Sixer Says: torn between two loves as Sunderland Under 23s visit Shildon

Monsieur Salut says:

Shildon is where Pete Sixsmith and I grew up after unpromising starts to life (me in Hove, Pete in Leeds). My dad was secretary of the Northern League side for several years despite his funny Cockney accent. Pete still turns out to watch them as often as he can and lives close enough to the ground to walk there and back in about half an hour. Here he describes a pre-season friendly bringing together his two great footballing passions …

Pete Sixsmith
This World Cup is playing havoc with pre-season friendlies. Our game at Darlington has been brought forward a day to next Tuesday just in case the national team (featuring two graduates of the Academy of Light) are involved in a semi-final on the Wednesday, the original date.

This week, a very young Under 23 side played at Dean Street, Shildon, 24 hours later than they were supposed to after the game was switched so that the population could marvel at Jordan Pickford’s two wonderful saves and sob at the other Jordan’s miss.

It was a game that put me in a dilemma, somewhat akin to that of Mary McGregor in her hit platter Torn Between Two Lovers, a ditty penned by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

I chose to wear my Sunderland track suit top and my Shildon baseball cap to show that I had split loyalties.

However, the track suit top is bigger than the cap, so it was abundantly clear where my loyalties lay.

It was a gorgeous evening and Dean Street sparkled. Monsieur Salut’s late father would see a few changes from his days as secretary of Shildon AFC.

The huge main stand is still there, albeit closed to spectators due to structural faults. The tea hut, fashioned out of an old railway carriage as many communal buildings in Shildon were, has long gone and the appalling open toilets on the corner of Brown Street and Dean Street were condemned relatively recently.

I hope that he would be pleased with the new stand that has appeared on the Brown Street side of the pitch and I am sure he would have enjoyed the view from my named seat at the back of that structure, particularly on such a wonderful summer evening.

The New Stand at Shildon

Shildon turned a full side out. They finished a good 3rd in the EBAC Northern League last season and had hoped that they might be invited to move up to the Northern Premier League. As is common in Step 5 football, players come and go and there were three new ones on show last night, including the prolific goal scorer Danny Earl, who has moved from champions Marske United.

Most of our players are away in Portugal training and playing a game of Hunt the Ndong and Papy, so this was really an Under 19 outfit. I would not be in the least bit surprised to see most of these players turning out regularly at Hetton next season when we start our Premier League 2 Division Two fixtures.

We lined up thus:

Trialist; Owen Gamble, Brandon Taylor, Alex Storey, Williams Kokolo; Jack Diamond, Adam Bale, Jack Connolly, Jake Hackett; Conner Shields, Benji Kimpioka. Subs; Jacob Young, Anthony Patterson (g/k), Robbie Dunne, Kane Evans, Lee Connelly, Jordan Hunter, Sam Brotherton

There were some impressive performances in the opening period. Kimpioka ran well and caused problems for the defenders; Bale was industrious in the centre of midfield, Taylor and Storey looked comfortable and Shields offered some physical presence through the middle.

It was Jack Diamond who really caught the eye, though. Puns about his sparkling runs, his 24-carat passing and whether he was or wasn’t a girl’s best friend, were passed along the back row of the stand, but all were impressed with him.

He came along well last year in a poor Under 23 side and he looks a real prospect. He is strong, has a real eye for a pass and can score. He opened the scoring with a deft flick after 14 minutes. When Alex Storey doubled the scoring fifteen minutes later, it was beginning to look a little like a romp in the sun.

Two goal Billy Greulich-Smith. Pic courtesy of SAFC – that’s Shildon AFC
The second half brought the usual myriad of changes, with Shildon’s being the stronger. Club stalwart and keen Sunderland fan, Billy Greulich-Smith (he usually plays wearing spats and a silk scarf) pulled one back with his first touch. He then converted a penalty after a foul that even the worst ref at the World Cup would have awarded and that was the scoring for the evening.

Jordan Hunter, freshly signed from Liverpool’s academy, played for the last quarter of the game and showed some neat touches. He is only 17 but may well turn out to be one to watch as they say.

Shildon’s next game is at home to York City, a game arranged long before anybody considered that the national side would be playing for a place in the last four of the World Cup. Kick off time is 12.30 and there is a large screen in the cosy club house should you want to watch it in company afterwards.

