A Sunderland fan is looking forward to a visit to “historic” Burslem (honestly) and is happy as his club recover from its recent woes…
About the fan…
“My name is Pete Sixsmith and I live in a small town in South West Durham called Shildon. I write for Salut Sunderland which is put together by my very good friend Colin Randall who first enticed me to Roker Park in 1962. I have a childhood background in Rugby League being born a short walk away from Headingley and when my father’s job took him to the North East, I switched to football. I flirted with Darlington for a short while but my first view of Roker Park in 1961 blew my mind and I was hooked. I worked as a History teacher in County Durham, making sure that the Sunderland supporters in the school got good grades in their exams and the Newcastle ones all failed and all my students could recite the 1937 and 1973 FA Cup winning teams and the 1963-64 promotion one…”
How are Sunderland doing this season?
We have done well. After the horrors of last season when we had the worst team I have seen in the 56 years I have been a regular, we look to have stabilised and are looking to get out of League One and back into the Championship where we can hopefully mount a challenge back to the Premier League. That could take time and it may not happen while I am still on this earth but every Sunderland supporter feels that the club should be at the top level.
What are your thoughts on manager Jack Ross?
The manager has done an excellent job so far. After the awful Moyes, the hapless Grayson and the self publicising Coleman, we have a man who has a sound background in football (he played for 12 years in the Scottish system and for a year at Hartlepool), management (he did well at Alloa Athletic and wonderfully well at St Mirren), business (he has a Masters in Business Administration from Heriot-Watt University) and literature (he has written several children’s books based on football).
He’s a bit of a renaissance man in fact. He has brought good players to the club and plays an attractive style. After Moyes and his stultifying tactics, Grayson and his lack of them and Coleman and his bewildering ones, he is a breath of fresh air. He may well go on to bigger and better things.
How are the owners faring?
The new owners have made a very positive impression on Wearside. Stewart Donald bought the club from absentee owner Ellis Short just before the likelihood of administration descended upon us. He had been involved at Oxford United and Eastleigh and is a football man through and through. It’s fair to say that Short wasn’t. Decisions were made quickly; part of the stadium was closed, players were told that they had to move on, the new manager was snapped up before Ipswich Town grabbed him and Donald and his Executive Director, Charlie Methven, connected with a disillusioned fan base. They have done talk ins in pubs and clubs, phone ins on local radio, have drank with supporters in pubs at home and away games, have supervised the replacement of faded seats in the Stadium and have done all and more that was expected of them. They know that promotion is a necessity if they are to attract new investment (neither are wealthy, although they are a tad better off than I am) and have made a great start. So we are happy for once.
Who are the players to watch?
Ross may shuffle the team for Sunday. Chris Maguire has played well this season and is a fans favourite. Aiden McGeady has played recently and scores goals. Lyndon Gooch (no relation to Graham) is a tricky winger. The goalkeeper, John McLaughlin, is outstanding and had we had him last season instead of the three poor keepers we did employ, we may well have stayed up. Keep an eye out for Swede Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka and England Under 18 star Bali Mumba. Both should be involved.
What are your thoughts on the Valiants?
I like Vale principally because they are not Stoke City, a club who irritate me considerably. I have been to Vale Park four of five times and saw us seal promotion there in 1987.
Burslem is an interesting town; as a History teacher, I used to use the Potteries as an example of how the Industrial Revolution happened with regard to Wedgwood and the growing transport links. I also enjoyed reading Arnold Bennett so I am pleased to revisit the town. On a less positive note, I saw you relegated at Fleetwood a couple of years ago in one of the worst games I have seen at professional level.
And finally, a score prediction…
I would expect a tough game but would be very disappointed if we don’t come through it with a win. 1-2…