Who Manages Them?:

If you get what you deserve in this world then ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce and Sunderland are a match made in heaven.

A manager whose teams play 19th Century football devoid of any entertainment in a city  with all the charm of a diseased rat feasting on the bones of a discarded KFC.

With ex-Mackem striker Dwight Yorke claiming he was “amazed” by the lack of interest in the vacant manager’s job at the Stadium of Light, Allardyce was really the only man they could go for once Dick Advocaat had resigned in early October, he was the only one who wanted it.

The tubby one may have been influenced by the Sunderland supporters bombarding Mrs Allardyce with twitter messages of support, like they sent Dick Advocaat’s wife flowers as they tried to persuade Advocaat to stay on the summer before.

There seems to be a culture of wooing people they shouldn’t over there but it seems to work, the fat fella took over in Monkwearmouth when the Mackems had only 3 points from their first 8 games, so 21 games and 22 points later must make him the Mackems most successful manager ever, next stop Real Madrid.

Don’t let the team or the players get in the way of a good story either, every point Sunderland have got since Allardyce took over has been down to him, his brilliant tactics, substitutions and working on deflections and offside goals in training.

Not surprisingly, every point the Black Cats have lost since he took over is down to the players not doing what he says, their 1-1 draw at Southampton presumably nothing to do with him taking off a midfielder and bringing on a centre half with 2 minutes to go when 1-0 up playing against 10 men, well he didn’t mention it post-match anyway, funny that.

The media love to go along with it as well, Big Sam this, Big Sam that, Big Sam wants to manage England, his teams are hard to break down, do the simple things well, perfect man in a crisis, blah de blah, singing from the Allardyce hymn sheet.

Well we know what he’s like, he was our manager once, we know that football is a dirty word to him. When ex-Mag and Mackem Michael Bridges referred to Allardyce’s attention to detail as “scary”, he was right. I watched his attention to detail at SJP for 5 months and it was scary, like a very long horror film. We know he spends more time telling his players where to stand when the opposition has a throw in, than what to do when his own team has the ball. We’ve seen it. And it is horrible.

If you believe the stories in the football world then the large fella is a big proponent of Sports Science and the media seem to like to advertise his savvy when it comes to the innovative. Earlier in the season he tried to find a hypnotist to put his players in a “survival trance” according to the Daily Mail, though that was presumably just to hypnotise them into thinking that Darras Hall is part of Sunderland.

He supposedly spends a huge amount of time on team preparation, organisation and team stability, with set-pieces having a particular focus, presumably why he brought in Geremi to take our free kicks when he managed us. He points to opposition managers perpetuating the myth of long ball tactics as an excuse for failing to beat his teams, Rafa Benitez being one of them. In his autobiography, The Walrus of Punt said:

“Here was a trendy foreign manager with all his smart ideas getting beat by some oik from the Midlands. Benitez wouldn’t talk to me at all and that just made it all the better when we won.”

Which is all typical Allardyce bluster. The truth is that the lardy lad very rarely beats Rafa’s teams, only three times out of twelve, but that’s not the most bizarre part of his ranting. Have you seen the way Benitez dresses? If that’s “trendy”, Allardyce knows as much about fashion as he does about football. The walking doughnut also said:

 “When we beat his Liverpool team he would complain, ‘They don’t play my type of football.’ “

What was that, then? Winning football? He didn’t like me and he thought he was superior.”

Winning football eh? Winning what exactly? The European Cup, La Liga, the World Club Championship, the Europa League? That’ll be a “no” then.

But the reality is that Allardyce and Benitez are very similar managers. Both spend hours working on defensive organisation and making their teams hard to beat, neither manager is renowned for attacking football or entertainment, both managers put preparation above flair, both managers are impersonal and headstrong and demand absolute loyalty from their players. Maybe they don’t like each other because they are very similar.

Except one of them thinks he’s better suited to managing Inter Milan and Real Madrid and the other one has managed them. And one of them thinks the other one is trendy.

Who Have They Signed?:       

Not many of the Mackems summer signings under Dick Advocaat are getting much of a game under the Hippo of Dudley for various reasons.

Two £8million signings, Lens and Borini are both decent footballers so they aren’t getting much of a look-in at the Allardyce humpathon, lanky lump loan signing Toivonen is always in the match day 18 because he’s always been able to run around for 90 minutes bumping into people, perfect for Allardyce’s style of play.

The January window showed more of what is expected for Mackems under Allardyce, £9million attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri came in from Bordeaux, £5million centre back Lamine Kone from Lorient, loan signing Dame N’Doye from Trabzonspor up front and Jan Kirchhoff from Bayern for less than a million.

