Sixer’s Soapbox: Sunderland v Southampton another damp squib


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 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. (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.

Pete Sixsmith - media pundit

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.

Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop

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.

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11 thoughts on “Sixer’s Soapbox: Sunderland v Southampton another damp squib”

  1. Snaggers in Escomb as well. Like Malcolm, I would also pride myself on accents – even between villages as close as us and Witton Park. Shil Lads had their own ‘style’ – usually threatening.
    Was life sweeter without H&S? Chucking twopenny bangers at each other, watching small gps of kids dance as a Jumping Jack was thrown into their midst.
    Woodhouse Cose Estate, Bill. I bet Lusby Crescent was fun.
    PS. I fear we’ll get stuffed on Saturday. Everton again who started this apparent rot by showing what a well organised unit can achieve.
    Just listened to Pete on Radio Newcastle. Not sure who it was speaking just before him, but his point about our two wingers and best potential game changer (Sess) are all off the boil seems pretty accurate to me. Is this O’Neill’s fault? Goodness knows. You can really see his logic in getting Johnson and Fletch to complement Sess and McClean. On paper, great additions to round off the squad.

  2. snaggers in Bishop, and they smelt lovely once you’d set a banger off inside one. We spent the weeks before bonfire night guarding our wood, as raiding parties were wont to set another street’s bonfire alight before the big night. Chinese crackers – why don’t you get them any more? Doctoring fireworks, or setting them off in inappropriate places such as paint tins and up drainpipes, was half the fun.

    Guy Fawkes – the last person to enter parliament with honest intentions

  3. Coming from North Durham it was snadgers, but those late October evenings going bonnie raiding were very happy and simple times. Oh to have them return. Strangely enough Guy Fawkes is very big with the African community and they still celebrate it with a fire and fireworks without actually knowing what it is all about. The gunpowder treason and plot aspect is a mystery to them.

  4. Norkies – snaggers – an East Durham/South Durham dialect variance. When I left the North East I used to reckon I could place someone to within five miles of their County Durham home simply by accent and dialect. I seem to have lost that ability.

    But I forgot to mention the penny for the guy street begging that would start at the beginning of October at the latest. Usually we would do it properly but there were times when one of us would put a mask on and sit as still as possible on a street corner.

    We also used to like lighting bangers and waiting until they fizzed, hoying them in the beck down Hetton Park and watching them explode in the water. H&S today would have a fit.

    The only time I have seen any kids with a guy in the street, collecting cash in the last twenty years, was 12 months ago when I happened to be on Hartlepool headland in search of snow buntings.

    Mind last year some kids tried “trick or treating” on October 5th!

  5. Big purple snaggers (always snaggers) were for carving, or sometimes hoying, but never eating. Swedes were people who lived next to Norway (or somewhere; we weren’t sure).
    We experimented once with fastening penny bangers to rockets – very successful even when the unbalanced weight made the rocket fly off lopsided and put the neighbours’ kids at risk (on Woodhouse Estate in Bishop, we generally had individual backyard bonfires and you kept your guy in the coalhouse for security) with a low-flying explosion in their midst and an adult cry of, “What the bloody hell was that?” Made us choke on our kizzened, ash-caked potatoes. Hot dogs? Luxury! We dreamed of hot dogs…
    Yeah, I know this isn’t football. If only Colin would revive Salut! North…

  6. Have to agree “bonnie night” was always the big celebration and my memories are similar to yours except we had a Quality Street tin as my dad used the Oxo box for his bait.

    On Halloween we used to carve norky lanterns (never heard them called snaggers) and when I moved to the Midlands was so upset that what we know as turnips were called swedes that I titled the Heart of England Branch newsletter “Turnips are Big and Purple”.

    Disappointingly I notice even the local supermarkets in the NE have taken to calling the little white things turnips, though many local greengrocers keep to the old ways.

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