Pete Sixsmith needs his football fix like a chocoholic needs a Bounty before breakfast. Still smiling from the hammering of the Hammers on Saturday, he rose early next morning and ventured westward to watch two sides whose supporters must get thoroughly fed up when the Mancentric media refer to United and City in one word terms, as if there were no others. Last time he drove along Route 66 on his way to Whitehaven versus Shildon, a traffic accident thwarted his late breakfast plans. No such problems this time so the smile remained and although the match wasn’t a classic, a Coventry defeat ensured the big grin was still there on the trip back.
FEELING SORRY FOR COVENTRY – ALMOST.
My pursuit of football, football and more football took me to Brunton Park, Carlisle on Sunday in the company of my next door neighbour in East Stand Row 30, Doug Forres, a former inhabitant of Coventry, along with his dentist (retd.) brother Ken from Kelso.
A pleasant drive along the A66 and M6 interrupted by a light lunch at the ever wonderful Llama Karma Café at Penrith, got me to Brunton in time to stand outside the visitors’ turnstiles and watch the City fans dribbling along to the game.
Eventually they had a reasonable 500 out of a small crowd of just over 4,000 and they found Carlisle’s 50’s ground a long way from what they were used to in their Premier League and Championship years.
We were housed in the stand that arch charlatan Michael Knighton built for the Cumbrians, which looks so out of place alongside the cowshed at the Warwick Road end and the 1930’s main stand, with its two 1950’s extensions tacked on to it.
There was a strong Sunderland connection in both teams, which always makes a game more interesting for me, with Adams, Elliott and Murphy in the squad for the visitors and Noble, Thirlwell and Welsh for the home team.
The most interesting was Blair Adams, a young left back who was well thought of by Steve Bruce, but not so much by Martin O’Neill and it looks as if the loan could well be turned into a full move when his contract is up at the end of the season. No chance of him moving this window, as Coventry are skint.
They are paying a rent of £100,000 a month to the company that own the Arena (the city council have a stake in it) and have arrears of £1m. There was talk of them sharing with Conference North Hinckley United or moving into the empty Rockingham Road ground once played on by Kettering Town .
They are in a mess with a capital M, have no saleable assets and are in mid table in a division that is a mix of former non-league clubs, small town teams and the odd big hitter fallen on hard times. Utterly depressing and I did feel for the Coventry fans, most of whom were probably old enough to remember the great escape in 1978. Then I stopped feeling sorry for them.
It wasn’t a great game. Carlisle had a game plan and stuck to it, but it wasn’t very exciting. They doubled up all the time, worked very hard and won the game with a Matty Robson goal before the majority of the fans had taken their seats.
After that City huffed and puffed, midfielder Frank Moussa flickered on and off and they missed a couple of very presentable chances, the easiest of which was Leon Clarke bundling the ball round the post when it looked easier to score.
Steven Elliott came on after 55 minutes and looked like a player used to being in more exalted company. The hair is bushier, the waist a bit thicker but the sleeves are still down and clutched tightly in his hands as he tried to dig an equaliser out.
Carlisle sent Paul Thirlwell on towards the end in order to bolster the midfield and he did a typical Thirlwellesque job in winning and holding the ball. He was always a player I liked even though he was never quite good enough for the Premier League.
It wasn’t a great game and it showed that the gap between two ordinary Premier League sides like us and West Ham and two ordinary League One sides like these is as wide as the Grand Canyon. There wasn’t one player on show who looked as if he could move up one level, let alone two. It never used to be like that.
Instead of looking at the lower leagues in this country, we now look abroad. Alfred N’Diaye arrived from France via Turkey and today we can welcome Kader Mangane from Saudi Arabia after spells in Senegal, Switzerland and France .
He is a big man – 6ft.6ins tall, which makes him one of, if not the biggest player I have seen in a red and white shirt. (Mart Poom maybe? Though to be fair he never wore a red and white shirt – Ed) He is 4 inches taller than Steve Hetzke, 2 inches taller than Sotoris Krygiarkos and approximately three times the height of Stan Cummins. He could be an interesting signing.
My old school pal and occasional Salut contributor Geoff Mangan, born in the woolybacks of Escomb and now living in deepest darkest Essex is probably already adding that extra e to his name and telling all and sundry that he is Kader’s cousin/dad/uncle, similar to the 500 men in Cork who claimed to be Roy Keane’s dad when we were there a few years ago and who drank copiously and inexpensively with star struck Sunderland fans.
We have a very winnable cup replay against Bolton which will probably be played in front of a sub 20,000 crowd in sub zero temperatures. Another rousing performance and a good win would set us up nicely for the important game at New Springfield Park .
And Loic Remy appears to be going to QPR. Someone tell Alan Pardew that Kevin Kyle is available.