and despite missing a few months due to injury, the youngster has proved that he can be a great impact sub. His appearances off the bench in games against Stoke, Exeter, Palace and Norwich all helped us secure wins. Watmore’s ability and determination also earned him a new well deserved contract at the club. I have no doubts he’ll be a regular starter in the next few seasons.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

THE SAFC 2015/16 PLAYLIST
BY JOSHUA CARR
...
THE BEST OF ALS

It’s been another long old season for the lads in red and white. Once again we found ourselves in a relegation battle, but stayed up and sent the Mags down! To try and add a little excitement to the season, I’ve decided to scroll through Spotify and the likes to find songs that describe each month of the season. For some it may be the lyrics that describe that month, for others it may just be the title. So here are a few tracks to describe our season.

AUGUST: HERE WE GO AGAIN. RAY CHARLES
Once again we all got excited for the new season and felt Dick Advocaat might be able to add a bit of stability. But how wrong we were, in fact, we seemed to have gone backwards from last season. One lyric in this song says “I’ll be her fool again,” which pretty much describes my relationship with Sunderland AFC. The first day defeat against Leicester doesn’t seem too bad now, considering the season they have had, but we then followed it up with a 3-1 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Norwich. Two draws in the league followed at home to Swansea and away to Aston Villa. It’s okay though, because we beat Exeter 6-3 in the Capital One Cup!

SEPTEMBER: PISSING IN THE WIND. BADLY DRAWN BOY
I think the title of this song perfectly describes Sunderland of late never mind just the month. September saw us play three league games and one match in the Capital One Cup. Advocaat’s inability to strengthen the defence in the transfer window really showed in September. We conceded 10 goals and scored just one, which was in the cup against Manchester City. The month started with a 1-0 defeat at home to Tottenham, but to be fair the lads played reasonably well. However, after that, everything just seemed to go wrong. Just a week later we crumbled away to AFC Bournemouth, followed by the two pathetic performances against both Manchester sides in 4-1 and 3-0 defeats.

OCTOBER: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE. GUNS & ROSES
October only saw three games, but it also saw a lot of changes at the football club. Dick Advocaat left after the 2-2 draw at home to West Ham and Big Sam Allardyce stepped into the jungle that is SAFC. As all Sunderland managers seem to do, Allardyce managed the side to a 3-0 home victory against the unwashed from up the road and made it six in a row. This was also our first win of the season and things were beginning to look up.

NOVEMBER: THE BEST IS YET TO COME. FRANK SINATRA
November was a tough one to find a song that fits, but I eventually settled on a classic from Frank Sinatra. Despite being buoyed up by beating the Mags for the sixth time in a row, the boys in red and white fell to an embarrassing 6-2 defeat away to Everton that put confidence at a whole new low. This was followed by a desperately boring 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton. However, things began to look up when we picked up six points against Crystal Palace and Stoke City. For me, I felt this was a turning point and the best was well and truly yet to come from Sunderland. How wrong I was.

DECEMBER: I CAN’T STAND UP FOR FALLING DOWN. ELVIS COSTELLO
Perfect right? After picking up back-to-back wins and things looking a bit less grim, Sunderland followed up by managing to lose every single game in December. Just as we’d looked to be back on our feet, we knocked ourselves right back down again. Big Sam described the month as “shite” and he wasn’t wrong. It started away to Arsenal where we were beaten 3-1. The next week saw another poor performance against Watford at home and despite the score line only being 1-0, it could well have been a lot more. Next up were two big defeats to Chelsea (3-1) and Manchester City (4-1) and then saw the year out with a 1-0 defeat at home to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Despite the song having no real relevance bar its title, there is one line that rings true about the fans’ relationship with the club and that is: “But that don’t stop me from loving you.”

JANUARY: TUBTHUMPING. CHUMBAWAMBA
January was a very up and down month for Sunderland, which is why I feel this song is perfect. “I get knocked down but I get up again,” couldn’t describe the month better as the lads got back up from their abysmal December by beating Aston Villa 3-1 at home but then they were knocked back down just a few weeks later by Arsenal in the cup after a 3-1 defeat. Next up was a vitally important win away to Swansea in which Jermain Defoe scored a hat-trick, but just a few days later we were beaten away to Spurs 4-1 despite taking the lead. The month ended with a boring 1-1 draw at home to Bournemouth. You need a lot more than the four drinks that Chumbawamba talk about drinking to support Sunderland.

FEBRUARY: WELCOME. PHIL COLLINS
February was another tough one as the results were so varied. So I decided to pick Phil Collins’ Welcome as the new arrivals on Wearside had an immediate impact on the side. Lamine Koné has proved a huge signing and put in solid performances in February as well as, sort of, getting the winner at home to Manchester United. However, after picking up four points against Liverpool and Manchester United, the month ended with a loss away to West Ham.

MARCH: SAFE FROM HARM: MASSIVE ATTACK
March was our chance to get "Safe From Harm" with three winnable games against Palace, Southampton and Newcastle, but we drew them all. Despite having taken the lead in all three games. This could well be the downfall to our season. If we had hung on we would have been pretty much safe, but we’re Sunderland so we most definitely won’t do it the easy way.

APRIL: NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP. RICK ASTLEY
April was a very much up and down month, but with things tightening up and the lads winning that all-important game away to Norwich 3-0, there was a bit more belief around the Stadium of Light that we may just stay up. The SOL was packed week after week in April which just shows the fans will never give up on Sunderland.

MAY: PERFECT DAY. LOU REED
Well May was pretty much the prefect month. We beat Chelsea, in what was one of the greatest games seen at the SOL and then just a few days later beat Everton to stay up and send the Mags down. Amazing, Still buzzing.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

Six of the Best
Great Goals from 2015
By Murphy...
THE BEST OF ALS

Duncan Watmore v Stoke. 28/11/15
Sunderland's most exciting young prospect, Duncan Watmore, seals a second successive victory for Sunderland with a dagger of a shot into the far corner. Watmore's uncompromising pace is enough to leave any defender in his wake and his finishing proves to be exceptional from a tight angle. The youngster loves nothing more than to get his head down and run with the ball and Stoke's lapse in concentration made the lad's job all the easier as he galloped towards goal and converted with the outside of his right foot.

Jermain Defoe v Newcastle. 05/04/15
What could be said of this goal that hasn't already been said? Jermain Defoe scored what could only be described as a dream goal against Newcastle in April. It was a chance out of nothing, and a one-in-a-million strike that will haunt Tim Krul forever. Defoe's long-range volley harboured nothing but the perfect amount of power, spin, dip and placement. I use the word perfect, and it is perhaps no more appropriate than in this situation, for Defoe's goal against Newcastle was flawless, impeccable, or any superlative that may spring to mind. The perfect goal.

Danny Graham v Everton. 09/05/15
No list of great goals would be complete without Danny Graham's worldy against Everton. Have you ever seen a player wait so long for a goal, in such hostile circumstances and then end his goal drought in such comical form? The ball quite literally hits Danny on the arse and loops into the net. He didn't know a single thing about it and yet the look on his face when it went in was absolutely priceless. You can only really feel sorry for the lad, who to his credit works his arse off any time he is granted the opportunity to play. If only Graham's talent matched his enthusiasm and workrate.

Jermain Defoe v Palace. 23/11/15
This goal is on the list not for its awesome technique, its comic value, or the fact that it prompted Connor Wickham to cry away his fake tan, but for the hope it inspired in us. With Sam Allardyce shaking up the club and fiddling with tactics, this goal proved that patience, rigid defending, and experience can prevail in the Premier League, especially on a Monday night in London. Not a great goal, but a great moment.

Jeremain Lens v West Ham. 03/10/15
This absurdly cheeky goal is the one piece of hard evidence that Jeremain Lens is a good player and not just some lazy mercenary that we paid too much money for. We've signed plenty of them, mind. A dink over the keeper from long-range made the game 2-0 to Sunderland and Lens sealed what would be a great win over West Ham, until he got sent off and we ended up coming away with only a point. Shitbag.

Steven Fletcher v Newcastle. 25/10/15
This goal was delightful for a number of reasons. It made the game 3-0, the classic scoreline against the great unwashed. It was also scored by Steven Fletcher which, let's be honest, is the ultimate insult, the lad lives on a diet of Irn Bru, Krispy Kreme and deep-fried Paracetamol. Perhaps the most satisfying thing, however, is that the goal was made by none other than King Midas himself, Younes Kaboul. Played over to the left hand side by Yann M'Vila, Kaboul somehow found himself joining the attack. With all the finesse of a Mr Whippy ice cream being loaded into a cone, Kaboul floated a first-time right footed pass over the head of two Newcastle defenders and into the stride of Fletcher, who smashed it home. It was one of those moments that inspired sheer disbelief and jubilation, and is one of my favourite ever goals.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

Your Chance to Make History With The Mackem Dictionary...
By Paul Swinney

'Av' yer 'eard about that bewk that's gorrarl ower words in it? It was written by some laddo in conjunction with A Love Supreme. The reckon the sawld git hods like.

It's December 20th 2015. The Lads have just had their bellies tickled at Stamford Bridge, and things aren't looking great. But some have got it even worse than the rest of us.

"Hell", utters one of the lads as he stuffs yet another Mackem Dictionary into an envelope to be dispatched to the Mackem Diaspora scattered across the globe, the main cause of his recent discontent. "And I tell you what; there'll be proper Ryan Noble if I have to put another..."

He trails off, then quips "Aye, Ryan Noble, you didn't put that in your dictionary."

While the Mackem Dictionary didn't brighten up everyone's yuletide (the miserable bastard), it seemed to have a pretty big impact on Christmas 2015, as thousands of Mackems on Wearside and beyond woke up to unwrap the other little red book. What started as an idea three years ago to explore the words of Wearside had turned into Sunderland's must have Christmas present. We'd had coverage across the regional press, including Look North news with TV's own Jeff Brown, and the book went straight to the top of the charts in Waterstones Sunderland, with staff nervous of the prospect of a book signing for fear of the shop being overrun.

Orders came in from around the world, with packages being sent off to the USA, Chile, and Vietnam. And we even exported them to weird places like Newcastle, with Waterstones there attempting, most likely in vain, to educate Tyneside's great unwashed in the ways and manners of their more sophisticated neighbours on Wearside. What they didn't realise is that there's no teaching class.

But the best was still to come. Christmas came three days early for me when the club released a video of the players reading out excerpts from the book. DeAndre Yedlin puzzled over the meaning of haddaway ("is it some sort of hideout?"), Billy Jones scratched his head over pund ("No idea. I've got no idea!"), and Sebastian Coates showed that he'd nailed the Mackem accent with a near perfect execution of "nee bosh marra".

In doing the book we set out to do two things. The first was to celebrate the culture of Wearside. It's easy to overlook the everyday, but it's the words and wit of Wearsiders that helps to make Sunderland special. And the way it has flown off the shelves shows the immense pride that people have in our city.

The second was to give something back to the area by doing the book. It doesn't take an economist to tell you that, despite some notable success stories, Sunderland's economy has struggled for decades. One of its big problems is low educational attainment. Education is life's great leveller. But many kids in our city, for numerous reasons, don't get and don't grasp the opportunities that education opens up.

That's why we decided to give all the profits from the book to the club's charity, The Foundation of Light. The Foundation does great work with kids and adults across the North East to get them help them in their learning, by using football and Sunderland AFC to engage them in study. What has been the most satisfying thing about the book has been the knowledge that every book that has been sold has contributed to the Foundation's efforts to give people a brighter future and it keeps our editor happy because he's on the board at the Foundation!

So as the dust settled after Christmas we were delighted to count up the pennies as see that we'd raised £8,500 for the charity at that point. We'd like to give a huge thank you to everyone who has gone out and bought a first edition and supported the work that the Foundation does. And in return we hope you got a few laughs out of it too.

We're not done there though. The dictionary continues to get great coverage; it recently featured on the BBC website, got a shout out from Sam Allardyce on Twitter and won the 'Made in Sunderland' category at Sun FM's style awards, a huge thanks to everyone who voted.

Given this we're keen to continue to celebrate the culture of Sunderland. We're on the verge of needing to go back to print to keep up with demand. But before we do, we wanted to open it out to all those who bought it and ask if there were any words missing from the first edition? Did you gan acker over us missing gallower? Did you think we were dafties for omitting dishclout?

While Ryan Noble is unlikely to get a mention, the complex language of the ALS/RTG Message Board deserves a tome of its own; we want you to send in your suggestions for the second edition. Tweet us, get in touch on the ALS Facebook, or do things the old fashioned way and send us an email of your word and a brief definition.

Sunderland has its issues, there's no denying that. But there are many great things worth shouting about too, and many people that are working hard to make things better. With its tongue in cheek I hope that the Mackem Dictionary has helped contribute to that. And with your help we hope to make it bigger and better.

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

SAM SPEAKS...
A LITTLE BIT VAIN

Sam Allardyce has kinda praised himself and his man management skills, which helped us get over the line last season. OK! “There are times when you have difficulties, and we had those to overcome,” said Allardyce. “It is all about sticking together to try to get out the other end. The man management side of it has always been good for me - it’s worked quite well. I have managed them; man-management is the biggest part of the job today. It’s your guidance and determination, your belief, your desire to achieve certain goals and to set out those goals to the staff behind the scenes and then to players. It was a long road, but we got to the area where we wanted to be. If you manage your staff and your players, and make tough decisions, you hope you earn the respect you have in the stadium,” he said. “I try to make the atmosphere warm and inviting.”

Allardyce has also backed Road Safety GB North East's drink driving awareness scheme ahead of the Euros! “We’re all really looking forward to Euro 2016, and hoping we will have something to celebrate if England do well. However, it’s not a good idea to mix alcohol and driving. If people are having a few drinks while watching the games, they should leave the car at home, and think about whether they are still over the limit the following day.”

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

ALL ABOUT JORDAN...
KONE LOVES KABOUL

Many of tabloids are still running with the Manchester United making a move for Jordan Pickford story, which either means that he's off to Manc land, or the gaffer will have to make him number one choice at SAFC next season.

