Hard as nails. That’s Salut! Sunderland’s star writer
Pete Sixsmith. Viewed from afar, the North East looked as if cut off from the rest of the world by snow drifts. That must have been a picture of Tow Law. But it was cold enough as Pete saw Sunderland Reserves take on Wigan. Hadn’t we seen as much of Wigan as we’d want for a while? …
Tuesday night and outside it’s cold and the wind is blowing. Inside, the heating is on, the gas fire warms the room, there’s a welcoming bottle of Macallan open and a good book on the coffee table. So, what do you do but dig out the thermals and woolly socks, put on a warm coat and head for a reserve game at Hetton?
Wigan were the visitors, with a team full of youngsters including the obligatory squeaky voiced Scouser. We turned out a much more experienced XI. Kenwyne up front, O’Donovan and Murphy (SAFC’s answer to Jedward) in midfield and Russell Anderson making his umpteenth return from serious injury at centre half.
The main attraction at reserve games this season has been Ryan Noble. He looks a real prospect, showing pace, intelligence and the ability to plant the ball in the net. Usually, he has played alongside O’Donovan, but tonight he got to line up with the Big Man.
The other attraction for me is the craic from the other anoraks who frequent games like this. A good gathering last night, so take a bow Stan, Sobs, Keith, Alan, Peter Hays and Willie: real Sunderland fans.
Kenwyne started well and in games like this, where you are close to the players, you can see how good he is. And he is good. He is remarkably quick and light footed for such a big man and lays the ball off well. He combined with one of the Jedwards to put Noble through in the first minute for a chance that the Young Pretender usually gobbles up. Unfortunately,he managed to scatter the Gilded Youth of Hetton who had congregated behind the goal, seeking warmth, chips and a spot of flirting with members of the opposite sex.
A few minutes later, Kenwyne got into the box, was hacked down, and Noble despatched the penalty a la Gary Rowell. Unfortunately, KJ soon left the field, partly as a result of this and was replaced by Omar Tounkara.
He’s a young Frenchman on an extended trial from Sedan in French League 2. I have to say that I have a bit of a down on French strikers. My Sunderland experiences are not positive: Bellion, Laslandes and le Tallec are not great examples of the striker’s arts and first impressions of this young man were not good. However, he grew into the game in the second half and showed some deft touches without ever really looking a serious threat to the Wigan keeper.
By this time, the game was over, Noble having completed a hat trick inside the first half hour. The rest of the game was spent trying to keep warm (not easy), talking about Dave Lish (wishing we did not have to) and deciding which underdressed Hetton teenager would expire of hypothermia first.
As I made my way round to the gate, I lingered long enough to see Russell Anderson collect a red card for a professional foul with 15 seconds left. He trudged off shaking his head, presumably wondering what else could go wrong with his Sunderland career. He seems a really genuine guy, talking the younger players through the game, and although he may not figure for us, he should get fixed up with a decent club at the end of his contract. It would have been scant consolation for him that Carson saved the resultant penalty kick.
Rarely has a car been warmer than on the journey back to Shildon!!!!