Pete Sixsmith gets back to roots with a trip to Old Trafford, not to see Seb Larsson score an unlikely winner or Vito Mannone make the penalty shoot out saves from Adnan Januzaj and Rafael to earn a Wembley appearance but to savour a great day out for a man fond of the oval ball as played by 13 men on each side rather than 15. The outcome of the Rugby League Grand Final and the ups and down of his beloved Leeds Rhinos set him wondering about Simon Grayson’s ability to inspire the discipline and commitment needed to move Sunderland up the Championship table.
As always with Pete’s outings, what you are about to read combines incisive sportswriting, travelogue and wit …
They say that your first love is the one that you look back on with the most affection, even though you may have found deep satisfaction or a mutual love-hate relationship with the partner that you eventually settle down with and live all life’s ups and downs. I know these things. I read them on the back of a matchbox.
So it is with the teams that you support. Sunderland AFC and I were manacled together in 1962 and that hardware has stayed securely tied since then, apart from a brief escape in 1998 after a needless relegation which a little investment and some shrewd buying would have prevented.
Before and after that, it’s been like Jack and Vera Duckworth’s marriage – plenty of ups and downs, lots of shouting and cursing and a fair bit of weeping when things went desperately wrong, but a commitment that has stuck through thick and thin, with thin being noticeably more represented than the former.