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CATTS’ HIP
SESS SLAGS SAFC

David Moyes is hoping that Lee Cattermole’s hip problems are finally behind him, as he approaches full fitness. Moyes said: “I think he’s coped fine with it, which suggests his hip problem might be OK. I thought he had a real impact against Leicester with his leadership, I didn’t see it so much against Manchester United, but we need that leadership. I’m also making sure I don’t run him into the ground. I’ve got other options, but hopefully he will be finding his feet now.”

Cattermole himself is looking forward to facing his hometown team on Wednesday: “When I had the operation, I was told the time it would take me to get back. It fell straight on the Middlesbrough game, but I knew it would’ve been a big ask even if I thought I could make the bench for that game. It would be a great one for me and my family. It was a game I highlighted and I always had in my mind when I was doing all the rehab. After all the tough sessions, you do you always want to be in the best possible position, so, when the game comes around, you are ready. It would be nice for both teams to be in a better position, but we are where we are and we need to focus on getting a win which will give us some big momentum. It is a game I have felt I have always wanted to be involved in. We have played them in a couple of cup games (back in 2012) and I was buzzing, absolutely buzzing, but I was injured and missed them all in the end. It has been a massive shame because it is a game I have always wanted to play in. It is a game that gives you butterflies and that nervousness, you only get that feeling now from real special games like cup finals. It is a night match and that always add something else. It is a great atmosphere down there and it is up to us to make it a special night for our fans.”

In other news, it turns out that Stephane Sessegnon now regrets having ever joined Sunderland. How nice of him. He said: “I had a big problem with the coach of the time, Antoine Kombouaré, who had insulted me. I asked for an appointment with President Leproux to tell him about my desire to go to England. He kept me waiting several weeks, and when I sat in front of him, he said, ‘You have fifteen minutes, not more.’ It was contemptuous, and as he did not want me, listening longer. I got p****d (off) and decided not to get out of his office. After several hours, it was Alain Roche who convinced me to leave! Today, I regret the method. Just the method. It was not my decision to leave. I think I was badly advised. If I had waited a few months I could have signed for a better club than Sunderland. But I wanted to play in England. Life is made of bad choices.”

In other news, Sunderland supporters are advised that only limited places remain on the free coaches to and from the Riverside Stadium. Supporters wishing to use the buses provided by Sunderland AFC must collect a pass from the Stadium of Light ticket office in advance, which is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9am until 5pm. Passes must be retained and shown, in order to board the buses from the Riverside back to the Stadium of Light and supporters without passes will not be permitted to travel.

Concourse facilities, offering food and drink to purchase (including alcohol), will be open in the east stand of the Stadium of Light from 4pm on Wednesday afternoon. The coaches will begin boarding from the GREEN car park, outside the ticket office, at 5pm and will depart for Middlesbrough promptly at 5.30pm. On arrival at the Riverside Stadium, Sunderland supporters will be guided directly to the away turnstiles.

Only those coaches forming part of the official escort will be allowed to park at the stadium and will be located adjacent to the visitors’ turnstiles and exits. No further vehicles can now be accommodated, therefore any additional coaches or minibuses travelling independently must secure their own parking arrangements (see below) before travelling to the area, as they will not be permitted to park at the stadium.

Travel/parking: Supporters choosing to travel independently are strongly advised to plan ahead, allowing extra time for their journey in order to negotiate peak-time traffic and source parking locations.  There will be no spaces in official car parks at the stadium and enforcement officers will be on duty to deter illegal roadside parking. Matchday parking information, including details of restrictions, can be viewed online at http://www.visitmiddlesbrough.com/visitor-info/football.

Supporters are strongly advised to make use of the free coaches, however those planning to travel by train are advised that there is no late service and they should therefore make alternative arrangements for their journey from Middlesbrough back to Sunderland.

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WHY OUR AWAY FOLLOWING WILL STILL BE THE BEST
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

It doesn’t matter how badly the team are playing, fans will always travel in massive numbers to any corner of the country. These fans spend a fortune following their side with usually only two or three away victories to show for it each campaign. This season has been no exception with wins at Bournemouth and Palace being the only joyous trips. Many people will say the away followings will drop next season. It definitely, for the majority of games, will not.

Many fans will keep going to away days in the second division for the day out experience. It’s a chance to follow your team to new grounds and to make a day, or in some cases, a weekend of the match.

Others will go to add to their collection of away days, this is something I’ve always been jealous of those who had the time and money to do this; even in these days of terrible performances. There will be some great grounds to visit, the likes of Brammal Lane and one of Elland Road or Hillsborough. These will be even more tempting due to the relatively close distance compared to pretty much every away day this campaign.

There will be plenty of away days next year either in Yorkshire or the Midlands which should make for some good days out for any travelling Mackem. Forest, Derby, Barnsley are all within reach as well as a possible unfamiliar trip to Burton and perhaps Scunthorpe. A return to Bradford is a possibility depending on how the play-offs end up, Valley Parade always looks a decent away day for any fan. These may not sound the most interesting of places to head to, however it is these trips which may prove to be the hardest as we will find ourselves being targeted as a ‘big scalp’ by many teams in the league.

