John McCormick writes: when the fixture fairy first waved her wand I thought I might struggle to make more than a handful of matches. It turned out I was right; over the season pre-booked flights, rearranged games, competing demands and a pregnant daughter all took their toll. So, too, did my lowly position in the loyalty points league. Our away support is so good that there are loads of fixtures where I can’t get tickets in my own right and, sometimes, even the best efforts of stalwarts such as Pete Sixsmith aren’t enough, as became clear from game one; Burnley away was the first target I missed.
In fact, I only managed three games. Even so, in a season when we did little, they all stood out for some reasons.
October 4th 2015: SAFC v Stoke City.
We won 3-1. Our first home win, and the only PL home game of the season in which we scored more than twice. Two of those goals were scored by Steven Fletcher – his first of the season. (I was also at Wigan on 19th January 2013, when he also scored two. He scored only four goals between those games, two in losses which I didn’t see, one at Cardiff, when we drew, and one against the Mags, when I was there, and I’ve seen him scoring in wins more often than not). I guess I’m just lucky.
25th October 2015: SAFC v Arsenal.
I can’t be that lucky, though. Three weeks later and I was back up. This time Wes Brown (seven times a Premier League champion, twice an FA Cup winner, three times a League cup winner and twice a European champion) swung at the ball and then watched as it was taken past him and tucked away. To compound this error, Don Vito miskicked a clearance and we lost 0-2 in the dying seconds. Bugger!
And then came a long wait. Palace away had been moved to Monday night, so that was out [drat: you’d have seen more goals from Fletch – Ed] ; a long-booked holiday had me returning eight hours after we drew with Liverpool. I had no chance of getting to the away derby, the one when Santa hung his head in the Gallowgate and we won our fourth in a row. But with that win, the year ended well [if we overlook Boxing Day – Ed].
The New Year brought a Manchester match and a couple of London games I couldn’t get to, and this theme continued until the end of February, when I had to let Sixer know I wouldn’t be at Old Trafford. Were we lucky during this time? Let me put it this way. Jon Stead scored against us in an FA cup loss against a League One side.
Could we get any worse? Yes we could, so much so that Gus got sacked and Dick Advocaat came in. As recent tradition has it, we were in deep sh*t, he had two games to go until a derby.
Ah, yes, the home derby. Sunderland v Newcastle United. Easter Sunday. By then one of my children was 10 days overdue. The other, rarely back home, was here for the weekend. I didn’t have the car and there were engineering works on the railway. But, I had permission and could have gone. What would you have done?
I made the right decision. 30 minutes before kick off I held my new born granddaughter, then I went home and watched Defoe smash it in. Five in a row, and don’t say we didn’t deserve it.
Then things got a bit hairy for a while while Dick worked out what to do. Some erratic displays ensued as he looked at the squad and continued his work, and we drifted into the relegation zone.
And so we come to 9th May 2015. Everton 0 Sunderland 2
Everton had not lost at Goodison in 2015. They had not conceded a goal there in four games, they had even beaten Man Utd 3-0 two weeks previously. Plus, they wanted revenge as we had done them in the previous year. I hadn’t been able to get myself a ticket, what with one thing and another but, thanks to Pete and Stan Simpson, I was fixed up with four days to go.
“Everton, oh Everton”, as John Denver never sang. “I still hear your sea winds blowing”. And blow from the sea (or at least the river, and at Everton it’s pretty much the same) it did. It was ****ing freezing. Around half time, though, the sun began to shine and I began to warm up. And then Danny Graham scored and it felt warmer. And then Jermaine Defoe scored and it got hotter. And then the whistle blew. And then we blew. You had to be there, and I was, so thank you Stan, and thank you Adam C for posting it on Youtube:
Following which came a deserved victory over the Saints, and a chance to determine our own fate against a very determined, not to say competent, Leicester. We didn’t quite make it, which left Arsenal or maybe Chelsea.
I couldn’t go to Arsenal. This rearranged game coincided with a family celebration on the outskirts of Skipton. Ed and I took a taxi to the Red Lion and sat (almost s*at, letter missing) as John O’Shea, Seb, Long Pants, Coates and Lee Lee Lee Cattermo-o-ole dragged ever-wearing limbs to the end and secured safety, despite Billy Jones’s best ever header.
What a season. Only I don’t ever want one like it again.
To catch up on the rest of the series of End of Season Reviews, please go to https://safc.blog/category/end-of-season-reviews-2015/