Still with Pickford, the young keeper and Duncan Watmore starred as England Under-21s won the Toulon Tournament on Sunday, when they beat France 2-1 in the final. Manger Gareth Southgate said: "I think we were the best team today and the best team in the tournament. But you have to get over the line. I thought the players were exceptional, not just today but the whole two weeks. They've been a pleasure to work with. This win should give them confidence, both collectively and individually."

The England line up was: Pickford, Iorfa, Targett, Chalobah, Chambers, Hause, Watmore (Swift 65), Ward-Prowse (c), Loftus-Cheek (Stephens 90), Redmond, Baker.

In other news, Lamine Kone reckons that Younes Kaboul is the man! I loved the way Kaboul cried after we beat Everton, proving that he's taken the club to heart: “Younes has been absolutely fantastic since he came back from his injury,” Kone said. “Maybe in his first games back, it was a little bit tough for him, but that’s the same for any player coming back. He’s been an absolute wall. No-one gets past him. He’s a great player and he’s someone I get on really well with. I don’t think it could have gone any better for me."

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

SOBS ON ENGLAND V OZ
BLOG

Didn’t they do well? Not necessarily the England players, who did OK against two players we’d heard of and fourteen we hadn’t, but the club and the city. As an event to welcome the fans of the home country and the barstaff of that same country, it was well organised and executed – and we (that’s England) won, which is what it was all about, I suppose. It was SAFC’s big chance to show that we could put on a show of the type demanded by today’s international football audience, and we did that with a bit to spare.

Of course, being local, the bus from Bishop was basically 28 folks who usually go to Sunderland to watch the match anyway plus a couple of folks who choose to follow another team – and no, it wasn’t them up the road. We’d only been aboard for 200 yards when we spotted the Police Interceptors’ black Beamer blue-lighting it up Newgate Street (I know the lingo) and Jacko pulling up a dodgy-looking geezer. As the bairns way, that programme is a bit like a school reunion, but this time Jacko could barely keep a straight face as we banged on the bus windows and shouted his name. Childish, but just a bit of craic.

Jacko’s colleagues were out in much bigger force than usual in the town, which we put down to there being the fans of several English clubs in the same place at the same time and thus potentially wanting to bit each-others’ ears off – a fair assumption which never came anywhere near to actually happening. After a couple of beers in the town, with glass glasses being much in evidence outside of pubs, which would never be allowed on a Premier League matchday, we gave the extended Fanzone a try. A great but unfortunately short set by Frankie and the Heartstrings (during which the main man took a video of the audience “for me mam”) was a nice way to warm up for the match, as was the chance to meet Terry Butcher, before we begged the use of a magnifying glass to scan the back of our tickets to see where our turnstiles were. I know, I’ve only being going since the place opened and I should know these things, but lookah – I know my seat and get baffled if I have to sit elsewhere.

The Fanzone had been a cacophony of vuvuzela-like noise because of parents buying their bairns those damned hooters that were on sale – but that made up neat little piles of plastic next to each turnstile as they were deemed ineligible for entry. Unlike the England Band with their trumpets, drums, and whatever else they chose to make a racket with. The North Stand looked particularly good with folks finding under their seats red or white T-shirts to wear – which made up a nice St George’s cross.

England kicked off South, and it didn’t take long for debutant Rashford to get on the end of a ball into the box from Sterling (more of him later) and slot it home. Two and a bit minutes was all it took to justify his chance to show if he could handle the big stage, and he did just that. For all the moans about Defoe not being considered, and Roy’s explanation of his absence being that all he does is score goals, Rashford more than deserved his opportunity to show what he’s about. Everybody knows what Defoe can, and does, do. There are others in the squad, or around it, who could and possibly should, be left to watch on the telly while Defoe goes to the Euros.

Mind, once England has scored, the ball spent most of the first half on the toe-end of Mooy, a Phil Mitchell double, but for all their honest (they no longer have Kevin Muscat to kick people), they didn’t manufacture much in the way of chances. Indeed, their bets one came very early on when Smalling produced a back-pass that put Forster in a load of bother, and the big keeper tried to play football (ooh, dangerous), fired his clearance into an Aussie’s arse, and calmly picked up the loose ball. The Adidas one, not the Antipodean testicular option.

Half time, 1-0, not playing particularly well but hey – it was a friendly, nobody was going mad, the ref was plying it in the right spirit, and the crowd were enjoying the occasion.

Rooney came on for Lallana for the second half, and (speaking as a non-Man U fan) played more decent football in 45 minutes than he has all season at club level. LVG’s fault? Almost certainly. After just ten minutes, the ball was played in front of him by Sterling (even more of him later), and he fired it home form distance at the ground where it had all begun for him against Turkey.

Of course, as it was a friendly, there were multiple substitutions, and if the ref had applied the Prem rules of 30 seconds added time for each, I’d still be sat there. As it was, we had Milner on at the same time as Rooney, for Wilshire (who didn’t impress me a bit), then later we got Barkley, who will be lucky to make the squad based on this performance, which was basically a summary of where his season at Everton has gone to the dogs. Dier replaced Smalling, who is a constant source of worry because he probably pulls shirts in his sleep, and just about his first touch was a diving near-post header that gave Forster no chance, and allowed the Aussies a sniff of hope. There were boos from certain sections of the crowd when Sterling left the field, and while I don’t like the lad, he’d had a hand in both goals, so I was a bit bemused until I realised it was Townsend coming on. To be fair, the man who chose the wrong club and is probably regretting it produced a few good runs down the right, where the man he’d replaced had mainly fannied about. Ah, right the “more of him later” bit about Sterling. Look, I know it’s sort of trendy to have a go at him, but for all the clever stuff he produces when the ball is placed perfectly on his toe-end, the man has no positional sense whatsoever, spending most of the first half either offside or hiding behind a defender. Do they have any coaches at Man City or not? Likewise Everton. Barkley, as he showed in the league game - you know the one, when we sent the mags down (as with Sterling, more of that later) –that he’s more inclined to ignore than pick out a pass, while Stones could seriously do with time in the presence of someone like Allardyce. It’s all very well Southampton’s Koeman saying that “like my brother, he never puts the ball in the stands” he really needs to remember that he’s a defender and sometimes putting it in the stands is the best option – then he can try to be Franz Beckenbauer.

Other than that, Henderson – who we’d obviously been rooting for, as he advertises male grooming products better than his Liverpool team-mates - did perfectly fine, both fullbacks are worthy of a place in the squad, and so is Rashford. Sorry, Defoe, but you’ll have to hope that Sturridge does his knee doing yet another unnecessary step-over to find a place in Roy’s final squad. Drinkwater ran out of steam after the break, but must have agreed with the manager that if he stayed off the pop at Vardy’s wedding, he’d get a full 90 minutes –that can have been the only excuse for keeping him on.

As a run-out, it was well managed by Hodgson, and he probably found out what he wanted to about certain players – and he won’t be happy about some of his findings, but he’s the manager and still has a little while to finalise things. He tried 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, and probably 4-4-2. All in all not a bad game, played in a good spirit, and with a decent outcome. They swapped shirts, we made our way down from our unfamiliar seats way up in the North West upper and headed for the bus. As usual, it picked up at Jacksons, so me and our Ian popped in for a pint - and it was as if Sunderland had just beaten Everton all over again. Rafa Beneathus, staying up, or going down? Ooh ah, we sent them down yerknaar, Rotherham at home, have you ever seen a Mackem in Burton – the place was bouncing with folks dancing on the tables, chairs, and pool table. Are we parochial? Hell, yes. Did we enjoy the game? Hell, yes – and showed why it’s a better idea to play an England game at our place, or even than Championship venue up the road, on a Friday, than at Wembley on a Friday. Or even the Etihad last Sunday, where there were many more empty seats than at the Sol.

I have the England games on my holiday calendar, but, as our Ian says – he’s got his days off sorted for the group games, but he’s not getting too far ahead of himself and committing holidays for the knockout stages. It is, after all, England.

One more warm-up to go, and we can watch safe in the knowledge that we have a chance at club level to gain revenge (or collect another hat-full of red cards – let’s go for the former) against Hull next season. Humberside, Teesside, and Calderside – 556 miles as opposed to the 940 we travelled to the clubs they replaced. Let’s be grateful for small mercies and not moan about our new destinations smelling of fish, parmos, or black pudding –actually, I’d happily eat two of them.

When exactly is Ibrahimovic signing?

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

THE BEST OF ALS ISSUE 240:
SAFC Fans Museum
By Sobs

Unless you’ve been hiding, you’ll have probably heard of the Fans Museum, currently at the Central Library on Fawcett Street, Sunderland. What you shouldn’t do is dismiss this as just another collection of old shirts, because it’s so much more. Let’s see what museum director Michael Ganley has to say...

The Fans Museum has a wide collection of historical items from Sunderland AFC. The primary aim is to use this history and make it accessible for all, as football in Sunderland is one of the biggest parts of its history, and is something people from Sunderland, and the surrounding area, can relate to. The historical items will act as a tool to engage and inspire people of all ages, and anyone with more than a passing interest in the club.

What we want is to work with local organisations, and our aim will be to use the museum’s items to engage within the local community as this will help support and enhance their learning around football, sport, and local history.

One of our aims will be to create teaching resources and tools which will help engage hard-to-reach members of the public. We will access colleges, care homes, hospitals, and other like-minded venues to provide talks, workshops, educational sessions, local history, and reminiscing events. We are also looking to offer an Ofsted programme to all schools in the borough.

The museum aims in the future to have a facility to house the hub of the business. Having this five-month display in the City Centre Library will allow us to showcase a small amount of our collection, whilst building up interest in the community. The data we are collecting from our visitors shows there is a huge wave of support among fans, not just of Sunderland but of many clubs, for a permanent place to be found.

During this time we will also be doing some very important work behind the scenes. Having been self- sufficient for two years, we are now a registered CIC (Community Interest Company). This means we are actively working on bringing in funding, sponsorship, donations, and so forth from every source possible, as unfortunately there are always overheads that need to be covered.

We are looking for support from funding groups, and also companies who want to increase their Social Corporate Responsibilities, and we would love to partner as many companies as possible. It would therefore be great if local businesses sat up and realised what we are doing, and the difference we are trying to make in the area. Some have already agreed to sponsor us, which is fantastic, and we hope more will follow suit. We are the Fans Museum, and the more they help us the more we can do for them in return.

During our first three weeks of opening over 2,000 people visited the museum, which is amazing. We are here to make memories, for the young and old, and if anyone takes the time to look at all the photos we have been putting on social media they’ll see that’s exactly what we are doing. So many people are leaving with huge smiles on their faces, old stories are being retold, and most importantly people are interacting with one another.

We are the only museum in the world that do what we do, we don’t lock everything behind glass, we encourage fans to wear shirts, hold medals and boots, and basically have a good time.

Away from the museum hub, we recently had a meeting with The Alexandria Ward at Sunderland Royal Hospital, which deals with all aspects of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, so naturally we are delighted to be able to help with health care in our community.

We will also be part of the celebrations at St Peters Church which is 1300 years old this year, and we are also doing our bit to help Sunderland push for the City of Culture 2021.

So all in all there are some very exciting times ahead.

So, if you want to try on Quinny or Hooolio’s match-worn shirt, handle the boot that Borini scored with at Wembley, or hold Monty’s European Cup winner’s medal, the Fans Museum is the place to go. SAFC Museum, City Library, 28-30 Fawcett Street, Sunderland SR1 1RE

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

FROM BALL BOY...
TO ENGLAND CAPTAIN

Jordan Henderson can't wait to play for his country at the Stadium of Light tonight having been a ball boy the last time England played on Wearside. “It means a lot to the people here that England will be playing in the North East,” said Henderson. “The people here are very passionate about their football. The atmosphere in the last game here against Turkey was very good, and we got a good result too. I was ball boy for the game, but I can’t remember much about it. The atmosphere was brilliant, though – I can remember that. Hopefully it will be the same again.”

Regarding his fitness, he added: “I’m still improving. I feel I’ve trained well this week, and I feel good. Hopefully, I will get more minutes to get my match sharpness back. I’m hoping to be on the plane for the first game of the Euros. I feel ready and if I do get the chance to play, I just want to make sure I do everything I’ve done before.”

England coach Roy Hodgson had this to say: “We’re very happy to play England games around the country,” said Hodgson. "But the English FA owns Wembley, and therefore it’s the home of the FA and its team. We’ve very happy to take the team to Manchester and now Sunderland, and it’s great we have had the opportunity to do that. I’m very grateful to the FA, who really quite easily could have said ‘no’, but they’ve actually accepted the idea. I thought the Manchester side of things went well, and I’m sure it will be the same in Sunderland. You can’t get three better preparation games and three better send-offs than we’ll get at Manchester, Sunderland and Wembley.”

Henderson could also captain England at the Stadium of Light tonight! Hodgson said: “You will find out. Jordan is here (at his Press conference), because he is a Sunderland boy. He goes back to the last game played at the Stadium of Light (when he was a ball boy). He is coming back from injury. He has a lot of experience of England level with a lot of caps. It could well be Jordan who leads the team out, but it could be someone else as well.”

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

THE BEST OF ALS ISSUE 240:
DEAD RINGERS AND WEB SLINGERS
BY CHRIS THOMPSON

When you're a Sunderland fan, you have to find ways to entertain yourself when you're at the football. Watching the match certainly won't do it. The interesting thing about being inside a football stadium is that you're sitting there watching a game of football, but so are 40,000 others. 40,000 individual people with personalities, lives, opinions, and their own mental behavioural traits. Sometimes the most entertaining moments of being inside a football stadium can actually come from the crowd itself.

We asked the fans what their most memorable non-football related memory was from following Sunderland, and the responses were weird, wonderful, and in some cases a little bit frightening. Here are some of the best ones:

WE WANT OUR DICK BACK
Under the reign of Dutch manager Dick Advocaat, the ever-boisterous and playful Sunderland fans protest to a steward after their inflatable penis is confiscated. The chant 'We want our Dick back' would reappear for the rest of the season's fixtures, with hundreds of air-filled phalluses to compensate for that one fallen warrior.

