Words of caution ahead of SAFC-Everton: beware the ides of May

Pete Sixsmith: will he be toasting another season or drowning his sorrows?
Pete Sixsmith: will he be toasting another season or drowning his sorrows?

Pete Sixsmith‘s been there, says John McCormick. He’s done it. He knows the season’s not over until the final whistle blows, and that the gods of football and fortune love to mock us. So join his prayer for what we all want tomorrow night, admire his epic support of the club through thin, thin and the occasional thick – but also heed his warnings and just stop sending tweets to that bastion of good taste, the True Geordie …

And while we’re on, there’s a book signing at the corner of the Central Library occupied by our friends from the SAFC Fans Museum (I really think they need an apostrophe to make it Fans’), between 3pm and 5pm. Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett, whose wonderful BBC Radio Newcastle commentary makes up for stop-start internet streams for exiles, will be there. Sixer will be there, too, which is fitting since we would impartially say he contributed by far the best chapter …


In about 24 hours we will know if our fate has been sealed; are we safe or will we have to spend a stomach churning afternoon at Vicarage Road, with eyes on the pitch and ears tuned to 5Live? Will it be a penultimate game party or a last game lament? Here’s a brief look at some games which sealed our fate for the worst.

1 1962-63 Chelsea (HOME). All we needed was a draw to join Stoke City in promotion to Division One. Tommy Harmer, a diminutive Cockney, scored in the Roker End to give Tommy Docherty’s boys a priceless 1-0 win. They demolished Portsmouth 7-1 three days later and went up with a better goal average.

2 1969-70 Liverpool (HOME). This was Alan Brown’s second stint as manager and his second relegation as we failed to take advantage of a generous Liverpool team who all but willed us to score. When we couldn’t, Chris Lawler sheepishly slotted home with a few minutes left to consign us to the Second Division again. We had spent but five weeks out of the relegation places that year and played some dismal football, scoring 30 goals in 42 games. No Jermain Defoe then, just poor Joe Baker.

3 1974-75 Aston Villa (away). Bob Stokoe was rebuilding the team; Tony Towers, Bob Moncur, Pop Robson and Tom Finney had arrived and we were in a promotion place from November 2nd until the final game at Villa Park on April 28th. Brian Little, a son of East Durham and currently manager of Jersey, scored twice to send us into fourth place as the three relegated clubs (Villa, Norwich and Manchester United) all went up. Can’t see that happening in 2016-17.

4 1976-77 Everton (away). Lost 0-2. Coventry kicked off late. The wounds are still too raw to discuss this one. Maybe I will get over it before Coventry get out of Division One.

5 1978-79 Cardiff City (HOME). Under Billy Elliott (the former England winger, not the ballet dancer) we had done well after Jimmy Adamson had decamped to Leeds United. We went into this game top of the Second Division on goal difference after a stirring 6-2 home win over Sheffield United, which featured a hat trick from Wilf Rostron and a penalty save by Barry Siddall from Alex Sabella which hauled us to the top. All we had to do was win the penultimate game against mid table Cardiff and we were up. Goals by Ronnie Moore (so rare that Bluebirds fans wore badges saying “I have seen Ronnie Moore score”) and Ray Bishop dampened the atmosphere and although Jackie Ashurst pulled one back, the fates conspired against us the following weekend where, despite a dramatic win at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion all finished above us.

6 1986-87 Barnsley (HOME). Bob Stokoe was back in charge after Lawrie McMenemy’s disastrous occupation of the Roker Park manager’s office was brought to an end. We went into the last game needing a win to avoid the play offs for the final relegation place to Division Three. Barnsley were in the middle of the table, sandwiched between Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers with nothing to play for. They won 3-2 and to add insult to injury, two of the goals came from Rodger Wylde, who had played for us a couple of years before. Gillingham put us down a week later.

7 1990-91 Manchester City (away). We took 15,000 to Maine Road, Marco and Benno scored but a certain Niall Quinn “bagged a brace” (as they used to say) and a late David White winner made no difference as Luton Town won their game. The afters were noticeable for me sitting on the back step of my brother’s house in Southport and necking vodka in a passable impersonation of Boris Yeltsin and becoming more maudlin by the hour. I had a shocking hangover next day.

8 1996-97 Wimbledon (at Selhurst Park). Probably the most disappointing day I have ever had with Sunderland. The Stadium of Light was ready to open, we had hung on in the division and had never been in the relegation places all season and had seen Roker off with a stirring 3-0 win over Everton (repeat please, Sam). Thousands travelled to the world’s most inaccessible stadium, the temporary home of a club who were disliked and admired in equal proportions. We missed chances to win – hold your hands up Paul Stewart and Niall Quinn – before Jason Euell’s winner five minutes from time, saved our old friends Coventry City. The killer had been a 1-0 home win to Southampton 10 days earlier; had we beaten them, we would have stayed up and they would probably have been relegated. I got very drunk on the train home and cancelled my season ticket. I saw six games the following season.

Since then, we have flirted with relegation and have saved ourselves with at least one game to spare. Let’s hope the same applies at 10pm on Wednesday.

Ha’way The Lads………

1 thought on “Words of caution ahead of SAFC-Everton: beware the ides of May”

  1. 1963 : Wasn’t Tommy Harmer recalled for this fixture for his first game in ages? (and therefore, inevitably destined to score against us?) From my view on the Clock Stand terrace I remember his “goal” as a clearance from Len Ashurst that hit him on the backside and rebounded in….
    Perhaps Leighton Baines and Fabio Borini can reprise the trick tomorrow?

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