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Another day in safc land...
Dick is up for the derby

The weekend is nearly upon us, albeit a Sunderland-free one. In the meantime, Dick Advocaat is determined not to underestimate the Wear-Tyne derby after doing the same in Glasgow: “For us it’s a big game. It’s very important not just because it is a derby, but because we need points. Every next game is always the most important, but this time it is against Newcastle and that makes it even more so. I made a mistake in one of my first Celtic-Rangers games after I had taken over at Rangers. They [the media] said ‘it’s a huge game’. I said we had 24 huge games, or however many it was. But afterwards I understood how important that game is there! We lost 1-5, but I said after that game that we will not do that again and we went on to become champions and win two cups that season.”

The Dutch head coach revealed he has had a slight role in future player recruitment: “Still I like to discuss about players and that kind of thing. That’s very important for this club, to get the right players in. It’s very difficult to talk about that now, let’s just wait and see what happens over the next two months. At the moment, everyone here seems happy with the arrangement we have. The players seem happy and that is important. It is always better if you start at the beginning of a season because then you can put all of your ideas in. But in terms of organisation, it is not that difficult to bring the players into step, so that everybody knows what to do. They have to do that. If we are to going to win games, they have to do that. The organisation is the most important thing in football, then you can add in the individual skills of the players.”

It seems that Jack Rodwell is the new media whore at the club. Here's his daily quote: “It’s been a really positive week in training. We’re all really looking forward to the Wear-Tyne derby especially after the last one at St James’ Park, but it is also my first derby at the Stadium of Light so hopefully we can have a great game. There is a real buzz about the game and it is the first one you look for when the fixtures come out, I’m sure that like us the fans are really excited so we need to make sure we put in a good performance and get the win. I thought the supporters were amazing away from home in what was Dick Advocaat’s first game in charge, so hopefully they will be the 12th man once more next weekend because we will need them in what will be a massive game. We have a lot of belief after winning four in a row so hopefully we can make it five to give the city something to cheer about.”

Also, congrats to the Lasses who won their debut WSL 1 game last night away to the holders, Liverpool.

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A Mackem in London...
By Connor O'Neill

I imagine the slogan ‘arrive awesome’ was thought up by a few blokes who look like they’re straight out of a page of GQ and have a ping pong table in their office. As I staggered off the train, I didn’t feel as if I was ‘arriving awesome’, after 4 cans of Strongbow and a 30 minute delay, I arrived more a as a common Northerner. I’d bought an Oyster card in preparation for this and future trips to London after having to pay £12 to go about 8 stops to Fulham a few months back which just wasn’t cricket and I’m trying to reduce my poncing from the bank’s very generous offering of a student overdraft, of which West Ham’s £43 ticket price didn’t do much to help.

I got down to Euston Square station which is disguised under some sort of office building, immediately joined by a Sunderland fan and his part-time West Ham fan mate. I convinced them both we’ll probably get relegated and that the David Connolly/Daryl Murphy partnership is indeed my favourite of my short time supporting the club. The West Ham fan also took a dark turn by telling me, unasked, that football in the 1980s was awful for a fan and that had I been sat on the very same tube as if it was the 80s, I’d have had my head kicked in by the time we’d gone past Canary Wharf, which wasn’t unnerving at all. The high street towards the ground is like a slightly better but still pretty awful Crystal Palace, though the determination for every inch of pavement to either have a bloke selling a t-shirt with Mark Noble’s face on or questionable meat produce must be admired.