DARREN WILLIAMS CROWD KILLER
I don't think I could do a better job of describing this incident than the opening paragraph of a Guardian article from 3/11/2003:

'The Sunderland defender Darren Williams faces a police investigation after a ball he kicked into the crowd left a young woman with concussion and needing hospital treatment.'

We spoke to Darren, who assured us that he bought the girl a meal and a bouquet of flowers for her troubles, but unfortunately couldn't do anything about her nose. It is rumoured that the girl legally changed her name to 'Steve Bruce' and now manages in the Championship.

A RELEGATION RIDE INTO THE SUNSET
While the myth behind this legend still remains as such; unconfirmed, the facts are very much there to see. On the last day of the 1996/97 season, Sunderland were relegated after a 1-0 defeat to Wimbledon. After the game, in a state of alcohol-seasoned recklessness, one particularly brave Sunderland fan jumped on the back of a Police motorbike and rode off into the sunset. Some say he was collared at the end of the road and given a good kicking by the Polis, others say he took off into the sky like the end of Grease. Either way, what a story.

CHELSEA CUP QUARTER FINAL PITCH INVADER
Sunderland were on their way out of the Capital One Cup in 2014, but the team's spirits appeared to be lifted by a sole pitch invader, who ran the length of the field before knee sliding with his arms outstretched in a gesture of joy, glory, and amazement that he managed to break Chelsea's last line of defence so easily. Hero.

WIGAN MUD SKIERS
This one has been written into Sunderland folklore. The infamous Wigan mud skiing involved some alcohol, a grassy bank and a lot of rainfall. Was ensued was two hours of relentless sliding down a filthy slope in Greater Manchester. The game wasn't particularly memorable, but everyone who took part that night probably left with the mud stains as a permanent reminders.

LITTLE JACK COLBACK
Those who sit in the East or South Stand at the Stadium of Light may or may not have heard the chants directed at one of our ball boys. The reason being that the unfortunate lad is actually a dead ringer for ex-Sunderland player, turncoat, Judas, and terrible footballer, Jack Colback. While the chants are far from complimentary, the lad is a good sport and has enjoyed many laughs with fans. Classy, which is less than can be said for his Doppelgänger.

SPIDER MAN JUVENTUS FRIENDLY
While our friendly fixture against Juventus, to commemorate the opening of the Stadium of Light, was by no means memorable, one particular moment stands out. When the ball was skied into the concourse and no replacement was thrown on, a man wearing a Spider Man costume emerged from the entrance to the concourse. Dashing between rows and leaping over seats, the web-slinger milked the attention before throwing the ball back onto the pitch, to the joy of the crowd. He had his moment and he took it. No complaints here.

MATCHDAY BOVRIL
When you see a young lad at the match who's had a bit too much to drink and is starting to get a bit agitated, the best course of action is usually just to steer clear. Loose cannons and that. But when a young Sunderland fan saw a daft lad being ejected for foul behaviour, he took it upon himself to serve justice in a plastic cup, by throwing a full mug of Bovril in the deviant's face. Reconstructive surgery and three skin grafts later, and that misbehaving youth grew up to be David Vaughan.

PIE THROWING DAVID GINOLA
Speaking of hot gravy scolding your face, poor former Mag David Ginola will never look at a mince pie the same way again, after what he went through one evening at Roker Park. The Frenchman turned his back on the Fulwell End for only a second, and was punished with a hot mince pie to the back of his neck. Ginola quickly tried to scrape the piping-hot mixture of congealed beef and pastry from his shirt and hair, but the damage had been done. PIED.

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

PINK SEATS TO GO...
DUNc & JORDAN STAR FOR U21S

SAFC fan James Smallwood has set up a facebook page and an online petition to encourage the club to replace the weathered pink seats at the SOL with new red ones. Fair enough fella, they look old and tired and can't cost that much to replace when you consider what we spent on Danny Graham. James explained: “I don’t want give the club any bad publicity over this, but I just think with the ground being 20 years old next year it could do with freshening up. If they were to bring new seats in it could really brighten the stadium and improve it. At the minute, it looks a bit tired compared to what it looked like when it first opened. With the new TV deal we’ll be getting money from, I doubt it would take much of that to get new seats in. I even saw when my nephew was playing as Sunderland on Fifa that the seats are faded on there, so people obviously notice it. We’ve got the sixth biggest ground in the country and millions watching on TV and it should have a higher standard of maintenance, especially with us hosting England games and concerts like we are this summer. If they replace them it will really smarten the place up and I’m sure those people who work at the club would say the same thing if they could.”

To view James’s petition go to www.change.org/p/sunderland-afc-stadium-of-light-pink-seat-campaign?recruiter=545670968&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=whatsapp or to see the Facebook page search for “Stadium of Light Pink Seat Campaign”.

In other news, Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford helped England Under-21s beat 4-0 Paraguay Under-23s 4-0 on Wednesday. Watmore was instrumental in two of the goals and Pickford kept his second clean sheet of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Jermain Defoe will feature in Sam Allardyce's team for Soccer Aid 2016 when England take on the Rest of the World on Sunday 6 June.

Elsewhere, Niall Quinn has spoken out about his struggle with depression at the launch of Catch A Falling Star, a new consultancy company which helps sportsmen and women who are battling with their demons. Quinn said: “You end up in a spiral to a pit that’s very tough to get out of. It’s often been referred to as a death within your life. Almost half of ex-professional footballers from the Premier League visit bankruptcy and 33 per cent end up divorced within three years of retirement,” says Quinn. “There are so many ex-players who inevitably become a pale shadows of their former selves. Sports stars don’t want to tackle retirement issues early. The fact of the matter is they should have prepared far better and far earlier for the end of their career. Our group wants to be that provision. I had a tough first three years,” he added. “The first year was a real bad year after I quit. I had not prepared properly. It felt dark. I did not want to see anyone. I did not want anyone to make eye contact with me. It was tough getting out of bed sometimes. Everything suffered. The relationship with my family and friends. But I got my mojo back, I got the drive back and now I love meaningful diverse challenges,” he said. "Some are not as fortunate."

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

THE BEST OF ALS ISSUE 240:
AWAYDAY KIDS
BY STEPHEN GOLDSMITH

Since the away fans have been moved at the Stadium of Light, the atmosphere has been a bit weird. If you sit near the South Stand, you can appreciate how much effort those mad-heads put in to try and make it more like an away game and you can rarely hear the away fans from over there. If you sit around the half-way line you can hear both sets of fans well enough, but can’t help but notice there’s no interaction between the two. They clearly can’t hear each other and it’s all a bit odd.

So naturally, where I sit most of the time, in the North Stand, all you hear is the away fans. The ground logistics make it like this and I’ve tried to get my mates away from the North Stand many times - as it’s clear all of the old Fulwell End goers that sit there have clearly grown up, mellowed out and it takes a derby game, or something very special, to get them up and at it, in all honesty.

But my mates won’t have it so I sit there and sulk. Sulk at the crapness on the field and sulk at having to listen to the shit craic from the away fans. Here's a summary of it all at the SOL this season...

Newcastle
I’ve forgot what they sound like, to be fair. Steven Fletcher scored after about 5 seconds in the first of our three consecutive home wins against the Mags which knocked the wind out of them, barring a ten minute rendition of DA-BOO-SHE in a seemingly over-pronounced Geordie accent. They didn’t even score in the next two so have had nowt to shout about. So shout they haven’t.

Aston Villa
A solid contender for the most annoying set of fans in the world, they sing random sentences and put “My Lord” on the end of it in the tune of Kum Ba Yah, including commenting on our empty seats. Without an ounce of irony I may add. I hate the empty seat craic; I hate it when our own fans sing that shit garden shed song. It was funny when we first moved into the Stadium and it works if you go to a tiny ground, but it’s evolved into a pointless load of nonsense. But back to Villa, and the absolute worst thing they sing is “we shall not be moved”. Be moved from where? What you on about, lads? If it was done sarcastically this season and in isolation it would be funny. But they sing it every year, often when it’s a league clash between two sides sitting midtable. Mental.

Arsenal/Spurs/Chelsea/West Ham
Not worthy of their own category, in truth, as they all have identical patta. Attending a London derby and listening to them go on at each other would be akin to sharing a prison cell with Jason Cundy and Andy Goldstein and hearing them try and out-cockney-banter each other. Or just listening to one of their shows on TalkSPORT come to think of it. You can set your watch by it too, they’ll sing a song and then instantly follow it with a “shhhhhhhh” before the incredibly creative “is this a library?” Whenever they win a free kick they call us “dirty northern bastards” and as our fans start to leave, after another inevitable defeat, they’ll predictably ask us if there’s a fire drill. Great banter lads, great banter. Feel free to think of some new stuff, eh?

Leicester
When I was about twelve I listened to the lads play at Filbert Street on the radio once (that’s how we did it, kids). I was really impressed with the way they all tried to put the keeper off - as he did his run up they’d go “ooooooh” before a huge collective “bull shit - AAGGHHH” as he kicked it. Of course I was impressed by it, it was the early 90s and I was twelve. Remarkably this still goes on with Leicester fans. If you ever see a child Leicester fan, tell them to tell their dar it’s 2016 and to stop doing it now.

Liverpool
They sing You’ll Never Walk Alone or The Fields of Athenry every fifteen minutes or so. As long as they’re not losing or they sing nowt.

Everton/Man City
The fact I can’t think of anything that really annoys me about these two probably speaks volumes. They aren’t great, mind; you often wonder just how bored they are with football as fan bases. Everton fans are desperate for a takeover but they should just look at Man City fans to see how it changes you. You’ve changed Man City fans, you’ve changed.

Crystal Palace
That “Oh-oh-oh-ohohohoooo” thing sounds great when you hear it on the continent. When you hear Palace fans sing it by embedding sentences such as “we support the Palace” and “that’s the way we like it” it’s about as intimidating as a Connor Wickham tackle. Palace fans are also the most vocal when it comes to pointing out that they think Sunderland is a dump. Always the ones located in shitholes themselves who do that. Singing “that’s the way we like it”, man, ha’way. I’m genuinely embarrassed for Palace fans.

Swansea/Southampton
The pin-up clubs for how recruitment and footballing philosophy should be done, apparently. It’s resulted in a bit of annoying football snobbery in the away ends of these clubs. At least Swansea sort of worked into this position over a few years; Southampton were as average at football as the rest of us Premier League also-rans before they struck gold with Pochettino, a couple months later and they joined those Jack lads in shouting “hoooof” every time one of our players passed the ball more than five yards. Cringe. I don’t like Swansea singing Wise Men Say, either. Knobs.

Watford
I honestly can’t remember what they were like last season. Probably a watered down version of the big London clubs.

Stoke
Stoke have a reputation for making a racket at The Britannia and I think it’s mainly justified. I like that they sing Delilah by Tom Jones cos it’s unique and random, and it does distinguish them somewhat. But their general support on the road, both in the numbers they bring and atmosphere they create, is crap. Well, it is up here anyway, maybe cos we always beat them.

Norwich
It’s hard to dislike Norwich; they’re possibly the most inoffensive club that regularly grace the Premier League. They’re the quietest away fans out of the lot probably, keeping in theme with that. Although maybe that’s Watford? I’ve genuinely no idea about Watford.

West Brom
They used to be great fans on the road, West Brom. I remember them bringing thousands to Roker Park and doing the whole Boing Boing thing. I’m not sure if it’s complacency or what, but they don’t impress whatsoever these days at the Stadium. That’s perhaps Tony Pulis’s fault.

Bournemouth
See Watford.

Man Utd
Man Utd fans on the road are canny good actually, love them or hate them.

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

NOTHING HAPPENING...
GOSSIP

With very little going on at SAFC, the media's main focus is on transfer gossip and it seems that Big Sam is tracking Polish international, Kamil Grosicki, Lyon’s Algerian winger Rachid Ghezzal as well as West Brom’s out-of-contract midfielder James Morrison. Wide man Grosicki has netted eight goals in 36 games for Poland and he also scored 9 last season in France, with Stade Rennais. He had this to say about a prospective move to the UK: “To play in the English league is the dream of every footballer. To be there, you have to play well, have great managers, happiness. If I went there, I could tell that something was achieved in football.”

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

THE BEST OF ALS ISSUE 240:
Autograph Hunting
By Ian Mole

In the days before iPhones, Photobombing and selfies with players, fans would hang around outside football stadiums autograph hunting. ALS's Ian Mole looks back on the good old days when he used to loiter outside Roker Park with his autograph book and Bic biro...

Somebody once told me that he saw our Scottish winger George Mulhall have a couple of pints in the Park Inn and then jump on the bus to Roker Park before playing in a match, and this is indicative of how back in the Sixties Sunderland's players were very approachable and mixed freely with us fans.

In 1964, when I was ten, me and my mate Bryan plucked up the courage to go round to Charlie Hurley’s house near the Barnes and ask him for his autograph. I seem to recall that Charlie had been sent off in the match before our visit and this made us even more nervous about pestering him.

The door of the modest semi was opened by his beehive-haired wife and Bryan said, “Is Mr Hurley in?” Next thing Charlie himself was filling the doorway looking like he’d just finished off a cow-pie and had a quick shave with a blowlamp.

He took our autograph books, disappeared behind the door and a few seconds later came back, thrust them in our hands and shut the door again with nary a word.

After having the nerve to knock on Charlie's door we were so buoyed up that we wondered whose house we could visit next. We couldn’t top Charlie and we didn’t know where any of the others lived, except occasional forward Willie McPheat, who was living near the General Hospital on Chester Road, but when we went round he was out, or hiding. Anyway, I must have intercepted him at a later date, mind you; his signature looked more like ‘Roger Wood’ to me.

In the same period our local off-licence on Durham Road, just next to where the Royal Infirmary used to be, was called Shack's. The owner, though I didn’t often see him there, was none other than football great Len Shackleton, the Crown Prince of Soccer, one of the most gifted and outspoken English footballers of the mid Twentieth Century.

