Pete Sixsmith soaks up World Cup football and county cricket and offers a thought or two on the fixtures list for 2014-2015 …
I decided to forego the fixtures breakfast at the Stadium of Light yesterday morning and satisfied myself with a home-made brekkie of porridge, blueberries, tea and a bacon sandwich before firing up the trusty Toshiba to see them appear on the screen at exactly 9am (see it here).
As far as excitement goes, it rates a two out of 10 because once you have seen the first game, the first home (or away) game and when we have to suffer the Mags, there isn’t a lot to get worked up about.
This year, we travel to the Midlands for an opening encounter with the Baggies, a club similar to us – open, honest and having to put up with a close neighbour that likes nothing more than to underachieve.
It’s far enough to go in August and it should include the obligatory stop in Lichfield with its fine cathedral, good pubs and copious memorials to the fine Dr Samuel Johnson.
It is also a game that is guaranteed to be a 3pm kick off on a Saturday, so there is no need to wait before booking trains, hotels, coaches or whatever.
The week afterwards – Man Utd at home – may well be different as there is as much chance of me playing in goal for Russia as there is of that one starting at what was once the traditional time.
By late August, the World Cup will be forgotten about and the meedja will be riveted on Louis Van Gaal and the players he has brought in. They play Swansea at the Theatre of Tourists first game up and both Swans and Black Cats will be portrayed as lambs to the slaughter – if that is not one animal reference too many.
There will be new players signed from far and wide; if the BBC Gossip page were to be believed, United will have a squad of 64, most of them desperate to play for an itinerant Dutch manager in front of fans who are so busy writing songs and chants and taking selfies, that they never seem to watch the game and who think that players like Carrick, Hernandez and Cleverley are top class.
We encounter our Tyneside friends just before Christmas at the Sports Direct which should give one set of fans a decent festive seaaon. The last shopping weekend before the holiday is usually quite busy in the shops, so an outbreak of horse punching should go down well among the merchants of Newcastle.
They come to us in April when the season could be at a very interesting stage for both of us. Either club could be competing for a Europa League place or trying to scuttle away from the bottom three or preparing for an FA Cup Final. Let’s hope options one and three will be for us; they can have option two.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, the football just gets better. It is one enjoyable game after another with last night’s clash between sophisticated Europeans, the Netherlands, and those wild colonial boys of Australia, almost threw up a genuine upset.
The Socceroos spurned an excellent chance to go 3-2 up and the Dutch swept down the field to show them how it’s done. It was a great sporting day for the Aussies, coming hard on the heels of New South Wales beating Queensland to take their first State of Origin title for nine years.
Unfortunately, our only representative at the tournament, Jozy Altidore, did something awful to his hamstring 20 minutes into his nation’s game against Ghana on Monday night. He had already missed the kind of chance he specialised in blazing into the crowd at the SoL last season but it would be a hard hearted so and so who didn’t feel for him as he clutched his hamstring. His tournament is probably over and that reduces our chances of passing him on to a club in one of the less intense European leagues (Belgium, Switzerland, Scotland) where he may flourish.
Finally, a word about Durham CCC, now well stocked with Sunderland fans – Rushworth, , Mustard, Borthwick and new boy Coughlin are all from the city and I assume are all Red and Whites, while Captain Collingwood has a box at the Stadium.
They have struggled a little bit this season, but beat Lancashire after four days of very intense cricket and in spite of a splendid century by Lancashire’s England wicket keeper, Joss Buttler. The game fluctuated wildly all day, but Sunderland fan Chris Rushworth wrapped it up with the Red Rose 28 runs short. A great day sat in the sun, yarning with some old chums. That’s what retirement and the close season is all about.