FIREWORKS AT HETTON – BUT NOT ON THE PITCH.
Malcolm Dawson writes: as I jumped into my car early Tuesday evening and the radio fired up to Radio Newcastle’s “Total Sport”, the first voice I heard was that of our own Pete Sixsmith, putting forward his theory to Simon Pryde, John Anderson and Marco Gabbiadini, that perhaps Martin O’Neill is of an age where he should be thinking more of bobsleighing down a grassy hillside in a tin bath and letting loose his ferrets in his neighbour’s coal shed, than working out how to break down Everton’s defence whilst keeping 11 red and white shirted players in their own half of the pitch. Marco was having none of it but Simon was a little more intrigued. Pete also commented on the thoughtful Aston Villa contributions that have flooded into www.salutsunderland.com and gave the site several plugs which probably means M Salut and I will have our work cut out moderating all the abusive posts from our black and white neighbours. But still! You should be able to hear the programme via the BBC i-player local radio links if the following doesn’t work. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00zyfr5 (42 minutes in)
The previous evening, our roving reporter was much too busy visiting the delights of the Eppleton Colliery Welfare ground to see how the younger elements of SAFC fared against the Saints of Southampton.
When I were nobbut a lad, Bonfire Night was one of the highlights of the year. Fireworks were built up over a period of weeks and were stored in an old Oxo tin and kept in a cool, dark place – my bedroom – and were rarely used before the great day itself.
As a typical anally retentive male, I worked out lists for setting the fireworks off – Roman Candles followed by Golden Rains, then penny and twopenny bangers, culminating in rockets, brought home on the night by my father, and sent flying into the firmament via a pint milk bottle.
Every street had its own bonfire, assiduously collected by the kids who lived there and jealously guarded in case a rival street came-a-raiding and tried to walk off with the sofa that you had got from the old woman who lived in the corner bungalow.
Potatoes would be incinerated in the fire, there might be hot dogs and when I lived in Yorkshire, there was a once a year speciality known as parkin – a spicy ginger cake, sometimes hard like flapjack, sometimes soft like er, ginger cake.
Nowadays, Bonfire Night has been relegated to second place behind the Americanised Halloween, an annoyingly sanitised festival where children carve pumpkins into faces (turnips when we were nippers – ask today’s kids to hollow out a snagger and they would be off to A&E with a badly bruised shoulder). Trick or treat belongs to Bart Simpson and Just Dennis, not to the land that spawned William Brown and Roger The Dodger.
This Bonfire Night, I forewent the pleasure of burning the effigy of a Yorkshire Catholic to watch Sunderland Under 21s v Southampton Under 21s, in the Barclays Premier Under 21 Professional Development League, played at the Eppleton CW ground in Hetton.
The Saints were the complete antithesis of their first team, being unbeaten at this stage of the season, while we, like our first team, had lost but one game and that to the boys from the south coast in the first game of the season.
So, a tight game was expected and a tight game was what we got, with our DS going down to their second defeat by the all too familiar score line of 0-1, the visitors goal being scored by the impressive Callum Chambers midway through the first half.
They just about deserved it as they had a bit more pace and creativity than we had and particularly in the first half, we tended to get the ball up field quickly to Connor Wickham, who did well enough without really looking as if he could help Martin O’Neill solve the goal scoring problems that we have.
There was nobody else in our squad who looked remotely near first team level. Ageing juvenile Adam Reed skippered the side and played as he always does – neat and tidy but with little penetration and the discussion was whether he would be at Gateshead, Darlington or Blyth next season.
I particularly liked Connor Oliver at centre back, who worked hard, pushed forward whenever he could and told the Southampton centre forward exactly what he thought of him when he threw himself to the ground early in the second half, with a dive that would have had even the wretched Suarez blushing in shame.
The second half was obscured by the smoke from a huge and very impressive firework display being held at Hetton Lyons Cricket Club. (Ed: Unlikely to be Hetton Lyons as that is a fair way away, towards Easington Lane but we get the drift!)
The Gang of Six (would have been 7 but one decided to watch Team Northumbria play Consett and was rewarded with a 0-0 draw) were fascinated by the display in the first half as the game meandered on. It seems that there is a rule in these games that tip tap passing is far more important than the actual scoring of goals and both sides kept pushing the ball sideways before attempting the all important move on goal. Southampton were that bit quicker than we were.
The clusters exploding over Hetton were pretty to watch and ended with a beautiful shooting star effect followed by a large explosion which was reminiscent of a mine going off on the Western Front. It woke up some of the spectators who were nostalgically thinking of Bonfire Nights in the past and ended up throwing a pall of smoke over the town, which made some of the football difficult to see in the second half.
Wickham perhaps should have equalised after creating a good position for himself, but his thumping shot hit the keeper in the chest and after that, as we pushed forward, Southampton had opportunities to add to their lead – but they were more intent on hitting their team coach which stood behind the top goal.
Had they broken one of its windows they would have had an unpleasant journey home as the Saints budget did not even run to a night at a Travelodge or Premier Inn. After a baked potato and a hot dog (but no parkin) they were on the bus and heading south with an ETA of 4.30 a.m.
I was home by 9.30, relaxing with a bottle of Bonfire Night Stout (good) and a piece of Sticky Toffee Apple Cake (awful) and wondering how all these years had gone up in smoke.