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Diary Of A Season: March To May 2013

A dull season is frittering out, with Sunderland clinging lifelessly to Premier League status. And then, from nowhere, the excitement hits...

Stu Forster

March 2: Sunderland salvage a 2-2 draw from the jaws of a 0-2 defeat at home to Fulham, who are perennially terrible away from home but still canter into a two goal lead after thirty minutes. Simon Mignolet's stunning save from Dimitar Berbatov ends in Sunderland's equalising goal. The keeper is rumoured to be ready to open contract talks. A glimmer of light.

March 6: Jack Colback issues a rallying call to his teammates.

March 7: Craig Gardner issues a rallying call to his teammates. Martin O'Neill confirms that injury will miss the rest of the season through Wes Brown.

March 9: *dismay*

March 10: Yesterday, QPR, the wounds are still too raw. Ask me tomorrow.

March 11: On Saturday, Sunderland lost 1-3 at twatting, bastard, sodding Queen's Park effing Rangers.

March 14: Craig Clark, with full support of the rest of the Roker Report ensemble, writes on why sacking Martin O'Neill at this time would be "a disaster" for Sunderland AFC. Connor Wickham returns from loan.

March 15: Presumably trying to manoeuvre himself into a position of bargaining power in the summer, Martin O'Neill declares that his side "lacks true ability." An interesting (see: crazy) move from the man renowned for his man-management abilities. John O'Shea issues a rallying call to his teammates.

March 16: Martin O'Neill, a day after effectively describing them as inadequate, issues a rallying call to his team.

March 17: Norwich City go down to ten men after half an hour and still look comfortable in their 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light. We are awful. I watch the game in a French ski resort and spend two hours shouting at the television behind the bar and upsetting locals.

March 20: Sensing an embarrassing Wearside relegation, Sky switch April's visit to Aston Villa to Monday Night Football. Pricks. Simon Walsh admits he is falling out of love with Martin O'Neill.

March 21: Adam Johnson promises Sunderland will be better against Manchester United in nine days time. No one believes him.


March 23: The media try to tell us that Sunderland's recently released financial results are really bad. They aren't. They aren't great either, mind.

March 27: Both Steven Fletcher and Lee Cattermole are ruled out through Wes Brown for the rest of the season. The noose tightens.

March 29: Everyone's favourite non-convict issues a rallying call to his teammates.

March 30: Sunderland lose 0-1 to Manchester United in arguably the most depressingly lifeless performance of the Martin O'Neill era. It proves to be the last one of said era, as O'Neill is promptly sacked later that evening. Wearside is stunned. Sky Sports are stunned. O'Neill is stunned. In fact, the only one who isn't stunned is Ellis Short, who we can only imagine is sat at a gigantic poker table somewhere and has just gone 'all in' on two threes, a seven, an eight and a two.

March 31: Someone forgets to tell Ellis Short that April Fools Day isn't until tomorrow, as news breaks that Paolo Di Canio is his number one target to take over as Sunderland manager. Ellis doesn't care; Paolo takes over anyway. 61% of Roker Report readers are happy with the appointment. 38% aren't. And the other 1% are seemingly stuck in an ever-swirling vortex, unable to choose between the Irish pragmatist and the Italian psychopath. David Miliband quits and the whole world is suddenly an expert on the intricacies of Italian fascism, political ideologies and the mining communities of north-east England.

April 1: Midday comes and goes and still no one in the Sunderland boardroom has shouted 'April Fools!' and leapt from the shadows, laughing at the world. Instead they are all gathered round a tattered and torn copy of Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991, trying to work out what the hell these crazy Englanders are banging on about.

April 2: Sunderland tell reporters attending Paolo Di Canio's press conference unveiling that they cannot mention the 'f' word. Reporters promptly mention the 'f' word lots and Paolo Di Canio walks out muttering an 'f' word of his own.

April 5: Paolo Di Canio at least shows his ability to focus by extraditing himself from the controversy that refuses to go away, telling Sunderland that they can (and will) save themselves. It's refreshingly optimistic.

April 7: Chelsea beat Sunderland 2-1, courtesy of two of the most fortunate goals you are ever likely to see. The Black Cats are excellent in the first half, knackered in the second. Di Canio calls them all lazy bastards (I may be paraphrasing there).

April 8: Newcastle United fans, buoyed by their neighbours' crazy decision to sack a tried and tested manager for the exact opposite, look forward to another easy victory over their red and white brethren. Tyneside is awash with bravado and body odour.

