Monsieur Salut says:
Shildon is where Pete Sixsmith and I grew up after unpromising starts to life (me in Hove, Pete in Leeds). My dad was secretary of the Northern League side for several years despite his funny Cockney accent. Pete still turns out to watch them as often as he can and lives close enough to the ground to walk there and back in about half an hour. Here he describes a pre-season friendly bringing together his two great footballing passions …
This World Cup is playing havoc with pre-season friendlies. Our game at Darlington has been brought forward a day to next Tuesday just in case the national team (featuring two graduates of the Academy of Light) are involved in a semi-final on the Wednesday, the original date.
This week, a very young Under 23 side played at Dean Street, Shildon, 24 hours later than they were supposed to after the game was switched so that the population could marvel at Jordan Pickford’s two wonderful saves and sob at the other Jordan’s miss.
It was a game that put me in a dilemma, somewhat akin to that of Mary McGregor in her hit platter Torn Between Two Lovers, a ditty penned by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.
I chose to wear my Sunderland track suit top and my Shildon baseball cap to show that I had split loyalties.
However, the track suit top is bigger than the cap, so it was abundantly clear where my loyalties lay.
It was a gorgeous evening and Dean Street sparkled. Monsieur Salut’s late father would see a few changes from his days as secretary of Shildon AFC.
The huge main stand is still there, albeit closed to spectators due to structural faults. The tea hut, fashioned out of an old railway carriage as many communal buildings in Shildon were, has long gone and the appalling open toilets on the corner of Brown Street and Dean Street were condemned relatively recently.
I hope that he would be pleased with the new stand that has appeared on the Brown Street side of the pitch and I am sure he would have enjoyed the view from my named seat at the back of that structure, particularly on such a wonderful summer evening.
Shildon turned a full side out. They finished a good 3rd in the EBAC Northern League last season and had hoped that they might be invited to move up to the Northern Premier League. As is common in Step 5 football, players come and go and there were three new ones on show last night, including the prolific goal scorer Danny Earl, who has moved from champions Marske United.
Most of our players are away in Portugal training and playing a game of Hunt the Ndong and Papy, so this was really an Under 19 outfit. I would not be in the least bit surprised to see most of these players turning out regularly at Hetton next season when we start our Premier League 2 Division Two fixtures.
We lined up thus:
Trialist; Owen Gamble, Brandon Taylor, Alex Storey, Williams Kokolo; Jack Diamond, Adam Bale, Jack Connolly, Jake Hackett; Conner Shields, Benji Kimpioka. Subs; Jacob Young, Anthony Patterson (g/k), Robbie Dunne, Kane Evans, Lee Connelly, Jordan Hunter, Sam Brotherton
There were some impressive performances in the opening period. Kimpioka ran well and caused problems for the defenders; Bale was industrious in the centre of midfield, Taylor and Storey looked comfortable and Shields offered some physical presence through the middle.
It was Jack Diamond who really caught the eye, though. Puns about his sparkling runs, his 24-carat passing and whether he was or wasn’t a girl’s best friend, were passed along the back row of the stand, but all were impressed with him.
He came along well last year in a poor Under 23 side and he looks a real prospect. He is strong, has a real eye for a pass and can score. He opened the scoring with a deft flick after 14 minutes. When Alex Storey doubled the scoring fifteen minutes later, it was beginning to look a little like a romp in the sun.
The second half brought the usual myriad of changes, with Shildon’s being the stronger. Club stalwart and keen Sunderland fan, Billy Greulich-Smith (he usually plays wearing spats and a silk scarf) pulled one back with his first touch. He then converted a penalty after a foul that even the worst ref at the World Cup would have awarded and that was the scoring for the evening.
Jordan Hunter, freshly signed from Liverpool’s academy, played for the last quarter of the game and showed some neat touches. He is only 17 but may well turn out to be one to watch as they say.
Shildon’s next game is at home to York City, a game arranged long before anybody considered that the national side would be playing for a place in the last four of the World Cup. Kick off time is 12.30 and there is a large screen in the cosy club house should you want to watch it in company afterwards.
Your correspondent will be at Blackwell Meadows to welcome Jack Ross and his first team squad back on Tuesday – not that I will be able to recognise many of the players.
Oh, and Jordan Pickford – he’s one of our own, ya knaa.