Sixer’s Sevens: the warm-ups begin

Bound for EuropePete1
The Salut! Sunderland service does not run to instant reports on pre-season friendlies. Or at least it didn’t.

Summer breaks – and yes, for those who got drenched in and around Darlington last night, it is officially still summer – were never going to get in the way of Pete Sixsmith. Big Pete, pictured left on a city inspection in case Paris is chosen again (and in time for us) for a Champions League final, had a spot of pre-Premiership match practice of his own to put in.

The two succinct messages, both enhancing my enjoyment of the rather balmier climes of the south of France, read: “1-0 half time. Wallace” and then “2-0. Stokes”. His fuller thoughts, fresh in, appear on the continuation page – well worth a read.

From here, I will just say this. These games are interesting rather than instructive. When we win, and 2-0 away, even at Darlo, is a respectable enough start (our 5,500 travelling-not-that-far support was also respectable), you hope it’s a foretaste of what’s to come.

And when you lose, you look for that reassuring managerspeak line about these games being “all about fitness not the result”.

There is more about the detail of the game here, and also here. Read on to see what Pete, who would turn out to watch the Lads if they were playing table football in a Redcar amusement arcade, made of it.


There are worse places to begin a season than the Arena at Darlington.

For a start you are under cover when the now compulsory rain lashes down and, more to the point, it’s a reminder that although Bob Murray had his faults, he was not prepared to let certain people “invest” in SAFC.

So George went off and bought Darlington FC and built them a stadium which has got to be the biggest white elephant in a land full of white pachyderms.

I visit the whatever-it’s-called-this-season Arena four or five times a year and last night was only the second time I’ve seen more than 4,000 lost and lonely souls scattered round a stadium with a 25,000 capacity.

There were just under 10,000 in to watch a pleasant pre-season game which confirmed that we have a side that is capable of walking the Championship this year and with a couple of additions could suprise one or two in the Premiership.

Wallace and Stokes took their goals well and both looked sharp and keen to impress the manager. Hysen had a good second half and Clive Clarke (remember him, anybody?) was sound at left back.

Of the new boys only Halford played and he was never put under any pressure although he did play one sublime ball down the wing to Leadbitter which had me drooling at the prospect of Carlos getting on the end of it.

Darlington fielded copious numbers of trialists and we gave Michael Kay and Gavin Donoghue the second half. There is a decent crop of youngsters coming through and these two looked as if they would benefit from a spell on loan to a lower league side.

I was talking to a friend the other day who had been on the same UEFA course as Roy Keane.

He said that when Roy spoke everyone listened attentively and that in the course of the week his respect for Keane increased tenfold. In the evenings when all the other “students” were socialising in the bar, El Keano was in his room working on his programme for the next day. Is this man driven or what!?!

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