We may not be playing on the main stage next season; however, the Championship is a very good and equally hard division. However, regardless of how good or bad we are on the pitch, our away following will still be one of the best in the league and we’ll pack out pretty much any away end in the division.

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BORING WEEKEND…
MOYES/CATTS

In today’s news, David Moyes reckons that we must keep our attacking play varied going into the last few games of the season. “We’ve only had Vic back for a couple of games so we can’t have been that predictable because he hasn’t been there for three months! We’ve had to try and find other ways. The big thing is that we need our midfield players to be able to make good passes, and we need to be able to play out from the back a bit better.”

Moyes has also said that he has no issues with the commitment from the team and how he is looking forward to seeing Steven Pienaar and Anichebe back in the side together. “For me there has been no question about the players’ commitment. I see them working hard; I see them trying to win tackles and challenges. What we’ve lacked, and what I think Victor was talking about, is the quality – getting the ball to feet at the right time, people making the right run. Unfortunately, Victor and Steven have both been injured, but they are back now and I think when they combine together we will get more out of Victor.”

In other news, David Moyes has said it would be a ‘step back’ for Jordan Pickford if he left for Manchester City in the summer. “What Jordan can’t afford is a year not playing. It would be a backward step if he wasn’t going to be a No.1 keeper. I don’t think it would do him any good at all if he was to spend a season as a No.2.”

Elsewhere, Lee Cattermole has been previewing the Tees Wear derby next Wednesday. “When I had the operation I was told the time it would take me to get back. It has been a massive shame because it is a game I have always wanted to play in. It fell straight on the Middlesbrough game but I knew it would’ve been a big ask even if I thought I could make the bench for that game. It would be a great one for me and my family. It was a game I highlighted and I always had in my mind when I was doing all the rehab. After all the tough sessions you do you always want to be in the best possible position so when the game comes around you are ready.”

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WHO SHOULD STAY/WHO SHOULD GO
BY PADDY HOLLIS

With the season drawing to a close, most clubs are looking towards their out of contract players to judge if they are worth keeping on. For Sunderland, this will be a big period of change. Here are the players who are out of contract at the end of the season and why we should or shouldn’t keep them.

John O’Shea
The veteran Irish centre half has been a regular face during most seasons with the club. His experience has been vital to our survival over the last 4 years, however he has looked a few yards of the pace this season. It would seem his days at the top level may be over; however, his experience is something which could be vital in the second division. We could end up seeing a good number of players leave, but we’ll need experienced professional heads to play alongside our younger players who will surely find more first opportunities coming their way next season. He should be offered a new deal, even if he becomes more of a coach than a player. DEAL

Joleon Lescott
Lescott has been with us since January and has made just one substitute appearance for the club. He was brought in for defensive cover but since Lamine Kone, John O’Shea, Papy Djilobodji and Jason Denayer have all stayed relatively injury free, Lescott hasn’t been needed. The same should go for next season, therefore he shouldn’t be offered a new deal and his wages should be freed up for players more suited to the fight of the Championship. There are many teams in the football league who should go in for him. Verdict: NO DEAL

Will Buckley
The former Brighton winger has little chance to impress on Wearside since Gus Poyet signed him. His season loan at Sheffield Wednesday has shown that he can be a handy Championship player. His experience at this level as well as ability could prove to be useful, therefore I think it’s worth the club offering the midfielder a new contract. Verdict: DEAL

Seb Larsson
The Swede has been out of form this season, his set pieces are not what they used to be and it seems he has struggled at the top level. He still stands out, in my opinion, through his work rate. We might not see him much more this season due to his suspension; however he should be given a crack at the Championship purely for the effort he puts in. Verdict: DEAL

Steven Pienaar
The South African midfielder made a slight difference to our midfield when he was brought in at the start of the season. However, having spent most of the second half of the season injured and his lack of impact in the few games he has played, he doesn’t seem worth the risk or money to sign him on. Verdict: NO DEAL

Jan Kirchhoff
He’s one of our best players by a mile when he’s fit; sadly he’s barely ever fit these days. He was a massive part of securing our safety last season and he would have undoubtedly made a big difference during this campaign. If he can ever keep fit then he should thrive in the Championship, his extra bit of quality is worth one more gamble. Verdict: DEAL

George Honeyman
Product of the Academy, Honeyman has energy and commitment; two things Sunderland fans love to see in their players. He’s made the first team squad on a few occasions this season and he looks set for a good future. He’s a player who, using the experience and work rate he has will be an integral part of our side next season. Verdict: DEAL

Victor Anichebe
Victor can be mentioned in the same category as Jan Kirchhoff; he has the ability when he is fit but he’s plagued with injuries. He was a massive part of that one bit of form we had in November and December, scoring three goals. Even since his comeback in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester, Anichebe has been a real threat and his presence up top has made us look slightly more dangerous on the attack. As with Kirchhoff, Anichebe should be offered a new deal to give him a chance to prove he can stay fit. We could do with a player of his build and ability in the championship. Verdict: DEAL

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catts loves Wahbi...
greenwood chats

In today’s news, Lee Cattermole has said how Wahbi Khazri has proven he is up the fight going into the end of season run in. "It was great to see Wahbi out there; the manager was first to congratulate him on his performance as well which was nice. It was great to have him out there, he gives you a bit of energy, the ability to take the ball, pass it and follow it, he’s a great lad, he’s lively and what you want on the pitch with you. It has been difficult for him of late for one reason or another, but he’s shown how much he wants to play for the club. Couple of the lads coming into the team, it was nice for myself to play with Gibbo for the first time, Wahbi coming in, Javier as well, it is good for them and it is good for the morale as well.”

