SUNDERLAND AFC v NEWCASTLE U21s
This was the tie few people wanted.
Certainly not Northumbria Police, who will have to divert considerable resources away from other areas, because of a game of football that will attract a far bigger crowd than any other fixture in the competition to date and has the potential for disorder.
Certainly not SAFC, who have to meet the cost of staging the fixture whilst trying to ensure the tie passes off peacefully. In a tournament where so far a ticket has cost me £3, this one has seen me fork out £15 reflecting the extra resources required. They have naturally been liaising with the police and to try and see that things pass off peacefully have issued the following announcement for fans attending the game.
In a competition which normally attracts (if attracts is the right word) minimal attendances, our visitors quickly sold out their allocation of 2,800 tickets and wanted double that. For their solitary home tie with Macclesfield the attendance was 1,126 and a couple of hundred of those would have been supporting the Cheshire side. I can’t see them getting many more for any other team this round and I’m sure they wouldn’t outnumber the home fans like we did at Morecambe. Had they not been drawn against us I doubt whether more than few hundred would have travelled. Many of those making the trip to Wearside will of course simply be going in the hope of witnessing an upset, but I can’t help but think that there will be more than a few idiots who will have more dubious intentions.
In comparison we had around 7,000 home fans for Stoke U21s, just under 8,000 when Carlisle came and 8,500+ home fans for the visit of Notts County last round, but we can expect a few more tomorrow and likewise I can see some who weren’t at those earlier games hoping for some not so friendly interaction with “our friends from the north”.
Following the behaviour of Stoke City supporters at their local derby with Port Vale and the damage caused to facilities at Vale Park, there must be concerns about possible copy cat actions at the Stadium of Light.
It’s not as if they have no previous. Seats were ripped up last season by some Mag fans and that was just for an Under 23 game. I would think that Newcastle United have had to make some contingency plans in case they have to meet the costs of any acts of vandalism and as it’s the Checkatrade Trophy, the Sunderland board will have a vetted list of plumbers, carpenters, electricians and seat fitters ready to leap into action.
While I still believe that by far the majority of football fans are decent people, whoever they support, this is a game where the idiots will come out of the woodwork. I hope I’m wrong but presumably the Football League share my concerns by not enforcing their own rules (which were probably drawn up when the original idea was to have a trophy for lower league clubs with small grounds) regarding ticket allocations.
Whatever the result, this is a match where Sunderland Football Club and its supporters are on a hiding to nothing. We are expected to win and win comfortably at that. Those of us who live or work alongside those of a black and white persuasion will have no bragging rights whatsoever, whatever the outcome.
Anything less than a three goal victory in normal time will be seen as a moral victory for the Mags and they have a ready made response of, “you were only playing our kids”, should we win comfortably. To only draw or, heaven forbid lose, doesn’t bear thinking about.
We have players who could do with a rest before the visit of second placed Luton on Saturday which leaves Jack Ross with a bit of a dilemma. The squad was threadbare at Charlton with only 6 players on the subs’ bench but to weaken the side too much will leave him open to much more criticism, should we fail to win, than had it been any other side still in the competition. That said we should still be able to put out a team of fringe players to beat an U21 side, and there are still rules regarding the make up of our team to adhere to, but remember Rafa is allowed to include some overage players. Whether he chooses to do so remains to be seen. The Mags also need a fit squad to contest league games and there is less pressure on them to go out and win the game.
If I were to predict the team and assuming these players are all available and I’ve got the injury situation right, I’d go with something like Ruiter (or Stryjek) O’Nien, Ozturk, Baldwin, Oviedo, Mumba, McGeouch, Watmore, Maguire, Sinclair and Wyke with the other keeper, Power, Flanagan, James, McGeady, Kimpioka and Bainbridge on the bench. That should surely be good enough to see us progress.
Pete Sixsmith won’t be there. He has a ticket, but post op he has wisely decided to give it a miss.
Come back on Wednesday for my report on a game which could take us one step closer to Wembley or could see me locked in a darkened room until the weekend when the Soapbox will hopefully be brought to you by its usual occupant.
Ha’way the Lads
Update: the game will be accessible via safsee at a cost of £10 for UK viewers and £5 for those living overseas.