Hailing Team GB gold spree, brassed off by glum news from Sweden

Pete Sixsmith enjoys a day of great achievement for British athletes – except those, with foreign teammates, playing in Sunderland’s deeply unpromising pre-season programme…

Well, that was some day wasn’t it. Six Gold medals in a 12 hour period that showed sport at its glorious, mind blowing best as various runners, rowers, cyclists and jumpers became national heroes and showed that bread and circuses can transcend economic and political gloom.

I am delighted that I chose to forego a trip to Southern Sweden and spend much of the day in North Yorkshire. With the trusty DAB personal radio playing through the earphones, I set off for Richmond on the bus in order to watch Richmond Town host their first game in the Wearside League.

I saw the first gold in the Darlington Building Society, heard the second one while waiting for the X27, news which I imparted to my fellow queuers – most of who, were, like me, travelling on the Over 60s Bus Pass.

In Richmond, the sun shone, knights were jousting in the castle and Lily’s Tea Rooms did a good baked potato and a light and fluffy Victoria Sponge. The Castle Hill Bookshop is hanging on despite Waterstones and Amazon and did me a good deal on a signed copy of Simon Armitage’s “Walking Home”, his account of walking the Pennine Way backwards – from Kirk Yetholm to Edale that is, not a la Spike Milligan at Christmas.

Richmond Town won the Teesside League last year and were elected in to the Wearside, which is the lowest level of senior football at Step 7 of the FA pyramid. They play at Earl’s Orchard, a wonderfully picturesque ground on the west bank of the beautiful River Swale, with the backdrop of Richmond Castle for those standing opposite the dug outs.

Their opponents were newly relegated Easington Colliery, back in the Wearside after a horrible season in the Northern League, where everything that could go wrong did. I cannot think of many games which reflect such a cultural gap as this one; Richmond, a Georgian market town with its book shops, fudge shops and tea shops; Easington with its charity shops, pound shops and closed shops. Football allows these two very disparate communities to rub shoulders.

The game ended in a 3-0 win for the home team. The first goal was a speculative 35 yard lob from the left back which had the young Easington keeper backpedalling furiously, to no avail, while the other two came from the penalty spot. Both were rather harshly awarded but both were dispatched confidently and certainly better than the attempts by Messrs Ramsey and Sturridge later on in the evening.

There was time for a pleasant chat on the X26 back with a former Villa supporting ground hopper, who had been to Moscow for that infamous Europa League game that MON had written off and who thought that he had lost a lot of his credibility with the Villa faithful because of that.

As the 1B trundled through Jubilee Estate in Shildon, the third gold medal was wrapped up in the Velodrome and it was back to Sixsmith Towers to see what the athletics could provide for an expectant and increasingly excited nation.

The radio coverage of the games has been stupendous. I have used the radio more than the TV as it has the capacity to follow a story, whereas TV has set pieces. So, while Greg Rutherford was leaping his way to what turned out to be an unexpected gold medal, the telly was showing a montage of Jessica Ennis as they awaited her entrance to the 800 metres. We 5Live aficionados knew that he had taken a comfortable lead before those watching did.

Jessica did what the nation wanted her to do with a magnificent win in her race, which kind of set the tone for Mo Farah to win the 10,000 metres. Both athletes were quite magnificent and epitomise the positive aspects of sport in that it shows that hard work and training can make you the absolute best.

Alan Green, a far better rowing commentator than he is at football, made a very interesting point when he talked about how accessible the majority of athletes are compared with footballers. Bradley Wiggins goes to the fans after he wins his gold, the rowers look for friends and family when they stagger out of the boat, Farah’s daughter skips across the track to greet her dad.

Footballers walk into stadiums with their earphones on, collars turned up and, far too often, ignore the fans. They give anodyne interviews where they say nothing worthwhile and usually perform two or three notches below expectation.

Which brings me to Helsingborgs. Another poor performance and result in a pre season which is as bad as last year’s and is beginning to rank with the pre-19 point one. We clearly have forward problems and the noises coming out of the SoL are not very positive. There are two more games to try and get a pattern of play established. Whether Sessegnon and Elmohamady will have visa problems for Derby and Leicester remains to be seen. A no show by Sess on Wednesday night will certainly set the alarm bells ringing.

10 thoughts on “Hailing Team GB gold spree, brassed off by glum news from Sweden”

  1. Is women’s rugby in the Olympics? Not sure.

    I’m not a big supporter of women’s football myself. I don’t take issue with women playing the sport etc, but it doesn’t really boil my kettle in all honesty. It’s a bit like midgets playing basketball to me. Can we call small people midgets these days? I hope that nobody got upset with me calling women, “women.” You never know these days, I know.

    H’way the lasses will never catch on. Not down our street I don’t think.

    • There’s surely nothing wrong with anybody playing or watching any sport is there? And if you get to the highest level of that sport good luck to you.

      No-one would expect everyone to enjoy watching everything as a spectator sport but that’s where personal choice comes in.

