The North East of England has not had an easy time of it in recent years. Most of their shipyards closed; notably Priestman’s of Sunderland in 1933 and Short Brothers of Sunderland in 1964. Heavy industry declined. The mines closed. The area fell into squalid poverty. Communities were torn apart and the local population took to foraging to survive. And now, they have inflicted upon themselves the worst team ever to play in the top division of English Football, Sunderland Association Football Club. This club has won the league six times, most recently, in 1936. They were runners-up on five occasions. Yet it is quite apparent from this weekend’s display that they couldn’t win a running race against Long John Silver. Their side is to foot-ball what tiny troubadour Master J. Bieber is to music.
How they must have recoiled at an Arsenal teamsheet which included that duo named after the Colonial Convenience Store “7-11”, Messrs Saunders & Orwell. Quite frankly, we could have put that pair out, with Harry the Helmet as Rush Glove Butler, and we would have won the game, and indeed it was Number 7 Whizzbang Saunders who opened Woolwich’s account with a bullet noggin-bobbler. And the Gentleman’s Favour? Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain, his final balls now much more precise than last season’s overpowered clown crosses. Either side of Oranges, Arsenal continued to spurn chances like babies spurn their mother’s spoon, and Sunderland scored a hilarious equaliser on the hour mark through their circus dwarf Master Defoe.
This served only to tug the tiger’s tail. Brigadier Goring-Hildred, coming off the Rear Stalls*, met Gibbois’ cross to get his good leg on it for 2-1. An Orwell corner provided our third, with that man Hildred nodding it past the hapless goon Pickford for three. Number eight, our Senegalese Mr. Ramsara, resplendent in ‘afro’ haircut, came off the bench for his first league match since the opening day of the season since twanging his pigstring against Liverpool.
He was seven minutes late for Mr. Windsor’s traditional 70 minute switcheroo, and two minutes later he accidentally set up Saunders for Arsenal’s fourth. His statistics now read Ramsara: 74 minutes played, 1 gentleman’s favour. Paul Pogba, by comparison, 810 minutes, no gentleman’s favours. Still, we understand he makes a nice cup of tea. Which is what you pay £90m for.
To Bulgaria then, and to the Ludogorets Arena, home of PFC Ludogorets Razgrad. Over the years the Bulgarians have variously been ruled by the Persians, the Romans, the Byzantines and The Ottomans, and they are now ruled by the left foot of Arsenal’s number eleven. Orwell’s left foot will be officially crowned ruler of The Bulgarian Republic on Sunday in a lavish coronation ceremony in the Vrana Palace.
Everything else in the game will be forgotten. Number 25, Carlos Juarez’s first Champions League match since 2013. Goring-Hildred (12) had his first start of the season. Abdoulaye Ramsara (8) also began on the turf. Graham Shackleton (29), having completed his stint in the naughty corner also made the side. Mr. Dai ‘The Offspinner’ Ramsden, so named due to his proficiency in both foot-ball AND cricket, began between the sticks. We conceded two. We came back. All of this will be forgotten, written in sand, when this match is remembered.
To Sunday then. I won’t dwell on this too much, but suffice it to say, their preparation against Bayer in midweek, when 85,512 of the Capital’s most vicious criminals watched Tottenham play like a team of asthmatic luggage porters was hardly ideal. With regards to Europe – let us hope Spexit really means Spexit. It certainly would be Nanty Narking to end their unbeaten run.