Malcolm Dawson writes….. Well a trip to Hampshire may not have been on Pete Sixsmith’s plans as a build up to Christmas but he’s not a man to let a deluge deter him from finding some football somewhere. The rain may have thwarted his plan for a Northern League double as both Spennymoor (KO 1.00pm) and Shildon (KO 3.00pm) found their pitches suitable for subs – but only of the Captain Nemo, Nautilus variety – but a plastic pitch and a cheap day return to the capital of Scotland allowed him his regular fix of weekend footy. Pete writes….
A PLEASANT WEEKEND FOR ONCE.
That was a good weekend for Sunderland fans.
Three points at Southampton, defeats for the bottom three and a real hammering for Villa on Sunday, gives us a breathing space in the perennial struggle against relegation.
It may all have changed by next Sunday – for the worse if we take nothing from the next two home games, for the better if we can avoid defeat, for the infinitely better if we are six points better off at 4.55pm on Saturday 29th.
I had never intended going to Southampton. There was no Durham Branch coach, meaning a potentially expensive and possibly uncomfortable train journey. I have been to St Mary’s twice and it is a fine example of the Middlesbrough/Derby County/Leicester City small but beautifully made new stadium. And I’m getting grumpy about Premier League football in general and our form in particular. So, I gave it a miss.
If missing a game means that we will win, I am prepared to spend the rest of the season watching non league football. It was an excellent victory, one that all the independent sources I have seen say that we thoroughly deserved and that the qualities of Fletcher and Johnson will keep us out of the mire.
I spent the afternoon at New Ferens Park watching Durham City play Newcastle Benfield in the company of several other irregulars. One of them, Keith Scott, is a Sunderland supporter par excellence, a man who was taken to Roker Park by his dad in the 1950’s and who has seen all the ups (not that many) and downs (far too many) of the last 50+ years.
Like me, he is not a radio man. It is difficult to focus on the game you are watching while listening to commentary from Southampton. In addition to that, I took the wrong radio; Radio Newcastle broadcast the home games on DAB and away games on FM. I took the DAB. Not very clever.
So, I got the flashes from 5Live, including the winning goal as I dipped in every ten minutes. With ten minutes left at St Mary’s and the game at New Ferens Park meandering to a very satisfactory end for Durham City, I said my good byes and made for the trusty Mazda.
What to do? Put Barnes and Benno on and tempt fate or listen to the closing stages of Manchester City v Reading on the national station? I opted to leave the radio off until 16.57, by which time it would surely be all over. And it was. As I pulled off the motorway at Bowburn, I picked up an excited Gary Bennett praising the hard work that the players had put in and rejoicing in three very important points.
So a good start to the weekend football wise, and it got better as Fulham were dragged into the melee at the bottom. We need to continue to take points from those around us; the only team in the bottom third to have beaten us is Villa. They may take a while to recover from the shellacking they got at the Rich Man’s Playground yesterday.
The likes of Abramovic at Chelsea, the Emirati’s at Citeh and the Kuwaiti’s at Paris St Germain would think nothing of splashing £24m on a Torres, a Balotelli or an Ibrahamovic. For a similar figure, they could buy one of Britain’s most splendid clubs in Heart of Midlothian F.C.
I spent Sunday at Tynecastle watching their SPL game with Dundee United. The man behind me said that they feared liquidation before the end of the season. Their Lithuanian owner, Roman Romanov has lost interest, players have gone unpaid and the Revenue are after them. They really do fear that this could be the end. After all, if it could happen to Rangers, it could happen to anyone.
The Wheatfield Road Stand at Tynecastle is a brilliant place to watch football. It’s a very steep structure and you almost feel that you could reach out and touch the players from Row 26. I have seen two of my all time favourite games here; a 4-4 draw with Hibs, with Hearts scoring twice in injury time and an absolute classic where they beat Kilmarnock 5-3 in 1997. That game was remarkable for a Pat Nevin master class for an hour before he ran out of steam and a superb hat trick by French centre forward Stephane Adam for the Jambos.
And now, it could all be coming to an end. The fans have raised a staggering £1m in a matter of days to stave off immediate closure and the players have clearly bought into it as they gave their all to defeat Dundee United. The crowd responded to cup final hero Rudi Skacel returning as a United player by giving him a standing ovation in the 51st minute. Skacel wore 51 as a reminder of what must have been a wonderful day for those of a maroon persuasion when they beat city rivals Hibs 5-1 in last seasons SFA Cup Final. We know what it is like to be gubbed like that by the local rivals!!!
The current Hearts team is a mixture of journeymen pros and promising youngsters. There is no Craig Gordon to flog off to England, although I was impressed with sub Callum Patterson when he came on. He’s part of Ricky Sbragia’s Scotland Under 19 squad, so he will benefit from some excellent coaching.
No more football until Boxing Day and hopefully a double header. Spennymoor v Shildon and Us v Manchester City – two wins for the underdogs would be a perfect Christmas present.
A Merry Christmas to all our readers.
See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC:http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739