Elsewhere, SAFC youngster Reese Greenwood has reflected on his debut in the 2-2 draw at Watford last season, how good it has felt to see his fellow academy team mates break through into the first team and being in the home end at St James’ Park. "I’ll never forget it, it is something to look back to and to use for the future, because I want that every week. Before that, I had travelled with the first team, for a few weeks, I just hadn’t made the bench, so I had learned a bit from being around the squad. I went to St James’s Park for the derby, which was amazing. I was sitting among Newcastle fans as well, you were getting some abuse but that was to be expected. I thought we were going to win, I thought we deserved it – I did celebrate Jermain’s goal! Going to Vicarage Road and playing was just another level. Right before the game, Seb Larsson came over to me and Tommy [Robson], who were both playing. He said ‘look I’ve watched you both play, I’ve played with you this year, just play how you normally play’. For a top international, a Premier League player, to come over and say that was a big boost for us. t was a great day – there was no pressure on so we could just go and play with freedom. The fans were just amazing. You can them hear them when you go out at the start, but once you’re in the game you do tend to block it out, but they went from the first to the last minute. The fans love seeing young lads come through and doing well, they get behind them 100%. Duncan, Jordan, Lynden, George, they all get a great reception and the fans get behind them. It just makes you want to be a part of that even more."

Meanwhile, our fans have been warned to not turn up to the Riverside on Wednesday dressed in ‘smog suits’. Basically, the authorities are making out this game is a big derby. Fans are asked to not wear the masks and to be not under the influence of alcohol. My best advice will be to get hammered over the weekend and practice walking in a straight line in preparation for the match.

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JOS CRAIC...
DRUG DOGS AT BORO

In today’s news, John O’Shea reckons we need to beat Middlesbrough. It will be nice to just not finish bottom at this point. He said: “We have to take it one game at a time and next up its Boro. It’ll be a difficult game but we know we have to go there and win the game – it’s as simple as that if we want to stay in the Premier League. Only a win will do at the Riverside on Wednesday, April 26. That’s definitely the case. It was also similar when we went down to Crystal Palace because we had to win that game too, but we know since then there’s been too many games where we should have got better results. We haven’t and that means we are where we are, so we have to do something about it against Middlesbrough. We saw the game against Arsenal and they caused them problems. It was a decent performance and they were unable to take anything from it, so, just like we will be, they’ll be targeting three points. It’s away from home and it’ll be a real derby atmosphere, but they’re the games you want to be a part of. We’re all looking forward to it. I think we were disappointed. We gave ourselves too much to do by going behind on two occasions, and if we’d gone ahead at any stage of the game I’m confident we would have seen it through. Performance-wise there was plenty of positives but we know we’re at the stage now where wins are key and that has to be our total focus ahead of the Middlesbrough game."

In other news, Victor Anichebe has been talking about the club and his future: “I’m not thinking about it at the moment, I just need to stay fit and help us get some wins, for the fans here and ourselves. I love it here, before I got injured I felt great, performances were good, someone was saying that outside Hazard I was one of the highest ranked attackers in the league, so I’ve enjoyed it. The fans have been great to me, it is a really great club, so whenever I go out there I try as hard as I can. This injury was meant to keep me out for 12/13 weeks but I came back after nine, because I wanted to help the team because I know I can with the different style I bring. It’s a great club, great stadium, great training facilities, great fan base, it’s a shame we are where we are.”

Meanwhile, Jordan Pickford has said how much Kevin Ball helped him through his development during his early years at the club. “It was a good grounding for us. Bally was my U18 coach and now Elliott [Dickman], who has been there for a long time, is the same. When you got into the U18s bootroom, they’re all still wearing black boots, it is all still being done the same way as it was six years ago when I was a youth team player, and it would have been the same for Hendo when he was there. It isn’t going to change, that’s how we are as a club. It’s a hard-working area and the academy has always tried to reflect that. Even doing the little jobs and chores properly, you could never get away with anything. I can’t remember what I did wrong, but, at one point, Bally put me on the jobs for two weeks – the boots, the balls, the games room, everything. They had to be done perfectly; he wouldn’t let you get away with it.”

Jordan also admitted that he was a bit of an autograph hunter back in the day: “I always remember, my cousins came up from Kent and we went to the Charlie Hurley Centre, waiting for autographs from Kevin Phillips and that, but the main one was Bally. I’ve still got that – the photo was in the programme the other month. I showed Bally the other week and he was laughing his head off. I think I got Phillips in the end. Being in the academy from so young, I’d see so many faces coming through and I’d always be a bit star-struck. Now it’s more about going to the big grounds, with the big fan bases against the big teams, but it is all part of the job.”

TRAVEL & GENERAL ADVICE AHEAD OF MIDDLESBROUGH GAME
Sunderland AFC is advising its supporters of some important information ahead of the fixture against Middlesbrough next Wednesday evening. The club has worked in partnership with Middlesbrough Football Club, Cleveland Police and Northumbria Police in planning this event and all parties hope those attending have a safe and enjoyable evening.

