But it was still a weekend of pleasure rather than the usual Sunderland-induced pain, according to Pete Sixsmith. He saw some decent non-league football, albeit watching Shildon lose, and some rugby league. He’s already worried about Saturday but put aside such cares to compose another piece of classy writing combining sport, social observation, politics and travel …
Thanks to Middlesbrough for making the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Not only were they brushed aside by Manchester City, their presence in what used to be called the Sixth Round, spared us from having to go there on a Saturday and thereby probably spoiling our weekend.
Pete Sixsmith was among the tens of thousands who gave a miss to Sunderland vs Burnley. Oh what they missed. Sixer’s comeuppance came when the match he chose instead ended with a heavy defeat in the FA Vase for Shildon. the first team M Salut and almost certainly he saw in their County Durham boyhoods. Next day, he dutifully attended Sunderland Under 23s against Everton and still could get a win … there’s just a passing, sorrowful reference to the plight of SAFC Ladies; read more at this Sunderland Echo link
Malcolm Dawson writes………I gave some serious thought to going down to France for the pre-season friendlies but in the end never got my act together soon enough then other commitments intervened. Our ace match day reporter Peter Sixsmith also gave serious thought to making the trip before failing his medical and settling like me, for the SAFSEE link.
But Salut! Sunderland and Shildon are represented by the presence of Peter Horan who sends us this brief account of events so far via the wonders of modern technology. So not technically a French letter but French i-phone e-mail doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Anyway – over to Pete H.
THE WATER CARRIER CAME TO EVIAN
Wherever you go, these words are used as a ‘thank you’ for visiting France. Despite a national state of emergency with the army patrolling the streets, the French nation remains determined and welcoming.
And so it was that three lads from Ferryhill and one from Shildon arrived at their first destination, the French resort of Evian Les Bains via an unfortunate detour into Switzerland, courtesy of a dysfunctional Citroen Picasso satellite navigation system.
The Stade Camille-Fournier, the venue for the first two games of the French pre-season, overlooks the lovely town of Evian and Lake Geneva. The facility was the base for the German National team during the Euros. An excellent choice by Big Sam who as things turned out preferred to take himself off to Burton on Trent, home of the FA’s new training facility and where sparkling spring water is converted into beer!
The first game against a modest Swiss team, FC Stade Nyonnais, offered opportunities for many of the development squad (with a sprinkling of established first teamers) to impress the new manager. Two Watmore penalties made it a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Lads in pink and purple, but let’s leave the field of play and concentrate on the antics of the bench.
Scissors, Paper, Stone was popular with Borini, Khazri, van Aanholt and a young skinny thing called Joel Aroso. Keep an eye on this lad. The half time warm up consisted of keepy-ups with a forfeit for failure. Khazri was stitched up several times, the forfeit being a finger flick to the ear.
Paper, Scissor, Stone continued after half time, then Aroso came on and he impressed us all with his pace and touch. I think he also impressed the new manager who was getting his second glimpse of his inheritance, having turned up at Rotherham within hours of his official appointment.
On the second match day, the County Durham lads planned a ‘cultural tour’ of Evian. Our hotel was close to the training complex and to reach the funicular railway, the start point of our tour, we had to walk past the training area. Our timing was perfect. The squad had just arrived via the funicular from the five star ROYAL HOTEL. What a wonderful opportunity for a scoop but no chance as they skulked onto the training area and immediately set to with another session of Scissor, Paper, Stones with one exception – Jermaine Defoe who appeared wearing boxing gloves and proceeded by sparring with a club physio. According to a club source the gloves were a penance for a hotel room incident.
The second game was against Dijon FCO and the starting eleven contained ten regular first team players and Joel Aroso. He must really have impressed the manager on his first appearance! He showed his gratitude by scoring a goal and then creating one for Khazri. Borini scored a third from a penalty. Kirchhoff managed 90 minutes as did Kone. The three ‘K’s’ continue to impress.
The bench consisted of development squad. Not to be outdone by the previous game’s substitutes’ antics, Honeyman and Greenwood had a proper scuffle as to who sat where In the end they had to be separated and spent most of the game sulking.
As I pen these words we are in Switzerland, returning to Aix Les Bains for the final game against Montpellier. Well, that’s the plan. We may yet end up in Montenegro if we take advice from Sat Nav Picasso which like its namesake sees the world in peculiar ways.
Pete Sixmsith‘s love of football goes beyond the unrequited loyalty he bestows upon Sunderland AFC. He holds a wide-ranging view and, like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he always gets his man match. From Bishop to Blyth, Sherburn to Shildon, Crook to Coxhoe, he’s there when it matters.
And this week, as Sunderland aren’t playing (and how is that different from other weeks? you might ask) he’s here to give us the lowdown on what’s going on in the Northern League .
England vs Scotland or Shildon vs Crook Town? Guess which Pete Sixsmith has chosen for tomorrow night’s entertainment and guess, too, which international game he feels moved to recall from long ago. And what a great excuse to parade Jake’s images of celeb Sunderland fans …
Pete Sixsmith profits from a football-free (you know what I mean) weekend when at least no one has to worry about the Sunderland score and heads for Kent in search of cup glory for Shildon. Fond dreams of Wembley live on after a first leg setback …
Pete Sixsmith‘s passion for non-league football meant that he missed what Martin O’Neill called a ‘fantastic’ match as Sunderland’s second-half onslaught, punctuated by a good few scary moments when Arsenal counter-attacked, narrowly failed to secure a deserved point. Instead, he saw Billy Greulich Smith, another SAFC supporter, grab two goals in a fine cup win for Shildon in an unknown village. It is not recorded whether, on an overnight stop near Grantham, he offered his thoughts on the should-we-shouldn’t-we? Thatcher statue debate …
The headline mixes up the industries that once flourished in the towns brought together yesterday in search of grassroots cup glory. Pete Sixsmith was there. Now he’s London-bound, praying that a certain other team can somehow muster a winning away performance …
Fulham on Sunday, Consett on Saturday. What a contrast. One is a cosmopolitan area full of pretty young things oozing class and sexuality while the other is in west London.
For our second Boro ‘Who are You?’ – or would it be more accurate to say the second and third? – we turn to a great stalwart of amateur football, John Atkinson*, president of Shildon FC and a former player in the area, and his pal Eddie Airey**, Shildon to the core, both of whom also share a passion for Middlesbrough FC. John – who has great personal memories of the Clough family – sees a replica of last season in the FA Cup, Eddie is less sure …
After swapping the chalk face for a school reunion just off Junction 13 of the M1, Pete Sixsmith battled the floods and took in a Northern League game which gave him the opportunity to renew acquaintances with one of his boyhood (and adulthood) heroes. Frankly, after the amount of rain that hit the North East, cutting off the village of West Auckland, carrying off cars in the city of Durham and washing away the foundations of a whole apartment block in the suburbs of Newcastle, it was amazing that any games took place at all. The rain that fell over the previous two days certainly rivalled that which had caused the Reading game’s cancellation. We must hope there’ll be no repeat on Saturday and we can witness a first league victory since March.