One grain of pure white snow, Bert Jansch wrote in his classic song about drug addiction, Needle of Death. It hasn’t yet become quite that bad at Sixsmith Towers. Pete Sixsmith still has a few sporting outlets to get him through the early summer and there is the World Cup to, er, look forward to. Meanwhile, he’s cross about being deprived of fair prices at Fulham, great pies at Wigan and decent beer at the Brunswick in Derby …
Oh dear, what to do of an evening? No football for at least another five weeks and all we can do is talk and speculate and speculate and talk. The Rumour Mill is cranking up and getting ready to spew out its largely inaccurate and sometimes ridiculous projections to a world eager to read rubbish.
For those fully paid up members of the Fellowship of Saddos, blank evenings and blank Saturdays give us an opportunity to look for other hobbies. I went to an Origami class but it folded and the pottery group I joined failed to fire my enthusiasm.
So, I am left with some County Cricket, a bit of Rugby League and a pile of GCSE exam papers, of which I can say nothing as I am sworn to secrecy. The latter pays for the other two plus East Stand, Row 30, Seat 404.
Cricket is not great at the moment due to the temperature outside forcing Pardew the Butler to stoke up the boiler here at Sixsmith Towers and chuck a couple of peasants into it so the house could be warm. The prospects of taking the shooting brake to Chester-le-Street and sitting in the cold for three hours do not make Sixer full of pleasure and it is increasingly looking like an afternoon and evening with Kaiser Wilhelm, Nikita Khrushchev and Ronald Reagan.
Rugby League only happens at weekends and Leeds are at Warrington on Friday, a town that has all the charm of a pint of John Smith’s Extra Cold Smoothie Almost But Not Quite Beer. I spent an hour and a half looking for Cantilever Park, home of Warrington Town FC recently and saw more traffic lights than you would find on a warehouse full of Sainsbury’s Ready Meals.
Gateshead Thunder are away ay Hemel Hempsted where I once spent a night before the 5-0 win at Luton. I have been in more interesting towns and it’s a long way away, so no sporting fix this weekend.
So, in the absence of anything else to do, let’s have a look at what has happened in football since the end of our season and the publication of all of our correspondents’ reviews of the season (all those tha could be a***d – ed).
We have QPR back in the Premier League and, at the risk of upsetting Steve Colwell, as stout a chap as you will find in these pages, I can’t say I am happy. Are we supposed to welcome Good Ol’ ‘Arry, Joey Barton and the rest with open arms? I think not. To lose Fulham (plenty of tickets, reasonable prices, good pubs near ground – we’ll not mention those idiotic clapper things that they have) and then to replace them with a club whose ground is both expensive and cramped, does not count as progress to moi.
Derby would have been a more than adequate replacement for the Cottagers and it was an opportunity to visit The Brunswick, while Wigan – with lots of cheap seats and The Anvil Brew Pub 20 minutes away – was even more of an attraction. Thanks to Bobby Zamora, Robert Green (I like the cut of his jib) and the profligacy of the Derby front players, Shepherds Bush will be our destination come August. Wouldn’t be in the least surprised if we started there.
North of the Border, the SPL has lost any pretence to being competitive as the two Edinburgh clubs depart for the Scottish Championship. Hearts have been down ever since they had lord knows how many points taken from them, while Hibs started the season catastrophically with a 0-9 aggregate defeat to Malmo and ended super catastrophically losing a playoff game to Hamilton Academicals (love typing that name) on penalties after winning the first leg at Accies.
The Sunderland connection there is Terry Butcher who looked as hapless at Easter Road as he did at Roker Park and Duncan Watmore, who has not been in the squad recently. He has exchanged the relative calm of Altrincham – promoted back to the Conference after a last-gasp win over Guiseley – for an Italian lunatic and then a man who makes Tony Mowbray look inspiring. Bet he wishes he had gone to University after all.
Several players have left and, to be fair, none of them leaves a Colin Todd or Dave Watson sized hole in our squad. Bardsley and Gardner have joined clubs at our level, Cuellar is interesting Palace while Westwood should get fixed up in the Championship or Division One.
In have come Billy Jones, a man with a throwback name and haircut to match. Unlike some of last season’s signings, he should not experience a huge culture shock in moving from the West Midlands to the North East. What must it have been like for some of the European players from this time last year swopping Switzerland for Seaburn and Madeira for Monkwearmouth? West Brom for West Boldon seems quite straightforward.
The head coach has signed a new contract which is very good news and stymies West Ham and Southampton, both of whom were alleged to be possible suitors for Gorgeous Gus (anyone remember him from the pages of The Victor?) so we have some desperately needed stability. His threat/promise to look at the Academy set up may set a few nerves jangling at Cleadon.
We desperately need to produce some players who can make that step up and not keep on turning out neat and tidies who end up at Darlington or Harrogate. Both Craig Lynch and Jordan Cook, U21 mainstays for far too long before they moved on, have been released by Rochdale and Charlton respectively.
I suppose I can switch my support to the national team in the World Cup, but the older I get, the less I am interested. Like the Premier League, it is very predictable, with the big teams clearly favourites to make the various knockout games. England may get out of the group, but if they don’t, please expect no wailing and gnashing of teeth from this scribe.
So far, no news on friendlies, other than those for the Development Squad at Grimsby and Boston. Mr Horan and I were looking to another trip to Germany after we enjoyed the last one to Hoffenheim/Heidelberg but that looks unlikely. With any luck, we will not be going to France, a country where the National Front – to the intense dismay of Monsieur Salut – holds sway. Catch us UKers voting for folks like what they are like.
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