All of these players played at Southampton last time out, a clear indication that Fat Sam trusts his own judgement on players more than anyone else’s. It’s difficult to see what Kone will bring to the table, except that he’s got experience of a relegation fight from his time with Hull, he seems to be their Doumbia, a bizarre signing given that they have much better players at their disposal.

Kirchhoff looks a better player in front of the back four than he does in it, which may mean that there is no place for pantomime villain Lee Cattermole today and Wahbi Khazri looks a little weighty for the Premier League, not that it has done YaYa any harm, and his set-pieces are decent. One of Allardyce’s first tasks in charge would have been to find someone who can take a decent free kick. Their last free kick taker is currently waiting to go to jail.

newcastle v sunderland

‘Adam Johnson: unable to make it today due to prior commitments.’

Two new signings who won’t be playing are Steve Harper and Emmanuel Eboue. Eboue is injured, just a week after signing a short term deal with the Mackems. He seemed delighted to have signed in his press conference:

“I’ve also known the club for a long time and I know Jermain (Defoe), John (O’Shea) and Catts (Lee Cattermole), as well as the French players, so it is like a family here.”

He’s obviously fitted straight in, that’s exactly what they are known for in England – AFC Sunderland, the family club.

Steve Harper won’t play and that’s just as well. I always liked him both as a player and as an ambassador for NUFC and the Foundation. What made him sign on for the Mackems as third choice goalkeeper I don’t know, but if his career at Newcastle was anything to go by, he should be able to hold that position down for the next twenty years.

newcastle v sunderland

‘Steve Harper: Always got on well with the locals.’

A Special Mention For:     

It’s always good to see that footballers are either preparing for their time away from football or spending the generous amount of time they get away from the training ground on bettering themselves.

Whether it is Jermaine Defoe and his foundation to help vulnerable children in St Lucia, which is honestly the reason why last year he advertised for a personal assistant to, among other things, “manage and organise individual family members” and “regularly check the home when Jermain is away, making sure all is in place for his return i.e. fridge is stocked”.

It’s nothing to do with the fact that he only spends three hours a week in the house and didn’t want a family from Pennywell taking over the place and filling the garden with trolleys from Lidl.

Also bettering himself this year was junior ginger Mackem Duncan Watmore who graduated from University with a first class honours degree in Economics and Business. Despite the fact that he’ll have to move out of Sunderland if he wants to use his knowledge in economics or business, unless he wants to use that degree to open up a pound shop, the Mackem club certainly trumpeted his educational success as a big thing for the town:

newcastle v sunderland

Sunderland posted a YouTube link to ‘Duncan Watmore collects his first-class degree in Economics and Business’

Very good, well done Sunderland. Of course they forgot to mention that his degree was from Newcastle University, wouldn’t have looked good if the nation had found out that you have to go to Newcastle if you want to learn something. Unfortunately, they don’t have first class honours degrees in Sunderland, but you can buy a Sunday Dinner from McDonalds.

Are We Going To Win?:  

One thing is for sure, we have more chance of winning this game and more chance of staying up with Benitez in charge than we did with McClaren.

For the first time in years I’ll be enjoying a home game when we have a manager who knows what he is doing, which is a start. I’m not the Fat Spanish Waiter’s biggest fan, but at least he knows his onions. At least he has some onions.

What Rafa Benitez won’t do is molly-coddle the players or motivate them a la Keegan. He won’t get the players playing like Keegan either, his teams don’t play the prettiest attacking football in the history of the game. He’ll treat them like professional footballers and expect them to act exactly like that, their holiday is well and truly over.

He’ll organise them, get them working hard and get them playing the most effective football they can play. If they don’t or can’t do that, they won’t play. In a derby game, commitment and organisation can go a long way, these are games that generally don’t see a lot of football played and unlike the last few derbies I’m expecting us to at least match the opposition for effort and not get cut apart by a team that hadn’t been able to put two passes together against anyone else.

Sunderland are obviously getting better results under Fat Sam, they couldn’t have been much worse, but I don’t see many players who have much above the hard-working. Defoe knows how to play up front and needs to be stopped from running into space between our central defenders, there’s been plenty of that this season, and a couple of old foes are coming into form in time for this match, Borini has some talent, Mannone will no doubt have the game of his life before being sold like all Mackem stoppers over the last few years.

At the back they seemed to lack leadership and courage and from the outside it has looked like if you can get past the defensive wall in midfield, which sits in front of their defence, then there isn’t a lot of talent or confidence in that back line. If we can keep the likes of Borini and Defoe away from the ball near our penalty area and keep free kicks down to a minimum then the Mackems will find it hard to score, they don’t have a lot of creativity in their team.

They could always bring back Adam Johnson for the game, they’ve done it before, it’s a moral desert over there, they’ll do anything to beat us. In the face of such moral depravity what can you do.

Get out there, be strong and fear no darkness. Oh and score more goals than them as well.

Howay The Lads.

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