On the walk to the agreed pub I had to walk past ‘East Ham Butchers’ on the corner of the Boleyn and a café with a queue out the door and down the street offering some sort of eel based foodstuff, merely adding to my suspicions of London. We eventually ended up in a pub just down the road which had a separate door for away fans and split the pub in two in some sort of football styled apartheid. West Ham fans had the luxury of the well furnished traditional pub setting and Sunderland fans were in the function room on the other side of the bar which looked like it had never been decorated barring the addition of a small mirror 4ft off the ground on one wall. The pub also had a huge beer garden which is odd given in London they could probably sell off the land for around £400,000 (I occasionally watch Homes Under the Hammer). And it was actually rather pleasant if you ignored the sofa, door less fridge/freezer and motorbike in the corner, all presumably won on a 1997 episode of the Price is Right. And the barbed wire, which I was unsure of whether it was for the prevention of entering or exit.

Anyway, then there was some football. Very narrow concourse at the Boleyn and had the pleasure of having one of those seats that doesn’t actually face the pitch but the adjacent stand. Not that this was the biggest issue, as the constant stream of bubbles do prove an early distraction when you have little interest in the dull and lacklustre football being played out on the pitch.

There’s something rather conflicting in seeing the experienced and reputable manager in Dick Advocaat looking sternly over his idiot players on the touchline while bubbles fly around in front of his face. He dutifully ignored them as if to illustrate the size of the task in hand, there’s bigger fish to fry, he won’t pay attention to these bubbles, he won’t become pre-occupied so easily, he knows your game West Ham.

Sunderland had two chances of note that I can remember, both coming in the first half, Defoe sticking high and wide looking like he’s in a side that have only scored 1 goal in 7 games. The first half was unsurprisingly poor and I imagine all those watching on Sky had turned over to the rugby, even your dad and he’s not even a fan of rugby, he doesn’t really get the rules and yet he still turned over.

The main incident of note, in perhaps the entire match, being a large inflatable penis being chucked around for the first 15 minutes. This was all jolly good fun until a dictator steward stole said penis and paraded it as his bounty to the West Ham fans who cheered with joy.

Sadly only miniature inflatable penises remained amongst the crowd which are nowhere near as fun or sought after by stewards, so a second half had to be watched and endured. It was all fairly unnoticeable and rather meaningless until Diafra Sakho managed to score late on past the weakest blocking attempt from Vergini and the big Romanian. Cue groans of irritancy from the away end.

West Ham therefore picked up 3 points that make very little difference to the judgement of success of their season and Sunderland pick up nothing for the twelth time this season. Though as a result of everyone in the bottom seven being pretty much as bad as each other, we’re exactly where we started, still staring relegation in the face.

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The calm before the storm…
derby cloud is on its way

So Harry Redknapp has labelled us the worst team in the league, personally Harry I couldn’t give a flying f**k what you think and only wish that you’d disappear from the face of the Earth. Well that’s my morning rant over, so getting back to SAFC and things creditable people say, here’s Jermain Defoe’s thoughts on the derby: “There’s no better game for us to get a win and give everyone around the club a lift. There’s no better game to kick-start a revival and get the club away from danger. We’ve got eight games coming up and the manager has told us they are all cup finals, which is right because we need to get points. If we continue to play like we did against West Ham we’ll be fine. We created a lot of chances, had good movement and were solid and defended well. I’ve spoken to the boys and they’ve told me there’s nothing quite like it (the derby). It’s a fixture for the fans and it’s a massive game for everyone involved with the football club. It’s a game we can win. The lads have been unbelievable in the last few games against Newcastle. I think it’s three or four in a row and hopefully that can continue. It’s going to be a difficult game, of course, but with us being at home we will have the advantage of our fans.”

Defoe also thinks we should take the good elements of Saturday’s performance and work hard perfecting the new style: “But there are positives to take and we can take confidence from our performance. The international break is very good timing, it gives me the chance to work more with the players. The fans were great (at West Ham), they want to see that we’re working hard and we will show that.”

Steven Fletcher has taken some time out of posing next to his new cars and he also can’t wait to take on the Mags: “It’s a massive game to come back to. I think it’s good that we’re getting a little break and the manager can get some training sessions into the team. That will help. But it’s a game that we can look forward to next week. You know what the city is like when this game comes around. It’s a fantastic atmosphere. We’ve had some good times in these games over the last couple of seasons, so hopefully we can keep that going.”

