No meaningful football to fret about this weekend, so Colin Randall grapples with new technology and sets the GPS for an amble along memory lane …
It didn’t matter whether Brian Clough had hit a hat-trick or Jimmy Davison had “picked his spot” for a goal from the wing. After each Saturday game at Roker Park – and in those days, all games except cup relays were played on Saturdays – the routine was the same.
Leave the ground, back over the bridge, train to Durham. And at Durham, there was time to drop down into the city and order frothy white coffee and a steak and kidney pie in the Italian cafe before the connecting train to Bishop Auckland.
And almost without fail, before the time came to climb back up the hill to the station, the Pink would arrive. Often, we’d get both – the Sunderland Echo and the Newcastle Evening Chronicle – but it was rare that neither would reach the city in time. The Saturday evening treat was not even restricted to the Echo and Chron versions; at home, there’d be the Darlington Northern (later Evening, later nothing) Despatch Pink and the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette.
Just about every fan who could read seemed to buy a Pink in those days, wherever in the country they lived that was served by an evening paper. It was a great tradition. The papers had been produced with amazing speed and professionalism and nearly every page had something worth reading
It remains a great tradition in only a handful of cities. Fortunately Sunderland is one of them, as Graham Anderson noted in an excellent article describing the decline and virtual extinction of this matchday ritual. The Echo’s Pink – didn’t it turn into a Green to denote feeling unwell when we went down for the first time in our history in 1958? – has been going for 102 years.
According to Graham, its survival is shared only by the Footy editions printed in Sheffield, Portsmouth and Southampton. Given the parlous state of the newspaper industry, you’d be a brave man to put money on many more seasons for any of them.
The Sunderland Pink, however, deserves to hang on. Graham and Ian Laws have to strike a delicate balance between honesty and realism and the need to get on with, and therefore maintain access to, the club, its players and staff. Those who whinge about the compromises they make should remember that Sunderland is not always so different from other clubs in finding it hard to take criticism.
The balance is struck well, and I am deeply grateful that young Pete Sixsmith, whose recall of the detail of those Saturday journeys is more precise than mine, conscientiously sends a copy each week to whichever part of the world I currently call home.