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Diary of a Season: July to October 2013

It is the summer of 2013. England are preparing to defend the Ashes once more, Andy Murray is dreaming of a first Wimbledon victory, Britain is experiencing its ninth warmest summer in history, and somewhere in the north-east, a complete headcase is in charge of a professional football team...

Tony Marshall

July 1: The transfer window flings itself wide open to the excitement of precisely Jim White and Jim White alone. Sunderland, desperate to avoid another relegation battle, move quickly. Mobido Diakite, Valentin Roberge and Cabral all officially complete free moves to the Stadium of Light, joining fellow newbie David Moberg Karlsson on Wearside.

July 2: Sunderland are linked with American striker Jozy Altidore. Real people are genuinely excited.

July 3: Following the June departure of Simon Mignolet to Liverpool, Sunderland complete the £2m transfer of goalkeeper Vito Mannone, the Italian having grown restless at his substitute's role on the set of Despicable Me 2.

July 5: Sunderland are linked with everyone within a 3,000 mile radius of the Eurozone. After one failed bid, a fee is agreed with AZ Alkmaar for Jozy Altidore.

July 9: Sunderland complete the signing of Jozy Altidore for six million English pounds. I'll let you read that again. Yes, it happened.

July 10: Argentine full-back Gino Peruzzi is spotted at Newcastle Airport ('cos Sunderland diven't have an airport, yer knaa), Lattimer's Seafood Cafe and The Bridges in the space of one very boring lunch hour.

July 13: Phil Bardsley is hung upside-down by his testicles from the Wearmouth Bridge by Paolo Di Canio.

July 16: Emanuele Giaccherini, Serie A title-winner and Italian short-arse, joins the Wearside revoluzioné. Gino Peruzzi is spotting trimming the cherubs at the Academy of Light.

July 23: Sunderland's Italian Job steps up a notch, as another spate of scouts from the boot-shaped land take up residence under the helm of De Fanti, Di Canio et al. We're on the up, right?

July 24: Sunderland play their first game in the Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong, against Andre Villas-Boas' Tottenham side. Gylfi Sigurdsson has the North London side one up, but a spirited comeback sees the Black Cats come out 3-1 winners, with Cabral, Wes Brown and Moberg Karlsson all notching. An unmarked Jozy Altidore spurns an excellent chance but, hey, it's only pre-season. He'll come good.

July 27: Sunderland face Manchester City in the final of a cup competition and it's unlikely we'll ever hear those words again. On a rain-sodden pitch, Eden Dzeko's early goal is enough to seal an early season success for the former Champions.

July 28: Alfred N'Diaye's brief stint on Wearside comes to an end, as he joins Eksh..Ehkpe..some Turkish side on loan. Margaret Byrne attempts to see Gino Peruzzi served with a restraining order.

July 30: Roberto De Fanti, a full 61 days after moving to Sunderland, finally realises he forgot to bring a razor to England.

August 1: In a poll on Roker Report, Sunderland fans are asked who should be the club's number one goalkeeper in the coming season. With 76% of the vote, Keiren Westwood convincingly beats new man Mannone.

August 2: Phil Bardsley, the soon-to-be-ex-Sunderland-full-back, looks out of his window to find Paolo Di Canio bolting away from his house. Bardsley opens his wardrobe and finds all his clothes have been replaced by black shirts with eagles on them.

August 3: Sunderland still haven't signed a full-back. Gino Peruzzi is AWOL.

August 7: Sunderland travel to Denmark for what is only their third, yet final, pre-season game. Via an excellent Adam Johnson goal, FC Midtjylland (yes, I did have to Google that) are beaten 1-0.

August 8: Everyone's favourite Irishman joins Wigan Athletic for around £2m. No, not Niall Quinn. No man, it's not Andy Reid. James McClean? Remember him? He departs Wearside singing something like 'My Old Man's a Homo.'

August 9: I write a tongue-in-cheek article, wondering what could have faced us in the 2013/14 season if we hadn't made sure we weren't rubbish anymo...oh.

August 12: Hell freezes over as Sunderland sign a full-back. Mind, he is (obviously) only on loan. Ondrej Celustka joins until the end of the season, armed with a peculiarly wide array of headwear and bath salts.

August 15: We have joy, we have fun, we have Stephane Sessegnon. But maybe not for long, as the Beninese is linked with everyone from Qatar to Quebec.

August 17: What day is it? It's football day! Haway! Sunderland, fresh from a rip-roaring summer of intrigue, excitement, and the firm belief that everything is going to change, roll up to a very winnable home game with Fulham on the first day of the season aaaaaaand lose. For fucks sake.

August 20: Phil Bardsley, who apparently logged into Instagram over the weekend, is barred from training with Sunderland's first-team squad. Siberian natives are soon perplexed when faced with trying to decipher broad Mancunian exasperation.

August 21: Michael Graham tells us all that, despite the opening day loss, Sunderland's fresh attacking mentality under Paolo Di Canio will serve them well.

August 22: Charis Mavrias signs for Sunderland. I've got nothing.

August 24: Southampton host Sunderland and the visitors are one up in three minutes, courtesy of a header from the Italian short-arse. Despite being outplayed, Sunderland last until the 87th minute before conceding from a set-play under the ever-so-organised Mr Di Canio.

