Ahead of our little local difficulty across in a Wearside backwater on Sunday, we caught up with Chris
Thompson, mover and shaker with the long-running and respected Sunderland fanzine, A Love Supreme to fire a few daft questions at him. He’s a decent sort (bar the obvious) and has given us some good craic in return so fair play to him for that. Stop pacing the room for a bit, put down your crack pipes and have a gander at this:
TF: So, what’s gone wrong so far?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: I wish I knew, and I hope the manager knows! Some could blame it on the amount of players we’ve signed and call it a squad blending issue, but I think this is a bit of a cop out to be honest, especially considering that our regular starting team only features a few of our new signings. There seems to be a conspiracy theory with some Sunderland supporters that there’s an Chick Flick-esque ‘clique’ at the club who run the dressing room on their own terms. I couldn’t possibly say if this is true, although I do find the notion of Phil Bardsley being the queen bee at Sunderland’s training ground quite amusing if not slightly frightening!
TF: Di Canio – Poyet – does Short know what he’s doing?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: I think it goes much further than results on the pitch with Di Canio, there was clearly some sort of problem behind the scenes, whether it was Di Canio’s fault or not remains to be seen, and probably will forever be. His appointment got the media and the fans’ backs up a bit, so anything that happened under his tenure was naturally inflated.
In theory, Poyet ticks most of the boxes; he’s a fairly young manager, he plays nice football and he seems full of ambition. He does lack management experience at the top level, but then so does everyone at the beginning of their careers. Some fans would question whether now is the right time to be appointing a manager like him, given that this season will more than likely be spent fighting relegation rather than trying to establish ourselves as a top ten side (ambitious as it may be), but surely choosing him is better than going for an Alan Curbishley or a Sven?
TF: In very short time you’ve gone through Keane-Bruce-O’Neill-Di Canio and now Poyet – are you now micier than us?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: It appears so, but if a manager can’t get the best out of the players at his disposal then why should a club hang onto him? The best managers will base their tactics around who they have available, and so far we have yet to find a man flexible enough to do this. I will say though that losing O’Neill was a massive kick in the gooleys for most Sunderland fans. For all we didn’t play our best under him, we were desperate for him to succeed given his ties to the club.
TF: Was Kevin Ball ever a real consideration for the manager’s job?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Personally, I thought so. Maybe I’m just a romantic, but I’m a big fan of clubs appointing from within, especially someone who has been around for as long as Bally has. Admittedly, he doesn’t have any experience managing a club, and having to take over Sunderland when we’re rock bottom of the table and in such a bad way would be no easy task for even the most seasoned of managers, so in a way it might be an idea to look to Bally when we’re in a different position. I’d like to see Poyet win us every game and be a massive success, without question, but should we part ways with him then I would hope Kevin Ball was once again at least up for consideration, he deserves it.
TF: What are Sunderland’s strengths and weaknesses?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Blimey. Maybe I’ll tell you about our strengths when I find them. We definitely have some players who are capable of great things. Giaccherini is a fantastic player who has nearly compensated for the loss of Stephane Sessegnon, a player who Newcastle will no doubt be happy to see the back of, he played his best matches against you lot. Johnson is also very tidy when he can be arsed.
One of our massive weaknesses is defending, particularly defending set pieces. I know you have a few players who can deliver a pretty accurate free kick into the box and you will no doubt be trying to exploit the fact that none of our lads know how to clear it. Our centre midfield isn’t up to much either to be honest, we have a great ball winner in Lee Cattermole and Ki Sung-Yueng can definitely spot a pass, but there’s no real creativity from that area making us rather feeble going forward.
TF: Will the game be sold out?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: I think so yeah. I know they’ve closed down the shipyards and the pit, but our fans always find money down the back of the settee just in time for the derby, and I hope this is no exception. Saying that though, if you weren’t a season ticket holder and you were given the choice of watching the match at a cold football ground surrounded by people who are just as mental as you or watching it in the pub with your mates, or even more cosier still; in front of the tele with your Sunday dinner on your knee, then what would you do? Obviously if you have a life sentence with the club then it’s an easy choice, but in some ways you can’t blame people for not attending football matches anymore.
TF: The NE Derby – 2 bald men fighting over a comb with wins now a substitute for even thinking about winning anything?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Ha, I think you may have summed it up perfectly. In truth though, this game is actually about more than beating Newcastle for us, we are in desperate need of points and that would be the case whether we were playing our biggest rivals or some small town in Yorkshire. Obviously I would be delighted if we didn’t get one over on you, but in the long run these are 3 points which we actually need to survive.
TF: How do you think the Derby rates nationally?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Without a doubt it’s the biggest derby, and anyone who suggests otherwise is entitled to their incorrect opinion. I’ve spoken to ex-players who have featured in Manchester derbies, London derbies, Derby derbies, and they all reckon that ours is on another level. At a time when North East football doesn’t have the best reputation, we’re lucky that the occasions when we play each other does indeed still carry a prestige which individually we might not.
