Soapbox: missing the action

Pete Sixsmith resolved to report loyally to Salut! Sunderland from his armchair view of Sporting Lisbon v SAFC. He ended up missing the second and third Sunderland goals, two sendings off and heaven knows what else. What went wrong? Two days on, he was still feeling the effects of a vigorous bout of pre-season drinking in Yorkshire…..

Roy must be feeling a sense of frustration at the moment as he attempts to strengthen our squad.

He works hard to line up players then finds that either they don’t seem desperately keen to come to Sunderland, or managers of lesser clubs think: “Mm, if a class manager like Roy Keane is interested in a Romanian centre half or a Ukrainian midfielder, he must be good, so I’ll see if my owner can sell a few more cheap and tatty Adidas shirts and I’ll buy him instead.”

As a result we end up trying to convince players that their agents have no idea of the quality of life in the North East and that first team football is better than sitting on the bench or in the stands exchanging notes on underpant waistbands.

Incidentally, mine say: “Property of Winterton Hospital; do not remove”.

His mood would have been cheerier last night after an excellent warm up win in the Algarve. After pre-season disasters in Belgium, Spain and Hull over the last few years, to win as well as we did against a side heading for the UEFA Cup is quite encouraging.

To see O’Donovan and Nozza notch their first SAFC goals and to see the enigma wrapped up in a mystery that is Anthony Stokes play so well, must make Roy and his coaching staff feel very positive as they begin to ratchet up the pre-season games.

Plenty of the squad on view and all seemed fit and willing to work. I watched it up until the equaliser when the effects of a day in Marsden, West Yorkshire caught up with me, but was impressed with the way that we passed the ball and tried to play football against a side who became more physical as the game went on.

The only thing that spoilt it was the alleged “expert” analysis by one Jason McAteer, who was determined to utter the most banal of statements at every available opportunity. “Pre-season is hard work” – really, Jason, we would never have guessed – or “I’ve had a bit of bother with Roy in the past”. Where is Gary Bennett when you really need him?

Vitoria Setubal on Wednesday reminds me of the Mags’ 1968 Fairs Cup win. I saw a few of their games that year and they crushed Setubal 5-1. Part of the reason was that Vitoria had a number of Angolan or Mozambiquean players who looked uncomfortable in the warm up on a bitterly cold night. They looked even more uncomfortable half an hour later when it began snowing. I suspect that it was the first time they had ever experienced a blizzard and it did nothing for their concentration.

If Roy has been frustrated in the transfer market, at least he has been able to watch a bit of football – which is more than I did on Saturday. Careful perusal of The Traveller identified Marsden v Liversedge as a potential game for Saturday. A perfect place to visit: it’s on a rail line, it has a brewery and there is football. Along with Pete Horan and Paul Dobson from ALS, I set off and spent a convivial day supping in some lovely Yorkshire pubs while coming all over nostalgic for Last of the Summer Wine.

Unfortunately, the game was off as we discovered on leaving the Riverhead Brewery Tap. Not only was it off, it could never have taken place as there were no posts up, no pitch markings and no sign of any players.

So we repaired to the Old New Inn as opposed to the New New Inn and the Moderately Old New Inn and then on to the Swan before catching the train back to Huddersfield. Messrs Dobson and Horan can be seen worshipping at the twin altars of the excellent Tunnel Edge Inn and at the statue of Huddersfield-born Harold Wilson.

No football, but a lovely day out and yet another reminder of the beauty and rugged charm of the north of England. Younnes Kaboul take note!

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