I was in there around 1963 with my dad when he asked Shack if he would give me his autograph and I clearly remember the smile on his face as he obliged. I was quite surprised to rediscover recently the autograph book containing that signature and the others. Before I got this book it was the property of my big brother Graham and he'd obtained a number of autographs before he gave it to me as a Christmas present in the dim mists of time.

Alarmingly the first signature is of Dave Hollins, the Newcastle goalie who once in a fit of fashion consciousness sported black tassels on the arms of his green jersey. The page is more than balanced out by the entries of two Sunderland stalwarts of the Sixties, winger Harry Hooper and inside forward George Herd. George’s signature looks rather like he did; short and stocky.

Things reached an early peak with the signature of Jimmy Montgomery and I remember getting that one myself outside the players’ entrance at Roker Park around 1963. The very young Monty was with his girlfriend and she beamed with pleasure as she watched him sign.

A number of other regulars of our promotion-winning side of 1964 are there including Cec (Irwin) and Len (Ashurst) our seemingly perennial full backs, the aforementioned George Mulhall, Jimmy McNab and of course Charlie Hurley. There’s one semi-complete entry, that of winger Allan Gauden (‘Sunderland Reserves’ as I’ve labeled him) which looks like ‘All G_______’. I remember his taxi showed up at the crucial moment.

Along with a lot of other kids I’d hang around after matches in the hope of getting a few signatures and sometimes we’d race like lemmings if we saw other kids chasing after some unidentified figure only to discover it was a player we weren’t interested in for some reason and we'd turn away moaning. Most players would be happy to stop and sign but they had their limits, while others wanted to get away as fast as they could.

I’d sometimes go to reserve games and the cat and mouse stuff was easier for us there with the young hopefuls only too happy to bask in some recognition. The only trouble was that we’d occasionally tag onto an existing queue without knowing who was signing. This was no doubt the case with the entry of the young Billy Hughes, which I’ve labeled ‘Hartlepools Reserves’.

I haven’t tried to get a footballer’s autograph at a match for over forty years since I got Monty’s at Orient's ground Brisbane Road five days before we won the Cup. Having often seen the team emerge from the coach together before away games and enter the stadium behind a barrier, I doubt if young fans get much opportunity to get their books, arms or whatever signed these days. At any rate I can’t picture any of the current well-paid squad doing stints behind the counter of an off-licence in the near future and a pint in the Park Inn or whatever it's called now is a definite no-no.

I did encounter Charlie Hurley again at his book-signing session in London in 2008 and he had a little trouble understanding my name before signing the title page and giving me a very firm handshake and a smile. Incidentally his autograph hadn’t changed in forty-four years. That's what you need from a centre-half, consistency.

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

THE BEST OF ALS ISSUE 240:
ONES TO WATCH FROM DOWN BELOW
BY PHIL SMITH

January was probably Sunderland's best January window this decade. In terms of the quality added, it was probably one of the strongest they've had this millennium. It has been one of Big Sam's greatest strengths, bringing the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha and Chris Samba to prominence in the British game.

Sam will, no doubt, have already lined up a list of targets from the leagues across Europe and beyond to strengthen this summer. Still, I hope he is also casting a glance at what's been happening in the leagues below.

Leicester's staggering success has shown the importance of exploiting the European market, with N'Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez the two stars of the season. But the rise to prominence of Jamie Vardy, Danny Drinkwater and the outstanding Kasper Schmeichel has shown that there is also untapped potential in the Football League. Too many Premier League clubs ignore the talent beneath, not seeing the potential value for money that exists there.

With that in mind, I've picked out seven of the best players I've stumbled across as a journalist covering Cardiff City (and Swansea in the cups). All would be a gamble, but all could be a big hit without the right coaching and some proper exposure at the top level.

GOALKEEPERS

David Marshall: Cardiff City
Sunderland fans may remember this Scot from his inspirational season the year Gus Poyet's great escape doomed the Bluebirds to relegation. Marshall was picked in the Team of the Season by Sky Sports, even if he did let four past him at the Stadium of Light. He is so good at Championship level it's almost laughable. An outstanding shot stopper, but also someone who takes complete control of his box. Like the very best of keepers, he possessed that intangible but priceless quality, spreading calm across the pitch, the dugout and the all through the terraces. If Everton don't pounce, Sunderland should.

David Button: Brentford
Probably the most underrated goalkeeper in the Football League. He made the most saves in the Championship by some distance last season, and is way out in front again this campaign. Brentford have been one of the big success stories of the last few years, and Button is one of the main reasons they have been able to punch above their weight. Vito Mannone's future beyond the summer looks uncertain from the outside. If he does go, then Jordan Pickford should be given a real run. Having someone like Button to challenge and offer a rotation option would make Sunderland a formidable outfit.

FULL-BACKS

Cyrus Christie: Derby County
Right-back was a major problem area for me last season. Billy Jones is an honest but pretty limited player, and DeAndre Yedlin just doesn't look up to it. He is a willing runner but his positioning is poor and his distribution not a great deal better. Christie could be a sound long-term investment. There would be question marks over his defending at the top level, but the improvements in PVA's game since Big Sam took charge should allay those fears. Going forward, he has pace to burn and a cracking delivery. He should be snapped up by someone before he shines for Keane and O'Neill at Euro 2016.

Andrew Robertson: Hull City
At the start of last season, Big Sam made one of the signings in the season in bringing left-back Aaron Cresswell from Ipswich Town. With a good run of games, Andrew Robertson could have a similar impact. He could help PVA move further upfield where he seems a more natural fit. If Hull don't win the Play Off Final we should snap him up.

CENTRE-BACKS

Bruno Manga: Cardiff City
Looks a class above every time he takes to the field. His play is not without mistakes, but I often wonder whether that is more due to a lack of concentration below the top level. He easily has the ability to step up to Premier League football, and would make a welcome addition to the Sunderland ranks, whatever league they end up in. Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul will most likely start next season as first choice, but given the latter's injury woes, some top quality back up should be a priority.

MIDFIELDERS

Alan Judge: Brentford
Before having his leg broken in a horror challenge, this man had been the star of the show: one of the Championship's top scorers, its leading assist maker, and creator of a seriously high numbers of crosses and chances. He will not have much of a pre-season, so it will be a bit of a punt for someone to go for him. But with brilliant dribbling and great vision, he would add a totally different dimension to Sunderland's attacking play. With him alongside the likes of Kharzi and the direct running of Duncan Watmore, this team could become quite a handful.

Kemar Roofe: Oxford United
This lad, as the kids would put it, is an absolute baller. Released by West Brom not so long ago, he has absolutely ripped League Two apart this season. That might not be particularly impressive in itself, but the way he demolished Swansea City in the FA Cup certainly was. He has an exhilarating eye for goal, able to score from pretty much anywhere from within 35 yards He is going to fly up the football pyramid soon.

STRIKERS

Nakhi Wells: Huddersfield Town
As anyone who was watched the lads this season will know, they are not short on industry or heart. What they really are missing, however, is pace. They need it in the wide areas and they certainly need it up front. Jermain Defoe could do with some support, too, and so 17-goal man Nakhi Wells is worth considering. He remains extremely raw, but has scored goals at every level so far and would be another one to consider should Sunderland drop. Andre Gray has helped Burnley bounce back from relegation in some style, and Wells could do the same.

Moussa Dembele: Fulham
This young Frenchman has got absolutely everything in his locker. Tottenham wanted to sign him on deadline day, but if they can finally land Saido Berahino in the summer, they might let this 19-year-old starlet by. That presents someone with an immense opportunity. He is a powerful dribbler, skilful with his back to goal and deadly in front of it. It would take a significant investment to land him, but over the next decade he will most likely repay it in spades.

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

here's some letters...
stuff

Dear ALS

If Sunderland fans want a good hearted laugh about the rivalry with Newcastle they should take a look at the book Hovering Giants written by M Sebastian Thelwell, who I think is the same guy who got kicked off Newcastle websites some time back for making fun of the Mags.

In the story there is more than passing similarity between Doon United and the Mags and you can guess who neighbours Wonder Boys might resemble. It ends hilariously. It can currently be downloaded for free at:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/hovering-giants/id1070575945?mt=11

Your readers might like to know this.
Ian Smith
Avid Sunderland fan for life

Dear ALS

I've been meaning to email you for a while. I've been watching Sunderland for 30 years, through thick and thin and a lot more besides that. The atmosphere at the Chelsea game was one of the loudest, most emotional times during those 30 years.

After watching Liverpool's European nights on TV this season and even the latter part of Hibs celebration's on Saturday I think it's time we gave 'wise men say' a fuller rendition at the SOL. I mean it's fine with the chorus and the Sunderland chant after but I reckon even the 1st verse would give us an extra lift. We have a crowd capable of lifting our players to another level, why don't we have a song that really gives us an identity.

http://youtu.be/ZGRyOIISX-0, if the link I've just sent works it shows the less excitable Hibs fans at the Scottish FA cup final in full voice with every man, woman and child singing. Sounds fantastic I think you'll agree.

Let's get WMS sung in all its glory next season.
Cheers
Lee

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

Murphy's law...
the art of points scoring

In a debate about North East football, Newcastle fans cannot resist making a spiteful comparison of the two relative cities, despite the dumbfounding irrelevance of such an argument.

It's been over a week since the Premier League season came to a satisfying close, but the final standings has prompted an interesting twist in the century-old rivalry between Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United. While Sunderland retained their Premier League status for another season, performing their celebrated annual 'great escape' routine, Newcastle couldn't find the points to avoid the dreaded drop at a time when everything was on the line — the TV money, a manager they desperately wanted to stay, and of course, their rivalry with Sunderland.

The gloating from Sunderland fans has been relentless, with fly-over airplane messages, bridge banners, and an endless stream of social media posts being deployed in an effort to really rub Newcastle's face in it. They would do the same if they were in our position, after all, and that's the way it should be.

This sort of points scoring and banter is what keeps the rivalry alive. Sunderland may have damned Newcastle to the Championship, but Newcastle have more than hurt Sunderland over the years, and they've made it known as well. There is no grace in winning when it comes to a local rivalry, and every victory over one-another should be celebrated to no end. This is what makes winning all-the-more important. Losing is unbearable.

The most amusing yet unsurprising element of it all though, is how quickly a football argument can turn into an argument about economics and politics. While Sunderland fans brag about their football team's achievements at the expense of Newcastle, both the relegation and the six derby victories in a row, Newcastle fans will instead attempt to undermine Sunderland as a city; both the people and the facilities. The location of an airport, the length of a bridge, the average income of an inhabitant. Perhaps my head is still dizzy from the high I've been on for the last ten days or so, but I fail to see how the two debates are related.

It isn't a new phenomenon, of course, as Newcastle fans have enjoyed this line of argument for years. A recent Twitter parody account (@haveanairport) was created to ridicule the Newcastle fans who consider this a relevant means of points scoring. The statements made by this joker were so convincing, and so characteristic of Newcastle fans, that The Evening Chronicle got in touch with the account to feature it in their newspaper. Newcastle's own publication and primary media outlet could not tell the difference between a Newcastle fan and a parody of a Newcastle fan.

There is no denying that Newcastle is a more established city than Sunderland, and I think the majority of Sunderland fans would be happy to admit this. Newcastle has a great city centre filled with all sorts of shops, bars, restaurants, things to do, and things to see. I like going to Newcastle and I don't see the problem admitting this. It's certainly no haven, but it's at least the most vibrant area locally.

On the other hand, the city of Sunderland hasn't been as lucky in terms of development, investment, and thorough planning. The muddied history of this city is no secret, and we took a hell of a blow when our most successful and prominent industries were stripped from us by an evil woman and her abhorrent government in the 1980s. Sunderland, as an area, has been shit on time and time again.

Only now is Sunderland city centre starting to recover, and that is solely down to the hard work of honest people who want to see the area thrive again. After all, there's no reason why it shouldn't; Sunderland is a beautiful place with a gorgeous coastline, lovely countryside, and some of the greatest people you will ever meet. While the North may still be bastardised by the Southern-based government, we all know that we'd still rather be up here than down there, and that's something that the people of Newcastle, and Newcastle fans, should also be able to relate to.

Newcastle supporters may point and laugh at the city of Sunderland — with its smaller shopping centre, lack of cathedral, fewer Nandos restaurants and fewer reasons to draw investment to the area — but in doing so they are missing the point entirely. Sunderland AFC continues to succeed as a football club in spite of its disadvantageous location. Any further attention drawn to the location, and its lack of merits, only heaps further praise on the football club, the football team, and the famous Sunderland support.

Newcastle fans can spend next season enjoying their city's great airport, longer bridge, major train station, trendy quayside cocktail bars, busy music venues, and whatever else they take such geographical pride in. So can Sunderland fans; we are both free to enjoy Newcastle city centre. But only Sunderland fans can enjoy Premier League football next season, and that's the only thing that's relevant in a football argument.

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

NEW CEO...
MArtIN BAIN

Sunderland AFC have appointed Martin Bain as the club’s new chief executive officer. Sunderland AFC chairman, Ellis Short, said: “I am delighted to welcome Martin to Sunderland.  With his commercial experience, commitment to working closely with local communities and impressive track record of building winning teams on and off the pitch, I know that we have someone that can take us forward. Martin will strive to transform our financial performances, which we acknowledge must improve significantly, into a stable and successful model, to give us a club that we and our fans can be proud of. In doing so, he will receive the full support of everyone at Sunderland AFC.”

Martin Bain said: “It is a great honour and privilege to become CEO at a club with Sunderland’s rich history and heritage. I have been fortunate to be a part of a team that has brought great success to two clubs with passionate supporter bases and I am excited by the opportunity to do the same at Sunderland. Sunderland fans are recognised as some of the most loyal and passionate in football. The backing they gave the team in the two recent vital home games played an integral part in the victories. Such tremendous support deserves a successful club and that is what we will aim to give them. I am looking forward to working closely with the chairman and everyone involved with the club, and will endeavour to do everything possible to help the club to realise its potential.”