      What’s wrong with having basketball events that have a height limit? It wouldn’t be the NBA but it would give people like me the chance to compete with others of similar stature. Similarly wheelchair basketball is great for people who otherwise would be restricted to spectating and can be no less exciting to watch.

      Lightweight rowing is now an accepted division of the sport and no-one decries the achievements of our gold medal winners because they are slower than heavier crews. They wouldn’t have had a chance without the lightweight category.

      I can’t stand watching gymnastics but can see that there are different attributes and skills needed by the different sexes. Doesn’t mean I enjoy it though.

      Is women’s badminton, hockey, tennis or beach volleyball inferior to men’s as a spectator sport? I have no doubt that in any of those sports a top ranked man or male team would be more likely to beat a top ranked female or women’s team but only because of the different physical attributes of the respective genders.

      The skill level of women’s football has increased no end in the past years but to enjoy it you have to stop comparing it to the men’s game and accept it for what it is. That’s not to say you should enjoy it though. Depends what you are looking for as a spectator.

      What I think is a more interesting question is what will happen if the development of prosthetic limbs leads to able bodied athletes being disadvantaged in certain events. Now that Oscar Pistorius has made Olympic track athletics history it will be more difficult for legislators to prohibit competitors with artificial limbs from competing even if technology is seen to create an advantage. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been allowed to compete here but simply playing devil’s advocate.

      Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson won stacks of gold medals and she was inevitably faster than able bodied athletes running the same distances she covered in her wheelchair. They competed in separate events and that seems logical. But is there anything to stop a crown green bowler competing in a wheelchair against fully mobile opponents?

      Maybe instead of saying that any particular sport is superior to another we should accept they are not identical and make our own choices of what we watch and enjoy based on our own preferences.

  2. I can’t either Bill to tell the truth. Not a football nation and never will be based on some result in an Olympics from a women’s team.

    I know that a lot of people get some sort of pleasure or satisfaction from watching women play football, but I am definitely not one of them. It’s fine, let them play but please let’s stop the pretence that it’s the same thing. I’m prepared to be completely flamed for that comment but don’t care. Go and watch it, play it and talk about it but please don’t introduce it into a proper football forum.

    It’s what Budweiser is to beer.

  3. Let’s have a tiny cheer for the Canadian women’s football team who put away the Brits in no uncertain terms, in spite of a lucky escape on a penalty call.

  4. To be fair to Brendan Foster he is probably right. It’s this sort of thing that inspires people, and not least because of the way the the British people seem to have got behind everything as one. I wish that I was back there now just to soak some of the atmosphere up.

    It’s not very often that something makes you feel proud to be British these days, but at least hearing about (see comments above) achieving greatness on home soil stirs a pride which is all too rarely felt.

    The footballers are a shower of the proverbial. I don’t quite share Pete’s passion for non league football, but remember bumping into him one day crossing the Wear Bridge on the way to the match (maybe you remember it Pete). It was the first season at the SoL and he told me that he hadn’t been for a while, and he was probably as surprised when I told him the same. We were both very disillusioned with the way modern football had gone and Pete had been watching non- league games for most of that season. That must have been about 14/15 years ago and it as got a lot worse as yesterday shows.

  5. Was wondering how the rest of the world were viewing our performance. Before the three golds in athletics last night we wee already top of the table when worked out on medals per 1 million population.

    Brendan Foster got a bit carried away when speaking to Steve Cram. His first suggestion that people may be inspired to take up athletics through the inspiration of watching was fair enough. Then he said ‘hopefully people may have even watched Mo Farah win gold last night and think I wanna go out for a run’.

    The best observation of GB’s achievements came from Samuel L Jackson, reflecting on the efforts in the cycling events. He said ‘Like I said before, those BRITS are some PEDALIN’, RECORD BREAKIN’, MUTHACYCLINPHUCCAS!! Congrats UK!’ Anybody who isn’t on Twitter yet should join for this reason alone.

    Anyway, I’m off out for a run.

  6. As someone who went to school in Easington Colliery for a period in the early 70s, and who resided in Richmond for several years before moving to Canada, I have to say that your summary of the “cultural gap” was especially erudite. Not for the first time with prose of your ramblings, did you make me feel just a little homesick (for N. Yorks, that is!). I hadn’t realised that Richmond Town were in the Wearside League either. Earls Orchard is a wonderful place to watch a game of football, in the shadow of the castle. My lad played his first competitive football for Richmond Town at the tender age of 5 and even after several years in Canada his RT bobble hat with the crest on the front is worn with considerable pride on cold winter days, although it is looking a little care worn these days after Ralph the labrador got hold of it one time.

    Lovely article Pete and the Olympics have been really refreshing for the country. I’m writing this from the US where you could easily be persuaded by NBC’s coverage that no other nation than the USA were competing. I haven’t seen even a snippet of Mo Farrah’s performance and even Rutherford’s gold medal performance was screened almost apologetically and followed by yet another interview with yet another US athlete. It was clearly a special day for our little country yesterday, and our Olympians (with the exception of the footballers) are doing the nation proud.

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