Pete Sixsmith then (not so long ago) … paper rounds and worry mean he’s a lot trimmer now

Monsieur Salut writes: I asked Pete Sixsmith to cast a critical eye over the ins and outs now that the transfer window has slammed shut – shattered? – on us. I did not expect to find him absent from duty running in sheer joy up and down Busty Bank (which takes the envious souls of South Church up to Shildon). I didn’t fear we’d need to drag him from celebration drinks at whatever they call the Surtees or Red Lion these days, shouting all the while in praise of our saviours Ellis Short and Martin Bain. I sort of expected the cool, measured, underwhelmed appraisal that follows …

“I think predominantly we have replaced players who didn’t want to be at the club with players that did so that is good for the environment at the training ground and around the club.”

These were the words of Chris Coleman after we said goodbye to Lewis Grabban, James Vaughan and Didier Ndong, who all made a vital contribution to our plight at the wrong end of the Championship.

Grabban, despite his goals, showed little inclination for the physical side of the game, Vaughan was just poor and Ndong was  someone who made it clear that he would rather be locked in a darkened room with Donald Trump than play for Sunderland.

Alas, Jason Steele, as pleasant a young man as you could wish to meet, saw a move to Derby fall through and Jack Rodwell failed to make it to Vitesse Arnhem for reasons that are unknown to us but may have something to do with him having to show what he is capable of on a football field.

The footballing equivalent of the US 5th Cavalry, coming to the rescue of the plucky new boys as they are surrounded by the tribes from Bolton, Barnsley, Burton and Birmingham are (in alphabetical order), Lee Camp, Jake Clarke-Salter, Ovie Ejaria, Ashley Fletcher, Kazenga LuaLua and Connor Shields.

Of those, Camp is clearly Ward Bond in his role as the grizzled veteran while Shields is the footballing equivalent of the young drummer boy who may make it as a soldier or may not.

LuaLua … welcome to the party

LuaLua is the cynical sergeant major, often played by Victor McLaglen, who has made mistakes in the past but has just enough talent to cover them up, Fletcher is a willing corporal who started out in the 1st Cavalry before being relegated to the 2nd, then the 4th and who now finds himself in the 5th. He knows a lot depends on him and doesn’t want to spend the rest of his career in such a down-at-heel troop.

The other two are young officers, trained at West Point, full of enthusiasm and talent but lacking that vital experience in military life and desperate to acquire some knowledge of it as soon as possible.

At the head of the 5th is Chris Coleman, a John Wayne type with loads of experience in fighting Icelanders, Belgians and Russians but now in desperate need of good reinforcements to prevent the regiment from going down never to return, consigned to ride as ghosts through the fields of Plymouth, Portsmouth and Peterborough for eternity.

Having [brilliantly – Ed] stretched this metaphor to its absolute limits, what have we actually got?

Camp is an experienced goalkeeper born in the Orwellian year of 1984. He has played for Derby County, Burton Albion, QPR, Norwich City and a whole host of other clubs and has been loaned out more than a James Patterson novel in Shildon Library.

Loan clubs have signed him (a good indicator), he played for Rotherham United when they were relegated from the Championship (a bad indicator) and he has failed to make an appearance at Cardiff (not rough enough for Gnasher Warnock). He has to be an improvement on the two who have played this season and, with his experience, may just be able to help organise a feeble back four who, at times, look as competent as the defence that played in front of Billy Caspar in Kes.

We have seen Jake Clarke-Salter play well at home to Hull and have a bit of a stinker at Birmingham. I think he looks a good player but is he mentally tough enough to move from the comforts of Cobham to the chaos of Cleadon? The same could apply to Ovie Ejaria who joins us from an equally comfortable base at Mellwood and is thrust into a relegation situation at Sunderland.

Both players have great pedigrees, have represented England at various levels and are big men – albeit young. Ejaria is a direct replacement for Ndong so doesn’t have much to live up to there and, quite frankly, if he had a wooden leg, glass eye and the courage of Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion, would be an improvement. I expect to see him on Saturday rolling over the Tractor Boys and then playing like Pogba (Paul, not his brother Mathias who played for Wrexham) as he leads us to the promised land of 20th place in the second tier and the resumption of Wear-Tyne derbies next season.

Kazenga LuaLua has been around a while and started out at the Sports Direct; that’s the ground, not the store in The Bridges. He once said that he “hated” Sunderland but let’s put that down to youthful high spirits and give him a chance. Mind you, the first air kick or misplaced pass, you can bet your life that he will be reminded of it. He is quick and direct and has experience in this league so he may prove to be the link between “the English Pogba” and the two callow youths up front. He has pace, something we have not seen at the Stadium since David Bellion donned a red and white striped shirt. Sorry, bad comparison. Let’s make that Adam Johnson. That’s even worse. What about Andy Welsh?

