Pete Sixsmith‘s Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset odyssey took in Sunderland at St Mary’s, of course, but also a visit to Salisbury and a reminder of the sort of person Jody Craddock is. Our former centre back is now living in Christchurch where he donated one of his paintings to a relief fund in honour of a local footballer killed in a road accident. Pete – and all at Salut! Sunderland wish Jody and his family well and are relieved to hear his young son, Toby, stricken with lymphoblastic leukaemia last year, continues to make good progress …
One of the great pleasures of football, I have often said, is the opportunity it gives you to visit places in this country and abroad. Over the years, time has been spent in places as diverse as Seville, Heidelberg, Amsterdam and Athlone, while in the UK the game had introduced me to the delights of Norwich, Shrewsbury, Arbroath and Chesterfield. Add Salisbury to that list.
When the fixtures came out, Pete Horan and I decided that this was an ideal opportunity to visit Wiltshire’s most historical town. I had been there once, 30+ years ago, while he had been there a few times with his grandchildren when they lived nearby.
But it was shopping and not supping that was on the agenda then.
So, we found a B&B, loaded up the car and set off for what turned out to be a cracking time.
You know you are on to a good thing when John, the joint owner of Webster’s B&B (heartily recommended) gives you a map with the seven best pubs in Salisbury marked on it. And, dear reader, we sampled every one. From the Village Inn to the Wyndham Arms, finishing off in The Duke of York, a one-time gay nightclub transformed into one of those mythical back street locals where the beer is excellent and the conversation flows as quickly as the bitter and where Matt the Landlord holds court.
The town is a gem, dominated by a fine cathedral. It also has a carefully set out grid for remember that this was the Newton Aycliffe of the 13th century, a new town created when the original settlement of Old Sarum was seen to be redundant (is there a School Salisbury for local tearaways – ed?).
Friday evening we set off to the Dorset village of Christchurch to watch them play Totton and Eling in the Sydenhams Wessex League, Premier Division. It was a decent game which the home team won 3-1 but there were two points of interest.
Firstly, the visitors fielded 53-year-old Dave Puckett, a man who had played over 250 Football League games and scored the neck end of 90 goals. He had made a fair few of those appearances for Southampton, where he played under Lawrie McMenemy and where he now works as an Academy Coach. He may have touched the careers of Luke Shaw or James Ward-Price, who both played so well against us at St Mary’s next day.
Sixer’s report from St Mary’s can be seen here: https://safc.blog/2013/08/a-useful-point-or-an-indication-of-troubles-ahead/
He played a full 90 minutes, although he probably shouldn’t have, and it was while talking about him and explaining what we were doing here to a club official that we were asked which former Sunderland player played for and lives in Christchurch.
Puzzle ye not, the answer is Jody Craddock. He started out with them, moved to Cambridge United as an 18-year- old (for which Christchurch received a cheque for £500) and then came to us in 1997, playing 146 games in a red and white shirt before moving to Wolves after the 19-point season.
Craddock’s non-stop endeavour and willingness to chase lost causes – he had a fair bit of practice of that at both the SoL and Molineux – endeared him to fans at both clubs. Few will forget the impression that he and Darren Williams made on the team in 1998, almost getting us to automatic promotion after a dismal start to the season.
He has moved back to Christchurch, having hung up his boots to concentrate on his brushes. The club chairman said that he popped down occasionally and had played a significant part in helping to commemorate a Christchurch player who was killed in a car crash, donating one of his paintings to the relief fund. All those that we spoke to spoke very well of Jody and there was a framed Sunderland shirt somewhere in the clubhouse – unfortunately it was probably the cellar.
That he thought of others even as he and his wife, Shelley, were devoting so much time and energy to the care of their son, Toby, who was diagnosed with leukaemia last year, speaks volumes. Word in Christchurch is that Toby, who will be four this year, is doing well, maintaining the progress reported at this link last November.
And so last night, I trundled over to Hetton to watch a competent Under 21 performance as Blackburn Rovers were despatched 3-1. Neither side had any “known” players, and our (relative) unknowns were far, far better than theirs.
The first half was goalless with Mandron and Mitchell spurning chances. Once again, Duncan Watmore looked good. He runs at defenders and looks to score. A good loan move to a good Football League club before the end of the season may well help him.
Mikael Mandron, our French-born Scot, thumped in the opener after a crisp exchange of passes and then Alex Gorrin stroked home a penalty to put us in firm control. However, a weak pass across the box by Tom McNamee allowed Rovers back into the game, before the impressive Adam Mitchell restored the two goal lead.
But it was Watmore who caught the eye, prompting one seasoned reserve watcher to say that he was the first player since Jack Colback to look as if he might make the jump into the first team. A young man to keep an eye on.
** Jody Craddock consented to our use of some of his work when he kindly agreed to take our questions in a “Who are You?” edition before a game against Wolves in May 2010. That interview can be seen at https://safc.blog/2010/05/who-are-you-were-wolves-and-im-jody-craddock/ from which there is an onward link to his website: http://craddock-art.com/
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