Monsieur Salut writes: when Pete Sixsmith suggested a series looking at his first encounters with Sunderland’s opposing teams or their grounds, I had minor doubts. That’s 46 articles plus the cup games – assuming he does each team for home games, each ground for away ties – on top of all else he contributes to Salut! Sunderland.
It’s fair to say the first fruits of Sixer’s latest endeavours are making me eat my thoughts. It is proving a fabulous series, much admired here but also by supporters of the clubs he writes about. Eric Bowers recently described Sixer as a national institution … you decide
The story so far is enough to persuade me that he should really be talking to book publishers. Here’s a flavour (click the team name to see the full piece in each case):
Sample: Every Sunderland fan of my vintage has a soft spot for the Rams because they had The Greatest Manager Sunderland Never Appointed in Brian Clough.
They also took John O’Hare (“When we want goals he’s always there”) and Colin Todd (“Son of God”) as under the Clough-Taylor combination, they won the league in 1972 and may well have won the European Cup (now the Over Bloated And Rather Tedious Champions League) the year after, had Juventus not beaten them 3-1 in a semi-final first leg which was dubious to say the least.
The town centre with its famous market is a 20-minute stroll away. Black pudding aficionados are well catered for and there are some decent pubs nearby. Ramsbottom, a bit of a culinary hotspot is twenty minutes by either bus or steam train. What’s not to like about Bury?
I have been there a few times with my first visit being in early August 1979 when we were in the same group as The Shakers for the Anglo-Scottish Cup, a pre-season tournament which pitted the might of English football against their Scottish counterparts.
It really is a gem of a place to visit and as our relegation [last season] became apparent around about Christmas (or August 20 if you were Moyes, D), I wished nothing but bad luck on the Canaries as I eagerly anticipated another visit to the city that gave us Olivia Coleman (fine actor), Mr Pastry (favourite of mine when I was about six), Ed Balls (crazy name, crazy guy), Chris Sutton (perceptive observer of the footy scene – although I thought his “cesspit” comment was going a bit far.
Hillsborough was a stadium that many clubs aspired to. It had a huge uncovered kop, a splendid main stand with a gable so redolent of many of that period and a new cantilever stand that was the pride and joy of the club. It’s still there, running the full length of the pitch and it gives a clear and unobstructed view of the whole ground. No awkward pillars, no roof overhanging the rear seats and a sense of pride in what the Steel City could produce and build.
Brunton Park is one of the few grounds that I first went to without seeing Sunderland – although there was a Sunderland connection and that connection was the great Charlie Hurley.
When he left the club on a free transfer, it was akin to the shipyard cranes being dismantled or the town hall in Fawcett Street being demolished … Charlie felt that he had some playing time left and signed for Bolton Wanderers … I persuaded my long suffering parents to lend me the family Cortina, crammed a few school mates in it and headed for Carlisle via Alston.
Charlie looked strange in a Bolton shirt. His powers had waned but he did well enough but Carlisle were on the up under a certain Bob Stokoe and it was the Cumbrians who won 2-1.
.. we have had some interesting clashes with the Elland Road boys. They have been out of the top division for a long time now and have had a succession of owners and managers who have tried to get them back.
The current Italian owner seems to be a tad more sensible than the previous one but whether a Spanish coach with no English experience is quite fitted to the Championship remains to be seen.
Here’s another town and ground that I have a soft spot for. The town, because my sister-in-law Denise is a Barnsley lass and, despite running the Hampton Road Hilton in Southport for many, many years, still retains her very distinctive Barnsley accent. Plus, for a town of 91,000 people (about the size of Darlington) it seems to produce an incredible number of national figures.
Let me share with you a list (in no particular order): John Arden the playwright – I “studied” Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance at school: Mr HD ”Dicky” Bird, the town’s resident rain god and one time cricket umpire; Ed Clancy, professional cyclist; Brian Glover, an unforgettable Mr Sugden in Kes and a wonderful Mr Heslop in Porridge (“I read a book once; green it was”); Darren Gough, fast bowler and master of Terpsichore; Jimmy and Brian Greenhoff, both canny footballers but Brian’s hair do just wins it for him; Dorothy Hyman, sprinter who has a stadium named after her; Mick McCarthy, currently leading a renaissance at Ipswich Town; Ian McMillan, the Bard of Barnsley; Michael Parkinson, purveyor of Funeral Plans for the Over 60’s; Kate Rusby, the Barnsley Nightingale; Arthur Scargill, the leading “enemy within”; Tommy Taylor and Mark Jones, both killed at Munich in 1958 and last, but by no means least, Harry Worth, he of the glorious opening sequence with the shop window
And you can bet there will be more treasures to flow from the quill pen with which Sixer composes his articles before dispatching them by pigeon post to Salut! Sunderland Towers.