Some week: rain, rain, Chelsea and Bilbao

Sixer by Jake

Right, between sorting out laptop and mobile phone nightmares, I found some of Pete Sixsmith’s magical words waiting to be posted. This is a no-frills, Poundland sort of edit …

Those of you accustomed to the ramblings that I contributeto this wonderful website may remember that I have two targets for this season,ergo to see every Sunderland game home andaway and to notch up 200 games altogether.

The first one is a clear possibility now that I havepublicly stated my preference for Sunderland vManchester United over an all Northern League F.A. Vase final at Wembley. Hadit been someone like Stoke or Everton visiting the SoL or had Shildon managedto fight their way to the final of the Vase, there may well have been are-assessing of targets – but they didn’t so East Stand, Row 31, Seat 404 itis.

As for the 200, I was on target until the torrential rainthat has hit the North East this week. I had a wee setback last Wednesday whenI made a pointless journey to Silsden, a small town between Skipton and Keighley,only to find that their clash with Maine Road was called off. Not an entirely wastedjourney as the Timothy Taylors Dark Mild in The Woolly Sheep and the fish andchips at Bizzy Lizzies were in tip top condition but it was a long way to go for a pint and a fish supper.

I got back in time to watch most of the Chelsea v Barcelonagame and I thought that The Pensioners ( showing my age here; I still callReading The Biscuitmen and Newcastle United will forever be the A***holes)copied our tactics against Manchester City (H) really well. Drogba’s goal cameearlier than Ji’s but the policy of getting behind the ball and making surethat the tackles count was clearly cribbed from MON.

At the weekend, I scoured the websites and worked out a setof fixtures that would take me to the magic figure. This week looked healthywith games on all nights bar Friday and I duly logged them in the diary.

And then, along came the rain. It washed out a WearsideLeague game at Sunderland West End on Wednesday night although I was able toget down the A19 to Easington CW for their Northern League Division Two gamewith Esh Winning.

Easington came back into the Northern League last season andit has been a catastrophe. Their first home game was abandoned when the floodlightsrefused to work, they have been bottom for most of the season and they almostfolded in February. Sunderland taxi driver andformer manager Andy Colledge came in to keep it going, but he looks to be onthe verge of giving up.

The game kicked off a 7.00p.m. in front of maybe 20 payingcustomers, one of whom might have come from Easington. I had taught a couple ofthe Esh players and was given the traditional ex teachers welcome -“God, areyou still alive!!!”- and their team was far better than a tired and dispiritedhome side.

Some of the less sportingly minded locals had cut the cableto the generator and then nicked the diesel, so it was agreed that the gamewould be played until it was too dark for the ref and his assistants to dotheir job properly – not something that the likes of Dowd, Atkinson et al haveto put up with. Throughout, the rain swirled in from the North Sea and, as the breakers disappeared into the Stygian gloom, Mr Osgoodcalled time on a 3-0 away win.

Thursday night there were three possible games, all calledoff after a day of continuous rain, which saw the cat venture further than Idid – and he only got as far as the back yard.

It meant that, instead of watching West Auckland v Bedlington Terriers and munching on a warm Taylors PorkPie (my idea of culinary heaven would be to have a continuous supply of them ona conveyor belt. Explains my considerable girth and considerable death wish!!),I was forced to watch Athletic Bilbao v Sporting Lisbon.

What a game. The first half in particular, was utterlybrilliant, played at a great pace, in front of a fanatical crowd, in a properstadium. I loved it. Fast flowing football, reminiscent of how we played atWigan and ManchesterCity and all of itbrilliantly refereed by Martin Atkinson; a perfect game!!

When Llorente (how much would I love to see him in a Sunderland shirt) slid in the winner with minutes left, Iswear the TV set started rocking as there was so much background noise. Back inthe studio, Stan Collymore rightly castigated English teams for pooh-pooing theEuropa League and said that they should lift their heads up from the slog ofthe qualifying groups and look to the knock out stages of this admirablecompetition.

I had seen Bayern win on pens the night before to set uptheir clash with Chelsea.For the one and only time in my life I will be urging The Pensioners (I stillcall Crystal Palace The Glaziers) on in an entirely mean spirited and parochialmanner, hoping that a triumph for them will confine Newcastle United to theEuropa League. Should this happen, I shall then denigrate it in terms of “Thursdaynight on Channel 5; who wants that!!”. No hypocrisy from this columnist.

And finally what about us? Hernia ops for Seb Larsson and The Right Reverend Richardson, may give some of the fringe players a chance on Saturday.Elmo for the Swede looks a good one, while Blair Adams might get a run out atfull back after his return from NorthamptonTown.

I would expect a win on Saturday as I still feel that Bolton have every chance of going down. Their win atVilla (Darren Bent must be loving this!!) gives them a lifeline but we need towin some games before the season ends. No better time to start than Saturday!!

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