There have been some mightily important clashes between Sunderland and Man City (the 1973 FA Cup sixth round, a relegation clincher and the first league game at the SoL spring to mind straight away). Preparing to entertain City this weekend, we found one fan, Craig McGinty*, with a foot in both camps.
Craig, something of a web wizard who has been responsible for much that is good about the various Salut! sites, is a passionate lifelong City fan. But three years in Sunderland as a student established SAFC firmly as his second team. Read what he thinks of the men associated with both – big Niall, Dave Watson. Stephen Elliott, Craig Russell and others – and his thoughts on the less Mancunian of his city’s clubs
Now I know you are not meant to follow two football teams if you are a real fan, but Sunderland’s result is seriously the second I look for after Manchester City’s.
The reason for this is having spent three years at Sunderland Polytechnic between 1988 and 1991, and spending what little grant and money I earned in the summer on watching games at Roker Park.
Football has been an important part of my life since wearing Sky Blue booties as a babe in arms, and having had a junior season ticket for Maine Road throughout most of the 1980s I knew I had to have my fill of footballing action when arriving in Sunderland a few days before term opened.
Fortunately I was not alone, as many of the friends I made in the student accommodation at Williamson Hall in my first year were keen to watch Sunderland play whatever the weather.
Preparations for the game would start on the Friday night in Rascals nightclub as we arranged to meet up next day, usually in the Tap and Spile in Hendon.
Friday night’s excesses were seen off with a large stottie covered in eggs, beans and bacon, before a quick pint in the Tap, a walk through town, over the bridge, bearing right at the traffic lights and picking up a Roker Review at the same programme seller each time.
We usually stood in the Clockstand paddock, although I remember getting a drowning in a game against Arsenal where I was stood in the corner beneath the scoreboard.
And please don’t mention a midweek game against Wimbledon where we froze to death on the Roker End – the highlight of the match was a shot that whistled over the corner of crossbar and post.
The only time I remember seeing City play at Roker Park was in my first year at the Poly. It was the time of inflatable bananas, and again it was a night game which City won 4-2; we all thought promotion from Division 2 was a certainty, but a stumbling run-in meant we needed a point in the last game of the season.
An equalising goal by Trevor Morley away at Bradford, saw me running down the corridor of Williamson Hall waving my banana like a fool.
But by far my most vivid memory of a game at Roker Park has to be the first leg of the promotion play-off semi-final against Newcastle in 1990.
The demand for tickets was massive and somehow me and a pal were able to get into the Fulwell End. I think it was the first time I had been in that end of the ground.
Remembering the atmosphere both before and during the game still makes a tingle run up and down my spine. When the match kicked off, the roar was ear splitting; I just don’t think you get that sort of noise nowadays.
As we all know the game wasn’t great, and I still shake my head at Hardyman’s attempt to kick John Burridge’s head off his shoulders after the last minute penalty save – but it’s those sort of things that make you smile and I know I am preaching to the converted.
And now for your questions…….
What did you think of our respective clubs’ prospects before season started?
Pre-Sven I was fearing the worst, and I must admit with all the turmoil of the buy out by Thaksin Shinawatra, those fears were not lifted.
But after the opening games of the season, when we scored some goals (remember the season before we hadn’t scored at home since New Year’s Day) I thought we would be OK and actually might offer up some entertaining football.
As for Sunderland I thought it was going to be tough because I think the press were hoping to see Keane come a cropper, maybe Sven’s arrival in English football helped as it gave the journalists someone else to target.
One thing from the early games of the season was that Sunderland were scoring, not many and often consolation goals, but at least chances were being made and having seen quite a few City teams go down through lack of goals I had a feeling Sunderland would be OK.
When did you last see a SAFC v Man City game home or away, and what happened? Any other memorable games between us?
I didn’t get to see the game at Eastlands in November. My dog and fireworks don’t mix so I have to head off to the countryside, but we were lucky really and there was definitely no need for Stephen Ireland to drop his shorts to show off his Superman underpants.