TF: What are the good, the bad and the ugly of your derby memories at home?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Ironically, most of my more fonder recent derby memories come from over at your place! I did enjoy Asamoah Gyan’s late goal a couple of seasons back though, a very cunning deflection on his part I must say, it definitely didn’t just hit him and go in. Demba Ba’s own goal was a good laugh as well, he was one of our top scorers for longer than I’m proud to admit. Also, let’s not forget Joey Barton squaring up to Dickson Etuhu. Ha’way Joey, pick your battles lad. Djibril Cisse and Richardson’s free kick are also worth mentioning, that was a good game.
The bad would be Ryan Taylor ‘owa the wall, really sick of that phrase. You wouldn’t think Mignolet would have went on to become a decent keeper after letting that past him. That game was just shocking, in fact last season’s was as well, just really dull and deflating. I remember James Milner’s cross/shot sickening me as well.
Ugly would be Steven Taylor. If one of them Avatar things and Joe McElderry had a bairn you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a Newcastle defender. Apart from him; Cheick Tiote’s idea of tackling is extremely ugly, you wouldn’t find Lee Cattermole making challenges like that.
TF: What do you make of the current Newcastle United set-up – Ashley, Pardew and players?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: I couldn’t possibly comment on the situation with Ashley, I don’t know much about it but it would be interesting to see where all your transfer revenue has went, you haven’t really spent big money on players for a while even though you’ve sold players with great success. Obviously for us Mike Ashley is a dream, he’s like a ready made caricature of a Newcastle fan. Same with Pardew really, the cockney mafia thing is a bit funny, but I can see exactly where Newcastle fans are coming from and I would never take joy from any clubs’ fans feeling alienated by the team they’ve grew up supporting.
You have a few tidy players like, Cabaye is always a threat, he will probably be the only Newcastle player I ‘fear’ per se. I don’t think Papiss Demba Cisse is up to much to be honest, I don’t know if Newcastle fans have slowly come to that conclusion or not but I’ve never really seen him do much apart from his first cluster of games at the club, which effectively sealed the fate of Demba Ba, a far better player than Cisse.
TF: If you could take one player from Newcastle United, who would it be?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Yeah it would be Cabaye, you pay top dollar for a creative midfielder, Arsenal will tell you that, they bought probably the best one in the world. Cabaye is probably one of the more effective in the league at his role and is exactly the player Sunderland haven’t had in recent seasons.
TF: Why does Steven Taylor get on Sunderland fans’ tripe so much?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Ha, well I suppose I set myself up for this one. He’s just an awful bloke. He’s the kid at school that I never got on with, he’s the bloke who comes and sits next to me on the metro despite there being a carriage full of empty seats, he’s the old woman who steals items out of your trolley at Tesco and thinks she can get away with it just because she’s fragile. He’s not even a good player either. I dunno what it is about him, he just has one of those faces. The fact that he always runs his mouth in the media pre-derby always stirs things up, even though he shot himself in the foot last time.
TF: Who is the all-time Newcastle United hate-figure for Sunderland fans?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Probably Shearer. Admittedly it’s probably down to his success at Newcastle, he wasn’t a particular gobby player in the press and he does his very best to show concern for us on Match of the Day, even though we all know he doesn’t give a shit (who could blame him if roles were reversed). He was the poster boy for Newcastle for a very long time though, and for that reason his face has graced many a dart board on Wearside over the years.
TF: Apart from us, which club/fans etc do Sunderland fans loathe the most?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Leeds is a bit of an old rivalry, but I suppose everyone hates Leeds, it’s the same with Man Utd. I don’t know to be honest, a lot of clubs have fans who seem to be taking issue with Sunderland recently, due to the Di Canio saga and changing managers frequently. Apparently we play a shocking brand of football as well, who’d have knew!
TF: If you were giving the team-talk to Sunderland ahead of the derby, what would be your tactics in taking us on?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: Definitely catch you on the break, your full backs have a tendency to drift forward if I’m not mistaken and Johnson is capable of hurting teams in the wide areas. Also, just get the ball to Steven Fletcher in the box, because he will score. He’s a natural goalscorer but unfortunately no-one has the sense to just get the ball to him in the final third.
TF: What is your prediction for the result on Sunday?
Chris Thompson, A Love Supreme: I think Newcastle will score, you’re definitely more effective than us going forward even though I don’t think you have better forwards than us, weirdly. That’s a tactical thing though isn’t it. Plus our defence is shocking, so I definitely think you will get a goal. It will be the matter of us outscoring you to be honest, I reckon Jozy Altidore’s stage is set, he’s an American so he knows all about fairytale endings and I reckon that this derby could have one for him. I’m gonna go 2-1 Sunderland, Giaccherini and Altidore for us, Remy for you.
Many thanks to Chris for his time.