Black Dog: ‘Black Cats don’t scare me’

Monsieur Salut writes: the curtain seems almost down on as bad a season as most Sunderland fans have experienced. Thanks Ellis Short – near the top of the Championship table for money spent of agents’ fees, near the bottom for investment on players and next to bottom of the league when not actually bottom.

Martin Penney is our Norwich City interviewee. He has missed all of five of the Canaries’ home games in 30 years. He’s from the Norwich MyFootballWriter site and the dog you see above, poised to bark loudly at the Black Cats, is ‘a Patterdale called Geezer after the best bassist in the entire world – Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath’. There you have it, and here are his excellent responses to Salut! Sunderland‘s questions …

Martin Penney, with someone who knows where to draw the line on footie


Salut! Sunderland:
we’d love to be in your position but you must have expected better than mid table. What were your pre-season expectations?

Martin Penney: shooting in the dark really on that one. The major shareholders are downsizing under the guise of restructuring. It’s early days still and it might yet work but so far I remain unconvinced. As for season’s beginning? We all had hope. It just evaporated.

Daniel Farke and Ed Balls: a dream pairing or could do better?

Ha! Farke is very personable and generally popular with our lads and lasses. His tactics and pathetic use of subs (too few, too late) rile us though. He has introduced a whole new footballing vocabulary as in duels, philosophy and particularly topics. But his English is infinitely superior to my German. As for Balls I don’t do politics but the phrase “one-legged man at a butt-kicking party” registers strongly with me.

Scoring has been a problem and Oliveira was dropped by Farke for not showing enough desire but you do at least get goals from a few players – Maddison and until his bad run, Oliveira whereas our top scorer, your old player Lewis Grabban, left in the January window. Where have Norwich’s main problems been?

Nelson Oliveira is as stroppy as he is talented. We don’t really use a striker in the true sense of the word and are desperately slow going forward. We offloaded Grabban because of too many personals kicking around at the Club that I can’t get into here and I guess his was not a largely lamented departure.

Are you shocked or quite unsurprised by Sunderland’s alarming decline and what do you see as our likely future?

I’m on the side of shocked tbh. It’s always difficult when you come out of the PL but it took us several seasons and Glenn Roedent to finally push us into League One. I’m not saying this to curry favour but SAFC are better than that and quite a few of us (okay loads) would like to see you get away with it. As for your future? We’ve a 50:50 here in that we’re for Delia and her refusal to sell or we’re against. I’m against. Your current ownership appears truly dreadful. I had a close connection with SAFC in that I “knew” a lady rather well who eventually married one of your elderly vice-presidents (now sadly deceased). She always stressed how well the Club was run in those days – late 1990s.

It certainly seems a long time since we were both competing in the Premier League, even though it’s only a couple of seasons. Do you expect a serious promotion push for City next season?

No Colin, I don’t. Delia and crew don’t want the PL and she’s on record as saying so which means 50 per cent of supporters want to jump in the Wensum – our equivalent of the Wear. Those who continue to back her are called happy clappers. Derogatory to them but accurate in my view.

What memories, first-hand or handed down, do you have of the so-called Friendly Final?

I know the legends and although I was at the match (I was about 28 I guess) I didn’t see the kickabouts or anything. Spoke to loads of your lads but I went on my own that day and didn’t get too involved. We just about deserved it but you sure got your revenge at Hillsborough a decade later. Bloody Johnny Byrne!

Happy memories of Steve Bruce? What about the players associated with both clubs – Keith Bertschin, Shaun Elliott, Michael Turner are among the most prominent in terms of appearances? One of our heroes Gary Rowell did nothing for you …

Brucey sure. Without THAT late header against 1p5wich we would never have been in the final against your goodselves. Bertschin was okay – not particularly popular although he scored a few for us. I won’t be drawn on Elliott or Rowell but I will say Michael Turner was possibly better off playing with Billy the Fish and his mates in Viz Comic. Appalling.

Best players you’ve seen in your colours -and worst dud?

Another ha! First part’s easy: Kevin Keelan, Darren Huckerby, Mark Bowen, Ian Crook, Grant Holt, Robert Fleck. Presuming I’m only allowed one dud it has to be (fanfare) Ricky van Wolfswinkel. But we’ve had so many, haven’t we Naismith?

Best and worst of times as a fan?

Same as you Colin. Winning and losing. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.

It’s perhaps too easy to predict this season but where will each of our clubs finish next season?

I reckon we’ll be about 16th in the Championship. I somehow reckon you’ll get away with it and probably finish above us. Really.

Other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, fans , region, Chris Coleman?

There are certain fans we truly welcome: yourselves, Forest, Fulham and a few more lesser lights. As for CC I have no idea why he took the job. My thoughts on the region won’t appeal as I worked at Seal Sands close to Middlesbrough on and off for many, many years. They call themselves the real people and with good reason. Some fantastic times – but those guys don’t like SAFC so I’d rather leave it there. I recommend the Black Bull in Yarm, btw.

The Dele Alli question: does diving not really matter, as Pochettino has said, or were his comments a thoroughly depressing manifestation of what, among other things is wrong with football?

Haven’t got time for the dissertation this topic deserves so: I’m anti-diving but how do you stop some of them doing it? In my playing days it was always “get up you lazy ****” and that was from our own side. It’s not just Dele, not by any means. I don’t think we’ve got anybody at NCFC who does it, but as we never get in the box anyway it hardly matters.

Finally, the football authorities have done their usual and given fans a nightmare of a midweek journey, I take it you won’t be there – bravo if you are going – but what will be the score?

No I’m not going cos I’m 60 with two young dogs and an unforgiving missus – I never miss at home but normally target three trips a season to places where I have friends. Fulham, Sheff Wed and I nearly said Brighton. Just two then! 2-0 to you – our lot want the flip-flops on.

Interview: Colin Randall

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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.

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