Pete Sixsmith will, for once, be absent when Sunderland take on Arsenal on Saturday. No boycott, just the competing lure of Shildon in the FA Cup. But the post-Southampton soul-searching and self-flagellation must have set him thinking. Here’s a dip into the archives of his mind …
It was an honourable decision by the players to attempt to reimburse those of us who travelled on Saturday and it is to be hoped that Grace House will benefit by £50,000 as a result.
They will get my twenty quid and, I assume, that of Messrs Randall (see https://safc.blog/2014/10/refund-for-southampton-debacle-a-grand-gesture-but-let-grace-house-benefit/) and Horan. A gesture that is appreciated but not necessary; nobody forced us to go to Hampshire.
All the same, I can think of numerous other games where a refund would have been equally appropriate. Here are 10 of them.
1 West Bromwich Albion (H) Jan 1 1966. 1-5
The date tells all. Sandy McLaughlin. A Scottish goalkeeper of considerable agility, which made up for his lack of height, played like a man who’d been out on the hoy the night before. Jim Baxter was also in the team that day and it is unlikely that he had been tucked up in bed on Hogmanay with a glass of Irn Bru, an Andy Stewart LP and the Broons Annual. Sandy had an absolute shocker, missed the ball on several occasions allowing the Baggies to score and never played for the first team again. We beat Newcastle 2-0 two days later thanks to goals from George Herd and John O’Hare so maybe it was worth it. I didn’t think so at the time.
2 Bradford City (H) Sept 3 1969 League Cup. 1-2
A truly miserable performance from a team that were relegated at the end of the season. Dennis Tueart scored for us with City’s goals coming from a craggy centre forward called Norman Corner who was born and brought up in Horden. Calvin Palmer made his penultimate appearance in a Sunderland shirt and looked as if he didn’t have a care in the world. I don’t imagine Alan Brown was impressed with him. I wasn’t. Should have been a warning not to get too involved.
3 Orient (H) Jan 11 1972 FA Cup. 0-3
A game played on a cold Monday night in front of 18,065 and our second cup exit at the first hurdle, having lost at Lincoln in the League Cup – also a contender for this list. Orient were in the same league as us, struggling near the bottom, while we were stuck in mid table with a mix of promising youngsters and old pros, one of who was Gordon Harris. Brown inexplicably asked him to play at centre half, a decision as inexplicable as playing Liam Bridcutt at right back or giving Harry Redknapp a manager’s job. Poor old Gordon was made to look a right fool by Orient’s pacy forward Mark Lazarus who rattled in all three. A truly laughable performance which my college chums chuckled about for years afterwards.
4 Any game from November 27th 1976 to February 11th 1977
Starting at The Baseball Ground and ending at Highbury (such evocative names; I do miss them), we managed 1800 minutes without a goal as we opened, climbed down and almost shut the trapdoor to Division Two. It included feeble defeats at Birmingham City (where the Sunderland fans sang “Amy, Amy Turtle, Amy Turtle on the wing”) at home to Coventry City (a draw would have kept us up at the end of the season and confined Jimmy Hill to relegation and oblivion) and a mind-numbing goalless draw with our friends from The Potteries. When Mel Holden scored against Bristol City to end the drought we went on a spectacular run which ended in – relegation.
5 Blackburn Rovers (a) September 6 1986. 1-6
This was the day when Pete Horan and I realised that Lawrie McMenemy was like the Wizard of Oz; a small man making a big noise. This was his second season in charge and relegation had been avoided the previous one in the final game. Steve Hetzke had arrived to allegedly strengthen the defence but was injured for this one. McMenemy and his head coach Lew Chatterley inexplicably played with a back four of Agboola, Corner, Bennett and Gray (F), with poor old Reuben playing as sweeper behind the others. Simon(s) Garner and Barker and Noel Brotherston destroyed us and I informed Chatterley that he and his boss did not have a clue. He did not contest this point. McMenemy was eventually sacked by Bob Murray and we were relegated. Probably the game where we most deserved our money back. Ian Hesford did not organise a collection.
6 Leeds United (a) April 2 1991. 0-5
An awful day at Elland Road (is there any other) as we stumbled towards yet another relegation. I had to sit in the old Lowfields Road stand surrounded by Leeds fans whose idea of humour was to make monkey noises whenever Gary Bennett touched the ball. We were comprehensively beaten and six games later were relegated despite a magnificent show at Maine Road.
7 Notts County (a) May 8 1993. 1-3
Twenty years after the FA Cup victory and 12 months after the Liverpool final we went to Meadow Lane needing a win to guarantee our place in the second level. Managed ( a loose description) by Terry Butcher, we had stumbled into a potential relegation place despite thumping Portsmouth 4-1 the week before. There must have been 7,000 Sunderland fans there that day and they witnessed a performance so anaemic that they started fighting among themselves. Shaun Cunnington and Gary Owers played in central midfield, a combination even less effective than Larsson and Gomez on Saturday. Had Brentford not been walloped by Bristol City, we would have been in Division Three while the Black and Whites rejoiced in sweeping into the Premier League. This is the one I want my money back from; a truly awful afternoon.
8 Leicester City (a) March 5 2000. 2-5
This was the game where Ade Akinbyi scored a hat trick. Enough said. (Not quite enough – Ed: Stephen Goldsmith, once of this parish, points out: ‘Collymore scored the hat trick and Akinbiyi scored the scuffed winner season after’)
9 Millwall (at Old Trafford) April 4 2004. 0-1
All we had to do was to beat a limited Millwall side and we were in the FA Cup final and guaranteed a place in Europe. We outnumbered their fans by 3:1, had better players and finished 10 points ahead of them in the league. We lost. George McCartney gave away the goal, Julio Arca (so often the hero) missed a sitter and Tim Bloody Cahill won it for them. Oh how we laughed all the way home.
10 Bolton Wanderers (a) May 3 2008. 0-2
Our Premier League position had been secured the previous week with a rousing win over Middlesbrough, so 8,000 Mackems travelled to Horwich with many going on to Blackpool for drinkies afterwards. Unfortunately the team once again let them down turning in a performance that smacked of switching off early. El Hadj-Diouf played so well for the Trotters that day that Roy Keane went out and signed him. We deserve our money back for that alone.
There are some “good” ones that I have missed out. Other contributions welcome.