Tag: Sunderland

A Gamble, Wrapped Up In A Gamble, Inside A Gamble: Di Canio To Sunderland

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the kerfuffle that has blown up surrounding the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as the manager of Sunderland is how much of a surprise certain aspects of his past seem to have been to so many people. After all, he was hired as the manager of Swindon Town almost two years ago, and the “Roman Salute” business at Lazio happened eight years ago. You might not have thought this had you opened a newspaper this morning, though. It was screaming from the front page of The Sun, whilst other newspapers weren’t far behind with their opinions on the matter. On a week that might be otherwise characterised by a distinct lack of English clubs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, though, this is a story that the press can really sink its teeth into. What, then, do we know of Paolo Di Canio’s political allegiances? Well, we know that he has identified himself as a “fascist” before (his own words to the Italian news agency ANSA in 2005 were that, “I am a fascist, not a racist”), and that the roots of this are most likely to be found in his working class upbringing in Rome. We know that he has two tattoos relating to Benito Mussolini secreted about his body, and that no-one has stopped to comment on the oddness of...

Read More

Sunderland’s Big End Of Season Gamble

In some respects, there was go great surprise to the departure of Martin O’Neill from Sunderland last night. With just two points from his last nine matches in charge of the club, something had gone from the previously ebullient manager’s demeanour, and in television interviews after yesterday’s defeat at the hands of Manchester United he had the air of a dead man walking about him. Where at many other clubs this season it has felt as if managers have been victims of the whims of owners acting with an itchy trigger finger, O’Neill’s departure from the Stadium of Light doesn’t feel like much of a surprise. Ellis Short, the Sunderland owner, had shown loyalty towards O’Neill even after it became more than apparent that Sunderland were heading towards a season of at best mediocrity, but now the club is sliding towards something far more troubling, and whoever steps into his shoes has just seven matches left to try and save the club’s Premier League position. Following this result, Sunderland now sit just one point above the relegation places in the table, out of form and tumbling in a downward direction at a time of year when no-one in such a position can completely rely upon the results of the clubs below them in the table. Yesterday afternoon, Southampton beat Chelsea whilst Wigan Athletic beat Norwich City. This sort of...

Read More

We Deserve The FA Cup That We Get

It is forty years ago this year that Sunderland AFC had one of its finest moments. Bob Stokoe’s team had finished the 1972/73 season in sixth place in the Second Division of the Football League, but had improbably battled their way to the FA Cup final to play Leeds United. They were massive underdogs, of course. Don Revie’s Leeds team were the giants of the era, a team whose failure to win more trophies than it did was a constant source of bafflement amongst the general public. They weren’t much liked outside of Leeds, but their abilities were seldom doubted. The mental images of that match linger long in the memory. Ian Porterfield’s close range goal, which gave Sunderland an unlikely first half lead. The Sunderland goalkeeper Jim Montgomery throwing himself into one of the greatest double saves that football has ever seen. And at full-time, with Leeds having been reduced to speculative long distance punts towards the Sunderland goal in a desperate attempt to break down this obstinate defence, the television producer left the camera on Stokoe, such an unlikely figure to be standing on the touchline for a cup final in a trilby, a raincoat and red tracksuit trousers, as he galloped across the lush green pitch to jump into the arms of the goalkeeper who had won him the cup. It’s likely that a few of...

Read More

Sunderland, Seating, Persistent Standing & Safe Standing

One debate within football which has started to pick up pace over the last few months or so has been that concerning the return of safe standing to top level matches in England. Several clubs have already expressed an interest in trialling safe standing areas in grounds, and this week has, perhaps, seen a story emerge from Sunderland which demonstrates why it would be beneficial for such a trial to begin as soon as possible. This week, Sunderland AFC deactivated the season tickets of thirty-eight supporters for “persistent standing” at the Stadium of Light, and have followed this low-tolerance approach by taping up the vacant seats of those that will no longer be attending matches there with a warning which stated, “This season card has been deactivated due to persistent standing.” If this threat were any more thinly veiled, it would be naked. The big question for Sunderland supporters is that of what happens next. It’s widely recognised that a large proportion of the club’s support does stand throughout matches, and this in itself is not against the law. As the Football Supporters Federation confirms on its guide to standing at matches, “It is widely believed that this practice is illegal. This is not the case, even within Premier League and Championship grounds. The law only provides that these clubs should provide seats for all supporters, not that supporters...

Read More

This Years Annual Poppy Fuss

Another year, then, brings another fuss about wearing poppies. This is perhaps unsurprising, when we consider modern professional footballs propensity towards being able to start a fight in an empty room when combined with the increasing hysteria that seems to manifest itself around this time every year. This time, in Premier League terms, the target of the tabloids has been James McClean, the Derry-born Sunderland winger who plays his international football for the Republic of Ireland, who opted not to wear a poppy on his shirt during Saturdays match at Goodison Park against Everton. The Mail on Sunday opted to describe McClean as “Controversial Sunderland winger James McClean” before stating that “Sunderland have distanced themselves from McClean’s decision.” The Sun, meanwhile, opted for a slightly different tack, describing his decision not to wear one as a “poppy snub” and highlighting the fact that “other players, including Everton rival Seamus Coleman, from Donegal” had worn a poppy on his shirt. Interestingly enough, The Sun may even have even hit upon the crux of this particular storm in a teacup whilst trying to suggest the exact opposite. As a Derry-born footballer who has chosen to represent the Republic of Ireland, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hazard a guess as to what McCleans reasons were behind his decision not to wear a poppy last weekend. As it should be in any democracy,...

Read More