What were we doing in Huddersfield? Or, for that matter, Fitzwilliam, Leeds and Durham? Not to mention Istanbul. Easy. Put on a weekend of internationals and you can bet on certain things: Salut! Sunderland readers deserting in droves in the knowledge of how little we care, the editor enjoying a rare stress-free Saturday/Sunday and a foray into obscure corners of football and culture by
You may well have noticed that the Salut! Sunderland pages have been very quiet over the weekend. No new articles, no debate about whether Bent dived or articles going back over old grievances like McAllister’s triple jump and salko or whether Tadger Norris slipped or was pushed in Durham Challenge Cup match in 1881.
Reasons? International break, so b***** all to write about from the SAFC point of view. The editor slipped off on a scouting trip to Istanbul with his wife, while the work experience boy (yours truly) had a treble up. So, in the absence of anything else to write about, let me tell you about it.
First port of call was the Galpharm Stadium in Huddersfield for an early kick off against Wycombe Wanderers. Ugly name, nice stadium and scene of a couple of exciting Sunderland games in the past. I remember listening to us go three up in 1998/99 and the home team pegging us back to 2-3 and the next season, a pulsating game finished 1-1, with Bally cancelling out a cheeky Marcus Stewart back heel.
The SAFC connection here was Lee Clark, who is doing a decent job managing the Terriers. I know he did a stupid thing and left under a cloud, but he was a very good player for us in that 100+ point promotion season. He has Town playing vibrant, attacking football and they demolished a wretched Wycombe side, who look racing certainties for relegation back to whence they came last season.
Six-nil did not flatter Town and I am sure that our chief scout Ricky Sbragia has already noted the names of the goalkeeper Alex Smithies and winger Anthony Pilkington in his book.
Smithies had little to do, but his distribution was outstanding throughout. Two of the goals came from his wonderfully accurate throws, one of which ended up with lively winger Pilkington putting in a fine cross for the second goal. He then went on to add a fourth not long after half time. One to watch.
From Huddersfield, I trailed across West Yorkshire to the mining village of Fitzwilliam, to watch Hemsworth Miners Welfare take on Leeds Carnegie. Fitzy, as the locals know it, is the home village of Sir Geoffrey Boycott, and is also the home of Hemsworth MW. The game was a cracker, which the students deservedly won 4-2. A friendly club with a good refreshment area and outstanding home made steak pie. I gather SGB has not yet taken in a game and the club are not holding their breath.
Stage 3 of the day out took me to Elland Road for the Final of the Rugby League Four Nations tournament between England and Australia. The last time I was at the home of Dorty Leeds, I saw Kavanagh, Miller and Connolly rip United apart as the Keane Revolution got under way. I sat in more or less the same seat as that time, hoping that this time the away team wouldn’t have it so easy.
For an hour the England team competed and had the Aussies on the back foot. Then, like all great teams, they shook themselves and demolished England with a sparkling 15 minutes that won the game and the tournament for them. They really are the best rugby side in the world and the game compared more than favourably against the turgid rubbish on show from Twickenham on Saturday and Croke Park on Sunday.
I had listened to the first half of the England game in the car. Bent hardly got a mention as England struggled to get the ball up front and when he was withdrawn after 10 minutes of the second half, I switched the radio off, knowing that he had probably said goodbye to his chances of making the plane to South Africa. Capello fancies a big man up front with a smaller forward playing off him. So, concentrate on getting 25 goals for Sunderland, Darren: much more important than England.
The weekend was rounded off with a superb light show in Durham on Sunday night. The front of the Cathedral was illuminated by pages from the Lindisfarne Gospels in a magical light and sound show which caused gasps of astonishment and wonder from the crowds on Palace Green. Absolutely superb and a credit to those who organised it.
And as this travelogue ends, we can look forward to Arsenal on Saturday, minus van Persie. Back on the winning track we hope.