Ahead of this weekend’s derby match at St James’ Park, we caught up with long time contributor to Sunderland’s well-regarded and long running fanzine, A Love Supreme, Tom Lynn. Hard core Sunderland fan, Tom, has been coming to derby matches since the 70s and we managed to have a civil conversation, eyes down this is the craic:
TF: Staying up or going down?
Tom, ALS: Staying up if we get the likes of Scocco, Bridcutt and Benega in before the deadline. A lot will depend on inproving our home record and our goalscoring ratio which is currently 21 in 22 games which is asking for bother.
TF: Are you going to Wembley for a day-out or do you think you’ve got a chance of winning the League Cup?
Tom, ALS: Going to Wembley for a day out, in fact to the Smoke for a weekend out, rock n’ roll and all that. However, I expect us to give City a game and we have beaten them four times in a row at home. Attacking wise they are a fantasy league team-you’d think they were backed by wealthy investors from the Middle East with limitless funds that makes genuine competition a farce in the long run, wouldn’t yer?
TF: What do you make of Di Canio’s comments about your players?
Tom, ALS: Di Canio is unfortunately making an ass of himself in the public arena and probably thought he was putting himself in the shop window on Football Focus and on the pages of that gutter rag The Sun might attract top flight suitors who crave his, erm, managerial genius. In reality most club Chairmen probably sat there thinking ‘he’s bloody mental’! Paolo gave us a great day out at your gaff last season but then simply lost the plot, with all the managerial acumen of a rabid dictator-don’t know where he got that idea from!
TF: Ellis Short seems to have made a lot of appointments and sacked a lot of them. Does he know what he’s doing?
Tom, ALS: Initially I think Ellis placed a lot of the football decision making in the hands of Niall Quinn [and he was not always spot on with his decision making even though his heart was always in the right place] and made a desperate dcision when choosing Di Canio-it was a gamble he felt was needed after the hapless management of the disastrous O’Neill reign ended. He will have learned lessons. The sacking of Di Fanti and the appointment of Poyet suggests he has.
TF: How do you rate Poyet?
Tom, ALS: On the evience to date Poyet has verged on a miracle worker and has polished what was a turd into a relatively glittering object. He has quickly implemented a passing game that is begining to bear real fruit, although he needs to solve our weaknesses in the final third of the pitch, ie goalscoring. He seems calm, intelligent and has a good sense of humour, although I doubt he suffers fools gladly either. he has played at the top level and is setting his standards accordingly. So far, very impressed.
TF: There seems to have been a change in the way Sunderland are playing, can you describe what was going on before and after Poyet?
Tom, ALS: Its now a possession game-the ball is your friend, hot your sworn enemy. It looks very Latin American in style to me in that when you watch games from that Continent its all about keeping the ball which means your opponents cannot harm you. The goalkeeper is an eleventh outfield player as well in this system in effect, he can start attacks and act as a release when under pressure and needs to have good control and accurate kicking. Its what Brighton played under him and he will not have it any other way. Initially it got some getting used to but with better players gradually coming in, its priving effective overall. The back four need nerves of steel, however, or they’re in trouble in particular.
TF: You’ve been coming to St James’ Park for a long while now, how have things changed, what have been the good, the bad and the ugly of your trips to NE1?
Tom, ALS: Its well policed now, better organised, CCTV all over the place and less chance of the shenanigans of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. Biggest frisk I ever saw was the ‘Battle Of Waterloo’ near Pink Lane in the 79-80 Division Two game which carried on to the corner of the Gallowgate near the petrol station that used to be there, 4-1 to us. The best feeling-wise was split between the 1990 play off win, the consecutive 2-1 wins when SKP scored in the rain and then when Shearer missed his penalty, and last season’s unexpected 3-0 rout. Your ground has changed beyond recognition but the positioning of, and view for, away supporters is pathetic and does nothing to create an atmosphere between the two sets of fans.
TF: How important was it for supporters to combine to stop the Bubble trip arrangements for Saturday’s Derby?
Tom, ALS: The two sets of fans should be proud of the eloquent, intelligent and reasoned way that the bubble trip was confronted and thankfully sense has prevailed. Modern football is being sanitised enough as it is and this would have been another nail in the coffin as far as retaining the passion, vibrancy and freedom, yes freedom, of the supporters goes. Hopefully the loons will be kept at bay this weekend, otherwise NP will just turn around and point an accusing figure at supporters en-masse and no just the loony fringe. Metro here I come!
TF: What’s your take on Newcastle United in 2014?
Tom, ALS: Despite the lack of a Cup run, you are well placed in the League and have done really well overall in the league. You have a genuinely potent attacking threat in remy in particular and quite a bit of flair overall. Cabaye was hugely influential and will be missed and the timing and manner of his departure is similar to the Andy Carroll saga-late in the window and probably the fans favourite player at that moment in time must epress you all. Ashley gets abuse but as an, erm, neutral [ha ha] Mag fans should still look back at the amount of money the Hall and Shepherd families [already very wealthy prior to leaving NUFC] tok out of the club when they left-what a profit on a supposed labour of love those toon fanatics made eh? Dear me. Ashley’s not perfect but he inherited a financial mess.
TF: How do you see the derby panning out this weekend?
Tom, ALS: I never predict derbies as you just end up looking daft more often than not. Hopefully, if we don’t lose focus after our Cup exploits, we’ll give your lot a run for your money. Pardew will know this may be a derby defeat too far for many Mags if we were to win. Here’s hoping!
Thanks to Tom for his time.