On a wet night in Hetton, Pete Sixsmith assesses our strengths and weaknesses in reserve and invites suggestions for the post-Virgin Newcastle shirt sponsor. By adding the words ‘Newcastle lose Virginity’ to the headline, we could have attracted NUFC supporters in their hundreds, even thousands, but life is too short …
The Reserves, now re-branded as the Under 21s or Development Squad (but not, definitely not, the Stiffs), opened their public season last night with a 0-0 draw against Manchester United, at the Welfare Ground, Hetton.
This is one of a select few games to be played under the watchful and constructive gaze of Sunderland fans, as a fair number of DS games are pencilled in for afternoons at the Academy – and fans are not allowed in to watch those encounters.
The Gilded Youth were out in force last night, as a combination of a poor night on TV (no X Factor to get upset about) and a breakdown in the homework policy at Hetton School, sent them in droves to parade around the stadium in their Paul’s Boutique jackets and narrow legged trousers – until a dose of heavy rain had them scuttling off home after soaking their burgers and chips.
The team we turned out was an Under 21 line up with the exception of the skipper Adam Reed, a decent player who, sadly for him, looks to be as far away from the first team now as he was when he first broke into the reserves five years ago at the age of 17.
He had a good game, organising and tackling and generally being a mini-Cattermole without the red mist and the red card, but for all his prompting, we could not conjure a goal.
Connor Wickham started brightly and showed some excellent touches and the fact that he was withdrawn with 20 minutes left while Ji played a full 90 suggests that the former Ipswich man looks like a candidate for the bench on Saturday.
I say man, but as he walked to the dressing room just before the end and passed in front me while I was making my way to the gate, he looked like a very young man, similar to all those youngsters facing university for the first time and trying to big it out. Sometimes we expect a lot from mere mortals.
We had the better of the first half, they the second although we finished strongly. Both keepers made good saves and both defences looked well in control. Louis Laing had a very good game in the heart of our back four, while Adam Mitchell was busy on the left of the midfield.
Like the first team, there is a tendency to turn back in on themselves rather than look to play the ball forward. Ball retention is so important in modern day football and I assume that the philosophy is that if you can’t find one of your own men, knock it back to someone who might. Unfortunately, too many players then get tangled up and lose it.
The crowd was a reasonable 800+, a far cry from the 30,000 or so who were at the SoL when the two teams met in 1998 and included folk in Manchester United regalia. A long way to travel for a Reserve game, especially as it was being covered on MUTV. Dedicated followers all of them.
We were cheered up by the news that the Mags had booted Virgin out of their shirt sponsorship deal. I would imagine that the conversation between the fat shop owner and the bearded entrepreneur was short, sharp and to the point. No doubt, Beardy is already organising a petition to ensure that Virgin Money still plasters its name across the front of that deeply unloved strip.
Anyone out there have any suggestions for a new sponsor for them? The best one I saw was on RTG – “Invest in Byker”. Any advance on that?