The club have released the following statement regarding the upcoming derby...

Supporters are being advised to arrive early for the Wear-Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light, which takes place at 4pm on Sunday 5th April, 2015. In light of the capacity crowd and enhanced safety measures in place, fans should allow additional time for their journey, both to and from the stadium. There are a number of changes to the usual match day arrangements, including to the traffic management and entrance and exit procedures. Supporters are advised that entering and exiting the stadium may take longer than usual and their understanding in advance is greatly appreciated.

TURNSTILES
Turnstiles for home supporters will be open from 2.30pm and supporters are reminded that they can use any turnstile in the East, West or South Stand, to enter the stadium. Access to the North Stand for home supporters will be limited due safety segregation measures in place as police divert visiting fans from buses to their turnstiles in the Upper North Stand. Sunderland supporters seated in the lower North Stand are advised that they can gain entry to the stadium via the East or West Stand turnstiles, as well as their usual turnstiles, which should avoid any delays. Sunderland supporters who use the emergency access road parallel to the Aquatic Centre as a short cut to access the stadium area on foot are also advised that this area will be closed off during the movement of visiting supporters in and out of the stadium.

ROAD CLOSURES/DIVERSIONS
Police segregation will be in place both before and after kick-off, resulting in no vehicle access via Vaux Brewery Way, which runs parallel to the Aquatic Centre. Anyone using the West Stand car parks must enter and exit via Millennium Way (past the Bob Stokoe statue). Naturally this may lead to some additional congestion and supporters are asked to show patience with police and stewards during this time.

TRAVEL
Fans travelling to the game can utilise the usual scheduled Metros and trains. Sunderland AFC supporters can make their way to the stadium from the Stadium of Light Metro station, whilst visiting fans will use St Peters Metro Station.

FULL-TIME
Upon the full-time whistle, Sunderland AFC supporters situated in the North Stand can leave the stadium via their usual exit points for a five-minute period. After this time a sterile area will be created outside the North Stand and a diversion put in place to exits in both the East and West Stands to facilitate the movement of visiting supporters. Home fans must turn left upon exiting the West Stand and right when exiting the East Stand in order to avoid mixing with the visiting supporters, who will be held back inside the stadium for a period of time. Guests in hospitality areas of the stadium may face restrictions in exiting via the main West Stand stadium entrance after the game as visiting fans are escorted from the North Stand to their buses.

Sunderland AFC’s head of safety and security, Paul Weir, said: “There will be enhanced safety measures in place for the derby, which mean some changes to our normal matchday operation. We want Easter Sunday to be an enjoyable day for everyone and have worked in conjunction with the police to ensure the safe arrival and departure of all supporters. We strongly advise supporters to plan their journey in advance, arrive at the stadium in good time and to listen to the advice of stewards and police on the day. Naturally there may be some delays, particularly in exiting the stadium and we thank supporters in advance for their patience and understanding.”

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is it only tuesday?…
dICK, wICK AND OTHER CRAIC

Who else is nervous about the derby? Dick Advocaat is focused on it and plans on utilising the international break fully, the Dutchman said: “Some heads were down in the dressing room after the way the game ended but there are positives to take and we can take confidence from our performance. The international break is very good timing, it gives me the chance to work more with the players. The fans were great today; they want to see that we’re working hard and we will show that.”

Meanwhile, Connor Wickham continues to be omitted from the England U21 squad, better for us but still hard on the lad who is desperate to play for his country: “I’ve never spoken to anyone from the England set-up for a while. I don’t understand what the situation is. It’s just down to playing my football at Sunderland. If they want me to play, I’m never going to say no to my country. If they pick me, they pick me. If they don’t, I’ll carry on working hard here.”