Your correspondent will be at Blackwell Meadows to welcome Jack Ross and his first team squad back on Tuesday – not that I will be able to recognise many of the players.

Oh, and Jordan Pickford – he’s one of our own, ya knaa.

Sixer’s Travels: dreaming of those twin towers (whoops the arch) again

Malcolm Dawson writes……….not one to suffer the plight of the England Men’s Footballing XI in meaningless friendlies our regular correspondent Peter Sixsmith takes the opportunity to take in some non league football. This weekend he indulged his love of footy and that of rail travel by making the short trip to the Yorkshire coast to see if his home town Club (and that of M Salut) might bring his dream of a Wembley Final one step closer. Read on to find out ……..


Except it wasn’t as Marske United knocked Shildon out of the FA Vase in the Second Round proper and coupled with our abject failure to qualify from the group stage of the Checkatrade Trophy, it reduces my chances of a Wembley visit in 2018 considerably. The FA Cup still remains and remember all you over 50s, we did appoint a new manager in November 1972 so maybe, just maybe……

Regular readers will know that I actively look forward to the international breaks. It means that I can relax a little and not become anxious at the prospect of another gut wrenching, sleep inducing performance from the Lads in red and white stripes, complete with subsequent sulk and foul temper all day Sunday. I sometimes take off for the day to tick a new ground off and I was sorely tempted to go to Winsford in Cheshire to watch Tow Law Town’s game with 1874 Northwich. 1874 were once Northwich Victoria and played at the SoL in 2006. They had a loud mouthed chairman who complained about us reducing the prices and depriving Vics of income. He sold the club on to another party who was eventually declared bankrupt and 1874 Northwich were formed by the fans to keep an honourable name going. Good for them.

However, I declined the pleasures of the Saturday Hen Party Specials on Trans-Pennine Express and opted to travel with Northern Rail almost all the way along the line that starts in Bishop Auckland and ends in Saltburn, via Shildon, Newton Aycliffe, Heighington, North Road, Darlington and all stations to Saltburn – including the penultimate stop at Marske-on-Sea. It was almost a full train as it set out from Bishop Auckland and it was full when it picked up a sizeable contingent of Shildon supporters at its first stop. More got on at Newton Aycliffe and the ticket collector abandoned any prospect of collecting fares until after Darlington where the train disgorged those picking up connections, going shopping or toddling off to the cinema to see Paddington 2.

On we went to Middlesbrough, passing the scene of last weekend’s disaster and then through the ruins of the Teesside steel industry to Redcar Central and East, Longbeck (where I have never seen anybody get on or off – ever) and then to Marske, where 30 men and women, with completely different accents to the locals, wandered down the ramp and into The Zetland, The Clarendon and Biggles Bar.

The latter is named in tribute to Captain W E Johns, the creator of James Bigglesworth, Flying Ace and general all round good egg. With his chums, the Hon Algernon Montgomery Lacey (who I suspect was a bit of a toff) and Ginger Hebblethwaite (working class Northerner), they foiled many a dastardly plot from Johnny Foreigner and emerged as heroes in 98 books with titles like Biggles Takes A Holiday (maybe in Marske-on-Sea), Biggles Takes It Rough (not for those of a sensitive nature) and Biggles and The Noble Lord (presumably not Lord Montague of Beaulieu). Alas, Biggles Flies Undone is a figment of some schoolboy’s imagination. (I seem to recall it being something on Monty Python’s Flying Circus c 1969 – MD)

Johns was stationed in Marske during the First World War as a flying instructor but he kept crashing the planes and was removed to the Western Front where little help was needed to bring down the Sopwith Camels and Pups that zoomed above the poor bloody infantry sitting in their shell holes, waiting for a whizz-bang to blow them into kingdom come.

I managed a fine pint of Cameron’s Strongarm in The Clarendon in the company of Colin Hurworth (partner in crime in the Mystery of Who Wrote SAFC For Ever in the dust of Don Revie’s car), a Sunderland supporter and like Algy and Ginger an all round good egg (he prefers Scotch ones) and Graham Shafto, a Newcastle fan but none the worse for that. There are some decent ones around.