COACHES
Coaches to and from the Riverside Stadium are being provided free of charge by Sunderland AFC. Supporters are strongly advised to use these free coaches as they afford the safest and easiest method of transport. Concourse facilities, offering food and drink to purchase (including alcohol), will be open in the east stand of the Stadium of Light from 4pm on Wednesday afternoon. The coaches will begin boarding from the GREEN car park, outside the ticket office, at 5pm and will then depart under escort for Middlesbrough promptly at 5.30pm. On arrival at the Riverside Stadium, Sunderland supporters will be guided directly to the away turnstiles. Only those coaches forming part of the official escort will be allowed to park at the stadium and will be located adjacent to the visitors’ turnstiles and exits. No further vehicles can now be accommodated, therefore any additional coaches or minibuses travelling independently must secure their own parking arrangements (see below) before travelling to the area, as they will not be permitted to park at the stadium.

TRAVEL/PARKING
Supporters choosing to travel independently are strongly advised to plan ahead, allowing extra time for their journey in order to negotiate peak-time traffic and source parking locations.  There will be no spaces in official car parks at the stadium and enforcement officers will be on duty to deter illegal roadside parking. Matchday parking information, including details of restrictions, can be viewed online at http://www.visitmiddlesbrough.com/visitor-info/football

TURNSTILES
Visiting fans’ turnstiles 53-61 will open at 6.30pm. Away fans are located in the south east corner of the stadium, which is a change from previous visits.

SAFETY ADVICE
Supporters are advised that search dogs trained to detect pyrotechnics and controlled drugs will be on duty at the stadium turnstiles, and additional security checks of bags will also be conducted before supporters are allowed entry.  Any supporter found with one or more of these articles will be liable to arrest. Supporters are also reminded that any adult seeking to enter on an under 18 ticket will be refused access. The visitors’ area is sold out and there will be no additional tickets available to purchase and any necessary ticket upgrades must be processed before the ticket is presented to a steward at the turnstiles. Any person wearing overalls and dust masks (‘smog suits’) will be refused admission or, if worn thereafter, will be removed from the stadium. Furthermore, supporters are reminded that it is a criminal offence to attempt to enter the stadium whilst under the influence of alcohol. Supporters are also reminded that smoking is banned in the stadium and the use of electronic cigarettes, or similar, is not permitted.  However, an external smoking area will be available at Exit 41 during half-time.

AT THE END OF THE GAME
Following final whistle, visiting supporters will be asked to remain inside the stadium to allow the home crowds pass, before making their own way home or moving onto their coaches. During this time, supporters will be able to purchase refreshments, watch the TVs and use the toilet facilities.

ALCOHOL AND FOOD SERVICE
Alcoholic and soft drinks will be available to purchase from the stadium concourse, pre-match, at half-time and at the end of the game to allow visiting supporters to wait in comfort as the crowds disperse.

LIGHT SHOW, ADVISORY
There is a pre-match floodlight show to coincide with players entering the pitch.  Middlesbrough FC advises that this is unlikely to affect anyone with epilepsy, however those with any concerns are advised to remain in the concourse area until the show ends.

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WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, MOYES ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

Last Saturday’s game against West Ham saw us return to goal scoring form and, for large parts, play decent positive football. However, the defensive frailties which have plagued us all season reared their ugly heads and that is why we are still awaiting a first win since early February. It is this fact which has turned a lot of our fan base against David Moyes and the way he has us playing, in reality he is just another manager to come in and take a sip from our poisoned chalice.

With the score at 2-1 to the Hammers on Saturday, many fans booed Moyes as he came out of the dugout and into the technical area. This was harsh; his reign at the club has been doomed from the start and it’s not necessarily his fault. The mess of last summer meant that he came to the club with just three weeks to until the start of the campaign. This gave him next to no time to get in the players he wanted and we needed. The result was a poor looking squad which had lost some of its better performers from the previous season and gained very average players to take their place.

It seemed fairly obvious to most of us fans that we would be in for a season which was worse than usual (that’s not saying much) and the early signs weren’t good. However, the people at the top of the club (owner, chief executive, directors etc) failed to act when we were failing to win, even when it had reached November and we still hadn’t recorded a victory. If the club had carried out a shake-up at this point, we might have seen a difference in the way the season pans out. Despite the poor form, Moyes remained in charge and after a run of three wins in four we looked to have turned a corner, this run did not keep up and we are now on a run of one win in fifteen matches. Despite this, Martin Bain and Ellis Short have given Moyes their full backing. He will be with us for the start of next season and therefore, to avoid capitulation in the championship, he needs to get on the lookout for hard working players who know about the division.

It’s understandable why fans are disgruntled, but we shouldn’t aim our anger at a manager who has had his hands tied behind his back when it came to transfers. There are many reasons why he has struggled at the club. The squad are either not good enough for the Premier League or don’t show the passion or fight which is demanded by supporters. All I can say is, don’t cast a final verdict on Moyes, yet. Wait until he has had a full summer to go out and find the players he wants for the club. If he gets a squad of players with little talent but a lot of passion, I won’t complain and I doubt many fans will. This season has seen too many lacklustre, poor performances and to bring all Sunderland fans back on his side David Moyes must get in players who give 110% for the club and motivate them.