Elsewhere, John O’Shea has tried to put his club thoughts behind him while on Ireland duty, if only we could do that: “You have to [stay focused on Ireland]. It’s just one of those things. You’d love to be coming in having scored a hat-trick or winning 5-0 or 6-0, it just depends on how the games go for you. I can’t remember what the [Sunderland] score was before we came in for the Germany game [in October] for example, it just happens like that and it’s frustrating.”

Jack Rodwell is still gutted that we lost against West Ham, but is keen to put that right v The Scum. He said: “We didn’t deserve that and I think we deserved a minimum of a point. We had a golden opportunity in the first half through Jermain and Connor fashioned good opportunity for himself. If they go in then it is a different game in the second period and even so I think we did okay, but it just wasn’t to be. We felt positive going into the game and we were unlucky o get a point or maybe even three, so we just have to keep going now because we have eight games to go and we have to keep fighting. We’re all looking forward to the Wear-Tyne derby and hopefully it will be a good game so we can give the fans something to cheer about.”

Sebastian Coates has been called up by Uruguay for their friendly against Morocco.

There’s also only a limited amount of tickets for the derby. Ha’way guys, let’s get this sold out and we’ll roar the lads to five in a row.

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ALS BLOG…
By Eve Sayers

It was another defeat on Saturday but there were vast signs of improvement.

Personally, I thought we were unlucky to lose. Admittedly the game was as dull as you get but it was nice to see us counter attack as well as we did and Defoe should have buried the chance he got early in the game.

Creswell in particular caused problems for us but all in all, our defending was a lot better than it has been in recent weeks, although that isn’t hard.

I can’t wait for the day that all the wrong refereeing decisions even themselves out and we get 17 penalties in the same game. There was a clear foul in the build up to West Ham’s winner and it’s beyond frustrating to see yet another decision go against us but we need to start making our own luck.

We were very lucky this weekend in the sense that all the games went our way with QPR, Leicester, Burnley and Villa all losing but we can’t keep relying on teams around us to get us out of trouble.

We have a tough run of away games left but there are games that are winnable, and we should be looking to take maximum points from home games. The Derby is never an easy game and is a massive game for us, a win would boost our confidence and could be the catalyst to spark our revival.

Showings at the Stadium of Light home this season has been nothing short of dreadful and it’s about time the lads gave the fans something to cheer about.

John O’Shea admitted the players had let Gus Poyet down and he’s right, Poyet deserved better from them and so do the fans. I always try to be optimistic when it comes to Sunderland and I hope Saturday’s improved performance is a sign of things to come under Dick Advocaat.

Connor Wickham played well in particular and looks much better playing up front than he does out wide. Seb Larsson was as consistent as ever with his performance too and some of the other players need to take note of his effort.

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Everyone optimistic…
Internationals suck

So a fair bit of craic to start the week, still gutted about Saturday though. Dick Advocaat has said we’ll have to wait on Wes Brown to see the full extent of the injury he picked up in London: “We don’t know how it will be with Brown. For us, he’s an important player. Some players will go out with the internationals. The others we’ve promised them a couple of days off. We’ve got one and a half weeks to practise things. Now we have time to look at positions.”

The Dutchman also says performances and style do not matter now, just the result: “The only important thing in the final eight games is winning. The way we do it is not important. If we win games very ugly, I like that. We’ll play very negative if the need is there. We tried to win the game. You don’t go out to make a draw. But during the game if you can feel you are not going to win, you have to play for a draw. “But I did not have the feeling to be honest that West Ham would score a goal, even when they took Nolan off. They missed his pressure and his comments to the referee. But then somebody else did it.

Advocaat was pleased with how the team have started to follow his ways early on: “I thought on Saturday that was how I would like the team to work. It was a real team that worked for each other. The strikers worked together really hard with the midfield. So in that way, I’m pleased that they can show that if you work as a team and not as individuals, I am sure you will get the luck you need. On Saturday we did not get the luck we deserved.”