A fine pint of Strongarm was taken by our intrepid explorer

There was a good crowd at Mount Pleasant, a small ground that needs a lot doing to it if Marske are to be promoted to the Northern Premier League. One whole side was blocked off as they were laying new paving stones, so the 500+ in attendance were squeezed into three sides of what is a ground with little elevated terracing. They are a good team though and they took an early lead when Danny Earl ran through and scored a well taken goal and one which rocked Shildon and their noisy support. The first half was cagey with neither side wanting to make mistakes. Nick Livesedge in the Shildon goal made a couple of very good saves before the half time whistle went and many bladders could be safely emptied.

The second half was of a very high standard as both teams went for it. The Railwaymen drew level when marauding full back Jamie Harwood was brought down in the box and Sunderland supporter Billy Greulich-Smith stepped up to put the spot kick past Robbie Deans in the Marske goal. Both sides spurned chances to win the game in the 90 minutes and as is the case in this excellent competition, the game went to extra time with a replay to come if the scores were still level after two hours. Train timetables were consulted and if there was a prompt start, the 17.34 could still be caught. We hoped.

Marske midfielder Craig Gott settled the game in favour of the Seasiders with a stunning shot in the first period of the additional half hour and try as they might, Shildon could not find a second equaliser. Marske had a man sent off for two yellow cards near the end but they were disciplined and organised and deserved their win. They have lost but three times this season – once to league leaders Morpeth Town, once to fellow title challengers West Auckland Town and once to another set of Yorkshire Coasters, Scarborough Athletic in the FA Cup. They have won the last eight games they have played and look a very good unit indeed.

With thanks to @Official_SAFC on Twitter

The 17.34 was caught thanks to the conductor holding the train while your correspondent waddled down the ramp and as tiredness caught up with the Shildon folk in the carriage, a pleasant journey was spent in the company of top Sunderland supporter Russ Henderson and copious pictures of his new cat Wilf.

So no Vase run for Shildon this year and it leaves us with the league to concentrate on. League leaders Morpeth Town surprisingly lost at Ashton Athletic in deepest, darkest Ashton-in Makerfield while West Auckland and North Shields won through.

And as for Tow Law- their game was postponed due to a “soft spot” on the Winsford pitch. They were not amused and may well approach Biggles, Algy and Ginger to see if they are prepared to strafe the ground. A long way to go for nothing…..

Sixer Says: solve my dilemma – SAFC v QPR or Shildon at Guiseley

Sleek Sixer now …


What a pleasure to read John McCormick’s eloquent account of his day out at Deepdale and a refreshing change to have some positivity about Sunderland.

With any luck, that can continue after the international break, always assuming that Queens Park Rangers are willing sacrificial victims at the Stadium of Light.

Read moreSixer Says: solve my dilemma – SAFC v QPR or Shildon at Guiseley

Sixer’s Bradford Seven: Lens and Khazri excellent in friendly win

Malcolm Dawson writes…… following his trip to Nottingham where Pete Sixsmith saw Shildon AFC come away with a two all draw against Basford United on Friday night, he stopped off at Valley Parade to witness a youthful Josh Maja, a possibly soon to be departing Jeremaine Lens and the unlikely goal machine that is Billy Jones fire the other SAFC into a 3-0 half time lead against Bradford City. 

The Bantams fought back with two of their own, although with the second being in injury time anything other than a victory for the boys in red and white was highly unlikely. Still what did Pete think of today’s performance? He warms up for the upcoming season with his customary seven word verdict.

22nd July 2017  Bradford City (o) 2  SAFC (3) 3   Encouraging signs but still weaknesses to address


Sixer’s Burnley Soapbox: thank heavens he can write about travel, too

Malcolm Dawson writes…..Shildon play Whitley Bay in the Northern League Cup this evening. Peter Sixsmith will be there hoping to see a team in red and white progress in a knock-out competition. He travelled to the North Lancashire hotbed of football that is Burnley last night, more in hope than expectation of seeing a team in red and white progress in a knock-out competition. Burnley is a proper town, with a proper football club and proper folk drinking proper beer. It has a lot to commend it. If like me you agonised with Gary Bennett, whose commentary grew more and more agonised as the match went on, you’ll perhaps be relieved that you weren’t there in person to witness another shabby performance. Pete was. Here are his thoughts.