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AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS
BY LUKE HAKIN

In case you missed it or had forgotten – David Moyes has the fourth highest number of wins as manager in the Premier League.

How do we know this? Because Moyes has never missed an opportunity to remind us of his Everton record, mentioning it again on Saturday when asked about the boos directed his way. It’s been a similar story all season - lots of talk of his past achievements, lots of talk of our past problems, but very little talk of how he would put them right.

That’s not to take anything away from his record at Everton. Moyes WAS an excellent manager, but now looks a broken man, scarred from his failure at Man United and clinging on to past glories and the comfort of the Everton job he left four years ago. Unfortunately, the only statistics that matter now are that we’re bottom of the league and 9 points adrift. What Moyes fails to mention, too, is that he also boasts the fourth highest number of defeats as manager in the Premier League, and a similar win ratio for his reign here to Messrs Wilkinson and Di Canio.

It’s absolutely true that Moyes isn’t the only reason we’re in this mess, but he’s certainly one of the reasons. Dreadful recruitment and chronic boardroom mismanagement have been the recurring theme of Ellis Short’s ownership, but Moyes has offered absolutely nothing to justify the blind faith shown in him by Short and Bain. Results? Atrocious. We all know the story but it’s worth repeating – bottom of the league with 5 wins from 32 games and going down with a whimper. Transfers? Awful. Even taking the financial restrictions into account, the signings of Pienaar, Lescott and Gibson – not least for a team already lacking pace and mobility – are as dull and unimaginative as his team talks. Style of play? At best, muddled. Leadership and motivation? Non-existent. Previous managers faced far more pressure whilst achieving far better results.

The excuses are wearing thin. It goes without saying that Moyes was dealt a bad hand, and that the situation he inherited last summer was bleak, but Hull’s plight was every bit as desperate as ours yet they have made a far better fist of survival. Changing managers in late July, weeks before the start of the season? See Steve Bruce, who left Hull on the same afternoon the FA confirmed the appointment of Big Sam. Starting the season with a thin, injury-depleted squad, light in both numbers and quality? Try starting with just 13 fit, senior players following promotion from the play-offs. Lack of investment from a want-away owner? See Assem Allam, who refused to sanction summer signings whilst in unsuccessful talks with a Chinese consortium and previously told fans they can “die as soon as they want.”

Our form all season has been woeful, yet, until Saturday, Moyes received relatively little stick from either the fans or the media. Make no mistake though, the booing and anti-Moyes chants directed his way against West Ham were more than justified and a long-time coming. 11 years ago, angry fans demonstrated against Bob Murray outside of the ground, yet, for one reason or another, there has been complete apathy around the stadium despite defeat after defeat after defeat. Perhaps fans are reluctant to protest out of embarrassment for the Mags’ coffins and misspelt bedsheets. Perhaps it’s because the club have continually dumbed down expectations. Perhaps fans realise that the owner has long-since lost interest and has dropped the pretence of appeasing the fans, but we have every right to be angry and shouldn’t just accept relegation with a whimper.

Contrary to the narrative coming out of the club, it didn’t have to be this way. The frustrating thing is that, despite being utterly appalling for almost all of the season, and despite an 11-hour goalless streak, our fate could have been different had we acted sooner. At least one of Hull and Swansea will almost certainly survive at our expense, but both started 2017 below us before changing managers in January. The one argument for keeping Moyes was that the club needed stability instead of continuously sacking managers, and there’s certainly merit in that, but those clubs, and Palace and Leicester in particular, have absolutely blown the stability argument out of the water with well-timed, proactive changes. Instead, we are almost certainly tumbling down to the Championship, but with a weird, misplaced loyalty to the man taking us there.

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some copy from catts...
plus the gaffer talks boo boys

In today’s news, Lee Cattermole has said the team will give the remaining games a good go. Seems even the players are starting to realise how screwed we are now: “We need to build on the West Ham performance. I don’t think it is an easy place to play here, with the situation we’re in, the position in the table, to go behind twice, to stick at it the way we did, to get the ball in the right areas, I felt it was as good as a performance as we’ve had for a long time. It’s a tough time for us but look at the way the lads took the ball, they didn’t just shell it, got in the final third and made some good opportunities, and this could be a big point for us. The lads took the ball and I thought were brave with it, played some good stuff at times. It is a point gained; sometimes you’ve just got to start there. The other teams have lost so it is a point gained. It still looks an absolute mountain to climb but we’ll give it a good go.”

Catts also admitted his extended time on the sidelines has taken its toll on him and that he hasn’t been fully fit during recent weeks: “It’s difficult, I’m not going to hide the fact, how long I’ve been out, how tough it is and how hard it is when I’m out there to get to where I want to be at, but I’ve got to just keep going, get to the end of the season and help the team out as much as I can.”

In other news, David Moyes doesn’t blame the fans for booing during the game against West Ham, however he’s still living in the past feeling he’s ok with his premier league win record. It’s a shame only five of those wins are with us. “It’s (the booing) to be expected because me and the team are not doing well. I have to accept it. I just remember to myself that I think I have got the third- or fourth-best win record in the Premier League.”

