Malcolm Dawson writes: As far as I am aware none of the Salut! Sunderland contributors made the trip to Denmark for last night’s 1-0 win, which explains the lack of a Sixer’s Seven and Soapbox. I did think of going, if only to continue my search for Europe’s best beer and sausage combo whilst watching SAFC. Denmark and Germany (slipped over the border from Arnhem) are just ahead of Holland, France and Portugal in this gourmet contest, so another visit to Scandinavia would only have served to add weight to my argument and waistline. I had already made several commitments to other people this week, including an appointment for a fasting cholesterol test, when the fixture was announced and I couldn’t be fashed to alter my plans. Danish sausage and beer would have meant delaying the blood letting for at least a month and getting back in time for the start of the Test Match at Chester-le Street would have been a rush.
But in the true spirit of fandom, two of the regulars did take in a Sunderland game last evening, travelling independently to a famous North Yorkshire spa town, where Agatha Christie once went missing, I made a speech to the NUT conference (though that might have been Scarborough) and my brother reckoned he had his first ever haddock whilst on a stag weekend (I know my imagination’s running riot too!)
You can read Pete Sixsmith’s report here, whilst following this link will allow you to see Ken Gambles’ take on the game.
Declining to taste the vile tasting Spa waters of this most attractive of Yorkshire towns, I opted for a very impressive pint of White Rose Bitter in the equally impressive Old Bell Tavern, in the company of my cousin and her husband, both long time Harrogate residents. Kevin is a Leeds United ticket holder and was still rejoicing at the departures of Messrs. Warnock and Bates, one because of the dire football played and the other because he really is one of the things that all football fans dislike. I have yet to hear anybody say a good word about Bates, dating back to a former work colleague who is a long standing Oldham Athletic fan and who remembers him from the 60s when he strutted around the boardroom at Boundary Park.
An enjoyable hour was spent in the company of my 90 year old Aunt, an indomitable lady with an immaculate Irish pedigree, who reminisced about the Leeds that she grew up in during the 1920’s and 30’s and who was still mentally alert enough to discuss the merits of Development Squads playing at Conference North clubs. Well, maybe I made that up as she couldn’t really understand what Sunderland were doing playing in the rather genteel town where she had lived for the last 13 years. But Harrogate seemed a preferable destination to Denmark, particularly as my pint of White Rose came in at £4 less than the Carlsberg being consumed by those who had departed for the Viking lands.
It was a pleasant night at Wetherby Road and a good crowd (over 600) had assembled to watch Town take on the Development Squad. It was a strong Sunderland team as well, with Phil Bardsley continuing his tour of non-league grounds, Billy Knott hoping to impress and Duncan Watmore returning to the ground where he scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win for Altrincham last season.
It was Town who took the lead when former Shildon player Alan White bundled a corner over the line after some less than impressive defending and some poor goalkeeping from 18 year old Max Stryjek. A well taken goal from Duncan Watmore levelled the scores and then an excellent free kick from Billy Knott put us ahead. Watmore and Adam Mitchell missed chances to put the game to bed before the interval, but the general consensus among the Town cognoscenti was that this was a good side.
The second half saw fewer chances as Harrogate tightened up at the back and pushed forward down the flanks, thanks to a nippy winger called Dominic Rowe. He gave Liam Marrs a tough time but there was nobody sharp enough to get on the end of his crosses and we held out for a win. Kevin Ball was in charge, still limping after an operation and the imparter of good advice to his young charges. His mastery of the rhetorical question was evident here in this conversation with full back Scott Ferguson; “Did you see to pick up that winger, Scotty?” Pause. “No you bloody didn’t. Make sure you do next time”. He did.
Gordon Armstrong was also there and he passed on a complimentary ticket to me and another Sunderland fan standing in the queue to get in, which was very kind of him. He is a players’ agent now and looks after the affairs of some of the Development Squad. He may well be looking to get at least two of the names he mentioned loan moves to Football League clubs in the next few months if they are to progress.
It was a pleasant drive home, made more enjoyable by Stuart Maconie’s People Songs on Radio 2, focusing on Northern Ireland in the 70’s and 80’s and built around Paul McCartney’s “Let’s Give Ireland Back to the Irish”. Fine sentiments, but an execrable song.
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