Jake: ‘thanks to all who participate’. Click this image to see all of this season’s interviews

The season is over and Sunderland couldn’t quite
get across the finishing line. But there were positives, says Monsieur Salut, despite the failure to achieve what everyone wanted and the club needed.

Salut! Sunderland‘s modest contributions to the season’s brighter aspects included a good deal of fine writing for which credit is due to Pete Sixsmith, Malcolm Dawson, John McCormick, Wrinkly Pete, Rob Hutchison, Bob Chapman, Paul Summerside, Bill Taylor, Lars Knutsen, John Marshall and whoever I have overlooked.

And then there were the Who are You? interviews, in-depth interviews with fans of opposing teams before each game.

Our fellow League One clubs proved a tremendous source of wit and wisdom as the interviews mounted up. It is now time to offer some rewards to those responsible for the best of them.

Our three award sponsors are Art of Football, 3Retro and When Saturday Comes and we are deeply grateful to them

Click the image to start exploring the 3Retro range

Click the image and you arrive at the WSC home page

Jermain Defoe’s superstrike vs the Mags. Click on the image to see Art of Football’s range of prints

And thanks to our judging panel, on which Monsieur Salut was joined by some of those mentioned above: Sixer, Malcolm, John Mac and Wrinkly Pete – plus our good friend Paul “Sobs” Dobson from A Love Supreme.

Several potential winners attracted votes. But from this crowded field of high quality contributions, the triumphant trio are:

FIRST Doug Shields, Bristol Rovers (https://salutsunderland.com/2018/12/bristol-rovers-who-are-you-all-the-lads-resemble-jimmy-nail-girls-are-all-on-geordie-shore/). “I thoroughly enjoyed my two visits to the Memorial Ground (Gloucestershire CCC notwithstanding) and loved The Drapers Arms so to have a piece of writing as good as that by Doug Shields for their visit to Wearside was a boon,” said Sixer. “Great description of the owner Mr Wael having had a train set given,” Sobs added.

SECOND Richard Hall, Walsall (https://salutsunderland.com/2018/11/walsall-who-are-you-1-safc-newcastle-the-most-antagonistic-game-ive-seen/). Wrinkly Pete said simply: “Loves Shostakovich.”

Sixer made it his first choice: “A brilliant and sophisticated piece by Richard Hall. I said at the time I wouldn’t read a better one all season and, as usual, I was right. Funny, insightful and with a sense of foreboding (justified, I’m afraid), it was pitch perfect. By far the best one in my humble opinion……”

THIRD John Beckett, Rochdale (https://salutsunderland.com/2018/09/the-safc-vs-rochdale-who-are-you-jesus-saved-us-but-were-not-gloryhunters/). “Despite his use of the term ‘hence why’, I enjoyed the insight into life at a small club (no disrespect),” wrote Sobs.

Glyn Price, co-presenter of the Shrewsbury Town podcast Salopcast came desperately close to a top three place (https://salutsunderland.com/2018/10/armchair-liverpool-fans-can-never-feel-our-pride-shrewsbury-town-who-are-you-1/). His pride in “being part of the social fabric of a smaller club … would not swap it for anything” was the clincher for John McCormick, who put Rochdale’s John Beckett second for his “full and generous answers, enthusiasm shining through”.

Votes went, too, to Peterborough United’s James Bloodworth, Wycombe Wanderers’ Jon Dickinson and supporters of several other clubs.

As Sobs put it in his comments, Bradford (a) was worthy of recognition because it showed a fan “keeping the faith in grim times”.

Sixer welcomed the relief of not having to read anything “from the ‘loyal’ supporters at Anfield, Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford etc who probably have little idea of the importance of a club to their community”. And he warmed to Glynn Price’s Shrewsbury piece, especially his “heartfelt feelings of his town and his club and his comment on ‘armchair Liverpool fans’.”

I wrote: “There are so many potential candidates, from the first game to the last and the pity is that we cannot reward them all.”

Malcolm Dawson noted that the cup games against Walsall meant that Richard Hall made two appearances on our pages, “both five-star rated by readers”.

Obviously no opposing fan would want a classic SAFC top or the Jermain Defoe print. But 3Retro and Art of Football cater for most tastes while, of course, When Saturday Comes is the famously half-decent football magazine for all who follow our game. As usual, the winner – Doug Shields – gets first choice of the prizes, followed by second-placed Richard Hall and in third place Rochdale’s John Beckett.

One note of caution. Salut! Sunderland will not be repeating the Who are You? exercise in the same exhausting form next season – unless there is a volunteer for the task of tracking down and interviewing League One supporters all over again. We may come up with an alternative; if so, details will follow.

But for now, we offer sincere thanks to all who took part and to our sponsors.

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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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