Soapbox: no Sunderland, but a perfect weekend


What were we doing in Huddersfield? Or, for that matter, Fitzwilliam, Leeds and Durham? Not to mention Istanbul. Easy. Put on a weekend of internationals and you can bet on certain things: Salut! Sunderland readers deserting in droves in the knowledge of how little we care, the editor enjoying a rare stress-free Saturday/Sunday and a foray into obscure corners of football and culture by Pete Sixsmith

You may well have noticed that the Salut! Sunderland pages have been very quiet over the weekend. No new articles, no debate about whether Bent dived or articles going back over old grievances like McAllister’s triple jump and salko or whether Tadger Norris slipped or was pushed in Durham Challenge Cup match in 1881.

Reasons? International break, so b***** all to write about from the SAFC point of view. The editor slipped off on a scouting trip to Istanbul with his wife, while the work experience boy (yours truly) had a treble up. So, in the absence of anything else to write about, let me tell you about it.

First port of call was the Galpharm Stadium in Huddersfield for an early kick off against Wycombe Wanderers. Ugly name, nice stadium and scene of a couple of exciting Sunderland games in the past. I remember listening to us go three up in 1998/99 and the home team pegging us back to 2-3 and the next season, a pulsating game finished 1-1, with Bally cancelling out a cheeky Marcus Stewart back heel.

The SAFC connection here was Lee Clark, who is doing a decent job managing the Terriers. I know he did a stupid thing and left under a cloud, but he was a very good player for us in that 100+ point promotion season. He has Town playing vibrant, attacking football and they demolished a wretched Wycombe side, who look racing certainties for relegation back to whence they came last season.

Six-nil did not flatter Town and I am sure that our chief scout Ricky Sbragia has already noted the names of the goalkeeper Alex Smithies and winger Anthony Pilkington in his book.

Smithies had little to do, but his distribution was outstanding throughout. Two of the goals came from his wonderfully accurate throws, one of which ended up with lively winger Pilkington putting in a fine cross for the second goal. He then went on to add a fourth not long after half time. One to watch.

From Huddersfield, I trailed across West Yorkshire to the mining village of Fitzwilliam, to watch Hemsworth Miners Welfare take on Leeds Carnegie. Fitzy, as the locals know it, is the home village of Sir Geoffrey Boycott, and is also the home of Hemsworth MW. The game was a cracker, which the students deservedly won 4-2. A friendly club with a good refreshment area and outstanding home made steak pie. I gather SGB has not yet taken in a game and the club are not holding their breath.

Stage 3 of the day out took me to Elland Road for the Final of the Rugby League Four Nations tournament between England and Australia. The last time I was at the home of Dorty Leeds, I saw Kavanagh, Miller and Connolly rip United apart as the Keane Revolution got under way. I sat in more or less the same seat as that time, hoping that this time the away team wouldn’t have it so easy.

For an hour the England team competed and had the Aussies on the back foot. Then, like all great teams, they shook themselves and demolished England with a sparkling 15 minutes that won the game and the tournament for them. They really are the best rugby side in the world and the game compared more than favourably against the turgid rubbish on show from Twickenham on Saturday and Croke Park on Sunday.

I had listened to the first half of the England game in the car. Bent hardly got a mention as England struggled to get the ball up front and when he was withdrawn after 10 minutes of the second half, I switched the radio off, knowing that he had probably said goodbye to his chances of making the plane to South Africa. Capello fancies a big man up front with a smaller forward playing off him. So, concentrate on getting 25 goals for Sunderland, Darren: much more important than England.

The weekend was rounded off with a superb light show in Durham on Sunday night. The front of the Cathedral was illuminated by pages from the Lindisfarne Gospels in a magical light and sound show which caused gasps of astonishment and wonder from the crowds on Palace Green. Absolutely superb and a credit to those who organised it.

And as this travelogue ends, we can look forward to Arsenal on Saturday, minus van Persie. Back on the winning track we hope.

6 thoughts on “Soapbox: no Sunderland, but a perfect weekend”

  1. Hi Pete, you missed a good day out at Congleton to see the Mighty Railwaymen (Shildon,for those who don’t know) march on to our 16th consecutive away tie in the Vase.The Bear Brewery beer was as good as you said it would be.See you soon,Paul

  2. Pete,

    5 games is something else. I’d be proud of that in any calendar month…

    Derry will be fine. A lot of messing behind the scenes but the new broom will sweep clean, they’ll start in the First Div next season and build from there. Could be back up by 2011 if things go to plan.

    Sporting Fingal won promotion last night. The reception for them has been decidedly mixed. They seem to be doing things well – links with third level
    colleges for players, links with schoolboy/junior clubs in the area, long term plan for academy and stadium. But Irish football is a strange beast. Lots look on them as an unnecessary extra club in Dublin (never mind that the existing ones have failed to capture the imagination of the public at large) and dismiss them for having small fan numbers. I like the sound of the project and wish them well. I’m all for a bit of innovation.

    My first visit to Wearside in two years this weekend. Looking forward to it. The Cambridge for pre-game fuelling I believe.

  3. Interesting you should pick out the Huddersfield keeper, Alex Smithies as one to watch. It seems Tony Pulis is an admirer – well, according to the Sun anyway. Is he worth the reported £3M asking price though?

    Up for the Arsenal game so maybe see you there.

  4. Not my best one Shane. Af ew years ago I did 5 in one day (I have a certificate to prove it. Three of the games were on grounds very close to one another. All were in the Nottingham area. I was cream crackered at the end. Saturday was ok as there was a nice break bewteen Hemsworth and the Rugby League.
    What will happen to Derry City? Will they go back to the Irish League? I saw them play Gretna in the UEFA Cup a couple of years ago at Motherwell and their fans were brilliant. Would be a shame if they disappeared altogether. What about Sporting Fingal? Will they get promotion?

  5. Saturday sounds like my kind of day, Pete.

    A marathon – how’d the stamina hold up? I think the only day I ever attended two games was one of those futile pre-season friendly tournaments at Lansdowne Road ten or more years ago. It was St Patrick’s Athletic, PSV, Celtic and … Newcastle United, so plenty of bare-chested Geordies on show.

    We here in Ireland are about to enter the long winter recess, so it’ll be on to National Hunt racing. Hopefully, football-wise, we’ll have something to look forward to in the New Year – Ireland are on the verge of elimination from the World Cup and one of our leading clubs, Derry City, has just been kicked out of the league for a cloak-and-dagger approach to player contracts.

  6. A friend sent me a weblink so I could download a program to be able to see some British tv ,on the computer, for free. Having done so I watched the England game which turned out to be a yawn, but Porridge was well worth watching

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