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

BITS & BOBS...
WEEKEND NEWS

Lamine Kone has been chatting about his whirlwind five months on Wearside and how much he loves the lads. Kone said: “It shows that we’ve adapted well to the Premier League, but it’s not just us, it’s all the people around us as well who welcomed us from the start. They helped us. I’m really happy with how these four months have gone. To be honest, I didn’t know that I would adapt so quickly. The first game against Man City, I played well and after that, I just hit the ground running. It’s gone by so fast. I don’t think it could have gone any better for me. To stay in the Premier League, is a nice way to finish.”

In other news, Spurs are apparently keen to sell DeAndre Yedlin, so Sam Allardyce is working out his budgets and preparing a bid. Fair enough...

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL...
FRANCIS TODD MALONE BLOG

Having just checked out the BBC's Jimmy Hill tribute (unmissable if you needed something to send you to sleep angry) and "highlights" of the Kelvin Davis testimonial (google it and weep), it's struck me it's about time to stop farting around and reflect on a season when every little thing did turn out all right - again.

Just like the previous two seasons however, I did worry. Not just about a thing, but about a lot. The first eight games gave us few reasons to be cheerful, with the possible exception of the performances of Jeremain Lens. Then it was Dick out, Big Sam in, and three wins in five games which lifted us out of trouble and fed expectation that we would stay above the drop line, before a tough run of games and some insipid shows left our gaffer scratching his head almost as much as the fans.

With the New Year came new hope. Okay, we lost as many as we won in January and February - but we ground out wins against teams on our level, not something we've done in the last couple of seasons. Pundits recalled our finishes of the previous two campaigns and started backing us, no doubt sowing seeds of doubt among those in better positions but lacking in experience or form.

Four draws in a row didn't do much to help, with late goals in successive games at Southampton and Newcastle having us all looking at the table and dreaming of the four points which didn't slip away. The general consensus was we needed to win three of our last six games, maybe four. Could we do it? 

You bet. Sam got his selection and tactics just right at Norwich, who could have put seven points between us with a win in front of their own fans. With resolute defending, spirited attacking and a long overdue bit of help from Andre Marriner, we got the three points which had pretty much everyone believing.

Things were going our way but work was still to be done, largely thanks to Yohan Cabaye doing his former paymasters a big favour. However, on the penultimate weekend, the pendulum swung our way in three second half minutes against Chelsea, while the Mags toiled to beat one of our rivals for the tag of worst Premier League team ever.

Everton were timely opponents, unquestionably talented enough to hurt us but hardly committed to the cause. The empty seats and lack of noise from the away section, normally good noisy travellers, told the story as their under-fire gaffer again watched over a dismal display. One of the softest goals of the year opened the door for us, before Lamine Kone bulldozed it down, meaning my hopes of a repeat of the mood at the West Brom home game two seasons ago were exceeded. The appearance of Wearside's entry in the forthcoming Britain's Shittest Streaker competition was the only thing that didn't go to plan. What was he playing at trying to get his trackies off while still wearing his trainers? Schoolboy error.

Almost forgot, from the sublime to the ridiculous - Kevin Friend's performance in our game at Watford. Thankfully it didn't matter, didn't even cost us a million or two in prize money, although it didn't do much for the blood pressure. No Friend of ours, for sure.

The ramifications for our nearest and dearest obviously played a key part in the festival mood at the Everton game and while sending them down is the cherry atop the proverbial cake, it won't sink in with me until the fixtures come out in a few weeks. Boro's promotion means the Mags won't even have the consolation prize of a trip to Teesside (such as it is) as they ponder games against Burton and Rotherham...Rotherham at home. Oh, and you might not see many Mackems in Milan but you might just be finding a few Geordies in Millwall soon enough. Good luck with that one lads, as much fun as stepping on a plug that trip...

So let's throw things forward. Do we need to make many signings? I don't think so, a few decent additions should make a difference and we all know it's quality, not quantity, that matters now the fitness levels have been upped.

A right-back has to be a priority and Lille's Sebastien Corchia would be a decent buy. Solid enough in defence and very capable going forward, he wouldn't break the bank. The width of Montpellier's Ryad Boudebouz would also be welcome - he has always been too good for the teams he plays for and is an assist machine, another who's a decent age too. Maybe he might be able to sell Wearside to his Algerian international team-mate Riyad Mahrez. I can dream eh? It's no secret I'm a big fan of Nathan Redmond - Norwich might have made a better fist of their survival battle if he'd played more. And Jermain Defoe could do with a bit of help too. Alexandre Lacazette would be nice (dreaming again), or maybe the lad who did for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup. You can't knock a JD and Coke after all...

To be honest though, tying down the loanees is almost as big a deal for us. I'd like to see DeAndre Yedlin return, although he needs a few lessons in throw-ins. I'm sure making sure Yann M'Vila sticks around is high up on Sam's to-do list as well and he might just fancy his chances as I can't see the lad fancying a return to Russia. Bound to be interest in him from elsewhere though.

Outs? The most obvious contender is Jeremain Lens, an Advocaat signing who was arguably our brightest star in the early part of the season, when things were very, very dark. I'm not sure whether his relationship with BSA can be fully rebuilt and I wouldn't back him to stick around.

When the action resumes we just have to hope for an un-Sunderland thing - a decent start. Playing catch-up is so Sunderland and with that in mind few would back against it happening again, even if we'll unquestionably be better prepared for next season than we were this one. 

I genuinely don't see us struggling next season though, which makes getting over the line this time so satisfying. It would have been sad to see those who tried so hard in the last few months disappear to other Premier League also-rans for next to nothing, while we rebuild in the second tier. Thankfully, not a proposition we have to consider.

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

KICKING MY HEELS
SOBS' SUMMER

The football season’s over, in case you hadn’t noticed. Well, almost – despite the best efforts of Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd. to prolong the league season, there’s only the small matter of the FA Cup final left. Mind, that reinforces the view that any company that includes the word “solutions” in their name is not to be trusted, just like any transport company that uses the word “logistics.”

Anyway, I digress. With one season over, the first thing I do is get away for a few days to wash the previous season out of what’s left of my hair, so to speak. Not that it had ended badly – so far from it that several people have described the atmosphere at the last two home games as up there with the best they’ve experienced, and one rugby-supporting mate chose the Chelsea as his first football game. It won’t be his last. It was more to allow for a fresh start and to have a couple of football-free days and avoid the ceaseless gossip that goes with it– so the tent was pitched near Aviemore (described by a Scottish mate as their equivalent to Blackpool, but with better views) and I avoided the midges amid stunning scenery. Of course, I had to pop into town to watch Liverpool make an arse of their cup final, and while standing in a crowded bar, eyes glued to the telly, someone approached a said the magic word. “Sunderland?” There’s not escape, I tell you.

Of course, the first thing a decent manager does at the end of a season is start work on the next one, and the big question is always “which players come in and which go out?” Sam will be looking to strengthen in a few areas and offload players who don’t float his boat. Who’s out there, and would be willing to come to Sunderland? The performances in the last few games can only have helped our cause in this one, as the way we played, and the noise and passion from the crowd must have had a few “available” players thinking that they’d like to be part of something like that. Reports suggest that Sam might still be after Ayew of Swansea (fair enough) and his team-mate Gomis (Hmm). End of season reports from Swans’ fans are far from positive about the Frenchman, and a return of a goal every four games is hardly the stuff of legends. Of course, there will be a whole host of players from Europe that we’ve never heard of on Sam’s radar, but if they arrive with the impact of Khazri, Kone, and Kirchoff, we’ll be laughing. Priority has to be another centre half and at least one full-back. Yedlin might well come back, but on-loan players having a good season is always a double-edged sword, as the parent club will want them to repeat the trick for them.

Perhaps, though, we should look closer to home. Up the road, Steven Taylor is out of contract, is therefore available for nothing more than his wages, and would make a welcome addition to either the catering team in the Montgomery suite, or as a sunbed technician at the Academy.

Going out? Vergini managed to get relegated with Getafe, so the clause in his season-long loan that said “must sign permanently” doesn’t count, and he’s back on Wearside, although Real Betis are said to want him – or rather their manager, Gus Poyet does. Oh, and don’t forget the others out on loan – Giaccherini is actually wanted by his current club, but what of Buckley, Bridcutt, Fletcher, Graham, Mavrias, and Gomez? Graham and Gomez will probably end up staying at Blackburn, Fletcher is out of contract and we’ll not get any money for his eventual arrival somewhere in Scotland. Oh, and don’t forget Big Ralphy Coates. For some reason his loan couldn’t be turned into a permanent deal so he’s staying out for another year. Barmy. And what about Adam Matthews? Aye, I’d forgotten about him as well. He brought rave reviews from Celtic when he arrived in the summer, played once and then vanished from sight, resurfacing at Bristol City – which suggests he’s not performing at the level that merits a return to our team.

No doubt the various sports writers will be justifying their wages over the summer by thinking up names and touting them as possible targets, but in the meantime the next big thing is Thomas Hauser’s new tattoo, which he promised to have done in the event of us staying up. I expect it to be a much classier affair than that boasted by a particularly daft mag – “Rafa ‘the gaffa’ Bentitez”. Words fail me - the man failed, so it’s the equivalent of me getting “Alan Brown, he took us down” permanently inscribed on my person. Perhaps “Ricky ‘not Micky’ Sbragia” would be appropriate, as he actually kept us up.

As things stand, there’s a whole week before I get to visit the SoL again, to watch a Defoe-less England take on the might of the Socceroos and Bloody Tim Cahill. When are the fixtures out?

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

CEO REQUIREd...
BY GILES MOONEY

Last Sunday I was at a party in Watford. There were thousands there, all singing about Yann’s passing and Vito’s flammability, asking Sam to dance and mocking those who wouldn’t be at the party next year.

It was a release of all the anxiety that had built up from the dreadful American preseason until Kone’s thunderbolt goal against Everton. A relief that Newcastle had taken our place on the journeys we don’t like to think about.

We mocked Newcastle for their signings that hadn’t worked out, for their board who lacked experience, for the shame of one of their most popular players ending up in a court room and for failing to win at Villa Park.

And the pleasure, the songs, the plane, the tweets and the video clips all mocked our neighbours knowing that, but for three points, we were describing our own club, not theirs.

We have dodged a bullet and they took it full in the chest.

As Newcastle work out how they’ll rebuild and what the costs will be, we seem to be sitting back, relieved that it all worked out OK. The question is what do we need to learn to make sure we never return to the firing line?

On the pitch it feels like lessons are already being learned, for the first time since Bould, Schwarz and Phillips we have a spine in Kone, Kirchoff and Defoe and this summer we have to hope that players will be signed to fit around them, support them and, in case of injury (or old age) to replace them.

For a decade or more other clubs have used science and technology to get the best from their players – evidence to help them improve and keep fit. We hadn’t, despite the fact we’ve a training complex the envy of many around the world. The fitness levels since January are so notably higher it has allowed our players to absorb huge pressure from opposition teams and hold on for those almost mythical clean sheets. I can’t imagine any of our players are expecting a gentle preseason under Allardyce. In fact, I’m sure they already know what will be involved. Planning will have been done, schedules distributed and lessons learned from other clubs, coaches and sports. As a club, we’ve learned a lot by (finally) bringing in a manager – not just a coach or figurehead.

But it’s away from the pitches of the academy that the club seems to remain static. No replacement for a failed Chief Executive, no clues that our commercial teams are coming up with new ideas to make money, no evidence that the pool of sponsors and business involvement is growing.

All businesses need a plan – short, medium and long term. What is ours? How can we be expected to sign up to it if we’ve no idea what it is? Is it to stay up? To play in Europe? Mike Ashley’s is to win something. While we laugh at that, at least he said it. At least his employees know what their long term plan is. Attracting major sponsors, local business interest, partners from around the world will be difficult if you can’t explain what they’re signing up to.

We make losses year after year. We shouldn’t next year because of the fabled TV money but that shouldn’t be seen as a fix all. Other clubs will make more than the TV money from other routes. We don’t. An occasional concert aside, how are we going to make the big money?

I visited Old Trafford on Tuesday and wandered around the club shop – we’re so far behind. There’s a place for 1973 DVDs and mugs with ‘WIFE’ or ‘SON’ written on them (perhaps) but when you compare us with Manchester United, who have a range dealing exclusively with golf kit that is wider and more impressive than our complete clothing range you realise that we’re missing out. Stuck about ten years behind other clubs.

My day job involves booking conferencing in sports grounds nationwide, from rooms of 10 to rooms of 750. Newcastle do it better than Sunderland. Sale rugby club do it better than Sunderland. Hell, Wycombe Wanderers do it better than we do. I’d be interested in how much business and repeat business the club gets away from a match day. Based on my experience I can’t imagine it’s a lot.

Some will point to the reduction in ticket prices as a positive. And it is. But it wasn’t a decision taken by the club. It was a decision forced on football generally by the Liverpool fans walking out and the realisation by all club boards how serious the issue had become. The lower prices are welcome but will they lead to capacity crowds? These days people want premier league service away from the pitch. I wonder how much the club appreciate the value of the fans and their importance to the success of the business. We bring money to the turnstiles, to the bars, to the shops and yet we are rewarded with worn out seats, poor catering choices and facilities that look and feel dated. The fan zone feels like a gesture rather than any real move forward. Even at £18 a ticket, those that aren’t die hard football fans will feel alienated.

Sam has helped us dodge a bullet but almost everything else at the club needs reviewing. We need a leader off the pitch who we can get on board with. One who explains where we’re going as a club, inspires us to go with them and has the business skills and tools to take us there. Niall Quinn inspired us but was not a businessman, he worked with Peter Walker who took us forwards more than anyone else in that role. We need both characters in the club and visible in the community. Since they left we’ve bounced from one problem to the next, bluffing our way through season after season, failing to manage one PR disaster after the next - Di Canio and the miners, Johnson, Alvarez, Farnan.