Moving on to Ashley Fletcher, he came behind Jon Walters, Ben Woodburn, Chris Martin, Ollie McBurney, Kyle Lafferty, Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Davy, Daniel Whiddon, Harry Hawk and Old Uncle Tom Cobley on the list of possible strikers. He has hardly played at Middlesbrough and Tony Pulis has made it clear that he sees Rude Gestede as a better bet for the sophisticated football that he espouses.

Ha’way our new lad, Ashley Fletcher

Like the others, Ashley has an excellent pedigree, having been at Manchester United before being loaned to Barnsley and then moving on to the self-styled Academy of English Football at West Ham. He has played 66 first team games, scoring 12 times, nine of which came in Division One for The Tykes. He’s a Keighley lad so he may like Rugby League, as did Jon Stead, while our former winger Mike Hellawell came from the town. Does he celebrate with a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord or does he prefer a pint of Bolt Maker? I am quite partial to their Dark Mild – not that anyone is interested.

Connor Shields is 19 and has joined the development squad from Coatbridge-based Albion Rovers. They are doing well in Scottish League 1, behind John Penman’s beloved Ayr United and he has scored regularly. He’s a Scot and I love Scottish players. The foundations of the best Sunderland teams has been laid on Scots – Herd, Mulhall, McNab, Kerr (Bobby not Andy), Hughes, Porterfield, Martin, Baxter and Sharkey. If he can emulate just one of them, he will do for me.

Coleman has players who want to play for the club and now he has to get them to do it, starting on Saturday. Lose this one and we will all give up.

* SAFC broadly allows us to use its images (new kit etc). But if there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions, on the image Pete uses to illustrate his report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested.

And to think, you get this quality for free. Click the image to return to the Salut! Sunderland home page

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

5 Responses to “Sunderland’s transfer window: bring on Coleman’s cavalry charge or fear the worst” Subscribe

  1. Stephen Walker February 1, 2018 at 6:41 pm #

    Well said, Mr S.
    CC is firefighting admirably, rooting out the goal-diggers and wimps fluffing their overpaid lines and finding warriors to the cause.
    Rodwell will struggle to play with both feet shot so full of holes. I know where he can purchase a silver bullet.
    On our Scottish link, I vividly recall as a timid youngster knocking on my hero Charlie Hurley’s door to request an autograph, and being amazed and awestruck when George Herd opened it!
    They both happily signed my book, but another surprise was when Charlie spoke to me. After seeing him at Roker Park head the ball over the clockstand roof, I expected him to talk like his lookalike Cheyanne Bodie. He sounded more like an Irish Alan Ball!
    Let’s hope that Mr Coleman can pull us out of this mess. We are extremely fortunate to have him and hope he stays and receives effective financial support in the summer having kept us up.
    Mr Short must have a decent money-brain, but I find his cent-pinching akin to Rodwell’s foot-shooting.
    Our wonderful club will be ‘worth less’ in the the third tier, should the unthinkable occur.

  2. Wrinkly Pete February 2, 2018 at 12:02 pm #

    I am interested. Have you tried Titanic Plum Porter or Sadlers Peaky Blinder? Both available bottled but better draught. Thank you for the effort to produce the article. I do hope these reinforcements have arrived early enough to avoid a massacre by those pesky redskins (or any other colour before I am accused of racism or worse). Speaking of timing, although it will have been missed by the early leavers at Brum, I was encouraged by our players’ desire to keep going to the end. Some players we have had in the recent past may have been more talented but would not have shown that spirit – or interest.

  3. Roddy February 2, 2018 at 2:29 pm #

    And now I can’t get Larry Verne’s 1960 (slightly amended) smash out of my head:

    ‘Please Mr Coleman, I don’t want to go’. Sounds like that could be the Jack Rodwell theme song.

    Fingers crossed the new recruits show that ‘hell and leather’ attitude, like the old Hollywood cavalry that Pete so aptly describes.

    • John Mac February 3, 2018 at 12:06 pm #

      THe thumb down is the result of an iffy handheld, not displeasure.

      But you now have me thinking of Charlie Drake and “please Mr Custer”

      • Roddy February 3, 2018 at 2:31 pm #

        No problem, John! I’ve done the same big butterfingers thing on this site more than once.

        Wasn’t aware that Charlie Drake had the cover hit of ‘Please Mr. Custer’ on your side of the Atlantic. Listened to it for the first time just now. It’s very good in its own right, with quite different dialogue. So thanks for that!

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