Have you been to the Stadium of Light? If so what did you make of it?
Only been to the Stadium of Light once; unfortunately it was a defeat to Barnsley if I remember. But I do remember all the coverage the opening of the stadium got as City were the first league opponents, and we kindly rolled over 3-1 so as not to spoil the celebrations.
What about the signings each club made, in the transfer window or before?
I couldn’t really say much about City’s signings, no one could unless you were addicted to watching YouTube clips of mid-table teams from around Europe.
But considering how many new players arrived at City I think Sven performed miracles to get the team playing as one from the start of the season. We’ve struggled over the past couple of months, but there is sure to be some money coming up the pipe for Sven this summer and we’ll see who he adds to the squad.
One thing I think people have stopped doing is trying to predict who Sven might buy, no one got close to seeing the arrival of Elano, Petrov and Corluka.
At Sunderland, I thought the signing of Kenwyne Jones was a smart move. He had already shown he was useful at Southampton and as long as there was a supply of chances he would prove a handful with his pace and strength.
But I must admit I was relieved we didn’t pick up Kieran Richardson from Man United as that was the rumour during the summer, especially when Elano arrived at City around the same time, but he seems to have given the team some much needed momentum.
Your predictions for both clubs for rest of season?
I’ll have to do this prediction thing again this late in the season. But I was hoping for a top 10 finish for City and for Sunderland to stay up; looks as though I might just scrape home with that.
Do you regard United much as we regard Newcastle? Or are you more grown-up about such things?
Let’s put it this way, I don’t have an item of clothing with any red in it, I’ve never driven a red car and I never want United to win any game.
I always have a warm glow inside when I see United concede a goal, and I won’t forget Ferguson’s face from the derby game at the start of the season when he thought Carlos Tévez had scored in the last minute to deny us a victory.
But really it is the fans. I’ve only ever come close to getting into a bit of a rumble in the pub once, and it was a Red who was winding things up.
Now though with six points under our belt the sky seems oh so blue.
I think Dennis Tueart, but also Dave Watson, are amongst the first footballers I actually remember as a young boy watching the game.
I have distant memories of Dave Watson covered in blood during the 1976 League Cup Final, and of course Tueart’s overhead kick to beat Newcastle, as well as remembering being stood outside Manchester town hall for the homecoming parade aged six.
Niall Quinn naturally has a place in the hearts of both sets of supporters. Even when I saw him around town having a pint he would be willing to chat with people, who then gave him the time to enjoy himself. There are few players who have the respect of practically all football fans.
One player I was a little surprised to see leave City for Sunderland was Stephen Elliott. Didn’t he score a cracker against Newcastle? Although we can gloss over the Manchester City career of Craig Russell, and I think both clubs should have given Andrew/Andy Cole a wide berth.
Club vs country. Who wins for you?
It has always been club. Only World Cups and European Championships are worth watching when it comes to international football. And let’s face it, do you think the current England team would last long in the Premiership?
Who will win? Score? How will you keep tabs on the game?
I think Sunderland will win 2-1, we can’t seem to get out of first gear at the moment, and by the way the table looks Sunderland could be practically safe with a win. And to watch the game I will most probably fire up an internet feed from Singapore or some other faraway place.
* Craig McGinty on Craig McGinty:
I currently run a number of websites – notably This French Life – having spent some years working as a reporter for local newspapers around Manchester.
City is definitely in the blood, going back to my grandfather and through my own father, it also runs through my mother’s side of the family.
On my desk at the moment is a book titled Manchester City – The Complete Record , open on a report of City’s victory over Gornik Zabrze in the European Cup Winners Cup Final from 1970, which took place in Vienna.
Alongside the report is a photograph of Francis Lee holding the cup surrounded by fans, one of those fans is my uncle with his hood up against the rain.</