Sunderland, Roy Keane, mouth pops and a slap-bass sting

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Things haven’t gone right for poor old Sunderland for quite a while now. Since 1939, in fact, when Germany invaded Poland to set off an unfortunate chain of events that robbed their league-and-cup-winning superstar Raich Carter of what would surely have been his best years and culminated in his transfer to Derby County. Sunderland’s immediate post-war ‘Bank of England’ spending spree produced a trophy haul of no trophies, and while the 1973 cup win provided brief respite from the relentless misery, things quickly became so grindingly dull again that even the 1981 arrival of national treasure / people’s sunbeam Ally McCoist couldn’t cheer anyone up.

So it’s fair to say they’ve been trending steadily to the point we find them today. Upon somehow managing, back in 2018, to get themselves relegated to the third tier for the first time in their history without any of Lawrie McMenemy’s help, the club – and indeed most neutral observers – blithely assumed they’d be back in the One Below The Big Time before anyone knew it. But here we are, years later, two-thirds of the way through a fourth consecutive League One season, and currently on a run of form – a 6-0 defeat at Bolton followed by losses to bottom team Doncaster and struggling Cheltenham – that is hinting at making even a play-off berth look like a pipe dream.

Having briskly cashiered Lee Johnson through the door marked Away The Lad, Sunderland have been desperately seeking someone to knock heads together quicksmart. To this end, they asked Roy Keane to reprise his largely successful stint at the Stadium of Light back in the day. However, contractual negotiations between Keane and owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus broke down, farcical scenes presumably brought to an end with mouth pops and a slap-bass sting in honour of Julia, Kyril’s second cousin twice removed. Sunderland now have to decide between Alex Neil, Grant McCann, Sabri Lamouchi and [Fiver squints, adjusts pince-nez] Neil Lennon. They’d better get it done soon, too, because a fifth year in League One looms large. Oh Raich! If only you knew it would eventually come to this.


Join Scott Murray from 7.45pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Liverpool 4-2 Leicester in the Premier League (oh Brenny), while Paul Doyle will be on hand for Wolves 1-0 Arsenal.


“I think of the scene from Goal the movie when he signs for Newcastle and told he is training with the first team. That was like me. I was told I was going to train with the first team: Arnautovic, Shaqiri, Adam, Shawcross; I could go on. I was signing these guys on Football Manager two months earlier” – Stoke City’s Harry Souttar gets his chat on with Ewan Murray about flamin’ knack and improving club fortunes.


“Given that two sponsors of West Ham have now pulled the plug over ‘cat-flap’, isn’t it time that the UK government re-thought its outrageously generous stadium deal with the club too?” – Alex Folkes.

“This week, Dion Dublin said on Match of the Day of Wout Weghorst: ‘He’s a big old unit that you would expect not to do what he does.’ I can’t see HABOUTYWENTDWHD replacing GTFABM any time soon” – Matt Clift.

“Poor James A Garfield. Not only did he suffer the indignity of dying due to his own doctors’ ministrations, but then Richard O’Hagan (yesterday’s Fiver letters) added insult to injury by labelling him as ‘famously corpulent’. Not sure who Richard had in mind, maybe Taft or Cleveland, but at 6ft and 210lb, Garfield hardly fit the bill. He’s not even among our top 10 heaviest presidents” – Guy Robert.

Not much evidence for The Fiver to go on, beyond this bathrobe and image from an Ohio exhibition in 2019.
Not much evidence for The Fiver to go on, beyond this bathrobe and image from an Ohio exhibition in 2019. Photograph: Christine Fowler Shearer/AP

“Re: Tuesday’s News, Bits and Bobs and Spotify sponsoring the Camp Nou, surely a long-running music compilation series should be all over this branding opportunity? I, for one, would love to go on the Camp Nou That’s What I Call Music! stadium tour” – Phil Taylor.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Phil Taylor.


Portland Timbers midfielder Andy Polo has been suspended and prohibited from all team activities pending an investigation into allegations of domestic violence made against him.

Brazilian police have arrested a man they believe hacked into Neymar’s bank accounts and repeatedly stole small sums of money. “What did this lad do?” said Fabio Pinheiro Lopes, in charge of the case. “He got the password of his office colleague and stole small amounts of money from famous people with high net worth.”

Neymar in training on Thursday.
Neymar in training on Thursday. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Spurs have called on their supporters to “move on” from using the word “Yid” after concluding a review with fans’ focus groups.

As mentioned, a second West Ham sponsor has garnered fresh publicity by pulling its support of the club after the Kurt Zouma cat business, while brother Yoan has been sidelined by Dagenham & Redbridge for his role in it all. When asked by a reporter if his Hammers teammate should be sacked, Michail Antonio replied with a question of his own: “Do you think what he’s done is worse than racism? I’m not condoning a thing that he’s done – I don’t agree with what he’s done at all – but there are people who have been caught for racism and have played football afterwards. They got punished, they got an eight-game punishment or something like that, but people are now calling for people to be sacked, to lose their livelihood. I’ve just got to ask this question to everyone out there: is what he’s done worse?”

Brighton boss Graham Potter doesn’t feel too down after technical director Dan Ashworth headed off for gardening leave/Newcastle. “Of course I am disappointed, Dan was a colleague, a friend – someone I respect a lot,” tooted Potter. “He’s been an important person at the club, but these things happen, it’s life.”

And after James Rowe did one from Chesterfield, having been suspended pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct, Paul Cook has returned to the club as manager.


Hear from the campaigners who are embarking on a three-day march around Scottish grounds in a rightful push to end football’s gambling habit.

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