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PREPPING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP
5 PLAYERS WE SHOULD TRY TO SIGN IN THE SUMMER
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

With relegation looking likely for a few months now, you’d hope that the club have some sort of plan in place to get us ready for life in the Championship. Whether they do or they don’t, here are five players currently in the second division who I think would make good additions to our side. Should funds become available, these players should make great acquisitions.
Will Hughes (Derby)

The Derby midfielder could be just what we need to add an attacking influence to our set-up. Hughes has only recently turned 22 and despite his young age he has played almost 150 games for derby in a six year spell. It’s possible we could very much pack a punch next season if we were to have him alongside the likes of Gooch and Watmore. Hughes is not known for his goal-scoring but the way he can make something happen during an attack, something which we have been lacking for many a year now.

CHRIS WOOD (LEEDS)
Wood is taking the Championship by storm this season. His 20 league goals so far this campaign have helped Leeds to challenge for the play-offs all season. He’s good in the air as a target man and light on his feet which makes him a perfect centre forward. He is a proven goal scorer at that level and if it was possible to seal his signature we could easily become a force to be reckoned with next season.   He will most likely however come with a costly price tag and it seems our only chance of signing him would be if Leeds fail to gain promotion.

TOM CAIRNEY (FULHAM)
The Nottingham-born midfielder has been a regular name in the Fulham starting line-up since he joined in 2015. He has had a wealth of experience at the level throughout his career, playing well over 200 games at Hull, Blackburn and now at Fulham. His experience is something we could do with, especially as very few of our current squad (out those who can be arsed to stop around after relegation) have had a real encounter with the championship. I reckon he could have a good partnership with Lee Cattermole in our central midfield; hopefully this would push out the likes of Rodwell and Ndong who will not have the bottle or the fight which is required in the football league.

DANNY BATTH (WOLVES)
Baath is different to the other players in this list as he isn’t currently playing for one of the teams at the top of the league. However, don’t let that distract you. He has worked his way up through the Wolves academy and after loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Colchester he has made himself an almost ever present in the Wolves back line for the past two campaigns. We are in need of central defensive options now, come the summer when our remaining defenders have the option to leave we will probably be desperate for new faces. This player will make a great addition to our backline as hes got the ability and experience of playing in the championship. He should be affordable and with any luck we might look like a good enough prospect for him to want to join us.

ADAM DAVIES (BARNSLEY)
Last but not least, a new shot stopper. With speculation around teams being interested in both Jordan Pickford and Vito Mannone we are going to need to recruit for that position. Adam Davies is having a great campaign at Barnsley. Having been at the club since 2015 he’s made 100 appearances in the championship and he has more than proven himself to be reliable at that level. The German-born Welsh keeper (no word of a lie) could easily hold out as a new number one, if one of Vito or Jordan does stay then he’d make for great competition going into the mammoth season ahead.

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alive and picking...
jordan, gallager and lens

On the day when Teresa May has called an early General election, David Moyes has said how bloody brilliant Jordan Pickford is at kicking: “He’s obviously a very big kicker, I thought some of his passes against Watford recently, it was like watching a top midfield player. He’s just got to be careful, that it isn’t something he needs to do to get noticed or to be seen, because then it adds risks to his game. At the moment he’s not doing that, he’s limiting it. He’s a very good passer, he can go short, he can play long, it is such a big part of goalkeeping these days. Against Leicester he had something like 70 per cent pass accuracy, against Manchester United I think it was down to about 40, so we’re keeping an eye on it. Of course there are other things, Darmian out jumped Victor [Anichebe] quite a lot so you can’t read too much into it, but we’re always on to make sure his distribution is good, as a team we need it, it’s a big weapon for us.”

It’s also been confirmed today that our Chief Executive Martin Bain, along with Ellis Short, have given Moyes their full support to take us forward in the long run. It will be good to have a boss for an entire summer, anything will be better than the mess of last summer.

In other news, we’re apparently keeping tabs on Southampton striker Sam Gallagher. David Moyes was in the stands as the 21 year old scored for his loan club Blackburn at Bristol City yesterday, it seems likely we’ll go in for him due to the fact his contract at Southampton runs out in the summer. If Moyes keeps up this intensity with new players, we could see a lot of new faces holding up red and white scarves on a windy day outside the training ground.

One player who is destined to leave the club (permanently) is Jermaine Lens. His standout performances for Fenerbache, where he has spent this season on loan, has attracted interest from Italian side Napoli and with Sunderland looking to shift him off of the wage bill it seems likely he could be on his way to Italy sooner rather than later.

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MY FIRST SUNDERLAND MATCH...
SUNDERLAND 1-0 WALSALL, 18TH OCTOBER 2003
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

Let’s try not to think about our current situation, it just makes us sad. Instead, I’m going to take you back to a magical time. It was a time when we won a few games and a time when we had Gary Breen. Need I say anymore? This was my first ever Sunderland game, we smashed Walsall 1-0.

It was a freezing cold Saturday afternoon in October, my Dad had got us both cheap tickets through my primary school (presumably an attempt from the club to get more bums on seats, the attendances that season were very poor). We had seats in the North Stand upper, I donned a red and white scarf which went down to my knees and the step from the concourse into the open space of the ground was immense. I mean in reality it was less than half full at that point, there was around half an hour until kick off, but it was still the biggest thing I’d ever seen. Recent research has allowed me to find out and recall our squad that day, if I wasn’t such a naive 6 year old then I wouldn’t have looked at them like idols as they took to the pitch.