Finally, the veteran boss is now looking to the derby (I’m bricking it already): “I think a home derby you have a big advantage. If we do what we did at West ham, tactically-wise, we did well. We did not create a lot of chances but in a home game with our fans behind us we can do much better in that way. For us every game is important because we need the points. So the next game - and that’s at Newcastle - will always be the most important.

Steven Fletcher after putting in a great shift down South has praised the impact the new man in charge has had: “The manager has provided a lift around the place. He’s a very animated manager, but that’s good for us. We needed a boost. He’s brought that in training too. What he’s like on the side of the pitch is what he’s like in training every day. He gets the players running, chasing it down which is good for us. We’re winning the ball back again and creating chances, which we needed to do. It’s very structural. We know where we stand. With eight games left, we’ve got a big chance. The results went our way on Saturday and it’s still in our own hands. He knows what he needs to do and we know what we need to do. He’s told us that from day one. The minute he came in, you could tell what he wanted and the boys are adapting to it, which is good. Every manager has their own methods, so it’s a different training session to what we’ve been used to. But it’s good. We’re enjoying it.”

In other news, John O’Shea has won the FAI Senior International player of the year award. Well done mate, maybe we should ask the league for special permission to play just you in green, seeing as it’s apparently the colour you perform in.

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Same old song and dance…
johnson returns

Despite a late defeat against West Ham, Dick Advocaat took the positives from the game and reckons we deserved at least a point. He said: “For me the players did very well today; I thought they worked their socks off. We looked better and we’ve still got some players to come back into the squad. Tactically I thought we did well, as we didn’t give many chances away to a team that are very difficult to play against. We went close [to taking something from the game], but obviously not close enough. I do think it was a foul in the build up to their goal; we know these things happen all season but for us right now that was not a good moment. Jermain had a great chance early in the game, if he had scored that it would have been completely different, West Ham would have had to come at us a lot more.”

Yesterday saw the return of Adam Johnson to the side, a decision which his manager has defended. Dick said: "He came in on Wednesday and I spoke with him. Life goes on. He did well. He's a very good player so I was happy that I could bring him in. That's good to know that he will be available against Newcastle." Advocaat also had praise for Cattermole and Wickham: "Johnson for us is great player. Lee Cattermole is a good player, a steady player. The way I saw Wickham play, I was quite pleased about it too. We've done something in a short amount of time. I took a risk with Wickham in that position, but he played brilliantly. That's a really positive thing."

“Other players, tactics-wise, have to improve more when we have the ball. Those kind of things I will take to the training ground. It gives me enough confidence if we work like we worked today against a team that we know is difficult to play against with the long ball – because they don’t play through the midfield, they play long balls and then support. It’s difficult to play against but we did really well. I did not expect a goal from West Ham because everything was under control. But, unfortunately, luck was not on our side.”

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post west ham craic…
REACTION

Sunderland lost 0-1 away to West Ham in the first game of the Dick Advocaat era. A goal from in-form Sakho was enough to see off a Sunderland side who certainly looked more energetic than against Aston Villa, but ultimately lacked an end product.

Dick Advocaat had this to say in his first post-match press conference as Sunderland manager: "For me the players did very well today, I thought they worked their socks off. We looked better and we’ve still got some players to come back into the squad. Tactically I thought we did well, as we didn’t give many chances away to a team that are very difficult to play against.  We went close [to taking something from the game], but obviously not close enough. I do think it was a foul in the build up to their goal; we know these things happen all season but for us right now that was not a good moment. Jermain [Defoe] had a great chance early in the game, if he had scored that it would have been completely different, West Ham would have had to come at us a lot more. I thought Connor Wickham was excellent today, I thought he really put a shift in. Some heads were down in the dressing room after the way the game ended but there are positives to take and we can take confidence from our performance. The international break is very good timing, it gives me the chance to work more with the players. The fans were great today; they want to see that we’re working hard and we will show that, I’ve heard great things about them."

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