It starts with back-of-envelope calculations that explain why young supporters are being driven away – or, rather, not being driven away – but Pete Sixsmith then moves smartly on to discussion of tonight’s League Cup game in Milton Keynes, a snipe or two at John Terry and a mighty defence of Mark Halsey’s Anfield performance (probably just as well Pete doesn’t bother much with Twitter) …
Monsieur Salut suggested that I wasn’t over enthusiastic about the trip to the Boleyn Ground on Saturday and he was right. I have to say that after last year, when I saw every game, I am finding it difficult to summon up much enthusiasm for racking up the number of miles that a home based supporter of Sunderland has to travel.
I’m not the only one, judging by the number of empty seats on the coach on Saturday. There was a double seat for every one who wanted one and the words on the aisle was that this may well be the last Durham Branch long distance trip for quite a while.
There is a good reason for that and it is a four letter word beginning with c – cost.
Before I had set foot on the coach on Saturday morning, I had coughed up £55 for the fare and the Over 60 ticket. Add to that a couple of London pints, lunch in the pub and other odds and ends, there would be little change out of £80 for a day out. A lot of money for someone on a fixed income and an enormous amount for someone wanting to take his/her kids.
West Ham are an expensive club to watch, whether you are a home fan or an away supporter. It was £34 for our fans and presumably the same for the Hammers. For their upcoming game against Arsenal, they are charging £49 for what I imagine are basic seats. That is an awful lot of money for an afternoon’s football, with no guarantee of a good game.
The travellers on Saturday were mostly older people. There were very few youngsters on the coach and, apart from the usual group of juveniles who persist in standing up during the game, the majority of those who turned out were over 30. Youngsters find it very difficult to afford away travel in this day and age.
When I was in my teens (Wilson had replaced Home as Prime Minister, The Beatles were still intact and the cutting edge of technology was a transistor radio with an earpiece), I could support my SAFC habit with a paper round and some reasonably generous parents. Now, you would need to own the paper shop, in order to take in more than a handful of away games a season.
I will be at MK Dons as it is a ground I have not visited before. I was at the National Hockey Stadium in 2004 when Marcus Stewart and Darren Byfield scored in a 2-1 win and Matthew Piper (remember him!!) played on the right wing in one of his rare appearances.
It was not a great experience; they were still Wimbledon and the taunts of Franchise FC rang around the almost deserted stadium. They were like the unloved bastard son who everyone tried to ignore but they kept chipping away and, after a name change, they seem fairly well settled in Division One.
That excellent publication When Saturday Comes refuses to acknowledge their existence and in their annual preview of the season, they do not ask any of their fans to contribute. For some though, the dislike may be dissipating as they become more established.
I am no great fan of them, regarding them as an extension of the US system, where clubs can up sticks and move at the drop of a hat. In this country, we usually accept that a club that has ambition has to work its way through the pyramid and not occupy the shell of a club that is on the slide.
Were that the case, the likes of Coventry, Portsmouth and Port Vale would be looking over their shoulders in case an entrepreneur based in Worcester, Wakefield or Winchester (all big towns without Football League clubs) fancied buying a struggler and re-locating them.
It’s a hard game for us as Milton Keynes appear to have a decent side and are well coached by Karl Robinson and Mick Harford. It is the proverbial potential banana skin as we will undoubtedly rest one or two and give some of those who have hardly figured this season a run out.
I would expect to see Westwood, Kilgallon, Saha, Vaughan and Wickham start. I would equally expect that these players would be far better than their Division One counterparts and that their experience and enthusiasm should carry us through. A defeat would be a major disappointment and would cut off one potential road to glory at a very early stage.
See how Mick Harford, Sunderland-born, Sunderland-supporting assistant manager of MK Dons, handled the Salut! Sunderland ‘Who are You?’ questions: https://safc.blog/2012/09/the-mk-dons-who-are-you-meet-mick-harford-still-supporting-sunderland/
Some observations on events of the weekend for those interested.
Like many, I am not in the least bit upset to see John Terry quit international football. He appears a deeply unpleasant man and I never trust a man who refers to himself by his initials. It’s the kind of thing the PE students did at Sunderland College of Education in the early 70s and most of them were prize idiots.
I thought Mark Halsey got all of his decisions right at Anfield on Sunday. Shelvey was missing the ball, Evans wasn’t; Suarez dived (how unusual to see those two words in such close proximity) and Johnson clipped Valencia, who made sure he got it.
I agree with Tony Pulis about Luiz and particularly the simulation – both Ivanovic and Oscar simulated (or, in old English, dived) like Brian Phelps. There is far too much of this. We don’t seem to be part of it – but that may be because we don’t get into the opposition box that much.
And the OPTA stats are rubbish and can be used to prove anything – but we already knew that, didn’t we.