SAFC: Mart Poom, Johan Bjorklund, Gary Breen, Darren Williams, George McCartney, John Oster, Alan Quinn, Jeff Whitley, Kevin Kyle, Marcus Stewart SUBS: Michael Ingham, Michael Proctor, Grant Leadbitter, Ben Clarke, Tommy Smith.

If that team doesn’t scream to you mediocre then I don’t know what will... well maybe our team from the 2005/06 season. Anyway, on with the match. I remember not really knowing what was going on, and getting my first taste of Bovril which I’m sure any sane human can’t forget. One thing I won’t forget is just how bloody cold it was, then again being Wearside when isn’t it cold? There didn’t seem to be much to cheer about in the first half, in all honesty I remember feeling a bit board with this whole football malarkey. However, just before the break Marcus Stewart fired us into the lead and it was such a great feeling. Listening to 35,000 plus fans cheering for their, and after this game, my team.

I knew after the match I was hooked. I loved the buzz of match day and I was wishing away the days until we could next come to the SoL. Unfortunately, I didn’t see us win again until the Roy Keane Championship season. Nevertheless, I knew even at that early age that I wouldn’t follow this team for success. Id follow them because I couldn’t follow any other team, not after the buzz Id felt after watching that first game at the Stadium of Light.

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NEWS, NEWS, NEWS…
CATTS CRAIC

In today’s news, Lee Cattermole has noted how chuffed he is that Wahbi Khazri is back in the Sunderland side. I think every Sunderland fan on planet earth was pleased when his corner went straight in on Saturday. Catts said: “Behind the scenes, the feeling in the dressing room before the game was good. We had a couple of changes in the team, and that gave everyone a lift. It was nice to have Wahbi out there with us. He’s a great lad, and he’s worked really hard. Without taking it the wrong way, it shows it doesn’t matter what he looks like. I carry a bit (of weight) as well. He hasn’t played, and he’s going to get fitter, but he’s played 90-odd minutes there for the first time in a long time and that’s real credit to him.”

Catts also reacted to the angry fan reaction aimed at David Moyes during Saturdays 2-2 draw with West Ham. “I don’t think they’ve (the crowd) turned against the manager – not the way I’ve seen other managers being treated. I don’t think they’ve turned against him. Which fans are happy? Which players and managers here are happy? No-one is happy at the football club at the minute because of the position we’re in. But we’re working as hard as we can to try to get out of it, and looking at the way we performed (on Saturday) – that shows how hard we’re trying. We could easily have lost 2-1, but we got a point and we’ve gained a point on the other teams around us. We’ve got a game in hand – we just have to go to Middlesbrough and win now.”

Meanwhile, David Moyes hopes that Khazris’ good run of form continues but insisted that his exclusion hasn’t been due to his work rate. I reckon he’s just nicked Moyes’ favourite seat at the training ground canteen. “I do think Wahbi is a very good player with a lot to offer and, if he gives us that level of performances, I’ll be more than happy. I thought he didn’t keep us the ball well enough (before), but I thought he kept the ball well against West Ham. He played in a disciplined fashion as well, which made him reliable for us without the ball, as well as with the ball. Wahbi’s work rate has never been an issue. It’s not his work rate- we want him in the team as someone who’s creative and makes things happen. That’s what we need him in the team for.”

In other news, it turns out we almost signed Dimitar Berbatov. The former Man United, Fulham and Tottenham forward said: “I want to play and to be honest I had a couple of conversations with managers, even the Sunderland one. But in the end nothing happened.”

Elsewhere, Adnan Januzaj is keen to remain in the Premier League as it looks likely Man United will want him off their books for good. His poor performances this season won’t have made him an attractive prospect for any top-flight team, however.

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GOALS, A POINT AND THE RETURN OF KHAZRI
BY PATRICK HOLLIS

It’s a Saturday night, but I’m not filled with the usual sense of disappointment after a match. Yes we didn’t win again; yes we’re still nine points from safety. However, there were sometimes today when we played good football. The day was full of surprises, the first afternoon came when the teams were announced at 2pm. Wahbi Khazri was recalled to the starting line-up at the expense of Fabio Borini in a change which seemed deserved after Fabio’s recent poor form.

Being away at University has meant that this was my first trip to the SoL. The atmosphere was flat as the players came out, it only got worse once the match kicked off. It didn’t take long to add to the grumbles, just five minutes in Andy Carroll cut the ball back across goal and Andre Ayew found himself in a worrying amount of space in our penalty area. He made no mistake to slot home. Even better was the 360 degree picture of the crowd was due to be taken... just as Ayew stroked in the opening goal. I can’t wait to see thousands of miserable faces, cracking stuff.

This did knock our stuffing out, we’d made a bright start and even after the set back we still looked positive. The changes made by David Moyes were making a difference. Anichebe’s hold up play was brilliant and Khazri seemed to be making up for lost time, his runs were causing problems for the West Ham back line. Our first goal was deserved, even if it was pretty bizarre. Everyone’s favourite Tunisian Wahbi Khazri did something only previously carried out successfully by Dean Whitehead (as far as I know). His in-swinging corner went straight in past Darren Randolph for the first Sunderland goal in over eleven hours of football. My word it felt good. It didn’t half give us a kick up the arse. It livened up the SoL too, which was badly needed.

