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“We’ve Been Battered Into Submission” – Sunderland Fans-Eye View Pre-Brentford Match

“We’ve Been Battered Into Submission” – Sunderland Fans-Eye View Pre-Brentford Match

Brentford play Sunderland for the first time since DJ Campbell scored a brace in 2006 to knock the Black Cats out of the FA Cup. Billy Grant caught up with Sobsy from Sunderland Fanzine ‘A Love Supreme‘ (@ALS_Fanzine) on paper and also on this week’s Pride Of West London podcast to get the lowdown on what’s going down in Sunderland. 

It’s not quite the start Sunderland wanted now was it? What has gone wrong?

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It’d be much quicker to tell you what has gone right. Ten new players have arrived, and nearly as many have left, which should have meant a fresh start, but something lingers from the past. After several years of surviving by the plaque on the skin of our teeth, the fans desperately needed something positive, and the very least we expected was a moderate start to the season. When that didn’t happen, many, particularly at home, have been quick to latch onto any mistake – and there have been plenty – to vent their frustrations, which is only natural and to be expected.

We’ve been battered into submission, and this has resulted in apathy creeping in alongside the frustration – something the club should be very worried about. The rumblings behind the scenes, as the club has careered from one off-field PR disaster to another haven’t helped, and the players can’t be immune to this.

Those that have arrived are here because their previous club doesn’t want them, either because of injury or simply ability, and that’s been confirmed by injuries and performances so far. Look at the Ipswich game –  every one of the five goals we conceded was down to individual errors.

We’ve got no money, so the ten came in for £1.25 million – we’re paying a lot more than that on wages to individuals out on loan – and we’ve got to hold £10million back in case we have to pay for Ricky Alvarez – Google him, it’s hilarious.

Newcastle were down here last season but didn’t stay long. Rafa Benitez was supposedly given the power to fix the problems from top to bottom. Do you think Sunderland could take a leaf out of their book?

What they did right last term was to accept that going down was a real possibility and prepare for it in advance, then spend over the odds on players who’d get them back up – and accept that they’d lose money on them as they’re not up to Prem standard. You have to run to stand still in any league.

Speculate to accumulate is the leaf we should take from their book, but we’ve got nothing to speculate with. Oh, and perhaps be a bit more underhand in our financial dealings.

Simon Grayson. Are you convinced?

Embed from Getty Images

Absolutely not. I thought he’d do a much better job, but even he can’t have felt that wanted after we made such a public fuss of putting Derek McInnes up on a pedestal as our first choice, and were very obviously only taking on someone who at best was second choice. I’m not saying he can’t turn us around, but as the weeks pass it looks less and less likely. He seems reluctant to ditch certain players who’ve gone right off the boil, and despite bringing in out-and-out wingers, seems reluctant to play a straightforward 4-4-2

To be fair, you have players on decent wages. You must have some quality in the side. Who could turn it on for you on Saturday?

Being on high wages means nothing in the Prem, and we’re suffering from that. Kone could be the best defender in the Championship, but after getting a huge pay rise a year ago, has simply switched off and can’t be trusted. Rodwell is probably our highest paid player, because we neglected to put a relegation clause in his contract, but things just aren’t working for him. The one incomer who has proved he can turn it on to good effect is Aiden McGeady, with four goals and several assists. In the middle of the attack, Grabban and Vaughan are a bit predictable, but Duncan Watmore is somebody that opponents hate playing against because of his direct style. We’ve yet to see McManaman do it, but we know the ability is there.

Embed from Getty Images

Once fans have got over the shock of relegation, they normally have a right laugh down here in The Championship with so many good awaydays with fans able to enjoy more liberal embracing of football awaydays by towns up and down the country than in the Premier League. You have been to pretty much every game this season. Which awaydays have you enjoyed the most (bar the result)?

It’s been nice revisiting old haunts like Lancaster on the way to games, and Ipswich was canny (the four hour stop-off at Peterborough on the way home the next day helped numb the pain of losing 2-5 somewhat), and we supped with the same Norwich fans as last time we visited. As we won, that was obviously the best one so far!

Brentford is pretty well known for its boozers. Below is a non-definite list of pubs Sunderland fans can visit before and after the match – no security. Away friendly. As long as MANNERS are observed. Have you got any plans for your trip to London?

I’m meeting an former work colleague at King’s Cross for a swift one before meeting up with an old schoolmate, who’s lived in Twickenham for the last 30-odd years, and his son  – who grew up as a Sunderland fan but didn’t see us win until he was about 20 (Craven Cottage, which will probably please you) – in the Lord Nelson and Globe.

