The Brexit Debate. Today: the not so good Europeans of Sunderland AFC

Malcolm Dawson writes…..with the seemingly never ending issue of Brexit, the prorogation of Parliament and the confusing and contradictory outpourings of the major political parties and politicians I decided to take a sideways look at the whole business of leave or remain by comparing the contributions that EU citizens have made to the cause of Sunderland AFC, in the hope it would simplify my thinking.

Yesterday, I made the case for the Remain campaign and in case you missed it you can find it here (and hopefully this will take you there and not some dodgy Turkish escort site!).

Today I shall be looking at some of those players whose time on Wearside was less effective and give weight to the argument that freedom of movement is not always desirable – unless it means moving them on.

Initially I did think that this was going to be an easier task than choosing a team of individuals who had made a positive impact in the club’s history but realised quite quickly that my self imposed criteria, one of which was that I had had to see them play in a Sunderland shirt had actually restricted my options.

For instance, the first name that sprung to mind was that of Arnau Riera. Signed by Niall Quinn, Arnau made his first appearance from the bench at Southend, a game I didn’t go to, then in a League Cup tie away to Bury, his only start, he got himself sent off after only three minutes. I wasn’t at that one either. Then in came Roy Keane and out went the young graduate of Barcelona who had grown up with Lionel Messi and Xavi, so that was an obvious choice rejected.

But undaunted I have set about trawling the memory banks and come up with the following side, set up in a 4-4-2 system with a full bench of 7 subs.

GK. This was my most problematical selection. There were two obvious candidates. Mika and Keiran Westwood.

Mika’s dodgy holiday on Wearside doesn’t qualify him for the Brexit XI

However, whilst I am pretty sure I saw Mika play for the U23s at the Stadium of Light in a game where he made two howlers, I never saw him play for the senior team so I’ve ruled him out. So Westwood it had to be. After all he had played for the Republic of Ireland, which makes him an EU citizen, until I discovered that he had been born in Liverpool and qualified for Ireland owing to the fact that he liked a pint of Guinness, listened to The Corrs and once read Roddy Doyle’s “Barrytown Trilogy.”

Macho Macho man

So it was back to the drawing board and a bit reluctantly I’ve gone for Jurgen Macho.

The Austrian was a decent enough keeper, though he lacked a bit of beef as they say and had a propensity to punch rather than catch (some would say flap at) high balls. Macho joined us in the year 2000, from First Vienna as back up to Tommy Sorensen and made a total of 7 appearances in his first season, two as a sub. He only played 4 times the next season but in his third and final year, before moving to Chelsea he actually started 15 times and also came off the subs’ bench for a third time in his Sunderland career. Of the EU nationals I’ve seen play in goal for Sunderland (I never saw either of Edwin Zoetebier’s two appearances either) he would have to be my choice between the sticks for the Brexiteers XI.

Back 4:

RB Considering we finally ended up in 14th spot in the Premiership in season 2013/14 (but only after winning five of our last six league games) and we got to Wembley in the League Cup, we had a number of poor signings that pre-season. One of those Valentin Roberge is my selection on the right side of the back 4. Coming on a free from Portuguese side Maratimo, I actually thought he looked quite a classy player whenever I saw him but he didn’t really coupé la moutarde as the French never say. He was quite a cultured player but his style didn’t really seemed suited to the English game and after a mere 13 appearances he went back to his native France on loan to Reims.

CB There was a lot of competition for the back 4 positions but my two centre backs are Thomas Helmer and Sotirios Kyrgiakos.

Thomas Helmer – capped 68 times by Germany and a member of the winning side of Euro 96 came to Sunderland in 1999, brought in by Peter Reid to cement our place back in the top flight. He managed all of two games – a 0-0 at home to Arsenal and a 2-1 away win at Elland Road. I was at both of those games but never saw Helmer again. Did Peter Reid not rate him? Was he suffering from homesickness or couldn’t he face the constant singing of the The Dambusters March by opposing fans? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. He came on a free but on massive wages and returned to Germany, on loan to Hertha Berlin, before we’d all linked hands and sung Auld Lang Syne to celebrate the new millennium a year too early.

Do you remember Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the big Greek centre back who came to us on loan from Wolfsburg?

No? Well I do – just. He played a total of four games for us and I know I saw him play but I can’t for the life of me recall who our opponents were. I have vague memories of a lumbering hulk with long hair who looked clumsy on the ball but that’s about it. The main centre back pairing that season was John O’Shea and Titus Bramble with Carlos Cuellar ahead of Kyrgiakos, which perhaps indicates just how much managers Martin O’Neill and Paulo di Canio rated him but like so many on this list he played several times for his country as well as at the highest level in European competitions with Glasgow Rangers. Maybe we just never got to see the real deal.

