Echoes of the past

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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.

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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.

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6 thoughts on “Echoes of the past”

  1. Another name from the past. This week Danny Dichio announced his retirement from Toronto FC. He had the privilege of scoring their first ever goal.

  2. I think the Italian cafe was Bimbi’s original place. I remember it was quick to get down there but a real slog back up the hill.
    Michael Parkinson, professionsl Yorkshireman extrodinaire, tells a lovely story of his Saturday nights in a Barnsley dance hall, where the men read the Green ‘Un as they waltzed around with their wives. No doubt Mr H.D.(“Dickie”) Bird will verify this story for us.
    Still love the Football Echo. The results and scorers on Teletext and the internet cannot be lingered over as they can be in the Pink. Ialso like decoding decoding the hidden messages in the stories.
    Someone needs to tell Bill that the “stop press” ceased years ago, about the time Newcastle last won a trophy!!!

  3. There were two cafes next to each other, opposite Durham bus station. One was the Vaudeville but what was the other called? The Savoy? I’m gonna lose sleep over that.
    I’m surprisedthat you used to take the train rather than the bus. I always found the train a real hassle and the schedule tricky.
    Do evening newspapers still have the “fudge box” down the side of the front page for the “stop press” football and racing results, done in smeary ink at the last second?
    The Sunderland Pink may deserve to hang on, if nothing more than for the sake of tradition, but the Sunderland Echo really needs to do something about its website — not nearly as well laid out as the Evening Chronicle’s and often behind the Chron in reporting SAFC news.

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