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  Friday, 18 October, 2002, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Sergeant Wilko's opening salvo
BBC Sport Online ponders the pre-match routine of new Sunderland boss Howard Wilkinson.


It's 06:32 on Saturday, and Sunderland's players are gathering bleary-eyed at their Whitburn training complex.

Howard Wilkinson (HW) is there to greet them at the gate.

HW: Babb, what time do you call this?

Phil Babb: Middle of the bloody night isn't it boss?

HW: You're two minutes late. Now get in that dressing room for kit inspection.

PB: Jaysus, I thought that was all done for us? I better call the missus to see if she's done mine.

Babb fumbles around in his pocket, before pulling out his mobile phone.

HW: Babb, you're just making things worse for yourself. You know mobiles are banned around here. That's 2,000 in fines already and you're barely in the door.


It is now 09:00 and Wilkinson is peering intently at the boots of Marcus Stewart, as the player stands to attention, last in line.

HW: Stewart, call these clean ? They're covered in muck. Looks like you've been out on your tractor in them.

That may have been good enough at Ipswich, but it won't wash here son. You're on the bench.

It's now 11:30. The Sunderland players have just done 50 laps of the training ground by way of a warm-up.

Back in the dressing room, Michael Gray leans over to team-mate Gavin McCann.

MG: Blimey, with Reidy we'd have been down the boozer by now having a few pre-match pep-me-ups.

A bowl of gruel
Lunch is served

HW: Right, cold shower everyone. Five minutes, no more, no less. Scientifically proven by the FA's Performance Enhancement Unit to have you in tip-top shape for the game.

After that, I want to see everyone in the canteen. Lunch will be served at midday sharp. A large bowl of gruel all round.


It's 13:30, one-and-a-half hours before kick-off, and Wilkinson is giving his pre-match talk to the troops.

HW: Right lads, it's painfully obvious what your problem is. You haven't been scoring enough goals. I'm surprised Reidy didn't notice that.

If you don't score goals, you don't win games of football. So what we need to do is put the ball in their net. Everybody understand me so far?

A resounding chorus of "Yes sir!" echoes around a strangely empty Stadium of Light.

Full flow

At 14:50, Wilkinson is still in full flow.

HW: ...So if we score more goals than them, we'll get three points and move up the table.

Now whenever we have the ball, I want you to knock it up to Quinny as quickly as possible.

Niall Quinn: Great, does that mean I'm playing then boss?

HW: Well, you've been hanging around here for the last couple of weeks, you may as well do something useful.

And remember, when they're in possession, I want 10 men behind the ball at all times. The only way they are going to score is over your dead bodies.

Reyna! Wake up! This is important!

Claudio Reyna: Sorry gaffer, just catching up on my usual pre-match kip. Shouldn't we be getting changed now?

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