From all at Salut! Sunderland – that’s essentially Monsieur Salut, Pete Sixsmith, Joan Dawson and a growing army of contributors, have a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy new year. Pete’s already looking forward to tomorrow …
The day after Christmas Day is called Boxing Day because of the tradition of giving presents of money in small boxes to tradesmen and beggars – and not the habit of punching your brother because he is hogging the Hornby DuBlo train set.
For me it is the highlight of the year. I always look for the Boxing Day fixture first so I can plan my Christmas Day accordingly. Home game means an early night, away game means an early night; you have to be ready for the biggest game of the year.
Last year we had Everton as visitors to the SoL, the year before, pre-Coyle Bolton Wanderers, who played out an awful goalless draw. This year we are off to Old Trafford, via the pubs of Saddleworth for a pre game snifter.
Since I was a child, Boxing Day has been synonymous with sport. In the 50’s, it was a walk up to Headingley to watch the annual fixture between Leeds and Wakefield Trinity.
Then, after the family relocation to South West Durham, it was a walk up to Dean Street to watch the local derby against Bishop Auckland and the occasional bus ride through to Darlington for their game on the afternoon.
My first Sunderland game on Boxing Day was a 1-1 draw at Elland Road in 1963, when Dirty Leeds were kicking their way through the Second Division. We travelled by train (they ran in those days!) and were met by my uncle, who took us for our dinners and then on to the match.
A George Mulhall goal gave us a share of the points and two days later we beat them 2-0 at a packed Roker, when Charlie Hurley had to be dragged off Ian Lawson, a particularly nasty centre forward, who had just booted Monty in the head.
My first Boxing Day visit to Roker was the following year, when Liverpool won 3-2 and I wore my new red and white scarf, the first one I had ever owned. It brought us no luck but it was a proper wool one from the Star Knitting Company of Huddersfield.
Since then, I have rarely missed a Boxing Day game, home or away. I did duck out of a trip to Selhurst Park in 1990, when the powers that be gave us an 11.30 kick off. I don’t know how many made it that day, but it won’t have been that many.
It’s usually a good crowd as well, particularly since the move to Monkwearmouth. . In 1997, my Greek sister-in-law paid her sole visit to the Stadium to witness a 2-0 massacre of Bradford City. Gary Walsh had a blinder in goal and Veta enjoyed the atmosphere and the theatre of it all, despite being hit on the head as Alan Johnston scored the second goal.
Bradford City cropped up again a couple of years later, giving me one of my finest Boxing Day memories. A hearty cooked breakfast at Casa Horan, was followed by a feisty 1-1 draw between Harrogate Town and Guiseley. Then, on to Valley Parade and a 4-1 win with a great hat trick from SKP and a goal from Quinny.
The day was rounded off with a sit down fish and chip supper at Murgatroyd’s Fish and Chip Emporium, opposite Leeds and Bradford Airport. One of those days that lives long in the memory and clogs up the arteries.
This year, we go to Manchester United without 3 of our better players. No Mensah, no Wellbeck and no Cattermole. There will be 75,000 there, some of who may even come from Manchester. No trains in this day and age as clearly nobody wants to move around over the break. I’m old enough to remember buses and trams in Leeds on Christmas Day!!
A win would be a marvellous Christmas present for the 3,500 Mackems travelling. I would be content with a draw, but whatever happens, it will be a grand day out and for many on the Durham Branch coach, an opportunity to get away from the family for a few hours and sample some of Robinson’s finest ales. Mines a pint of Old Tom!!