On the pitch we’ve now a spine we can rely on, a manager who explains what he wants and gives his all to get it, a training facility that is up there with the best and, hopefully signings this summer to help us climb to midtable and then beyond. Off the pitch we have a fan base who have proved that, while they’ll put up with a lot, if looked after properly, will put their support, love and money into the club home and away. But that’s no longer enough for a premier league club. We need someone or some people who can pull the whole lot together, attract businesses, sponsors in the UK and beyond, develop the facilities, support the manager, help lead the commercial side and lead us to wherever we’re going football and businesswise. Our most important signing this summer needs to be the person (or people) who bring these things to the board room. Without them we will struggle to move away from the firing range and I’ll keep going to parties celebrating 17th place.

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

The Charlie Hurley Statue Fund
By Mark Metcalf

The Charlie Hurley Statue Fund is now officially up and running and plans are being developed for a series of fund-raising events when next season kicks off in mid August. 

Tracey Hawkins has been elected at secretary, Martin O’Neill the chair and Mark Metcalf the treasurer. The address for the fund is Home Sweet Alabama on Fawcett Street, Sunderland. The campaign has the full support of Charlie Hurley and is in communication with the club on working together. 

A bank account has taken more time than had originally been anticipated but should be finally established shortly.  A number of fund raising socials are being planned over the summer. Anyone who would like to discuss ideas they may have for fund raising should contact Tracey on 07736 464023 and tah65@icloud.com, or 

Martin O’Neill on 07723 814983 and martinmoneill@gmail.com or Mark Metcalf on 07952 801783 & mcmetcalf@icloud.com 

@Charliehurleystatue

The next meeting is set to take place on Friday 17 June at 6.30pm at St Mary Church, 27 Bridge Street, Sunderland SR1 1TQ

But why should there be a statue of Charlie Hurley? 
Well, Charlie Hurley was considered by Sunderland supporters in his heyday in the 1960s to be “The Greatest centre half the world has ever seen” and in 1979 he was voted as the Sunderland “PLAYER OF THE CENTURY.” Even today he is still known as “the King.” 

For Charlie himself the adoration was never one way. For every time a supporter has extolled his virtues Charlie can be heard praising the loyal, unstinting support he always benefited from. Small wonder that of all the heroes the Sunderland fans have had none have surpassed Charlie in their affections. 

However, most Sunderland fans today will never have seen Charlie Hurley play. So in order to give an understanding of just how good Charlie was then we have pleasure in making available one of the chapters from Mark Metcalf’s 2008 authorised biography, titled CHARLIE HURLEY “The Greatest Centre Half the World has Ever Seen.” It is about the 1960/61 season, when Sunderland almost derailed Spurs’s bid for ‘The Double’ and Charlie became known as the King.

Charlie Hurley, who had become a father for the first time when his daughter Tracy was born on June 7th, started the 1960–61 season in good form as Sunderland opened their third year in Division Two with a 2-1 victory over Swansea Town, their first opening day victory for six years. Argus commented that “none did better than Hurley for his ice-cool control and mastery in the air” and, remarking on a feature of the defender ’ s play for which he was to become famous during his time at Sunderland, stating “there is nothing quite so emphatic as the headed clearance by Hurley which sends the ball practically to the half-way line.”

Younger readers may be unaware of how difficult such a feat was at the time. The ball used was rock hard and when it got wet it became a very heavy object indeed. A leather ‘ food ’ , Dubbin, best described as thick yellow axle-grease, was often applied to the ball to “soften it up”. In fact it was waterproof and did nothing of the sort.

There are many former footballers who suffered in later life after repeatedly heading those footballs, including former Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe. The classic 1960s West Bromwich Albion centre forward Jeff Astle ’ s death was ascribed to this after the coroner found that the repeated minor trauma of heading the ball had been the cause of death by industrial injury. Astle scored the winning goal in the 1968 FA Cup Final and was top scorer with twenty-five goals in Division One in 1969–70. Duels between him and Hurley were fierce competitive battles with no quarter given.

Some of today ’ s footballers would certainly regard the balls of the 1960s as unsuitable and they would definitely destroy a manicured hairdo or two. To head such a ball the distances Hurley managed demonstrated perfect timing, balance and power, not to mention an awareness of players around you and a determination to get to the ball first. Hurley was a master at all this. Of course it helped to be over six feet tall and fourteen stone, but this should not obscure his talent in this respect.

Football boots, of course, were very different. A new pair of leather boots had to be “ broken in ” and studs, which had to be rounded and no longer than half an inch [1.25cm], had to be hammered into the soles of the boots, which were heavier than today ’ s and offered much greater ankle protection. Players often had several pairs of boots with different length studs as only later did moulded and screw-in studs appear. Club apprentices were given the job of keeping the boots of senior players clean and dry in between games.

Strips, numbered one to eleven, could be guaranteed to collect the rain and mud along the way. Many was the time when spectators were unable to tell who had passed the ball as the player ’ s number was covered with mud. On particularly dark and dismal winter days it was often a problem to make out which team was which. The shirts were also advert free and remained that way until the 1974–75 season when England signed a commercial deal with Admiral that saw the players wear shirts with the manufacturer ’ s logo on them.

Then, in 1979, Liverpool become the first side to run out with a sponsor ’ s name on their shirts, in this case Hitachi.

When two away draws were followed by a 4-0 home win over Stoke City, in which Anderson was outstanding before a very disappointing attendance of 19,007, it seemed that Sunderland might finally be coming to terms with life in Division Two.

That proved to be wrong and, starting in mid-September, the side from Roker Park lost five consecutive matches. They included one against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park where Brian Clough scored the only goal which, according to Argus, “was all he did do in the game, for once again he came under the spell of Charlie Hurley.” The attendance on the day was 20,000 less than the same fixture in the previous season. Sunderland were left with just nine points from thirteen games – another long troubled season stretched ahead of them.

Since the start of the 1956–57 season Sunderland had played 181 League games, winning only 52 and drawing 45, a total of just 153 points. It was the worst record in the Football League.

Hurley was in the Ireland team on September 28th when they hosted their first match against Wales. With an eight-match unbeaten home record to defend, Ireland were favourites, but they reckoned without two men who were instrumental in Spurs ’ success that season, wingers Terry Medwin and Cliff Jones.

Goalkeeper Phil Kelly, making his debut for Ireland, was sent one way and then another by Jones and although Fagan managed to equalise, Jones scored a second and West Ham ’ s Phil Woosnam a third, before a late penalty by Fagan gave Ireland a little consolation. Most reporters afterwards agreed that Hurley was Ireland ’ s best performer as press speculation about a move nearer London continued to mount.

It was Lawther who rescued Sunderland by scoring in five consecutive League matches, six in all games as he scored the team ’ s first when Sunderland went down 4-3 away to Brentford in their first ever League Cup match. The 1-1 draw with Rotherham almost produced Hurley ’ s first goal for Sunderland when, down to just nine men due to injuries, he raced forty yards to meet Hooper ’ s corner and force a magnificent save from Roy Ironside in the Rotherham goal.

Outside right Harry Hooper had been signed from Birmingham City the previous September. Exceptionally quick with a strong shot, he made 80 first team appearances for Sunderland, scoring 19 times.

Hurley played his twelfth match for Ireland when Norway ’ s largely amateur team provided little opposition in a game won 3-1 by the home side. Fagan scored again while Peter Fitzgerald grabbed two.

With the PFA continuing to mount a vigorous campaign for improved pay and an end to the retain-and- transfer system, Alan Hardaker, the Football League secretary, had been putting forward proposals to try and break the deadlock. By suggesting that the future should include retaining the maximum wage he could not expect to obtain PFA approval even if the clubs had agreed that they would pay the additional bonuses and signing-on fees he was proposing.

Players wanted the freedom to earn as much as an employer was prepared to pay, although writing many years later, Jimmy Hill believed that, despite a series of meetings which had approved strike action, the players would probably have settled for a maximum wage of £30 a week and some reasonable adjustments to the retain-and-transfer system. But many of the clubs were determined not to budge.

Charlie Hurley ’ s first goal for Sunderland should have come when Ipswich were beaten 2-0 at Roker Park at the start of December because, reported Argus, Ipswich goalkeeper Roy Bailey “admitted that Hurley ’ s header from a corner from Jack Overfield had crossed the line but the referee didn ’ t see it.”

The Suffolk team were lying third behind Sheffield United and Liverpool but two goals from Willie McPheat, who had only just got into the team after signing for Sunderland the previous year, put Sunderland ’ s fortunes on the up. So Hurley ’ s opening goal for Sunderland would have to wait – but not for long.

The decision to send Hurley up for corners was revolutionary when Sunderland tried it towards the end of 1960. Since Herbert Chapman ’ s decision to make the centre half a stopper they had remained firmly on the halfway line at set pieces no matter how good they were in the air.

It was this tactic which helped make Hurley so popular with Sunderland fans. After a while no corner at Roker Park would be complete without the cry of “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” as the crowd roared the big man to get up into the opponents ’ box to cause as many problems as possible.

“I was always good in the air. It was Stan Anderson ’ s idea. So I went up for a corner and although I didn ’ t

score it caused a lot of problems. The fact that I attacked the ball meant I got an awful lot of goals because we had some good crossers of the ball and Harry Hooper, George Mulhall and Nicky ‘the nicker ’ Sharkey got on the end of some of my knock-downs.”

Anderson ’ s foresight changed the face of English football forever – now every team sends at least one of their centre backs forward for set pieces. Anderson says: “I thought that it was a natural thing for Charlie to do. He was a big fella, brilliant in the air. What else were we supposed to do with him? It was logic. It meant when he came up the other side had to say ‘Whoa, we ’ d better mark him, look at the size of him ’ . Normally the centre half marked the centre forward but when you had Charlie up there standing at the far post the centre half didn ’ t fancy going out there. The number of goals that Charlie scored, and the number of knock-downs that he allowed others to score was a very decent return.

“He was a magnificent header of the ball. It doesn ’ t take rocket science to think what I thought. Brownie never said a word against it. In fact Brownie rarely spoke to me, except when he played hell with all of us. I said to Charlie at his seventieth birthday party that Brownie thought the world of him and to be fair Charlie was his best buy ever, so he should have.”

Charlie Hurley ’ s first goal for Sunderland was a belated Christmas present, delayed by just a day. It came on Boxing Day 1960 in a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United watched by 46,099 spectators. It was the first goal by a Sunderland centre half since Ray Daniel had scored at home to Sheffield Wednesday back on February 16th 1957. Daniel ’ s goal came from the penalty spot.

There was only a five-day wait for the next Hurley goal as he scored in the 7-1 win over Luton Town at Roker Park on December 31st.

Luton manager Sam Bartram, once a great goalkeeper who thus knew a thing or two about playing behind a centre half, wondered afterwards: “If John Charles is worth £60,000, how much is he worth? He ’ s the greatest in the business. I wish we had Hurley.”

The genial Irishman remembers: “I used to get more knackered going up for corners than playing back in defence. If we had ten or twelve corners in a game I had to get up and then get back. But the crowd wouldn ’ t have it any other way because if I stayed back you ’ d hear ‘Charlie, Charlie ’ and up I went... it was the number one thing that the fans loved.”

It was in the report of the Luton match that Charlie Hurley earned the nickname “King” for the first time. It was written by Vince Wilson in the Sunday Pictorial on New Year ’ s Day 1961. And it stuck.

The FA Cup draw had brought a home tie against Arsenal and there was genuine excitement among supporters for the first time in many years. Roker Park was packed with 58,765, including four Arsenal fans from West Hartlepool who were mocked as “traitors” by Argus in the following Monday ’ s Echo. He could not understand how anyone from the north-east could support a Cockney team. Clearly this was well before television got its hands on impressionable youngsters to ensure that today, wherever they live, they must support fashionable and successful teams even if they are never likely to see them play live.

Arsenal proved to be the better team for the first thirty minutes with David Herd putting them ahead after just five minutes. But with Anderson at his very best, Sunderland equalised and then won the match with his second goal of the game. Ashurst made a last-ditch tackle to prevent an equaliser from George Eastham, who had signed for the Gunners after his refusal to play for Newcastle.

Recalls Hurley: “Stan Anderson was brilliant against Arsenal. He was one of the greatest wing players that I ever saw. People say he lacked a bit defensively, but you can ’ t have it all. He had flair, and tremendous vision; one sad thing was that he wasn ’ t there when we got promotion.”

Monday ’ s Echo brought the news that Sunderland had drawn Liverpool away in the fourth round, along with new peace proposals from Alan Hardaker to try and prevent a players ’ strike. This time he suggested increasing minimum wages to £12 a week for lower league players, £14 for those in Division Two and £15 for Division One. These were actually below the then increasing average wage in some areas of the country. He also proposed, however, to end the maximum wage system after the following season but not to end the retain-and-transfer system.

Jimmy Hill felt that this might be good enough for the better-off players to abandon the PFA ’ s campaign; it meant one of the two major demands had been met and the opportunity of earning considerably more was within the grasp of players from Divisions One and Two. However, they stood overwhelmingly with their less fortunate colleagues and at a players ’ meeting in Manchester 344 players invited the press to witness them voting for strike action.

On Wednesday January 18th 1961, the PFA and the Football League finally appeared to have resolved their differences when it was agreed that any player whose contract had come to an end and who had not been transferred by August 31st would be able to depend on “the management committee of the Football League to deal with the matter.” The players took this to mean that the committee would help the player to get a move. They were delighted; it meant the end of the maximum wage and the retain-and-transfer system.

In fact the clubs dug in their heels and while the players were now free to negotiate wages it was left to the PFA to mount a successful legal challenge, using George Eastham ’ s case, before the transfer system was completely overhauled. Nevertheless it marked the beginning of the end for the clubs in their fight to keep players ’ wages and conditions under their strict control and Hurley has no doubts who to thank:

“All the players who played during my era and those since should always say a prayer for Jimmy Hill before they go to sleep. He went in to get a maximum wage scrapped and he managed to do so. If I ever saw Jimmy I would walk up to him and say ‘I ’ d have stayed on £20 a week for all my career if it hadn ’ t been for you ’ . The clubs might have moved it up a bit but not by much. Mind, some players today are getting paid far too much: if Sky pulls out tomorrow the clubs will be bankrupt and fans will be regarded as sacrosanct once again.”

