Soapbox: hailing Blyth Spartans, hating the Crawley love-in

Whatever happened to the FA Cup? Pete Sixsmith poses the question before bursting the romantic bubble enclosing Crawley Town and thanking heavens for two lowlier competitions in which not just Blyth but Gateshead, Dunston UTS and Whitley Bay are carrying the flag for the North East…

Well, there’s another Saturday gone without a Sunderland game kicking off at 3pm.

It looks like the next two at Everton and Arsenal should be at the usual time, but who can tell with Sky and ESPN?

No doubt many Sunderland fans spent their afternoons in the pub, with the approval of Niall Quinn.
This whole situation regarding folk watching on Greek or Albanian channels has been very interesting.

Read moreSoapbox: hailing Blyth Spartans, hating the Crawley love-in

Two for joy? Salut to miss the Magpies twice

MagpiesTony Hisgett

Yesterday’s encouraging news about David Meyler – out for 10 weeks but no new rupture to his knee ligament, which would have meant much longer or even threatened his career – is a great send-off for M Salut, who is off on holiday …

It is not often we play the Mags twice in eight days or – thinking of the way Pete Sixsmith referred to Notts Co in his lovely piece about today’s FA Cup game – the ‘Pies one week, the Mags the next.

And of course, if we stumble later today without quite falling, there may be a third game against black and whites during Monsieur Salut’s badly timed absence from Blighty and these pages. Anyone for a replay at Meadow Lane?

Read moreTwo for joy? Salut to miss the Magpies twice

SAFC v Notts County Soapbox: Meadow Lane by Hillman Imp

Some more glorious reminiscences from Pete Sixsmith, who also offers timely reassurance to anyone who took him seriously when he wondered aloud about which match to watch tomorrow …

To those who thought I was deserting the Stadium of Light for Dean Street, I say thank you for convincing me that my destiny and duty lay at Sunderland rather than Shildon. I shall be in my normal seat on Saturday watching the current crop of Lads take on the current crop of Magpies.

Read moreSAFC v Notts County Soapbox: Meadow Lane by Hillman Imp

Sorry Notts County – Alex Rae’s back in Sunderland colours

What a good lad Alex Rae* was and is. A “crowd-pleasing, combative midfielder”, says Wikipedia. I’d prepared the interview with Les Bradd with a sad reference to Alex not responding to a similar request to preview Sunderland’s FA Cup tie at home to Notts Co (he is the assistant manager), but still felt sure he’d get back to me. Which he did. Must have been the Salut! Sunderland Christmas card that did the trick. Here, then, are Alex’s thoughts on SAFC, Rangers, Notts Co, the game and life …

See Les Bradd interview – “the Roker Roar gave me headaches” – by clicking here

Salut! Sunderland: What memories of Sunderland were stirred when you first saw Notts County coming out of the hat to play us in the 3rd round?

I never quite got a chance to say bye to the fans when I left so this will be my first opportunity to see the supporters.

Read moreSorry Notts County – Alex Rae’s back in Sunderland colours

SAFC v Notts County: Roker Roar gave Magpie hero headache

We’ll have plenty to say about the other Mags, but they can wait until next week. For now, the only Magpies that matter are Notts County. In the first of two memorable editions of our Who are You? series – see Alex Rae’s interview by clicking hereSalut! Sunderland is honoured to welcome Les Bradd*, a great figure from the history of professional football’s oldest club. He agreed like a shot to answer our questions ahead of the FA Cup Third Round tie on Saturday and recalls a career in which he became County’s record scorer – one of the goals a cup winner against Sunderland – and suffered an odd side effect of playing at Roker Park …

You are the top scorer in County’s history: 125 goals in 398 appearance in a career spanning 11 years. Tell us what the club means to you.

I made the move to Notts County from Rotherham United in 1967 at the age of 19 and was one of a young group of players that manager Billy Gray was getting together to achieve promotion. Billy did not stay at the Club long enough and was replaced in 1969 by Jimmy Sirrel who went on to take the club from the 4th to the 2nd division in four years. The 1970s were a special time in my football career at Notts County with the success that we achieved not only in the League but also against teams of higher status than ourselves in various cup runs that we had. Many of those team mates remain great friends to this day and regularly meet and remember the good times that we had when attending Former Players Functions.