Another away game, another disappointing journey home and another search for the words to describe a dismal performance.

So let’s look at the trip and do a bit of a travel piece. The fact that the Durham Branch were prepared to run a bus was a pleasant surprise. So along with a rival writer, we were waiting in Spennymoor at 3.00pm as the dinky 33 seater (without a toilet) rolled up to the bus stop.

There were 10 of us scattered around the coach, all stretched out and with ample reading material. The aforementioned rival had his nose in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Quiz alert – What does the K stand for? Which Midlands town did JKJ come from?). I read the remnants of the weekend papers and The Rugby League Express while The Sunday Times circulated.

Off we went over Blubberhouses Moor, past Menwith Hill and Skipton (one of my favourite towns) and into the hill top town of Colne. A break for an hour or so took us to a micro pub called Boyce’s Barrels, situated opposite the Colne Hippodrome – a splendid old cinema.

Boycie turned out not to be an Essex second hand car dealer with a pneumatic laugh but a jolly East Lancs lad who clearly loved his ale and who wisely sold beers from outside the area. A splendid pint of mild was quaffed from a Somerset Brewery called RCH and a half of bitter from a brewery whose name I have forgotten.

From Colne we traversed the M56 several times before we entered Burnley from above and saw the gleaming lights of Turf Moor in the distance. The coach was parked outside the ground and it was straight in and into the wooden seats of the Cricket Ground stand – state of the art 40 years ago but looking a wee bit tired now.

That’s the good bit over. On to the reason for us being there…………

Moyes shuffled his cards a little bit. He started with three at the back – Jones, Djilobodji and Denayer – with Manquillo and Van Aanholt playing as wing backs. Donald Love combined with George Honeyman in midfield (Love and Honeyman – Florists to the Polari) with the chosen skipper Seb Larsson in the middle. Up front those two powerhouses, Borini and Januzaj (I gather Wakefield Trinity are looking at them to play in the second row in the upcoming Rugby League season) were there to rattle in the goals. A decent selection under the circumstances – those being that we appear to have no more than 13 fit senior players.

And as the Countdown stalls at the first hurdle Benno is less than impressed with Don Vito’s distribution..

It started reasonably well. The three central defenders coped well enough and we buzzed around a little bit in midfield. Unfortunately, we appeared to be completely incapable of passing the ball to our own players while Burnley, entirely unreasonably, persisted in passing to their own men. For 43 minutes we held out until Jason Denayer lost his concentration and lost Sam Vokes who, entirely unreasonably, turned a fine header past Vito Mannone. One down at half time, there was hope for the second half as we attacked the goal behind which the 1800 Sunderland supporters (including a group of Belgian groundhoppers who happened to be Anderlecht fans) were massed.

Unfortunately we never saw much action as our defenders decided to kick the ball to anyone wearing a claret and blue shirt. Barton and Defour ran the midfield while Keane and Tarkowski swatted away the “threat” posed by Borini and Januzaj. And so it went on. Aimless long balls from the defenders, plenty of pointless running from the midfielders and absolutely nothing from the forwards. Defoe replaced Love (what’s Love got to do with it?) and we reverted to a back four but the midfield guile was still lacking and we never threatened.

On came Andre Gray and he terrorised Billy Jones sufficiently to wrap the game up before Seb Larsson finally forced a save out of Burnley’s third choice keeper Tom Pope in the 90th minute. Sean Dyche could have played his club’s Under 11 goalie in this game as our attacking threat was so puny.

Back to the coach in time to catch the rousing commentary from Sincil Bank as Lincoln City dumped Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town out of the old tin pot and Blackpool’s 50 travelling fans danced with delight at Oakwell when they grabbed a 119th minute winner.
Much of the talk during the day had been about a hard exit from the EU. Not for the first time, Sunderland found an easy way to exit the FA Cup. The exit from the Premier League draws ever closer.

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Sixer’s Travels: Shildon and Kidderminster, Oswestry and Airbus, thanks to international break

Pete Sixsmith: 'sir, you look just like a real author!'
Pete Sixsmith: ‘sir, you look just like a real author!’