The half time break was great, reflecting on how we had scored a goal and how we had come from behind for the first time in god knows how long. This optimism lasted around two minutes into the second half, it flew out the window as soon as James Collins headed the visitors back into the lead. Once more the SoL was plunged into silence. These fans had seen this crap for too long and no one could blame them for the boos which built up throughout the second half.

This game still felt different however. We still looked like the defensively fragile side which always seemed one error away from catastrophe. However, we looked as though we could drag ourselves back into it. Ndong’s miss summed up his afternoon, his probable departure will be one I welcome.

The lateness of Borinis equaliser would have been so much better if we weren’t cast adrift at the bottom, as it was it just meant we’d guaranteed a point in a match where we needed all three and it essentially did nothing for us.

The players can only really play for pride now, if this game was anything to go by then we might finally see our squad getting stuck in and playing for their manager and their long suffering fans. I just hope for the sake of the hard core section of supporters who will be there next season that the Lads play with ten times more pride and passion. We are destined for the championship, however we can’t sit and mope. Whoever is at the helm next season needs to get their squad sorted ASAP for the hard slog which will be upon us next season.

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post west ham craic…
REACTION

Sunderland drew 2-2 at home to West Ham in a game where Wahbi Khazri marked his return to the starting XI with a scintillating performance that only heaps further ridicule on David Moyes' decision making. After an early West Ham goal, Khazri's equaliser came direct from a corner to tie the game up. West Ham grabbed another right after the restart, but a late goal from substitute Borini prompted a strange celebration from the Italian that appeared to mock his manager. Who knows? Either way, it finished 2-2.

David Moyes, who was booed throughout, had this to say afterwards: "The support has been fantastic. Managers not doing well, teams not doing well, they deserve to take their frustrations out on somebody and nearly always, it's the manager. I thought we played well today. From the start, we tried to get after them right away. Unfortunately, we went a goal down quite early, which was poor, but great credit to the lads for fighting back in the first half and the second half. We were disappointed with both goals, but not disappointed generally with the play. I thought we played better today, I thought we passed it better, I thought we had bits of control of the game at different times, and that led to some better football."

Fans also chanted "We want Moyesy out" and "Are you watching David Moyes?" after Wahbi Khazri's scored. Khazri had this to say about the performance: “It is not a good result, but not a bad result either. Hull City lost their game, and we have a nine-point deficit on Swansea City. We have Middlesbrough next, and if we win that we could reduce it to six points. We need to keep the faith and fight for all 38 games. It was a good game. I thought we could win the game but West Ham are not a bad team, they are a good team with good players. I’m happy [with the goal] and happy because for eight months I have not played very much. I like this team, I like this club, I like these fans – they are unbelievable – and we have to fight to the end. If we have to adjust to the Championship, so be it, but we have to respect the club, the team, the fans. We need to give 100%.”

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ALS’ ITV BLOG
BY SOBS

One of the great football mysteries of this season is that we're not dead yet, and that's either a reflection of the fact that we're not as bad as we think, or that there are a few other teams that are nearly as bad as us. You decide which it is. When things are going against you, and that includes bad performances, everything and everybody wants to join in the fun, 'cos it's easy to kick a man/club when he/it's down. The storm in a teacup over the comments made by Moyes, the allegations that the fans are up in arms over the litter on the pitch (honestly, as if we're bothered about a few crisp packets when there are bigger things to worry about), and the turning down of Seb's appeal against his red card. That sort of decision, and the red card itself, will get the game as we know it done away with. Maybe they press will leave Moyes alone now that he's given them Easter Eggs.

It also means that we'll be without Seb for three games, and, whatever your opinion of his capabilities, we need as many bodies as possible to make the best of what's left of the season. Big Vic reckons than Little Steven's return from injury could help his game, as the South African can provide a different connection between defence and himself. I suppose he has a point - we have to find something that lets Vic get away from the inevitable two markers he tends to be allocated. Mind, he also has a point when he says we have to stop being naïve, which I suppose is a polite way of saying we haven't been good enough. And Oviedo is out for a month or so - at least we have another specialist fullback to call on, but knowing our luck, he'll probably fall down the stairs after breakfast and do his knee.

A positive, which won't do us any good points-wise, but never mind - is Pickford's nomination for Young Player of the Year. With Kane and Alli also nominated, I don't think he has a chance of winning, but well done to the Lad anyway.

As has been the case for the last two months, West Ham is a must-win game, the games against Boro, Hull, and Swansea are six-pointers, and we're mad to think there's still hope. I'm not sure that many of us would shout that we can stay up, but where there's life....

And there was very nearly hope. Some daft defending, a freaky equaliser from the long-overdue Khazri, a blast from Borini for a late, late leveller, all added up to an interesting afternoon. OK, it was only one point when we desperately needed three, but at least it was a game of football for a change. Small mercies, I suppose, and with a ref other than Mackem and Catts hater in chief Marriner in charge things might have been different. Another week without a win, but somehow, we're still alive.

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