In some random jottings from the world of football, Pete Sixsmith confirms that, for him, that world extends beyond the Premier League and Europe. But he finds room to extol the virtues of Spurs and cautions Gattuso on the inadvisability of butting Joe Jordan (memo to sports hacks; headbutt is a tautology – what else would the man doing the butting use?) …
No game this weekend for us after our dismal FA Cup exit. No game means nothing SAFC related to get excited, upset or abusive about – or does it?
Let’s start with some worrying news: there is a story in the Sun that Lee Cattermole could be out for the rest of the season with a broken bone in his back (*but see more encouraging news in footnote – ed). There is no doubt that we have missed Cattermole recently. His tenacious tackling might well have been the difference between nothing and a point each from Spurs and Chelsea plus victory at Stoke.
Combine his absence with the loss of David Meyler and we have lacked the bite in midfield that the likes of Essien, Fletcher and de Jong give the top sides. We played some pretty football against Spurs without it ever really coming to anything and allowed the impressive Santos to control the centre of the park.
Our result against the self styled “Pride of North London” looks a lot better after their excellent result in Milan. They look genuine contenders, do Spurs. They have a depth of talent that speaks “Top 4 for the next few seasons” and as long as Harry emerges unscathed from his tussle with the law, they will continue to do well.
I didn’t see the Milan game, but I gather that Gattuso decided to butt Joe Jordan. The man is an idiot. Butt Joe Jordan? Jordan was one of the hardest players I have ever seen – his lack of front teeth testified to his physical prowess and an ability to “look after himself”. But maybe Gattuso’s actions in butting him not only show him up as an idiot but also as a coward as Jordan is the same age as me – he will be applying for his bus pass in December.
Rather than watch Spurs v AC Milan on TV, I opted for the real stuff at Victoria Park and took in Hartlepool United v Charlton Athletic. A few years ago, Charlton were being talked about as the epitome of the well run Premier League club. After their win at Wembley, they spent seven years in the top flight before sinking like the proverbial stone.
Now, they are facing their second season in Division 1, an itinerary which includes visits to Hartlepool, Rochdale and Dagenham and Redbridge rather than Liverpool, Arsenal and Aston Villa. They are managed by Chris Powell, who played left back in that epic Wembley play off game (er, see first Comment – ed) and are desperate to get back to Championship football.
A cold and blowy night at Hartlepool gives a fair indication of how good a team is and whether they can do it when the season gets down to its business end. The small crowd (a touch over 2,000), took great delight in reminding Charlton of where they were now rather than where they had been and the Hartlepool players, smarting from a hammering away to the league leaders Brighton, were in no mood to roll over.
One of the pleasures of football at this level is that you can stand and listen to people around you. That’s difficult at the Stadium of Light, where it’s only those directly in front or next to you that you can pick up.
I am lucky in that the guys in front are excellent and put up with my moans, groans and observations without complaint. Those behind are usually ok as well, although there is one bloke who attends the odd game who drives me mad with his inane comments. He wanted Bruce sacked last season and has pursued a vendetta against Henderson all this.
At Pools, I stand with some guys I know from the non-league circuit and who are dedicated Poolies. Behind them are a group “led” by a typical Teessider, a perpetual moaner who knows everything about everything but who has that gallows Teesside humour that stops him from being a complete pain in the arse.
He also has wonderful eyesight, being able to pick out throw ins and corners from 120 yards away, far better than the linesman who was all of five yards from the action.
Strangely, all the decisions he was so sure of would have gone to Pools. He spent the last 20 minutes baiting Christian Dailly, the Charlton captain, who had lost his temper with the linesman in front of where we were standing. It reminded me of the snakepit of the Clock Stand Paddock, when Jeremy Robson was in full flight. Tony Morley never recovered from Jeremy’s sustained attack on him …
Pools won 2-1 in a game that was engrossing and a great advert for third level football. Mick Wadsworth has to make bricks with straw at Victoria Park and has created a good work ethos. Anthony Sweeney had a good game in midfield as did a former Sunderland reserve Peter Hartley at the back. A thoroughly enjoyable evening, spoiled only by the news from St Andrews.
Tonight, there’s a fascinating local derby at Dean Street where third placed Shildon take on fifth placed West Auckland. Both sides have done well this year – expected for Shildon, who have a strong squad and not so much for West who were relegation certainties this time next year. Years ago, it would have attracted a four figure crowd, now we have to compete with Champions League on terrestrial TV so a couple of hundred would be a good gate.
I’ll keep you posted with news from the lofty heights of the Northern League.
* From the Shields Gazette:
Sunderland have rubbished reports that injured skipper Lee Cattermole will miss the rest of the season … Steve Bruce believes there is an outside chance that Cattermole will be back in contention when Sunderland resume their Premier League campaign at Everton a week on Saturday.