The Liverpool Echo was looking forward to Sunderland and Charlie Hurley ’ s appearance at Anfield. Before the cup tie Sunderland enjoyed two impressive performances, beating Lincoln 2-1 away, where Lawther was one of the scorers, and winning 4-1 at home to Portsmouth, when Lawther scored twice to make it fourteen league goals in fourteen league games.

A cup tie special train at a cost of 35 shillings [£1.75] took some of the mass support to Liverpool. Those travelling could be sure of the chance to enjoy a good drink afterwards as the return did not leave Lime Street until 11.30pm. How football fans would enjoy such departure times these days!

The Liverpool Echo reporter was in no doubt who was likely to be Sunderland ’ s key player, reporting that “the king-pin and king-sized centre half Hurley is one of the keys to their success. Liverpool have no comparable personality.”

Argus had warned that Sunderland would have to be at their very best to beat not only a decent Liverpool side but also the Liverpool Spion Kop, which “there is nothing to compare with anywhere in the country”. This area of the ground behind one of the goals was named in honour of the battle between the Boer and British Armies in January 1900 along the Tugela River, Natal, in South Africa.

Liverpool were not then the force they were to later become. Like Sunderland, they were in the Second Division, having slid out of the top flight after a long spell, but they were to go up as champions the following year so a victory at Anfield was no mean feat. And that ’ s what Sunderland achieved with goals from Harry Hooper and Lawther sending them into the fifth round. Off the field, and not for the last time, the travelling Sunderland fans humbled the famous Kop.

Sunderland ’ s young team had finally come of age and one player particularly pleased at the result was Liverpool-born Len Ashurst, who had been released by his home-town club at nineteen after being on their books for three years. “I enjoyed the FA Cup match, but I always enjoyed playing at Anfield as my parents and relatives were all Liverpudlians but also because they gave me a free transfer, which I think was a mistake,” he remembers.

As Hurley recalls: “We were two-nil up in twenty minutes. We had to defend the Kop in the second half and the longer it went on the more they lobbed the ball in. It was like manna from heaven. It was easy. To play in front of the Kop and get a standing ovation, which we got after that game, is something to remember because the Kop were great fans. They were very fair. If you played well they clapped you off the park. It was a fabulous day. I was chosen as ‘Man of the Match ’ for that game, I was given a lighter. I gave it to my dad and he lost it – that was my dad – or perhaps he flogged it!

“Yes, my dad was a character. But what I got from him was a determination to win. Even today if I play tennis or snooker or darts I want to win. You never hear of the player who comes second, no matter how many times he does it. One good win is worth much more. I came second to Bobby Moore in the 1964

Player of the Year awards and no one remembers. I think I was a born winner and I got that from my father. I ’ ll give you an example. I used to be a very good athlete as a kid and Ford works used to have an annual garden fete, with athletics for under-fives, under-tens and under-fifteens. You got seven shillings and sixpence [37p] for winning, five bob [25p] for second and two and six [13p] for third. It was a lot of money. One year it was raining and there could only be one race and the older ones were naturally put at the back.

“Halfway up the field were the little five-year-olds. On your marks, get set go and with me wearing spikes I was off like a shot. I was nearly there but this little five-year-old beat me – he was nearly at the tape to start with. I go to my dad with the money still puffing and panting and he said ‘fancy letting a five-year-old beat you ’ . I never forget that. It instilled into me that you ’ ve got to win. Winners are not necessarily nice people when they ’ re actually competing, but you put on a different hat. You just feel different, quite frightening.

“Now my mother had a massive heart, all my brothers and sisters are still very close; I think we got the strength from my dad but the feeling and affection from my mother. I have never got pleasure from seeing people getting hurt during life. My father used to say ‘Always be honest, boy, then you don ’ t have to have a good memory ’ . When I look back it wasn ’ t a bad principle to be brought up with.”

Two weeks after the Anfield match more than 53,000 packed Roker Park to see Sunderland defeat Middlesbrough 2-0, Brian Clough again missing out. Some Sunderland supporters thought he was not as good as reported or as good as he thought he was!

Sunderland drew Norwich City away in the next round of the FA Cup and not for the first time a player and team were motivated by mind games from the opposition. Charlie Hurley recalls: “I will always remember Norwich because I remember reading the headlines the day before the match. I don ’ t know if it was a wind-up or not but it said ‘Hurley, the weakness ’ so I couldn ’ t fathom that one out. It put my back up anyway. We took a bit of a battering and then we had a good spell in the first half where we could have got something. Then we got one corner with about ten minutes to go, which Harry Hooper took.

“He was the type of guy who ’ d say ‘Which way do you want the lace Charlie? ’ He always curled the corner away from the ’ keeper, beautiful for someone good in the air. One corner, and bop and in the back of the net, halfway up the iron stanchion. Before I could even get off the floor there was a mass of players on my back. I was carrying six when I went over to shake hands with Harry Hooper.

“Then we took a pounding for ten minutes, and won 1-0. Those types of games will always stick in your mind. An awful lot of Sunderland fans from those days who I talk to pick that game out. It was packed at Norwich that day; in those days fans and players were one, there were no prima donnas. OK, we were earning a lot more than the fans even in those days but our players loved the fans.”

Stan Anderson rates Hurley ’ s performance at Norwich as the best he saw from him in a Sunderland shirt. “He was brilliant. It is a shame that TV in those days wasn ’ t as good as it is now because if they ’ d looked at that goal from all the angles that they do now – it was such a bullet-like header from twelve to fifteen yards out. I remember it coming over my head and just turning to look and I ’ ve never seen anything like it in my life.

“He must have hit it flush on the head and if it had hit the crossbar it would probably have broken it. It just absolutely flashed into the net. The goal won us the match. I bet we were under the cosh for eighty-five per cent of the time but Norwich never looked like scoring. I remember one of the Norwich players asking ‘How the bloody hell have we lost this match? ’”

The goal arrived with eleven minutes remaining and Argus described it as: “From a Hooper corner-kick Hurley beat Keenan with a magnificently placed header which was a goal all the way.”

“Hurley could be the rage of the Continent in a classy side like Real Madrid,” wrote Charlie Summerbell in the Daily Mirror the following week. Madrid were, of course, the best side in the world at the time having won the first five European Cups between 1956 and 1960.

When the sixth round draw was made it meant Tottenham Hotspur, the best team in England and looking to become the first since Aston Villa in 1896–97 to record the ‘double ’ of League and FA Cup in the same season, would be making the long journey to Roker. It was swiftly announced that the tie would be a 63,000 all-ticket affair and even though Spurs returned around 10,000 from their allocation of 15,750 on the Thursday before the game they were soon sold. The atmosphere was electric. Younger readers should

think of Manchester City in the FA Cup at Roker in 1973 and Newcastle at home at the Stadium of Light in 2001, when Sunderland came from two down to grab a draw.

Sunderland won both matches between the draw and the tie, maintaining good form for the biggest game of their lives for some of the players involved. The 4-2 defeat of Leeds United included a hat-trick from Johnny Goodchild, playing his only game of the season and the last of his 44 games for Sunderland.

The Spurs side included Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay, the Scot having been signed by Bill Nicholson from Hearts six months after Nicholson had taken over as manager in October 1958. It was the away team who took the lead on nine minutes when Welshman Cliff Jones headed past an unsighted Peter Wakeham. It stayed that way until ten minutes into the second half, when Hurley went forward for another corner.

He remembers: “I dived and got a header in. Bill Brown pushed it out and Willie McPheat drove it home. I ’ ve got a big picture at home of the crowd of 63,000.”

Dave Hillam, a long-time Sunderland fan, did not have a ticket, “so for want of anything better to do I ended up on Tunstall Hill with some mates and we heard an incredible noise from the ground. It transfixed us. I can still remember hearing a great roar coming over the river and us all standing there listening to it.”

According to Argus “there was no Roker Park precedent for the scenes which followed” as supporters invaded the pitch in celebration of the equaliser, holding up the match for two minutes.

It was suggested that this intervention assisted a shaky Spurs team, giving them time to regroup among the mayhem. That is certainly how Danny Blanchflower recalled events in the Sunday Express when a week after Sunderland ’ s Wembley victory against Leeds United in 1973 he wrote: “Hundreds of fans jumped over the fence and on to the field. They were like a mad religious sect waving their hands to the glory of the equaliser. ‘Let them come, ’ I said, ‘let them get it all out of their system. The worst is over. This is the climax ... keep your heads. Let ’ s start going for their goal. We don ’ t want them near ours. Not with that crowd.”

Blanchflower claimed that Spurs then “pressed the game for a spell and then it faded into a midfield struggle.”

Yet this is not what journalists reported. For example, Alan Hoby, also in the Sunday Express, wrote: “Spurs shocked and shaken by the tremendous fervour of the Roker fans could never click back into their classic pattern. Indeed for five minutes the Division One leaders were forced to kick anywhere ... conceding three corners as they somehow survived the blitz.”

Hurley remembers “Danny Blanchflower kicking the ball over to Stan Anderson. Now Danny never ever hit a ball more than twenty yards, but the crowd that day was going berserk, the panic button was being pressed. But we just couldn ’ t get the goal although in the last minute John Dillon was very, very unlucky not to pinch the winner.”

Argus reported that “Mackay was forced to boot the ball away and the famous Lilywhites so riled Hurley by their tactics used against him that he came near to losing his temper.”

In the days following the game Blanchflower said that “nothing I have ever heard equalled the intensity of that wild roar at Roker Park last week when Sunderland drew level with Tottenham.”

The Irishman retained his affection for Sunderland fans the rest of his life, writing in his Sunday Express post-1973 FA Cup final piece that seeing them at Wembley “had pleased me. It brought back old times for me. In some ways this was better than the last time. They had won the Cup. They had beaten the best team of their day and that did not bother me at all this time.”

Spurs had been lucky but four days later they showed no mercy as they thumped Sunderland 5-0 in front of a White Hart Lane crowd of nearly 65,000 which contained a large number from the north-east, including some supporters who travelled by boat!

“The sea-going supporters are the crews of at least six North-East colliers, which will be moored in the Thames today” reported the Newcastle Journal.

Argus felt that the scoreline was a little harsh: “It was still a great game to watch and not nearly so one- sided as the scoreline indicates. But Spurs did everything a little better and a little quicker and that was the basic difference between the sides.”

He was probably being a little generous. My dad, Noble Metcalf, was one of the Sunderland supporters

who travelled that day, and he told me years later: “They hammered us, but they were a great team, especially Danny Blanchflower.”

They were only weeks away from establishing their own legacy and one wonders what might have happened if the pre-Munich Manchester United side had not been so tragically destroyed. Spurs against Manchester United in 1960–61 would have been some game.

Hurley recalls that “Jimmy McNab missed the return match. He was a good defender. I used to call Jimmy ‘Mac the knife ’ as he knocked guys over, but he rarely got booked. He ’ d knock the guy over, pick him up, say nothing and walk away, always smile. Don ’ t forget referees have got their own problems. If you don ’ t give them too much trouble then you could get away with three or four challenges.

“Lennie ‘the Lion ’ Ashurst and Mac were the two best defenders I played with. They were rock solid. In the Second Division they got known as the flank to be wary of. The blend Alan Brown got was very good and don ’ t forget a good number came through the youth side, including Cec Irwin who was a solid, no nonsense defender. Lovely lad also.

“Underdogs against the very best rarely get a second chance and we didn ’ t at Tottenham. For about twenty minutes we played really well, as good as them. Ian Lawther had two good chances. Even if he ’ d got one of them it wouldn ’ t have helped. They had a fantastic side, and once they went one up we showed our inexperience and ended up losing by five.

“But it was an experience. There were thirty thousand locked out. Word had gone out that this young Sunderland side were going to cause an upset. For twenty minutes we did, but that ’ s not what counts.”

Stan Anderson says: “I didn ’ t think we were going to win the cup: we weren ’ t good enough. You need luck as well. If we were going to win it we had to beat Tottenham at Roker Park. We could have done it but John Dillon fluffed it in the last few minutes. He still cries about it even now. He ’ s a lovely lad is John. He comes for the players ’ reunion dinners and we rib him, saying ‘You were through against Tottenham ’ and he throws his hands up and moans ‘Oh no! ’”

The cup defeat did not seem to affect the team too much. There was a 0-0 draw at Rotherham and a 2-1 victory against visitors Brighton and Hove Albion. This put Sunderland on forty points from thirty-three games. They were still some way behind Ipswich Town and Sheffield United but they were in sensational form and had gained seventeen points from ten games.

But promotion was not to be. In the very next match at Eastville, Hurley was injured early. Although he limped through the game it would probably have been better had he gone off as it meant he would miss the following games, and Sunderland lost by 1-0 to Bristol Rovers anyway.

The defeat knocked the stuffing out of the still young Sunderland side. Hurley missed the next seven games, in which Sunderland lost four times. Still, sixth was a lot better than the previous two seasons. These days it would get you into the play-offs and offer a back-door route to promotion but they were not introduced until 1987.

One of the defeats occurred in Sunderland ’ s final away game of the season when Ipswich Town scored four goals without reply. The following week the East Anglian club were crowned Division Two Champions with fifty-nine points, pipping Sheffield United by a point. With thirty-nine league goals Ray Crawford had knocked Middlesbrough ’ s goalscoring machine Brian Clough off his perch as top scorer in Division Two for the first time in four seasons.

With no previous experience of top-flight football, the Portman Road side were expected to struggle the following season. In fact they went on to confound everybody by winning the First Division title under the guidance of manager Alf Ramsey. Ramsey had been appointed in 1955 when the club were in the Third Division South and led them to promotion two seasons later. Ramsey himself had won back-to-back Second and First Division titles as a player with Tottenham Hotspur in 1950 and 1951.