Monsieur Salut writes: I almost disallowed the first line of Pete Sixsmith‘s latest piece. Turgid? Drivel? Snap out of it Sixer, a man I introduce to others as Salut! Sunderland‘s star writer: self-deprecation will get you nowhere though international breaks seem to get you to a lot of places (not necessarily including all the places mentioned above) …

Read moreSixer’s Travels: Shildon and Kidderminster, Oswestry and Airbus, thanks to international break

Bravo Leicester, keep faith with Sunderland and this season’s real champions, Shildon

Shildon Tunnel
Shildon Tunnel

We can take our hats off to Leicester City, fully deserving Premier champs. We can pray those of us with a God, that Sunderland somehow manage for the last three games what the Foxes did in nine a season ago. And, to lighten heavy spirits, we can share Pete Sixsmith (and Monsieur Salut)’s joy at a great achievement for a home town we both share by adoption …

Amid the feelings of doom that pervade the thoughts of Sunderland supporters, a ray, nay beam, nay blast of sunshine hits some Red and Whites. For those like Monsieur Salut and me who cut our footballing teeth at Dean Street, Shildon there is a title win to celebrate.

Shildon AFC: Northern League Champions 2015-16.

Read moreBravo Leicester, keep faith with Sunderland and this season’s real champions, Shildon

Sixer’s non-league Soapbox: Shildon’s celebrations cancelled by dogged Terriers

Malcolm Dawson writes….the day started off OK for Pete Sixsmith. He sat and shivered at the Riverside whilst the rain stayed away long enough for Durham to win their second County Championship match against a Sussex side who probably hold out title hopes of their own. He then made his tortuous way up the A1 into Northumberland in the hope of seeing a title winning performance from the other SAFC. It wasn’t to be. A healthy crowd which included most of the Northern League Irregulars turned up to see if The Railwaymen would clinch the title. I’m not sure whose nerves would have suffered more – the Shildon supporters or the Officials and followers of Marske United who could only stand back and watch heart in mouth, knowing any sort of result for Bedlington would see them crowned Champions. It wasn’t a classic game. Shildon had chances but ultimately a sloppy piece of defending and an understandable nervousness in front of goal sent the title across the Tees to North Yorkshire. What follows is Pete’s take on the proceedings with the added bits in italics my own.

With thanks to @mtscally
With thanks to @mtscally

Read moreSixer’s non-league Soapbox: Shildon’s celebrations cancelled by dogged Terriers

Before Sunderland there was Shildon. Tonight, at Bedlington Terriers, there’s Shildon again

Ernie and Sadie Randall on holiday in the Isle of Man (Sadie's sister, Jean, to dad's right. My sister Sandra to her left)
M Salut’s parents, Ernie and Sadie Randall, on holiday in Scarborough. Sadie’s sister, Jean, to Dad’s right. My sister, Sandra, to their left

Rather fancifully, I had hoped to interest my old newspaper, The Northern Echo, in this slice of nostalgia brought bang up to date by Shildon’s night of potential glory. A win at Bedlington Terriers tomorrow evening (Wednesday) is all that stands between them and a first championship since 1940 in the Northern League, 126 years old and the world’s longest surviving league after the Football League.

The Echo declined, alternatively offering a little space for a retrospective that I fear I may have no time to provide. So I must keep my Echoes of the past, at greater length than I would have sent to the newspaper, for Salut! Sunderland (and Salut! readers at a couple of other places: and ) …

Read moreBefore Sunderland there was Shildon. Tonight, at Bedlington Terriers, there’s Shildon again

Sunderland not at the races at QPR; Sixer sees an Ascot canter

Jake's wrong: Sixer was grinning at Ascot (with the odd grimace whenever he checked his texts)
Jake’s wrong: Sixer was grinning at Ascot (with the odd grimace whenever he checked his texts)

You couldn’t actually escape from Sunderland-induced misery at QPR; L’Equipe’s TV channel kept annoying Monsieur Salut by highlighting the game for no better reason than the former Marseille striker Loic Remy’s goal. Earlier Pete Sixsmith, gratefully playing truant to watch a rampant Shildon in the FA Vase replay at Ascot United, had been bombarded with texts on the grim proceedings to his east. He reckons M Salut’s late dad, the Shildon club secretary for several years, would have been as proud of the Railwaymen as we were aghast at SAFC’s labours …

Read moreSunderland not at the races at QPR; Sixer sees an Ascot canter