Guided by a refined sartorial sense, Pete Sixsmith has been writing his socks off on Salut! Sunderland in recent weeks. But would a trip to Hetton to see the reserves in action punch a hole in those socks? Decision is yours…..
In between visiting my tailor and popping in and out of work, I have been known to take in the odd reserve game.
I really enjoyed the Monday nights at Ferens Park under Reidy and Ricky Sbragia, but a combination of Mick Mac, who in common with Bob Geldorf didn’t like Mondays, the FA, which wouldn’t sanction the use of a plastic surface, and the Premier League, which kicked us out of their Reserve League after relegation, meant that my reserve watching was curtailed for a couple of years.
So, when I saw that we were at home to Middlesbrough on Wednesday and the only other option was watching Bishop Auckland, I made my way to Hetton to see how the second string would fare.
The game was played at the Hetton Centre, once the home of Northern League Eppleton CW. They were booted out of the league when their secretary adopted the same approach to letters from the league that I adopt to letters from creditors – he shoved them down the back of the settee and hoped that they would go away. Like my letters from Barclaycard they didn’t, and Eppleton had so many points deducted that they folded.
Sunderland City Council has refurbished the ground and the adjacent Hetton Centre, and it really is a nice venue. There is hot food (chips, chips and more chips), a pleasant stand, good floodlights and a decent playing surface.
The two teams weren’t bad either. Yorke, Murphy and Connolly for us; Julio and Huth for them. However, you know what to expect from the names and it is often the younger, less experienced players that catch your eye.
Trevor Carson, the keeper, had a very impressive second half, making a number of fine saves while Martin Waghorn up front followed in the tradition of small pacy Sunderland forwards – just like Craig Russell, John Lathan and Nicky Sharkey.
Dwight Yorke opened the scoring with a cracking 20-yard drive that never rose an inch above the grass and Roy O’Donovan settled the game with a clever chip over the keeper. Boro came back strongly in the second half with the wind behind them but lacked an experienced forward and missed a number of good chances.
Julio took it gently, playing as a centre midfielder. When he went off, he got a very generous round of applause and as he walked round the touchline I had a quick word with him and persuaded him to resign in January. Oh ok, what I really said “Well played, Julio” and he said “Thanks” but in my book that’s as good as a three-year contract.
There was a decent crowd of 900+, including a good representation of the youth of Hetton who were no different from youth anywhere in that the older ones smoked, snogged and swore while the younger ones played chasey around the spectators.
A good night spoiled only by news of a Mag equaliser that almost saw me break the car radio as I punched the off button.