Since then only one team has repeated the feat, Brian Clough ’ s Nottingham Forest capturing the First Division title in 1978 only a year after winning promotion. It is unlikely to be repeated.

Spurs went on to beat Leicester City in the final, thus adding the FA Cup to the First Division title they won by finishing eight points clear of Sheffield Wednesday. The then famous ‘double ’ had been achieved only twice previously when Preston North End won both competitions in the first ever season of league football, 1888–89, and then Aston Villa in 1896–97.

There was no beach for Charlie Hurley that summer. Ireland had been drawn with Scotland and Czechoslovakia in World Cup qualifying group eight with the winners going forward to play in Chile the following summer. The Scotland games took place over a four-day period at the end of the season, the first at Hampden Park and the return at Dalymount Park.

It was very much unlucky thirteen for Hurley in Glasgow. Ireland awarded a first cap to Andy McEvoy of Blackburn Rovers, but at right half, not in his usual position of inside forward, and Ireland were behind in the fourteenth minute when Hurley made a poor clearance and Rangers forward, and later Sunderland teammate, Ralph Brand was on hand to score an easy goal. When he scored his second just before half- time it looked all over but Haverty did pull a goal back before David Herd added two for the home side to make it 4-1.

Four days later Herd was missing, his place taken by Alex Young of Everton. Mick Meagan made his debut for Ireland at left half.

The 36,000 crowd were treated to a magnificent display, sadly not from their own team. Jim Baxter, Paddy Crerand, who had made his debut in the first match, and Celtic ’ s Billy McNeill, later to become the first skipper of a British team to lift the European Cup, ran the show. After four minutes Young scored the first, twelve minutes later Brand got the second and Young got his second and Scotland ’ s third two minutes before the referee ’ s final whistle brought a chastened Ireland ’ s misery to an end.

Had the game taken place under today ’ s rules there is little doubt that one player at least on the Scotland side would have been playing in the green of Ireland. Paddy Crerand had been brought up in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, traditionally home to thousands of immigrants from Ireland and often referred to throughout the ’ 50s, ’ 60s and ’ 70s as the most dangerous place in Britain as street gangs were rife. Crerand, in his own words was “totally Irish, my parents were Irish, all my pals were Irish. We kept ourselves to ourselves because everyone from outside of it hated you.

“I remember when I left school in 1955 there were adverts in the papers, ‘No Irish or RC [Roman Catholics] may apply. ’ It was only later on that they allowed people to play for the country of their parents; the first player ever to play for Ireland not born there was my United teammate Shay Brennan. If that law was there in 1961 I would have played for Ireland. I stopped playing for Scotland because of the bigotry. It also didn ’ t help that I played in England but to be fair I never looked at myself as Scottish anyway.” 2

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

Close Season Is Boring...
Chit Chat

John O’Shea reckons that there can be no repeat of previous seasons in 2016/17 and a battle against the drop is not acceptable. “There’s no point in saying it again,” said the club captain. “We’ve got to do it. The proof will be in the pudding. We have to start the season better. We added to the quality of the squad in January and hopefully the manager will get the chance to do that again. That will increase the competition and I’ve said throughout my whole career, that the quality only gets better with more competition. The January boys came in and settled in so quickly and had such an impact. I’ll be hoping - and I’m sure the manager will be - that he can make an impact early on and get things done quickly. It was an amazing feeling again of how we’ve done it with a game to spare,” added O’Shea. “But the key thing was the unity we showed within the group, when the pressure was on. We responded well with only one defeat in the last 11 games. There were some great performances, but that’s what we usually do, leaving it late. The key thing now is the start of next season, from the minute we come back for pre-season.”

O’Shea also bigged up the fans, which seems to be the standard line these days, but it’s still nice. “When we’ve beaten Newcastle, we’ve had that similar atmosphere, but we want it from the start of the season. That’s up to us to give it to the fans and make sure we don’t have two or three points after eight or nine games.”

In other news, DeAndre Yedlin has been chatting about his future, now that his season long loan at SAFC is over. “It’s definitely a door I would not close. I would not mind going back,” said Yedlin. “I had a great time there. I’m keeping all doors open, I don’t want to shut any right now. Any opportunity that is offered to me is a big opportunity. When you’re dealing with the Premier League, it’s still unbelievable to think that I’m playing in the Premier League. I’ll just keep my head down and perform at Copa America. Obviously if I can have a good tournament here it’ll impress a lot more people.”

Jermain Defoe has admitted that he’s gutted to not make the England’s squad for Euro 2016. Defoe said: “Obviously I’ve not been involved with England for quite a while and I’ve always thought that getting into an England squad before a tournament is based on merit. As a forward if you score goals then you’ve got a chance of going. Towards the end of the season I started thinking about it but before I wasn’t. I was so focused on trying to help Sunderland stay in the Premier League. It’s only when you see things in the papers and people start talking about it - just mentioning my name about maybe getting into the squad - then I started thinking about it. So obviously, when you’re not in the squad, it’s a disappointment.”

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

season over…
no news

Not a lot going on today with all the players off on holiday, now that the season is over. However, Big Sam is preparing bids and sorting g out contracts and reckons that Jeremain Lens needs to decide if he wants to stay at Sunderland, or move on. Allardyce said: “It depends what Lens wants to do – stay or fight or move on. He’ll decide that when we have a conversation.”

In other new, Fabio Borini has been called up into Italy boss Antonio Conte’s latest squad, however, no Juventus or Milan are in this squad, with the Coppa Italia final played this Saturday, so a number of fringe players are being given a chance.

Meanwhile, Jordan Pickford is off with England’s under-21 side travel to the Toulon Tournament. “Unfortunately I have to share a room with Duncan Watmore again. He’s a nightmare,” joked Pickford. “No, he's a great lad really and we'll play three or four times in eight days so the games are in quick succession and it’s a good experience. It was a really good tournament last year when I went with the under-20s, so it’s a good chance to get a few more games under my belt and hopefully a few more clean sheets.”

In other news, Sam Allarydce was delighted with the young lads who made their debuts against Watford. “Hopefully they all have a bright future ahead of them and they all make the grade,” said Allardyce. “To bring so many players from the academy to the first-team squad is a pleasure. Recently it has been more about players coming through and moving on to play for other teams in lower divisions, but we want to try and develop them and get them into our first-team if we possibly can. Hopefully this will be the case and one or two of these lads can hold down a place next season. Both the players and their families will have been absolutely thrilled when they woke up on Monday morning because they’ve experience playing in the greatest league in the world. They grasped that moment and were determined, and this will have given them the drive to want to do better and better.”

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

post watford craic…
REACTION

Sunderland drew 2-2 away at Watford in a game that we really should have won, if not for two incorrectly disallowed goals. Referee Kevin Friend really has it out for us. Nevertheless, goals from Lens and Rodwell gave our travelling fans a grand day out to cap off the season.

Sam Allardyce had this to say afterwards: “There were a few decisions that didn’t go our way today. The fans came down and they sang all the way through and were entertained; they got to see some of our younger players, who I think stood up to the test today and played very well indeed. We created a huge amount of chances and we got in front twice. The killer for us was Duncan [Watmore]’s goal – that would have made it 2-0 and I think it should have been allowed, however it wasn’t to be. Eleven games, one defeat; no defeats in the last six games and 12 points from those games. Watford played a full strength side and we only had a couple of players that have been involved in our last seven games. What we’ve seen today from the young players stands us in good stead for the future. We have to make sure we go into next season, build on this and don’t start the way we have done the last few years. We need a good start and to look much better, that’s what we need to concentrate on.” He added: “For now, that was a brilliant send-off for the fans - we matched Watford in every department and what we saw was very pleasing, they could enjoy their day.

Tommy Robson was delighted to get a run out in the 2-2 draw at Watford and had this to say afterwards about the development. Robson said: “It’s definitely helped to see Duncan and Jordan getting into the first-team. A couple of years ago, no-one was getting a chance, but now there’s a lot more of us training with them. A lot of players are making their debuts in the Premier League at 22-23, so I’ve still got a lot of years ahead of me. For a relegation battle, you need experience, but I’m hoping that next season is not going to be the same. I don’t think it will be. The way we’ve ended the season, I think with a couple more signings, we can be a really good team next year. I’ve been training with the first-team for a while and I’m learning a lot from Robbie and Brace,” added Robson. “Hopefully I can keep improving and we’ll see where I end up. I’m going to enjoy the next two weeks and then work hard before I come back at the start of the season. We’ll see what happens. I just want to be ready for the start of the season and then it’s up to the manager. I got told on Saturday morning and there was a mix of excitement and nerves. It wasn’t a nice feeling! (When I got out there) I just cut everything out and I felt fine. I enjoyed it and words can’t describe how I’m feeling. It’s a dream. I thought we deserved to win the game. I think we had two goals which weren’t offside and I don’t think it was a penalty.”

And here's our post Watford Blog

Well, the last few days have been a pretty good time to be a Sunderland fan. I’d be lying if I said it was a shame the mags went down, as I would if I said it wasn’t extra sweet that our thumping win over Everton did for them. That we did it in style by playing good football and scoring a fair few goals was a bonus which gives hope for a brighter immediate future….

….as did the impressive debuts of Tom Robson and Rees Greenwood, and from the bench by George Honeyman – all Academy products, like keeper for the day Pickford. Sam wants us to grow our own, and those four, plus Watmore (who we took as a cutting so to speak) look like they could be a big part of our future.

The away end was, as usual, sold out, and the travelling fans in fine voice and party mood throughout the game – as they had been before the game as they thronged Watford’s streets. As meaningless end-of-season games go, this was an entertaining affair, with shots aplenty, a dodgy penalty, and two perfectly good goals ruled out for offside. Typically, all of those contentious decisions went against us, and with a different set of officials we’d have been 4-1 up. Still, mustn’t grumble too loudly or we’ll sound ungracious - and we wouldn’t want that. Another positive was the performance of Lens, who has failed to impress over most of the season so far (that’s about all of it, actually) but at Vicarage Road looked like he was interested – as did Jack Rodwell, another who needs to up his game on a regular basis.

But that’s for the close season, and that’s where we are now. With Sam’s regime firmly in place, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t hit the ground running next season, and if we do that mid-table obscurity should be a doddle.

Meanwhile, Big Sam Allardyce is already turning his head towards the future and has urged Ellis Short to sort out our youth recruitment and development. Sam said: “The under-21 players are a driving necessity for me. The club has to build for the future a bit more than it has done. The recruitment at the academy level for me would be something I would talk to Ellis (Short, Sunderland’s chairman) about. I’m not directly involved, but I’d say, ‘However long you’re going to be in charge of this club, when I’ve gone, do that, start that process. We’re going to do this now, solve the problem, but don’t – down the line – continue living year-in, year-out, not having a long-term basis for the club.’

“And that has to be recruitment at youth level and finding players who are going to be big enough physically, mentally, technically, to play for Sunderland. Lots of players have been developed by this club but don’t play for the club. They play at all the clubs in the lower divisions, but are never quite good enough to play for Sunderland. And I think we have to try to eradicate that and find more players for our team through our academy. The supporters love it, we all love it, but that is a long-term prospect, it’s not my responsibility. The club should look at investing more in that as well as obviously investing in next year as well.”

Sam has also heaped praise on John O'Shea and reckons that the Irish defender would make a great manager some day. He isn't the first gaffer to make the same observation. He said: “John is going to make a fantastic coach or manager. He’s a dedicated professional and he’s been very good in terms of the frustration he’s seen and shown. At the time, he was a bit unfortunate to lose his place but obviously, when I look at the partnership that Younes and Lamine (Kone) have put together, I’m sure John understands and goes, ‘I can probably understand why the manager is not picking me’. It’s the same with Wes Brown, even worse because Wes has even struggled to get a place on the bench. He’s a terrific player and a terrific guy and he’s been sat there frustrated more than John because he’s not even managed to get on the bench."

Allardyce also confirmed that O'Shea would be staying past this summer window, but doesn't expect the same for Wes Brown: "At that late stage in your career, it’s about playing football before you finally retire" Allardyce explained. "Not about sitting on the bench or in the stand." When asked about O'Shea, Allardyce replied: "Oh, he'll definitely be staying."

Speaking of old Sheasy, old Paddy McGuiness on wiz, the veteran captain once again is insistent that Sunderland fans get to see their side in cup finals, not relegation battles. O'Shea admitted: “We got to a League Cup final [in 2014] and the fans enjoyed that run. We just came up short against (Manchester) City in the final. If we can do those sort of things again and be much higher up in the table, comfortable, that’s obviously what we are craving. If we can get that bit of success somehow, that is key for everybody. We have to make sure we give not just the fans, but the whole Sunderland family, not just a celebration for the last two games, but the whole season. The club changed the manager a bit earlier than normal this year, and he has had a huge impact. His experience and his know-how of getting the balance of the squad right, finding quality in the transfer window, getting the backing from the owner (were vital). The training improved, everything, players had to perform to stay in the team. That’s when you get better performances. But there’s also the impact it has knowing the club is a Premier League club again next season, for the staff at the training ground, at the academy, at Black Cats House (where the club is administered), all of those things. We need to make sure we put that all together now and start next season much better.”

For a full Watford match report Click Here

Fan Letters Click Here

Finally, if you’re on Facebook click here to like us. Thanks…

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

 

On the Buses…
als info

ALS run coaches to every away game that Sunderland AFC play from our base opposite the Stadium of Light, click here for a full info, prices and ways to book...

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...

 

 

ALS shop opening times...
we never close

Our trading hours are as follows: Monday-Friday 9.30am to 5.30pm all year round. On weekend matchdays we open five hours before the match starts and close at kick off. We are also open for 30 mins after the match finishes. For midweek home games, we open at 9.30am and close at kick off. Please feel free to call 0191 565 4422, pop into our shop, or click here to go straight to our on-line shop and peruse our wares.

ALS Away Game Travel
ALS T Shirts Offers...
Super Saver Sub: Avoid ALS Price Increase & Save £37...