April 10: Paolo Di Canio talks of his players "going to war" in the upcoming Tyne-Wear derby. It's all a bit too fascist for some people's liking.

April 11: Sky continue their 'let's laugh at Sunderland going down' strategy by shifting the Stoke City home game to Monday Night Football too. Pricks.

April 14: Much of inner-city Sunderland and beyond is covered in ejaculate after the Wearsiders go to the ground formerly known as the Sports Direct Arena and piss all over Alan Pardew's chips. It is majestic. Proper mint. On the touchline, Paolo Di Canio offends tailors (and Taylors) everywhere. A MAG PUNCHES A HORSE. I've never seen a Mackem do that.

April 15: The World Health Organisation orders a quarantine of Sunderland and announces the outbreak of a pandemic as 97% of Wearside takes the day off work, citing illness.

April 18: Paolo Di Canio promises his side - who have been subjected to a rigorous training regime since the Italian's arrival - that things will only get more intense once the season is over. Everyone's favourite non-convict frantically searches for the nearest exit. Di Canio is there already, happily showing Bramble's oversized arse out of the door.

April 20: Sunderland beat Everton 1-0.

April 21: Hell freezes over.

April 25: John O'Shea says Sunderland players have "fully embraced" Paolo Di Canio's new methods. Everyone's favourite non-convict, Phil Bardsley and Matt Kilgallon take it in turns to defecate in the Irishman's locker.

April 29: Sunderland lose 1-6 at Aston Villa and normal service resumed. Paul Lambert tries to 'do a Di Canio' down the touchline every time his side scores and proceeds to look like an idiot. Suppose he kind of had the last laugh regardless. Oh and Stephane Sessegnon is sent off and will miss the rest of the season. Shit.

May 1: Sunderland are heavily linked with Lazio defender Modibo Diakite. Perhaps Championship football intrigues him. The FA surprise the sum total of nobody at all by refusing to rescind Stephane Sessegnon's red card.

May 4: Paolo Di Canio maintains his upbeat appraisal of Sunderland's likelihood of surviving the drop. Less upbeat is chief scout Pop Robson, who is sacked. We assume it's because he told someone at the club that Kader Mangane was real.

May 6: Carlos Cuéllar - who, for some reason, is allowed out in public without getting lynched after his performance at Villa - issues a rallying call to his teammates.

May 8: Jonathan Walters scores after nine minutes, Craig Gardner is sent off after thirty-three, and we are going down in a way worse than even Tulisa Contostavlos. Then Paolo has a word at half-time, rectifies his daft starting selection, and with ten men we grab a vital point at home to Stoke City.

May 9: French defender Valentin Roberge is linked with Sunderland. Football fans from the French colony of Néwcastle-le-Tyne are uproarious. Nick Holden decides to join Roker Report and thus decides to associate himself publicly with the awful Sunderland AFC. None of us understand why.

May 11: Carlos Cuéllar affirms that "now is not the time for an inquest" into Sunderland's abysmal season. We collectively wish he would shut up.

May 12: Sunderland scrape to a 1-1 draw with Southampton, which *should* see them safe, but not quite yet. They don't deserve the point, mind, which is reflected in the lap of "honour" at the end of the game which soon turns into a lap of players wandering around the field wondering why no one has bothered to tart up forty-odd-thousand pink seats a bit.

May 13: Paolo Di Canio hails Sunderland's eight-point tally in his six games in charge as "a miracle". Jesus Christ, with a smidgen of bread in one hand and two measly fish in the other, begs to differ.

May 14: Arsenal beat Wigan Athletic 4-1 and Sunderland are safe. Ellis Short goes to Ladbrokes and collects hefty winnings.

May 16: Paolo Di Canio and his backroom staff take a dip in the North Sea to celebrate Sunderland's Premier League survival. Passers-by, perplexed by the sight of Italian men frolicking in devilishly cold waters, abstain from calling the Coastguard and instead summon workers from Cherry Knowles.

May 17: El-Hadji Ba tweets that he is going to sign for Sunderland this summer. Glory hunting git. David Vaughan warns that Gareth Bale could be a threat to Sunderland in their upcoming final game of the season at Spurs. The term 'as slow-minded as he looks' springs sharply into focus.

May 19: We lose to a last minute thunderbastard from the above-mentioned chimp. Myself and friends go to the game dressed as clowns. We are asked why we have come dressed as our own team. It sums up the season.

You can read parts one and two of this excellent series HERE and HERE!

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