Soapbox: the day St Ives proved a bigger lure than Wigan


In which Pete Sixsmith, who rarely misses a Sunderland match, explains his worrying truancy. It’s all to do with the attraction of the FA Vase and a need to get himself, and his blood pressure, away from the Stadium of Light …

A win and a draw. That’s how it went for me on Saturday and it is a combination of results I would have been delighted to take had it been a win for Sunderland and a draw for Shildon.

Alas, it was the other way round, as the Railwaymen triumphed 3-1 at St Ives, while the Black Cats could manage no better than a 1-1 draw with relegation rivals Wigan Athletic.

It was a strange week at Sunderland, with the general feeling that all is not well in the camp. Three more of the Roy Keane set were shipped out to the Championship, while Steve Bruce denied reports of a serious rift with Kieran Richardson. Anton Ferdinand’s injury seems to be lasting longer than a very chewy Curly-Wurly, while the comments Bruce makes about Kenwyne Jones leave this correspondent in little doubt that he will be moving on in the summer.

So, it seemed like a good idea to get away from the goldfish bowl that is the Stadium of Light this weekend and venture forth onto the fringes of the Fens. Having sat through a first rate stinker on Monday, I didn’t expect a lot more from Wigan and when I heard that the pitch at St Ives had passed a inspection on Friday afternoon, I contacted Pete Horan (aka Jonah) and made arrangements for a trip down the A1 on Saturday, leaving the infighting at Sunderland behind.

St Ives is a small market town between the slightly larger market town of Huntingdon and the much bigger University city of Cambridge. It’s famous for having Oliver Cromwell as a resident and for being the home of a mathematical puzzle, viz;
As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives (presumably John Terry)
Each wife had seven sacks
Each sack had seven cats
Each cat had seven kits
Kits, cats, sacks, wives
How many were going to St Ives?
(Answer at bottom of page)

It’s a pleasant town, situated on the banks of the River Ouse, with a chantry chapel on the old town bridge. It has proper shops, a decent number of pubs and we sampled good food and beer in the Oliver Cromwell on the Old Town Quay. Old Ironsides probably didn’t drink there but if he had, he would have thoroughly enjoyed the fine pints of Oakham White Dwarf and Woodfordes Wherry, a particular favourite of mine, both washing down a hearty Polish Stew for lunch

While sampling these fine ales, we heard that the referee was not at all keen to play the game due to mud. We arrived at Westwood Road to see three large areas covered in sawdust and a field that might have benefited from a heavy roller being dragged across it. But it was playable and Mr Horan’s Jonah nickname is becoming a thing of the past.

For two hours a crowd of 669, including 200 or so from Shildon. were royally entertained by 27 players who gave 100% throughout the game. There were mistakes of course. You wouldn’t expect to see a £6m centre half miss the easy header that the St Ives No.5 managed five minutes into the game, but they were genuine errors. I saw players take corners that ended up in the six yard box, goalkeepers dominate their areas, midfield players pass the ball to their colleagues and forwards taking defenders on and shooting rather than passing the buck to someone else or standing with their hands on their hips expecting a pass.

I saw a referee get major decisions correct (although the less said the better about the linesman who gave a Shildon player offside when there were two St Ives men stood on the goal line) and not have to put up with petulance, play acting and penalty appeals.

I saw the team I was supporting drag themselves from the edge of defeat to win the game in extra time, due to determination and commitment, words that cannot be used about my No.1 team at the moment.

As far as I know, the left back’s girlfriend had not been seduced by the team captain, nobody had “forgotten” to turn up for a drug test and the closing of the transfer window had not lead to anyone sulking. Football as it should be.

Text messages and Radio 5 Live kept me in touch with events 230 miles to the north, but I could not get excited over a 1-1 draw with Wigan. More worryingly, I could not get upset about it or the prospect of yet another relegation struggle. I may be reaching the point of no return with Sunderland AFC.

Shildon will find their next opponents on Monday. They have had 18 consecutive away draws in this competition, so a visit to Needham Market, Barwell or Wroxham would suit me. The tie takes place on Saturday Feb 27 so I will be there as we play Fulham on the Sunday. I’m pretty sure I would have been there had we played them on the Saturday.

Answer: 2041; 1+1+7+(7X7) + (7x7x7) + (7x7x7x7) == 2041
1 – as the man with the splendid collection of wives, sacks and young and
old felines was coming away from St Ives.
You don’t get this on A Love Supreme !!!!!

1 thought on “Soapbox: the day St Ives proved a bigger lure than Wigan”

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