We had a chat with Peter Sixsmith from Salut Sunderland ahead of their trip to Selhurst Park on Monday night about their season so far.
Q. What were your hopes and dreams for the season before ball was kicked?
A nice, comfortable mid-table place with the other ‘S’ clubs. A decent FA Cup run. Newcastle to be relegated. Mourinho to implode. I might get one of them!
Q. Was it the right time for Dick Advocaat to leave the club?
With hindsight (a wonderful gift), he should have retired to his garden. When he agreed to return I was pleased as it gave us a year to find a manager or coach who would continue in the same mould. But there were clear problems in the summer and the players brought in appeared to be signed on a ‘one for Dick, one for the club’ basis. I cannot imagine he was over keen on Younes Kaboul, Adam Matthews or Fabio Borini.
Q. What do you think went wrong and why does it seem to be a very familiar story?
If I knew the answer to that, I would be Chief Executive which may well be part of the problem. As a club, Sunderland get so many things right – an excellent foundation, a solid business plan, a reputation as being a fair and honest organisation. Unfortunately, all of these depend on the product on the field and the product has been consistently grim for too many years. We had a couple of half decent seasons under Peter Reid, but in the fifty years I have followed them, it has been a steady diet of false optimism and actual pessimism.
Q. First impressions of Sam Allardyce since he has arrived at the club? Was he the fans choice?
I think he was the only option once Advocaat threw in the towel. He is a pragmatist and has never been relegated, so both of those give us hope. He has a real rag bag of a squad to sort out and I do not envy him that task. He has said all the right things and I think he is more at home here than he ever was at West Ham United. He is not really a London type of guy, is he. A bit of a reverse Pardew.
Q. Regardless of how your form is, you seem to beat your close rivals Newcastle United regularly. Why do you think that is?
‘Because they are rubbish’ is the easy answer. We had some good fortune in the last one but in all the others, we have been the better of two poor sides. It has given us lots of pleasure. After the last but one they played Manfred Mann’s 5-4-3-2-1 as we left the stadium. Moments like that come along once in a lifetime.
Q. A lot is said about the ownership of clubs in the Premier League. Are the current Sunderland owners well thought of by the fans? Do you think they have done and continue to do a good job?
Ellis Short has pumped money into Sunderland and cannot be criticised for that. He has acted in what he has thought were the best interests of Sunderland and again, cannot be criticised for that. But managers have wasted that money on the likes of Jack Rodwell, Danny Graham, Jozy Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini so he must be disappointed at the way it appears to be working out. There are some rumblings of discontent but we leave it to our Tyneside friends to show real bile to their owners.
Q. Who do you think will win the domestic competitions this season – Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup?
Manchester City for the Premier League. Sunderland (or maybe Manchester City) for the FA Cup. Sheffield Wednesday (or maybe Manchester City) for the League Cup. Anyone but Chelsea who epitomise all that is nasty about the Premier League.
Q. Which Sunderland player do you think Palace should be wary of and which Palace player do you think Sunderland should be concerned about?
The way we played against Southampton, none! Yohan M’Vila is a good one in midfield and Duncan Watmore may be an inspired choice up front. He did well for the under 21’s on Monday. But then Connor Wickham always did the business in an England shirt. For Palace, the immutable law of the ex suggests that we should keep a close eye on Fraiser Campbell (if he plays). I like Jason Puncheon ever since I saw him play for Barnet and the pace of Yannick Bolasie is a bit of a worry.
Q. Your prediction?
0-0. A thriller for the Sky fans out there. Anything that affects the profits of the ‘House of Murdoch’ is good enough for me.
Q. Please share any projects that you are working on or anything else that you would like to promote?
I have contributed a chapter to a book called ‘Tales From The Red and Whites – Volume 1’. After over fifty years, I am now a published writer. I have already given up the day job, so I may do some more. The book is a collection of Sunderland reminiscences, some written by players, some by journalists and others by fans. Worth a tenner of anyone’s money – he says.