Pete Sixsmith on being a star broadcaster and giving the Newcastle-Sunderland reserves’ match a miss …
There are a few things I regret in my life. There was the night I stood up Julie Christie because I preferred West Auckland v Scarborough in the Vaux Floodlit League.
Then there was the time I opted to go for a haircut instead of seeing Jimi Hendrix at the Imperial Hotel in Darlington. Now, you can add last night to that ever growing list …
I decided against travelling to the Sports Direct Arena to watch our second string in action against their stiffs.
I had been there on Sunday, drove past it twice on Wednesday on my way to BBC Newcastle for Total Sport (which seemed to go well enough; they asked me back in May) and, quite frankly, thought that there was the potential for trouble and aggravation.
So I stayed in, put the fire on, opened a bottle of Hyde’s Maple Moon and watched the two Europa League ties on the flat screen.
Sporting Lisbon are reviled on Wearside for cheating in the second leg of our Cup Winners’ Cup sojourn in 73, but I thought that they played well enough against Abu Dhabi Rovers. I enjoyed the cheeky goal from the Brazilian centre half and City looked tired and groggy and ready for us to complete the double at the end of this month – or the beginning of next month if they scrape through.
I switched over to Channel 5 to watch the United game against Athletic Bilbao to be met by a tremendous noise coming from the crowd and the cameras went to this seething mass of humanity wearing red and white striped shirts. My attention was caught; down went the paper, the dozing cat was dispatched to a chair so I could stretch out and another bottle of Maple Moon was opened.
What a marvellous game, due, almost entirely, to a Basque side who attacked and attacked and never let up. The centre forward, Llorente, was quite magnificent – a real, English type centre forward, good in the air, sharp on the ground, another Dave Swindlehurst or Brett Angell and a player that I would love to see more of next season.
The whole Bilbao side played wonderfully well and were roared on by fans for who the word “magnificent” does not do full justice. They thoroughly deserved their win and I look forward to seeing the second leg from the soon to be demolished San Mames stadium.
At half time, I looked at the trusty Toshiba to see what the craic was from the Sports Direct and, after ascertaining that were 3-2 up came across a message on Facebook that said the Newcastle fans were tearing down Sports Direct signs and slinging them on to the pitch.
I switched to RTG and found a stream of comments describing it (as well as another late Newcastle equaliser) and immediately regretted that I was not there to share my experience with the dear readers of this site.
A subsequent visit to The Northern Echo web pages confirmed this and for those, like me, unwilling or unable to put money into Mike Ashley’s pocket more than once a season, there is some decent footage on the Evening Chronicle website (which plays down the incident) and the Sunderland Echo (which doesn’t).
The result was 3-3 and fewer Sports Direct Signs than there were at the start. Oumare Tounkara scored two for us and I still have a feeling that this lad might get a couple of games before the end of the season. He is a big, strapping centre forward, the kind that O’Neill likes and he may have a future with us. Ryan Noble got the other – goes without saying.
Liverpool this weekend and a return for Jordan Henderson, local lad who never let Sunderland down and brought a shed load of money in for us. By selling him, we were able to recruit in the summer and we have enjoyed O’Shea, Larsson, Gardner, Vaughan etc as a result of this. Hope he is well received.
We also have Suarez to look forward to and after his diving last year, we should be able to direct him to the Aquatic Centre next door. It takes some doing to be a more odious character than Craig Bellamy, but the Uruguayan has achieved it comfortably.
Hopefully we can get through the afternoon with no serious injuries or red cards and take a needed three points. Bet we don’t throw the owners posters around!!!