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Randall on... Sunderland

Filed: Friday, 12th December 2014
By: Staff Writer

We spoke to ex-Rokerite Colin Randall of Salut Sunderland! for his thoughts ahead of this weekend's clash at the Stadium of Light...

So the Great Escape last season. Will you need another come April and May?

Life is rarely boring for Sunderland fans at the end of the season. It's usually a relegation or promotion issue, but there was also the distant chance of qualification for Europe when Peter Reid had us seventh top two season running. I don't think it'll be as bad as last season, which is just as well since you don't tend to turn over Man Utd and Chelsea (and very nearly Man City) away in quick succession two years running. But nor do I seriously expect to be comfortably high mid-table.

Is (Gus) Poyet a big hit among the fans or are there doubts?

He was what we needed after the ultimately disastrous reign of PDC. Yes, I know Paolo was a playing hero for you, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt (but only just) on the fascism issue, but he was leading us into a 15-pointer. Poyet gets some selections and substitutions spot on, others hopelessly wrong. But I like him and hope he can get over the transitonal phase with time to show us he can be a properly good manager.

Which players are making a difference for you this season?

Seb Larsson has continued his late burst of excellent form last season and just edges it for me ahead of Lee Cattermole - dare I say maturing at last in to the player we always thought he might be? - and John O'Shea, flawed but a wise old head. Anthony Reveillere's great experience at Lyon, in the CL, makes him a decent signing,too

Stewart Downing, Don Hutchison, Pop Robson, Mary McC, Calum Davenport, Big Sam as player for you/manager for us and, of course, Paolo Di Canio (the other way round) sprang instantly to mind when thinking of links between our clubs. What thoughts on them or others I missed out?

Downing was great when on loan to us from Boro and I always regretted not finding some way of signing him up. Loved Pop at his best and Hutchison was a terrific midfield presence at our place, even kissing the SAFC badge when he scored at Newcastle. PDC deserved credit for his own Great Escape and probably better than to be saddled with Robert de Fanti as director of football. His man-management skills were, shall we say, unimpressive though even in that respect, there was the feeling he sometimes had a point.

Kevin Phillips, Niall Quinn, Marco Gabbiadini, Pop Robson. Gary Rowell and, going back further, Charlie Hurley, Brian Clough and Jimmy Montgomery. Who have been the greatest players you've seen - or wish you'd seen - in red and white stripes?

Nothing beats Phillips and Quinn in their prime, a wonderful attacking duo with Quinn a much bigger part of the duo than he is always given credit for. Marco and Pop for their goals, Gary for his hat trick at St James' Park and the great promotion-winning side of the 60s.

Hurley was majestic (if an Irishman can aspire to a throne), Clough deadly and - since I was a goalie at school, too - Monty often a joy to watch. Colin Todd may have been, technically, the best we've ever had. From that era, Johnny Crossan was my real hero: great skill and lovely, rebellious attitude and Jim Baxter, though in decline, was a class act.

I'm old enough for all them but to have seen Len Shackleton, Raich Carter, Charlie Buchan and others from when we were a force in English football. Carter was, in his time, one of the finest players in England. He later played for and managed Hull and his son, also Raich, became a big fan there.

I was chuffed to bits when Raich Junior's Q+A in the equivalent of this interview at my site, Salut! Sunderland (http://salutsunderland,com) won our annual award last season his prize - five World Cup replica balls - to a kids' team in his dad's district of Sunderland.

And who should have been allowed nowhere near Roker or the Stadium of Light?

I'd say Gareth Hall but his daughter would just write and complain again as she did once before. Good on her for supporting her dad; one of my daughters disloyally supports Liverpool. So take your pick from scores but, in relatively recent times, it would have to be Tore André Flo, great player elsewhere but utterly useless for us.

What's this about you pestering the KUMB editor to give you back the points for the 8-0 match in 1968, given Hurst's self-confessed use of his fist for the opener?

I just got back from France, where I live and work for part of the year, in time to be at Southampton for the 8-0 there. I met a bloke in the toilet - innocently - who told me he'd seen all three 8-0s (at your place, Watford and now St Mary's). So I'll cling to anything. Who knows how the game might have progressed had the ref seen Hurst thumping the ball in with his fist? OK. I realise yuo'll all say 7-0.

A cartoon Matt, the Telegraph cartoonist, gave Colin when he was booted out in 2006 (Matt always draws in black and white so the colour was by Salut! Sunderland's illustrator, Jake)

Highs and lows as a Sunderland supporter?

Since I had just moved to London and couldn't get a ticket, I cannot claim the 1973 FA Cup final as a high witnessed first-hand. I've take similar joy from big promotions - 1996, 1999, 2005, 2007 and, even as second-plaved, 1964 and 1980. Last season's great escape was astonishing and I loved my day at Wembley despite Citeh winning. the lows are all the relegations, but especially the one that took us down for the only time in our history to the third tier, much as I enjoyed the romp back up again next season.

Another, obvious low was the playoff final against Charlton in 1998. Couldn't care less that neutrals thought it was a Wembley classic. I had to drive immediately afterwards to the south of France and had decided I would keep going through the night on adrenalin if we won, but stay somewhere and get plastered midway to drown any sorrows. But I was so enraged at such a needless, stupid defeat that the anger got me through the night without need to stop and drink.

Do you miss Roker Park?

Without question. Boyhood memories are special to any man and the ritual of going to Roker every other Saturday as a lad is fixed in my mind.

Now tell me your thoughts on West Ham - the club, the fans, Big Sam?

Having lived for long parts of my life in London, I have strong views on the clubs I dislike - Chelsea and Spurs - but reasonably warm ones towards the Hammers and Brentford (daughter turned out in their red and white stripes for her first proper game, and the're the nearest to where I live). I once took my (French) father-in-law to see Hammers vs Liverpool and he thought you, your team spirit and your crowd were great whereas I'd expected him to go for the "known" team. Like Graeme Howlett said in reply to my question, there are plenty of similarities.

Where will each of our clubs finish - and what will be the top four and bottom three?

You'll be comfortably high mid-table. We won't, but we'll survive.

Diving: now so commonplace that we may as well write it and other forms of cheating into the coaching manuals - or should we tackle it head on?

Throw the book at them. I make no distinction and am happy to slag off Sunderland players who dive, feign injury, pull shirts etc. Only tough punishment, decided retrospectively if necessary, will stop it but I'd also encourage whistle-blowers in dressing rooms to name and shame guilty managers and coaches who order their players to go down, roll over as if mortally hurt, commit sly tugs and pulls where possible.

State one step the football authorities or Sunderland itself should take to improve the lot of the ordinary fan?

Ticket prices, obviously. But also start applying common sense in fixture planning, to avoid horrendous journeys for fans for bizarre kickoff dates and times.

Will you be at our match? And what will be the score?

I cannot get up from London this time. Head says draw or defeat because you're playing a lot better than us, heart says 2-1 to us

Finally, a little about yourself...

Grew up in County Durham and supported Sunderland from boyhood. Kept my season ticket even when living in Abu Dhabi for 18 months (liked the seat and who I sat next to). I am ancient, a non-hacking, non-bribing journalist who has to write more than anyone would ever want about jihadists and less than I'd like about football (I cover Sunderland for ESPN's Premier League blogs). I launched http://salutsunderland.com in 2007. I haven't the time or resources to make it better or better-read than it is but it is a labour of love and I am sometimes proud of it.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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