August 27: MK Dons lead 2-0 at the Stadium of Light in the Capital One Cup second road. Seriously, what is the point in this mickey mouse competi...oh, wait, there's Connor Wickham, and there's a turnaround that no one saw coming. Despite being absolutely bloody dreadful, Sunderland win 4-2 and have their first victory of the season.

August 28: Stephane Sessegnon continues to be linked with moves away. Gino Peruzzi is found in his native Argentina, bemused and certain he has never even heard of Wearside before.

August 31: Crystal Palace 3-1 Sunderland. Fucking hell.

September 1: Ki Sung-Yeung signs on loan from Swansea City. With much of Sunderland still fuming at his countryman's inability to head an unchallenged ball, the move sneaks somewhat under the radar. John O'Shea watches his manager's post-match press conference from the previous evening and is, officially, irked.

September 2: Transfer deadline day. Sunderland sign Fabio Borini on loan from Liverpool. Sunderland sign Andrea Dossena. Fresh from their Chief Executive's summer utterance that selling your best players is a "relegation model," Sunderland sell Stephane Sessegnon to fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion. Jim White wanks himself into a coma over Barry Bannan's late move from Aston Villa to Crystal Palace for a bowlful of battered Mars Bars.

September 3: In a move completely unrelated to the fact they couldn't sell him because he was injured, Phil Bardsley is welcomed back to the Sunderland fold.

September 8: Someone, somewhere, remembers that Lee Cattermole exists.

September 14: Arsenal may have £42m man Mesut Ozil, but Sunderland have Jozy Altidore. The latter actually scores, but it's ludicrously ruled out, and the Gunners take advantage of the Black Cats' extraordinarily pourous defence, running out 3-1 victors at the Stadium of Light. Paolo Di Canio is sent to the stands after daring the referee to do just that. The prized knacker that he is.

September 21: It's my birthday!...and it's an absolute abortion of a day. Stephane Sessegnon scores against Sunderland because, well, of course he does, as West Brom - also winless thus far - scarcely have to break sweat in a 3-0 win. Sunderland are more abject than Mike Ashley's dietician. Paolo Di Canio, because it's never about him, no, never, waltzes onto The Hawthorns turf at full-time and implores Sunderland fans to keep their chins up. They stick something rather different up at him in return.

September 22: Lee Barry Cattermole and John Francis O'Shea go to Margaret Byrne's office and tell her what is surely the most unsurprising news of the century: Paolo Di Canio is a lunatic and couldn't manage a piss-up in a brewery. Mercifully, he is sacked later that day. Academy of Light staff can't wait to be able to actually look one another in the eye again without fear of reprimand.

September 24: Kevin Ball takes charge of Sunderland's third round cup tie with Peterborough United, does the simple thing of not being tactically moronic, and oversees a comfortable 2-0 victory. We're going to Wembley, except we're probably not.

September 26: Gus Poyet throws his hat in the ring for the Sunderland manager's job.

September 28: Gus Poyet throws his hat in the ring for the Sunderland manager's job.

September 29: Luis Suarez, having gorged on the arm of a small child as a pre-match meal, returns to Premier League action and promptly sticks two past the continually-on-the-verge-of-tears Keiren Westwood. A spirited performance raises hopes slightly, but Liverpool still leave Wearside the same way Arsenal did - as 3-1 winners.

September 30: It is announced that Kevin Ball will remain in charge for at least one more Sunderland game. Gus Poyet, quickly running out of headwear, throws a sombrero into the ring for the Sunderland manager's job.

October 3: Gus Poyet, unsure if anyone heard him the first three times, vaults the top rope and jumps into the middle of the ring, de-robing to reveal a giant black cat  and the words 'Consectatio Excellentiae' tattooed on his upper torso.

October 5: Sunderland take the lead against Manchester United through a Craig Gardner goal and actually look pretty good. Then some little shite called Adnan Januzaj turns up, bails his new manager out, scores two worldies and leaves us looking really quite glum.

October 8: Gus Poyet is finally announced as the new Sunderland manager. He collects his hats and clothes, checks the league table and immediately heads for his alcohol cupboard.

October 19: Phil Bardsley is recalled to the Sunderland fold amid much derision for Gus Poyet's first game as a Premier League manager, where Swansea are held at 0-0 until the break. This is promising. Then Bardsley scores an own goal, so does Steven Fletcher, Swansea win 4-0 and we're just completely sodding doomed.

October 24: Apathy reigns supreme on Wearside ahead of the following weekend's Wear-Tyne derby. Payback for the 0-3 of April is on every Geordie's to do list. Apart from that stupid tit who thumped a horse. He's just been sentenced to a year in jail.

October 26: Steven Taylor adds a rare side-silhouette of Queen Victoria to his collection.

October 27: Fabio Borini strikes a thunderbastard past Tim Krul and Sunderland have their first league victory of the season. Tyneside-dwelling equestrian lovers bang their heads off their walls in full knowledge of the terror that awaits them. Alan Pardew's top lip somehow manages to thin even further upon hearing the full-time whistle.

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