The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: Sixer on Gillingham.

Malcolm Dawson writes…..I reckon I have seen Sunderland play Gillingham on four occasions. I must have seen them at home in 2004 and 2005 as I had a season ticket, but I don’t recall much of those games. The first time I went to the Priestfield was in September 2004, when we coasted to a 4-0 win early in a season when we finished top of what had become known as The Championship. I went down with some of my mates from the Heart of England Branch and we had such a good time in the pub pre-match, chatting with Gills’ fans who were enjoying the dizzy heights of the second tier that we decided to go back another time and in 2006 returned in our Sunderland shirts to see them play Walsall. Pete Sixsmith admits he hasn’t seen that much of them but has seen them at Roker Park and other assorted North Eastern football grounds as well as the Stadium of Light and down in Kent. I’ll let him take up the story.

Sixer by Jake

TFTEISYT GILLINGHAM

Kent’s finest, some would say only, Football League team, have not much appeared on the radar at Sixsmith Towers over the years. I have seen them three times at Sunderland, have visited Priestfield twice and have caught them at Feethams and Victoria Park. So, this piece may well be a short one (“Thank goodness” say the readers)

My first sight of them was on the 22nd October 1966 at Darlington. Our home game with Stoke City had been postponed due to the opening games of the Home International Championship being played on that day and we had three players involved.

John Parke and Martin Harvey played for Northern Ireland in their 2-0 defeat to England, the World Cup winners turning out the same XI that had triumphed at Wembley three months earlier. Second half goals from Roger Hunt and Martin Peters saw England defeat the home side in front of a huge Windsor Park crowd of 47,897.

John Parke
Martin Harvey

Meanwhile, in South Wales, Jim Baxter was strutting his stuff for Scotland at Ninian Park in a 1-1 draw. Ron Davies’s opener was cancelled out with four minutes remaining, by Dennis Law, and that was the only point dropped by Slim Jim and his mates as they defeated Northern Ireland 1-0 in Glasgow and then went on to win 3-2 at Wembley where Baxter played keepy-uppy and the Tartan Army, with whisky fuelled logic, proclaimed themselves “World Champions.”

So, with my paper round money sewn into my mittens, I caught the No.1 bus from Byerley Road and handed over a bawbee to the gateman at Feethams in order to watch Darlington play Gillingham, a town of whose location I had only a vague idea. A grammar school education in Geography focused on ox bow lakes, the economy of Nigeria and the rivers of Canada, rather than useful things like where on earth were places like Gillingham, Stockport and Cowdenbeath.

Thanks to an excellent website called “Gillingham Scrapbook” I was able to find out what the teams were that day and a report on the game. It was an undistinguished 1-1 draw which confirmed that the Quakers were struggling in Division Three (they were relegated at the end of the season), with the goals coming within 90 seconds of each other and both containing goalkeeping errors.

Darlington stopper Tony Moore failed to come for a cross and Brian Gibbs headed in but 90 seconds later stalwart Gills keeper John Simpson, a native of Appleby who made 571 appearances for them, let slip a fierce shot from Quakers full back John Peverell and the ball slid over the line.

John Simpson

The game had been held up in the first half when Darlington winger George McGeachie suffered a serious injury, the entire crowd heard his knee cartilage snap as it made a sound like a bullet being fired and there was a long wait while he was moved and taken to hospital. McGeachie had played for Dundee when they won the Scottish League in 1962 and ended up at Darlington as he worked as a chemist for ICI on Teesside. He never played again.

There was a crowd of 5,819 and I remember walking around the cricket pitch and back to the bus station, pleased as the proverbial punch that I had managed to exchange a Sunderland badge for a Gillingham one from a travelling Kentish Man (or is it Man of Kent?), replete with Invicta, the rearing white horse.

The last time I saw them was a few months ago at Hartlepool where they were seconds away from being dumped out of the FA Cup by a National League side. Pools had drawn 1-1 at Priestfield and, with seconds left, were 2-1 up in the replay. Goals by Carl Magnay and Paddy McLaughlin in the first half had put Pools in control, but Max Ehmer had pulled one back.

With six minutes left and the visitors desperately looking for salvation, Pools manager took off forward Luke James and sent on defender Conor Newton to shore up the back four. There was a rumbling of discontent amongst the home support as James was perfectly placed to take advantage of the gaps that Gillingham were leaving in their quest for the equaliser and their fears were founded as keeper Scott Loach missed a cross and Carl Magnay handled to stop the ball going in. Impressive striker Tom Eaves rattled home the penalty and the Gills went on to win 4-3 in extra time.

As far as Sunderland goes, I first saw them in a Division Three game at Roker on the 30th January, 1988, just over 31 years ago. I had missed the play off game as I was committed to taking the Aged P’s to East Midlands airport for what turned out to be my mother’s last foreign holiday before she died and I remember picking up scores from it on the Radio 2 news as I sat in the passenger seat of the Mini Metro and my father drove and dropped lighted cigarettes on the floor.

That day in 1988 ended in a 2-1 win for us, with Gary Bennett opening the scoring in the 9th minute and Marco doubling the lead in the 27th before he went off ten minutes later. Mark Cooper, then Gillingham’s record signing, pulled one back in the second half but we saw the game out (would that we could do that now!!!) to remain top of the pile.

