Haven’t bestsellers been written about the books and art people put in the toilet, to read or gaze at on the wall? Pete Sixsmith‘s WC is a small library and art gallery as well as fulfilling its main function …
The builders are in at Sixsmith Towers, sorting out damp in the West Wing of the ancestral pile. Michael (for that is his name) is of the black and white persuasion and is working surrounded by mementos of Sunderland AFC’s great days: the 1973 FA Cup win and, er, that’s about it.
However, when he visits the lavatory in that remote part of the house, he is confronted by a framed picture of the Sunderland team that beat his beloved Mags at St James’ Park on November 18 2000.
Every time he expels the tea supped an hour or so earlier, he is faced by a photo montage of Don Hutchinson celebrating after scoring the equaliser, Tommy Sorensen saving Big Al’s penalty and a pic of the aforementioned Big Al holding his much more coiffured head in his hands after Tommy’s save. Poor Michael must long for a bladder that rarely needs to be emptied.
Looking at the squad that pitched up at SJP that day, it is quite interesting to see who is still involved in the game nearly 13 years on.
At least five of them were still employed by PL or FL clubs in the season that has just ended. Sorensen was a regular bench warmer at Stoke City, keeping the rather good Asmir Begovic on his toes and maybe passing on his expertise to Jack Butland, who seems likely to replace the Bosnian for next year.
Erstwhile, the Wolves central defender Jody Craddock has just announced his retirement – although you’d be forgiven for thinking several of the Molineux first team retired half way through the season.
Jody was a very popular player in his five years at Sunderland as the crowd saw a player who worked hard at his deficiencies and improved every season he was with us. He prompted Mr Horan to call his German Shepherd (dog that is – Mr Horan owns no sheep) Jody and I believe that he has a Jody Craddock painting on his living room wall.
Kevin Phillips left me with mixed feelings after last week’s play off final. I was delighted that he at last had some success at Wembley but was very, very disappointed that he took Crystal Palace into the Premier League.
I don’t like Palace. I don’t like the ground because it is bloody well impossible to find and I don’t like the club as a whole. They always seem to like themselves a bit too much. The pathetic turnout at the Stadium whenever we have played them makes them another Fulham/QPR to me – a London club who should play in a London league.
But Kev took them up and I gather he is looking for another season, either at Palace or somewhere else. He just loves playing football. If Hartlepool or York took the plunge with him, their gates would be swelled by hundreds of rheumy-eyed Mackems fondly remembering the (relative) glory days of all those years ago.
Looking at the subs’ bench in 2000 – only five then – we come across Julio Arca and John Oster, players who spent a fair while with us and who were at opposite ends of the popularity spectrum.
Julio was a much-liked player, loved for his skill and his clear bonding with the fans. He scored some cracking goals, including the winner on his debut at home to West Ham in the September of that year. He scored another belter against the Hammers four years later, when he wrapped up the Coca Cola Championship at the Boleyn Ground on a dark and rather hostile Friday night.
He stuck with us through two dismal relegations before decamping down the A19 to Middlesbrough where he also became a fans’ favourite. Injury problems meant he was limited to a mere three appearances last term and he left the club at the end of the season. He said he hoped to remain in England and continue playing.
John Oster was signed by Peter Reid as a replacement for the banished Alan Johnson but he never really did anything. In fact, if you want a player who personifies wasted talent, the light-footed Welsh International would be a prime example.
Reid rarely used him and it wasn’t until Mick McCarthy was looking for a settled Championship team that he made a significant contribution in 2003-04.
He played 38 games and scored five goals. After that nothing. And he left for a nomadic career taking in Crystal Palace, Burnley, Doncaster Rovers among others and ending up at Barnet where, despite Edgar Davids (and Oster), the Bees lost their league status at the end of the season.
So, a stroll down memory lane. A number of the other players that day are still involved in the game as pundits (Michael Gray, Niall Quinn, Don Hutchinson, Kevin Kilbane – he played at the start of the season for Coventry City) or coaches (Alex Rae, Darren Williams – good season at Whitby Town). Emerson Thome is working for Everton in Portugal.
I know that M Salut was there that day, with an American, in a Newcastle part of the ground (oh no he wasn’t; he was up in the gods among the Sunderland support and wonders to this day how his pal Jim, horizontally large even by American standards, managed all those stairs – ed). I was at the JJB Stadium watching Wigan Athletic (then of League 1) defeat Dorchester Town in an FA Cup tie. I know who had the better day out.
See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory 40 years ago: https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/