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INTERVIEW: Daily Mirror's Kevin Maguire

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Sunderland fan, political columnist and Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire took time out to talk to Roker Report. Read his thoughts on the Black Cats' manager merry-go-round and the infamous 'preferred media partner'.

RR: You are a well-known Labour Party supporter and Jeremy Corbyn has just reshuffled the Cabinet. How would you reshuffle the Sunderland Squad/Club?

KM: Big Sam is our 7th "permanent" manager since Roy Keane quit just over seven years ago so I hope Allardyce stays regardless of where we finish to mould a team for the first time since the excitement and heartbreak of Peter Reid's reign. I'm on the Left and though no longer a member of the Labour Party, see it as the best electoral vehicle for political, economic and social progress. I'm sympathetic to Corbyn's politics and like the man but question his leadership abilities. I hope that shambles of a reshuffle doesn't mean he turns out to be Labour's Howard Wilkinson.

RR: Who would you like to see join in the January transfer window?

KM: Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, Lewandowski...or Naismith, Remy (don't care about the Mags link if he scores goals to keep us up) and Morrison at West Brom. The big problem is who would come when any contract would contain a wage cut clause. It's easier to think who I'd like to see than speculate on who I think we might attract which is far less exciting. I pray Sam has a better idea or next season I'll be catching the 65 bus in London to see us at Brentford. Ellis Short's spent in the past but we haven't seen much for his money on the pitch.

RR: Corbyn's leadership style has been subject to much criticism. Why do you think SAFC have had trouble selecting a successful manager in recent years?

KM: It's a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. I'm one of life's optimists and thought the club was on to a winner with Bruce then O'Neill (never crackpot Di Canio and not just because of the Fascism) followed by Poyet and Advocaat. The club was wrong and I was wrong. We're bloody good at realising when the game is up and the manager's out of the door to let somebody else save us from the dreaded drop. But it's frustrating so many promising mangers flopped after initial success. Something must be wrong behind the scenes. I wish I knew what it was. Buck, in football as politics, stops at the top so Short and Margaret Byrne are better placed to answer the question or might be the answer.

RR: In the political world much is said about a north/south divide. Do you think that is also true of football clubs in England?

KM: The South is more affluent so clubs broadly make more on match days, charging higher ticket prices and for corporate entertaining. But the divide that worries me is between the North East and the rest of the country. The North West enjoyed more success in recent decades with Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool than London with Chelsea and Arsenal. Midlands clubs seem to find it easier to persuade English and foreign players to sign than we do cajoling them to what they see as a remote corner. We need to sell the club and the region with greater imagination. Passing through Yorkshire in a car or train I console myself that the Tykes don't possess a single Premier League team. Hope we don't join them.

RR: With your busy media career how often do you get to see the Black Cats play?

KM: Between 6 and 10 games a season in recent years split between London and the Stadium of Light. At home I go with my brother and brother-in-law. In the Big Smoke it's usually with my sons, 13 and 23, who are both big Lads fans and we often hook up with Steve and Paul Dean from the Jarrow branch. TV is a poor second best to going to the match. Last season's 0-0 at Arsenal was fantastic as was the League Cup Final, 3-1 flattering Man City. Covent Garden on the eve of the game was one of my best nights out in a city I've lived in for nearly 30 years.

RR: Politicians are sometimes criticised for being overpaid and the expenses scandal etc. What is your view of the wages in football?

KM: Footballers are largely working class lads who've done incredibly well and will have relatively short careers but the salaries are obscene. You can't criticise players for grabbing what's available. It's a grotesque result of a distorted market which pays a brain surgeon for the single operation s/he can do at any time while a footballer's sold multiple times to fans buying tickets or TV subscriptions. The silly money fuels sillier behaviour and the financial chasm between them and us means I'm less tolerant of lazy, useless, under performing, boorish, disloyal mercenaries not fit to wear the shirt. We need US-style salary caps and tough financial fair play regulations in Europe to widen competition. That said, I'd love Leicester to win the title or qualify for the Champions League. Their success puts us to shame while proving we could live the dream.

RR: As associate editor of the Daily Mirror, which is Newcastle United's ‘preferred media partner', how do you feel that impacts on the paper's coverage of Sunderland?

KM: It doesn't affect me (I still criticise Mike Ashley's Victorian mill owner act at Sports Direct) and I've still to fathom what it actually means. I think it's a corporate link which doesn't really impact on editorial when the only story I can remember was an interview with the Wally with the Brolly. But I know where you're coming from because I take stick from other Sunderland fans on Twitter who feel the Mirror has it in for Sunderland. As does every other newspaper, TalkSport and Match of the Day. Truth is we've struggled for season after season and as fans we cry into our beer and slag off the team then are defensive when outsiders do the same. Our excellent North East football writer, Simon Bird, goes to bed wanting Sunderland winning the Champions League because success sells papers and he'd travel Europe on expenses.

RR: What was the first match you can remember?

KM: First game I went to was a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Roker Park in 1969. Dad was a fan and I remember rattling from South Shields on the back of his moped then the green of the pitch, crush in the Fulwell End and this unbelievable noise. Brian Kidd scored for them and Joe Baker equalised but I remember better a life-changing exhilaration, tens of thousands of us all roaring together, rather than what happened in the gap between the stands.

RR: What's your earliest memory of Sunderland?

KM: It was that game. I was nine and I was hooked. I went with dad a few more years then from the start of the famous 1972-73 season with school friends, walking there and back to Sunderland from Shields. We went to most home games until I left for York University in 1979, standing in the Fulwell apart from the odd occasion we ventured into the Roker End or Clock Stand paddock to see what the Fulwell looked like. I never dreamed I'd be able to afford to sit down, let alone be forced to.

RR: Who is the greatest player you have seen play at Roker Park/SoL?

For them, Ronaldo. He oozes class. For us, I adored Monty, Dave Watson and Marco but the greatest is Super Kevin Phillips. What a finisher. With his boots or head, inside or outside the box, you were confident he'd take chances and expected him to score every game. There were those two 7th places and I may never see another Sunderland player in my lifetime score 30 goals. Fabulous memories. I don't know whether to smile or cry. In answer to the North-South question I should've added I've already wondered if SKP in his prime would've won more England caps had he played in the South. Or North-West.

RR: Who is your all time favourite Sunderland eleven?

Monty, Malone, Bolton, Watson, Bould, Ball, Porterfield, Gabbiadini, Quinn, Phillips, Tueart. Bit light in midfield which is why I'd never make a manager. From the current lot I'd put Defoe on the bench for his impressive work rate.

RR: You have a fantastic rivalry with Andrew ‘Tory Boy' Pierce on Sky News. What's your view of Sunderland's rivalry with Newcastle?

Tory Boy's a nice bloke if always wrong and he watched his hometown club Swindon as a kid but doesn't pretend to follow football these days. I was at the 3-0 for the record 6th and would've settled for 0-0 shortly before half-time because we were so poor. I'll have a can of 7 Up in the fridge in March though all good things come to an end. I've enjoyed the bragging rights as much as anybody after that Geordie Nation guff during the Keegan era. I'd read in the paper - including, regretfully, the Mirror - the North East was upset because Newcastle lost. Friends and one of my brothers are Mags and the banter's good. I've no time for hoolies on either side who want to kick in heads. To tell the truth I'd like Newcastle to stay up with us and forever be in our shadow: losing every derby, finishing below us in the table and losing an FA Cup final when we beat them at Wembley.

RR: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Kevin.