Bees fans remember fondly the game in 2006 which saw us knock Sunderland out of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win – DJ Campbell scoring a brace before being transferred a few days later to Birmingham City.  But traditionally, Brentford haven’t had the best record against teams from the North East with Sunderland being the team we have done best against. Other than that cup match, the last time we beat a team from the North East (Hartlepool not included) was Sunderland in 1992.  Our last 1964 Boro victory was in 1964 and Newcastle – 1948. Is this a good sign for Sunderland for this weekend?

Embed from Getty Images

Yes I remember that game. Julio Arca scored our consolation – he’s still playing, in the Northern League for South Shields, who are doing great things. I don’t think Brentford’s record against NE clubs make any difference to us – we’ve got a habit of visiting places like Griffin Park and looking very much the less competitive side. As you asked earlier, though, on paper we have players who, in theory, should be able to win games in this league. Allegedly.

Brentford have – to be fair to them – been playing some excellent football all season. However, they have not had luck on their side (apart from against Millwall on Saturday which saw our first home win) and have outplayed pretty much every team they have met this season (Wolves gave us a tough test it has to be said). Ryan Woods – who Sunderland were rumoured to be after – can control the midfield when he’s on his game. Attacking midfielder Ollie Watkins – who we signed from Exeter for £1.5m in the summer – is really getting to grips with this division and causes defenders no end of problems. Romaine Sawyers – who got unwarranted abuse from a section of fans last season – is a very clever player who sometimes is two or three steps ahead of his team-mates with his clever play. Striker Lasse Vibe is back after injury and we noticed what a difference he made to side against Millwall. Will our free-flowing style of football play into Sunderland’s hands?

It depends on who plays and in what formation. If we go 4-4-2 and you play free-flowing stuff, there might be the space for McGeady, McManaman, and Watmore  – players who run at opponents – to do some damage. The fact that, despite apparently good performances, Brentford have only scored once more than us, have just the one home win, and are 18th means you can be got at.. Swap one of our draws for one of your wins, and our league positions would be reversed.

Are you confident of getting a result on Saturday? Why?

Of course not, but it’s always simply about eleven vs eleven in any game, anywhere in the world, so there’s always hope that we’ll turn it on at last and Griffin Park is hardly a fortress.

Score prediction. 

3-1 to Sunderland. That’s hope, not confidence.

PUBS IN BRENTFORD

For Sunderland fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the re-opening of the Royal Oak.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.

Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.

This is relatively straight forward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

It’s not quite the start Sunderland wanted now was it? What has gone wrong?

It’d be much quicker to tell you what has gone right. Ten new players have arrived, and nearly as many have left, which should have meant a fresh start, but something lingers from the past. After several years of surviving by the plaque on the skin of our teeth, the fans desperately needed something positive, and the very least we expected was a moderate start to the season. When that didn’t happen, many, particularly at home, have been quick to latch onto any mistake – and there have been plenty – to vent their frustrations, which is only natural and to be expected.

We’ve been battered into submission, and this has resulted in apathy creeping in alongside the frustration – something the club should be very worried about. The rumblings behind the scenes, as the club has careered from one off-field PR disaster to another haven’t helped, and the players can’t be immune to this.

Those that have arrived are here because their previous club doesn’t want them, either because of injury or simply ability, and that’s been confirmed by injuries and performances so far. Look at the Ipswich game –  every one of the five goals we conceded was down to individual errors.

We’ve got no money, so the ten came in for £1.25 million – we’re paying a lot more than that on wages to individuals out on loan – and we’ve got to hold £10million back in case we have to pay for Ricky Alvarez – Google him, it’s hilarious.

Newcastle were down here last season but didn’t stay long. Rafa Benitez was supposedly given the power to fix the problems from top to bottom. Do you think Sunderland could take a leaf out of their book?

What they did right last term was to accept that going down was a real possibility and prepare for it in advance, then spend over the odds on players who’d get them back up – and accept that they’d lose money on them as they’re not up to Prem standard. You have to run to stand still in any league.

Speculate to accumulate is the leaf we should take from their book, but we’ve got nothing to speculate with. Oh, and perhaps be a bit more underhand in our financial dealings.

Simon Grayson. Are you convinced?

Embed from Getty Images

Absolutely not. I thought he’d do a much better job, but even he can’t have felt that wanted after we made such a public fuss of putting Derek McInnes up on a pedestal as our first choice, and were very obviously only taking on someone who at best was second choice. I’m not saying he can’t turn us around, but as the weeks pass it looks less and less likely. He seems reluctant to ditch certain players who’ve gone right off the boil, and despite bringing in out-and-out wingers, seems reluctant to play a straightforward 4-4-2

To be fair, you have players on decent wages. You must have some quality in the side. Who could turn it on for you on Saturday?