Read moreSAFC v Notts County: Roker Roar gave Magpie hero headache

Soapbox in Workington on the FA Cup trail

Phrases like “the quality shone through” and “good pedigree” somehow seem out of place when the subject is Workington football club. Pete Sixsmith finds a way of making them work …

Regular readers may be aware that I quite enjoy International weekends as it gives me an opportunity to go “somewhere else”. In the past few years I have made it to such diverse and exotic spots as Chesterfield, Barnoldswick and Hemsworth via Huddersfield.

Read moreSoapbox in Workington on the FA Cup trail

Soapbox: who cares who won the cup?


It’s called the escape committee and it meets once a year on the day of the FA Cup Final. Salut! Sunderland did its duty and paid respectful attention to the Wembley event, but our own Pete Sixsmith and like-minded souls, true to form, were tunnelling their way out of England in search of grass roots football and tons of ale …

So I found out that Chelsea had done the once unelusive double when I saw the score on the screen in the corner of the Guildford Arms, Edinburgh. It wasn’t until I crawled out of bed on Sunday morning that I realised that penalties had been missed and that it had actually been a decent game.

Read moreSoapbox: who cares who won the cup?

Vital Pompey and Salut! fill Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers gap

echo1Once upon a time, Sunderland and Portsmouth were linked by the world of newspapers: each city had local papers owned by the same group with roots in Sunderland but swallowed up by Johnston Press in 1999.

Perhaps old Samuel Storey, the Sunderland Echo founder who then spread his minor publishing empire to the south coast, would have approved of this week’s links between Salut! Sunderland and Vital Pompey


You’ve seen
what Chix had to say – see this link – on behalf of his fellow Pompey fans. Now we’ve returned the compliment and you can see Peter Sixsmith’s replies to a set of questions posed by the Portsmouth site.

Here’s a sample or two:

Q Go on, who’s going to win and march into round 5 and a step closer to FA Cup glory?

A I fear a draw and a freezing cold night at the Stadium of Light in front of an 18,000 crowd, with Pompey winning on penalties after a turgid, goalless 120 minutes. Or we could win 3-0 on Saturday. Or you could win 2-0. Do you really want FA Cup glory after last time?


We snuck through by the skin of our teeth against Coventry, who would you rather be playing at the weekend – them, or us or does it not really bother you?

For most Sunderland fans a chance to beat Coventry is to be relished. In 1977, they ensured that we were relegated and they stayed up due to the appalling Jimmy Hill manipulating kick off times. We have long memories.

See the article in full at:

SAFC 1 Leeds 0: words can describe it

Health warning: to be avoided by persons of a sensitive disposition who also support Leeds United.


But think back to the first Saturday of May, 37 years ago. Every street deserted, people glued to their TV sets if not actually at Wembley. All the devotion, fervour and pride captured in the selection of photos we have reproduced with kind permission of the Sunderland Echo – and the renowned Tyne Tees documentary, clips of which appear here from YouTube (complete with the Mackem lass showing off those knickers). Leeds fans who stray into these parts will be pleased to hear this is our last look at the fascinating new book by a Sunderland-supporting BBC journalist, Lance Hardy, on the epic 1973 FA Cup Final. Interview by Colin Randall

Read moreSAFC 1 Leeds 0: words can describe it

Long ago, when all the world willed us to beat Leeds

There were no neutrals. Everyone outside Leeds wanted Sunderland to win the 1973 FA Cup Final. Continuing our coverage of Lance Hardy’s new book** on the sensational upset our Lads caused at Wembley, Pete Sixsmith wallows in the memory of a quite different world …

Photos from 1973 by kind permission of the Sunderland Echo

Patrick Vieira on £150,000 a week; Kenwyne Jones valued at £40m; Manchester United with debts of £750m and tickets for Saturday at Chelsea at a tad under £50.

Money, money, money. I don’t think the game has ever been so wrapped up in finance and it somewhat dissipates the pleasure of watching a simple football match.

There were days when football, and everything around it, was much more innocent. I was reminded of this as I read Lance Hardy’s excellent book, Stokoe, Sunderland and ’73.

The title tells you everything you need to know; it’s a book about the greatest FA Cup victory in living memory, the manager who engineerd it, the players who delivered it and the fans who witnessed it and who have never quite got over it.

Read moreLong ago, when all the world willed us to beat Leeds