Regular visitors to Salut! Sunderland may have gained the impression that one of the best things about my life in the Middle East is that I get to see more football – Sunderland football, that is – than when I lived in London. Isn’t every Premier League game, after all, televised live by Showtime?
Readers of my column at The National may have got the idea that being able, therefore, to watch the Lads beat Newcastle was the never-to-be-forgotten cultural highlight of a weekend that also found me listening, against better judgement, to Christina Aguilera and Wagner. And that with that 28-year bogey put to rest, nothing could ever go wrong again.
And the poor sod who took my angry call at Showtime’s customer services centre last night may be forgiven for thinking I cared rather a lot that STOKE vs SUNDERLAND was not showing.
To all these people, I duly apologise.
Most of all, I am sorry for that phone call. “We’re showing it at 2.30am,” the man had said. “But even allowing for the four hour time difference,” I spluttered angrily, “that’s long after the game will have finished.” “Yes, sir, that’s right,” the poor man replied, muttering something about the Big Four. “But how can you show Fulham and Wigan and not show Sunderland? They’re pathetic little clubs, we’re IMMENSE. We’ve got billions of fans. We’re as Big Four as they come. And you seem to have Boro v Man City on TWO channels!”
So, our game wasn’t on Showtime’s ShowSports 1, ShowSports 2, ShowSports 3, ShowSports 4, ShowSports Extra – or even the occasional outpost of ShowComedy Extra (where sometimes we’ve belonged). My laptop resists all attempts to get dodgy streams, the official club site’s minute by minute service, often quite woeful, was impossible to find last night, the BBC version didn’t seem to want to update very often.
They all spared me the grim reality. I was best left sitting on the couch, late into the Arabian night, flicking between Hull v Chelsea and Arsenal v Spurs and waiting for the goal texts from Pete Sixsmith that didn’t come. Or didn’t come in the form needed.
As Pete put it before his miserable journey back north from the Britannia: “Not one chance created against limited opposition.”
My only moment of excitement? When Pete’s text said 0-1. Doesn’t that mean the away team’s winning? Not, unfortunately, when you’re playing Stoke and Delap and the very next words are “long throw in”.
What chance an away win on Saturday to make up for it? Only Chelsea, after all……