Being on high wages means nothing in the Prem, and we’re suffering from that. Kone could be the best defender in the Championship, but after getting a huge pay rise a year ago, has simply switched off and can’t be trusted. Rodwell is probably our highest paid player, because we neglected to put a relegation clause in his contract, but things just aren’t working for him. The one incomer who has proved he can turn it on to good effect is Aiden McGeady, with four goals and several assists. In the middle of the attack, Grabban and Vaughan are a bit predictable, but Duncan Watmore is somebody that opponents hate playing against because of his direct style. We’ve yet to see McManaman do it, but we know the ability is there.

Embed from Getty Images

Once fans have got over the shock of relegation, they normally have a right laugh down here in The Championship with so many good awaydays with fans able to enjoy more liberal embracing of football awaydays by towns up and down the country than in the Premier League. You have been to pretty much every game this season. Which awaydays have you enjoyed the most (bar the result)?

It’s been nice revisiting old haunts like Lancaster on the way to games, and Ipswich was canny (the four hour stop-off at Peterborough on the way home the next day helped numb the pain of losing 2-5 somewhat), and we supped with the same Norwich fans as last time we visited. As we won, that was obviously the best one so far!

Brentford is pretty well known for its boozers. Below is a non-definite list of pubs Sunderland fans can visit before and after the match – no security. Away friendly. As long as MANNERS are observed. Have you got any plans for your trip to London?

I’m meeting an former work colleague at King’s Cross for a swift one before meeting up with an old schoolmate, who’s lived in Twickenham for the last 30-odd years, and his son  – who grew up as a Sunderland fan but didn’t see us win until he was about 20 (Craven Cottage, which will probably please you) – in the Lord Nelson and Globe.

Bees fans remember fondly the game in 2006 which saw us knock Sunderland out of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win – DJ Campbell scoring a brace before being transferred a few days later to Birmingham City.  But traditionally, Brentford haven’t had the best record against teams from the North East with Sunderland being the team we have done best against. Other than that cup match, the last time we beat a team from the North East (Hartlepool not included) was Sunderland in 1992.  Our last 1964 Boro victory was in 1964 and Newcastle – 1948. Is this a good sign for Sunderland for this weekend?

Embed from Getty Images

Yes I remember that game. Julio Arca scored our consolation – he’s still playing, in the Northern League for South Shields, who are doing great things. I don’t think Brentford’s record against NE clubs make any difference to us – we’ve got a habit of visiting places like Griffin Park and looking very much the less competitive side. As you asked earlier, though, on paper we have players who, in theory, should be able to win games in this league. Allegedly.

Brentford have – to be fair to them – been playing some excellent football all season. However, they have not had luck on their side (apart from against Millwall on Saturday which saw our first home win) and have outplayed pretty much every team they have met this season (Wolves gave us a tough test it has to be said). Ryan Woods – who Sunderland were rumoured to be after – can control the midfield when he’s on his game. Attacking midfielder Ollie Watkins – who we signed from Exeter for £1.5m in the summer – is really getting to grips with this division and causes defenders no end of problems. Romaine Sawyers – who got unwarranted abuse from a section of fans last season – is a very clever player who sometimes is two or three steps ahead of his team-mates with his clever play. Striker Lasse Vibe is back after injury and we noticed what a difference he made to side against Millwall. Will our free-flowing style of football play into Sunderland’s hands?

It depends on who plays and in what formation. If we go 4-4-2 and you play free-flowing stuff, there might be the space for McGeady, McManaman, and Watmore  – players who run at opponents – to do some damage. The fact that, despite apparently good performances, Brentford have only scored once more than us, have just the one home win, and are 18th means you can be got at.. Swap one of our draws for one of your wins, and our league positions would be reversed.

Are you confident of getting a result on Saturday? Why?

Of course not, but it’s always simply about eleven vs eleven in any game, anywhere in the world, so there’s always hope that we’ll turn it on at last and Griffin Park is hardly a fortress.

Score prediction. 

3-1 to Sunderland. That’s hope, not confidence.

PUBS IN BRENTFORD

For Sunderland fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the re-opening of the Royal Oak.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.

Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.

This is relatively straight forward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

BillytheBee Grant

Following Brentford for 30 years plus now

.. write .. blog .. videoblog .. podcast … photograph …eat .. sleep .. Brentford

.. am known to attend the occasional England match too (12 tournaments now) so am hardened to failure …

On the board and national council of the Football Supporters Federation.

… organised husky dog racing for a living back in the day … as you do ..

You don’t wanna go up!!

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