Are there telling clues about first-team prospects and planning to be had from watching the reserves? Pete “I’m no football junkie” Sixsmith caught two such games yesterday and reports on both, with an emphasis on how the impressive resilience of David Meyler is bearing up after his second dreadful injury setback …
As some of you may know, I have recently retired, allowing me to spend more time with my ever diminishing collection of full beer bottles. It also gives me the opportunity to winkle out obscure midweek afternoon football fixtures and join my fellow retired, anoraks and obsessives in near deserted football grounds.
This season,our reserves are playing a number of their fixtures in the afternoon at the Academy. Unfortunately, they are not allowing the retired etc in to watch on Health and Safety grounds as the club are in the process of being sued by a spectator who was hit in the face by a wayward ball at a game last year.
Many behind the goal at Roker Park and the SoL over the years should now be contacting Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Run.
Not so, Hartlepool United. They often play on an afternoon, and yesterday took on Hull City at Billingham Town’s Bedford Terrace ground in a Totesport Cup game. They won it comfortably, turning out a team that mixed experience and youth most effectively.
They were helped by the harsh (but unavoidable) sending off of the Hull keeper, who inadvertently handled the ball outside the box and which resulted in the bizarre sight of Hartlepool ‘s manager Mick Wadsworth berating the referee for issuing the red and spoiling the game.
From a Sunderland point of view, one of the Hull subs was of interest: a certain Jules Gabbiadini, son of Marco – and a full back. He came on after half an hour and did well enough, but it was odd to see a son of Marco defending rather than terrifying those that do.
Morrison’s for tea (I heartily recommend their fish and chips and bread and butter pudding) and then off to Eppleton CW to watch our second string take on Gateshead in the same tournament – and also a chance to catch up with the gilded youth of Hetton.
They were there in good numbers, wearing clothes that would have been ideal for a stroll along la Croisette in Cannes, but were less suited for perambulating the hard standing around the Welfare. Most of the football watching crowd were wrapped up in parkas, fleeces and woolly hats.
I watched the admirable Keith Bertschin take the warm up and saw the players enjoy it. They did it with a smile on their faces and I am sure that I saw a sense of relief sweeping across the craggy features of David Meyler as he contemplated his second comeback of 2011.
He did well. Tackles were not flinched, searing runs were made from one end of the field to the other and the huge enthusiasm that he brings to his play appeared to be undiminished. He was taken off at half time, an important step on his road to rehabilitation achieved. His return to first team action is eagerly awaited – although not yet.
It was a good game, with a little bit of bite between two good sides. Oumare Tounkara led the line well, despite clearing the bar on several occasions. He has bulked out in the two years he has been at Sunderland and must be looking for either a place in the first team squad or a loan move to a Championship side.
The sole goal came from Roarie Deacon, a refugee from the madhouse at Ashburton Grove. He had seen an excellent finish denied for a tight offside, but made no mistake a few minutes later to win the game for us.
The crowd had its first glimpse of James McClean, the lad we signed from Derry City, and he did not disappoint, particularly in the first half. He is a big man, with a good turn of speed and he can cross a ball. He has been on the bench for the last two first team games, so is clearly a player the management team is interested in.
Craig Lynch had an outstanding game in midfield and looked a real prospect. Loan move for him perhaps? Jordan Pickford did well in goal, Liam Marrs, small but with the ability to jump twice his height, had his usual excellent game at full back and Louis Laing and Liam Bagnall were well in command at the heart of the defence.
As always, the craic was good and it was a very enjoyable evening. As I left, the gilded youth were complaining about the cold and about the large amount of homework that the highly regarded Hetton School was expecting them to do. ”Give ‘em more” is wot I says!