Monsieur Salut writes: I almost disallowed the first line of Pete Sixsmith‘s latest piece. Turgid? Drivel? Snap out of it Sixer, a man I introduce to others as Salut! Sunderland‘s star writer: self-deprecation will get you nowhere though international breaks seem to get you to a lot of places (not necessarily including all the places mentioned above) …
The loyal band of readers who plough through the turgid drivel that I produce every so often, may remember that I am a great fan of the International Break. It gives me a chance to stop worrying about Sunderland AFC and have a look at football further down the pyramid and also recharge my batteries before the next blow to hit the long suffering Sunderland supporter comes along.
Now that the transfer window has slammed shut, we are all less likely to be tuned to the radio, watching the yellow ticker or consulting various web sites on our ever more sophisticated mobile phones. I thought the window was ok for us. Kone stayed – although we know not for how long -, we broke the club transfer record on a young and enthusiastic player from Ligue 1 via Morocco and Gabon to add to the other relatively low key acquisitions who had arrived earlier.
Another forward and a keeper would have been nice, but to hardly anyone’s surprise, Victor Anichebe arrived on Friday and M Salut and I have our boots and keepers’ tops ready if required.
So it was that I completed an interesting treble over the weekend, watching football in three different competitions and in two different countries, racking up twelve goals and seeing a clutch of former Sunderland players on the pitch and in the dug outs.
It started on Friday with a National League (North) fixture between Darlington and Kidderminster Harriers at Bishop Auckland’s tidy Heritage Park ground. The owners had first call on it as they had an FA Cup tie the following day against Ossett Albion and Sunday was not really an option for the Harriers as Aggborough was hosting an England Under 20 game against Brazil.
And so it was that the full time players of Kiddy plus a hardy band of supporters, undertook a 400 mile round journey on a Friday, complete with heavy traffic on the M5, M6, A38 and M1 while heading north and a road closure at Scotch Corner on the return trip. They arrived at Bishop and left with a tight 1-0 win, courtesy of a fabulous strike from Arthur Gnahoua.
The Quakers had Liam Marrs (on the bench for Di Canio four times) and Adam Mitchell playing for them, with Martin Gray as manager, assisted by Brian Atkinson. A disappointing result after a splendid win at FC United on the Monday, but this league looks a really good one.
Salford City are top and there is a clutch of former Football League clubs ( Halifax Town, Stockport County, Kidderminster) desperately trying to get back up the ladder to a spot which is still light years away from the £1.1 billion that was spent by the 20 Premier League clubs in the window.
Saturday was an awful day weather wise and it scuppered my hopes of watching Durham skittle out a fading Nottinghamshire side and all but cement their place in the Championship First Division for next season. After kicking my heels for a couple of hours, I pitched up at the Nissan car plant to watch Washington play Shildon in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.
The Railwaymen have already beaten Bedlington Terriers and Kendal Town in the two previous rounds and Washington, coached by Darren Williams, he of the multiple hand claps, have struggled in the league. So, a win for Shildon and a sponsor’s cheque for £3,000 were very much on the cards.
Shildon have signed David Ferguson, a regular in the Under 21 team a couple of years ago. He left us to sign for Blackpool when Lee Clark was manager and played 40 games for them as they plunged from the Championship to Division One and from Division One to Division Two. He captained them last season and I suspect that it wasn’t a particularly pleasurable experience.
He is biding his time looking for a club and is keeping fit while playing in the Northern League First Division. He stands out ability wise and bagged two as Shildon won 5-2 with Paul Connor (Rochdale’s record signing) going one better and registering a hat trick.
Former Under 21 player Louis Dodds (son-in-law of a former student of mine) came off the bench towards the end and Stephen Capper, who had marked Lionel Messi when he skippered the Republic of Ireland’s Under 20 side, played at left back.
They were 2-1 up against a team that contained Tevez and Mascherano, when a skinny 16 year old was unleashed and Argentina went on to win 4-2.
Washington play inside the Nissan complex on a ground that the works sponsored team (which included Capper) used until the company pulled the plug when the recession started. Washington left their Albany Park ground a few years ago and took advantage of the excellent Sports and Social Club that Nissan built on the site.
Despite the excellent facilities, there are few bleaker grounds in the Northern League. The wind sweeps across the nearby Wear and powers an impressive herd of wind turbines which help to power the huge car plant. The company are developing the site further, Brexit notwithstanding, as they increase their Infiniti range.
One ground inside a factory is a rarity but to get two in a weekend is a real bonus for groundhoppers who collect grounds in factories. The Sunday one was Airbus UK, who play at Broughton in Flintshire on the site of the Airbus factory.
It is a huge factory, employing over 5,000 people and it makes wings for a range of aircraft.
The wings are then transported to Toulouse in France, where a man comes around with a tube of glue and sticks the wings on the fuselage before another man comes round and paints the plane with Humbrol paint, purchased from Elwell’s shop in Church Street.
The visitors were the New Saints from Oswestry, serial Welsh Premier League winners, who took another step towards retaining their title by coming back from a 1-0 deficit at half time to win 4-1.
It was played on an artificial surface and was an enjoyable game played in a good spirit. Alas, no ex-Sunderland on show for either side, although TNS are managed by former Middlesbrough player Craig Harrison and featured one time Smoggie wonder kid, Ryan Brobbel.
However, the most entertaining part of the day came when I whiled away an hour at the Broughton Retail Park, a dismal place on the edge of town. Scores of miserable youngsters were being escorted by their parents to shoe shops, clothing shops and stationers as the Great Return loomed up for them. There were nearly as many in the Clarks shop as there were at the match and trousers were flying off the rails in Primark. Pencil case manufacturers in China would have been delighted to see their products being grudgingly chosen by surly English and Welsh children in Poundworld and W H Smith’s.
Most of them will be back on Tuesday and we pensioners can then reclaim the streets. I shall be doing my bit in Rochdale.