Marco and Benno in their Quaker days

The teams who performed that day, in front of 16,195 people were’

Ian Hesford; John Kay, Gary Bennett, John McPhail, Reuben Agboola; Paul Atkinson, Paul Lemon, Steve Doyle, Gordon Armstrong; Eric Gates, Marco Gabbiadini subs; Frank Gray, Keith Bertschin (for Marco 36)

Ron Hillyard (who ended up 8 appearances behind John Simpson); Karl Elsey, Graham Pearce, Gavin Peacock (ex Mag, now a pastor in Calgary), Gary West, Colin Greenall (713 games for various clubs including Blackpool, Bury and Chester) Howard Pritchard, Trevor Quow, Steve Lovell (their current manager), Mark Cooper, David Smith subs; Les Berry, Irvin Gernon.

They have slipped a bit recently and could well be in the relegation places when they pitch up at the Stadium. This is their fourth visit in the league and they have lost two and drawn one. That was in 2003-04 and was a 1-1 draw.

You knew that was coming didn’t you…….

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Sixer’s pre-season soapbox: normal service resumes at Darlington

Malcolm Dawson writes….I was in the environs of Darlington yesterday afternoon and pondered whether to hang about and take advantage of the cash turnstiles to get my first look at the revamped (work in progress) Sunderland AFC but decided that whilst my mobility is a lot better than it was this time last year, my knees are still not up to a couple of hours of standing, so I went home and defrosted the freezer. Try as I might I couldn’t find any reference to the use of the essential tools in the instruction manual, but aren’t you supposed to use a bread knife and 12lb lump hammer? The France/Belgium commentary played in the background and Pete Sixsmith‘s short and sweet texts brought me up to date on events at Blackwell Meadows, whilst I worked feverishly chipping and thawing and wondering why I have so many tortilla wraps, hidden away amongst the frozen prawns and mixed veg?

This morning Peter brings me and you a more detailed view of last night’s proceedings and here it is……

Read moreSixer’s pre-season soapbox: normal service resumes at Darlington

Sunderland, West Ham and Moyes. Sixer takes on Marco

Jake: ‘could Marco partner Grabban up front?’

It might be an exaggeration to say that pouring over the misfortunes of Sunderland AFC, and its sod-the-press-I-only-do-tame-inhouse-interviews owner, has become an international sport. But it’s certainly keeping the media busy.

BBC Radio Newcastle’s Total Sport programme had the benefit of our Pete Sixsmith’s wisdom last night. He spoke gloomily about our immediate prospects – he fears another relegation – and holds David Moyes to no small extent culpable for our present malaise.

Read moreSunderland, West Ham and Moyes. Sixer takes on Marco

Ryan Noble sprints clear of the peloton as Paris fetes Bradley Wiggins

Sixer by Jake

Pete Sixsmith has long drooled over the Tour de France. Another Salut! Sunderland split: whereas Monsieur Salut accepts that the race passes through breathtaking scenery, and takes his beret off to Wiggo’s superb achievement and excellent French, the event itself leaves him cold. We both agree on the quality of Ryan Noble’s exciting winner in South Korea but only Sixer would have thought to link the two …

Read moreRyan Noble sprints clear of the peloton as Paris fetes Bradley Wiggins

The Roker End: still standing, on a great site

Mrs Logic**
Hats off to Brian Leng and all others concerned with a website called The Roker End*.

Technically home to the Sunderland Former Players’ Association, it is packed with material of interest to every supporter of Sunderland AFC – and a good many supporters of other clubs, too, especially those our players also served.

There are interviews galore, proper features and Q&As, news of events and more besides. Try this list for size and quality: Len Shackleton, Johnny Crossan, Johnny Mapson, John Byrne, Nick Sharkey, Ritchie Pitt, Chris Makin. All of them – and more, yes King Charlie included (see comment) – have been interviewed or quoted. Some quotes are familiar – Shack’s “Listen, I’ve nothing against Newcastle – I don’t care who beats them!” – others less so (Mapson: “For the one and only time in my career, I received an approach to throw a game”).

Read moreThe Roker End: still standing, on a great site

Clough or SuperKev or Marco?

clough


Must be something to do with watching Diego Milito’s sublime finishing for Inter Milan last night and wondering whether he’s had time to consider a move to Sunderland, where he and Darren Bent could strike up a useful partnership – and challenge for places in our parade of best-ever strikers …


There are
things that happened last week that I barely remember. The memory of Brian Clough’s ultimately career-ending injury, colliding with Bury’s goalkeeper Chris Harker in the light snow of Roker Park, is so clear that it might have happened earlier today, rather than Boxing Day 1962.

Read moreClough or SuperKev or Marco?

Tell the world what you think about Sunderland

marco

The world, for the purposes of this initiative, is restricted to the listenership of BBC Radio Newcastle, that station with a funny name but a heart, occasionally, in the right place. One of the station’s presenters, Martin Emmerson, launches an appeal for Sunderland fans willing to express their views on air …


With
the business end of the football season here once again, we’re offering Sunderland fans the chance to have their say about the team.

Why not join us for Total Sport each week night from 5.30pm to 7.30pm and have your say with Marco Gabbiadini?

We are always looking for supporters to add to our Fans’ Forum list – which we have had up and running for 10 years now – so if you’d like the chance to be a radio regular then e-mail me with your details and we’ll add you to the list.

Martin.Emmerson@bbc.co.uk