LB has to be Andreas Dossena. Dossena came to us on a free from Napoli, via a loan spell at Palermo. The Italian could have become a cult figure after making his debut in a 2-1 victory at Sid James’ Park but in only his second game, at Hull City, he was sent off for a needless stamp in the 6th minute of first half stoppage time. Not only was that an act of pure stupidity in itself, being as it was out by the touchline in the opposition’s half with the ref just about to blow for the break, but we were already a goal down thanks to a Carlos Cuellar OG and a man light already courtesy of an idiotic lunging tackle from Barry Lee Cattermole not long before. It was a credit to the nine men still on the pitch that we finished that game without conceding another goal and unlucky in fact not to have got at least a point.

As before the competition is healthy for the midfield berths but my selection lines up like this: Carsten Fredgaard, Jason Denayer, Christian Bassila, Charias Mavrias.

Read moreThe Brexit Debate. Today: the not so good Europeans of Sunderland AFC

ALS, Charlie Methven and ‘a small cabal of so-called supporters’

Drumming up support

Close season means silliness, says Monsieur Salut. Our club is ‘linked’ with players no one at SAFC has actually ever wanted. We pursue targets none of the speculation even mentioned. Fans whinge that June passes without marquee signings. They whinge again when the first acquisitions are frees. But at least none of us would be stupid and petty enough to complain when Alex Morgan uses a tea cup gesture to celebrate the USA beating England in Lyon. Would we?

Meanwhile, in disjointed (but reasonably explained) fashion, A Love Supreme has been interviewing Charlie Methven in his English country garden …

Read moreALS, Charlie Methven and ‘a small cabal of so-called supporters’

An evening with Nyron and helping hands for a Sunderland school and the fans’ museum

iron

Roy Keane famously said the less time Nyron Nosworthy spent on the ball, the better for all concerned. He was probably right; a much-loved cult figure at the Stadium of Light, Nyron in possession anywhere near our goal was nevertheless cause for apprehension, not excitement.

But Michael Ganley and his colleagues at the Sunderland AFC fans’ museum are confident our Nyron will be on the the ball to everyone’s benefit when he attends a fund-raising event there on July 5.

Read moreAn evening with Nyron and helping hands for a Sunderland school and the fans’ museum

The 2019 HAWAY awards: a vintage season for Salut! Sunderland’s ‘Who are You?’ interviews

Jake: ‘thanks to all who participate’. Click on the image to see all of this season’s interviews

Judging is under way – and you can take part.

Salut! Sunderland couldn’t be happier with the quality of “Who are You?” interviews throughout this season.

Read moreThe 2019 HAWAY awards: a vintage season for Salut! Sunderland’s ‘Who are You?’ interviews

Sixer’s Sub’s Doncaster Rovers Soapbox: it’s a good Friday on Wearside

The games are coming thick and fast as we get to the fag end and business end of the season. Pete Sixsmith and Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson are sharing match reporting duties and Pete will be back for his take on the Peterborough and Portsmouth clashes, but today it is Malcolm who brings us his view of the goings on at the Stadium of Light on what turned out to be a pretty decent Good Friday.

If you needed any proof of the influence of Salut! Sunderland the evidence was there to see yesterday, as we put the debacle of the previous weekend behind us.

In my match report following the home defeat by Coventry City, I suggested it might be time to give Alim Ozturk, the second most forgotten man of the Sunderland squad (after Donald Love) a game and in midweek, Wrinkly Pete called upon the home support to get behind the team and make some noise. With the Dutchman recalled to the starting XI the crowd, especially in the recently renamed Roker End, produced their loudest and most sustained support of the season.

While on social media Baldwin and Flanagan shouldered most of the blame for the inept defensive performance against the Sky Blues, that was far too simplistic an explanation for our first home defeat of the campaign. Though it was no surprise to see them both “rested” for the visit of Doncaster, it was other changes to the side and organisational adjustments which got us back on track. Coventry had no recognisable target man and as such moved the ball quickly, kept it on the ground and turned the two centre backs inside out. But there was precious little support for them from either midfield or on the flanks. With Grigg and Wyke both starting, Honeyman and Morgan had been told to play narrower and the width came from O’Nien and Oviedo who both started that game higher up the pitch. The central midfield pairing of Power and Leadbitter also appeared to have been given instructions to be positive going forward with the result that Baldwin and Flanagan were frequently exposed and Coventry exploited this.

Yesterday, we played with a flat back four and though the full backs still supported the attack when they could, with Morgan and McGeady in wide positions, they could apply themselves more to their defensive duties. The return of Lee Cattermole also strengthened the central defensive midfield position and with just the single striker, Power and Honeyman  helped to break down potential Doncaster threats at source.

Decent return to the starting line up for Alim

That’s not to say we were totally dominant but Ozturk and Dunne were fairly comfortable against the pony tailed John Marquis, who is more your traditional striker than those employed by Coventry, though he might have won a free kick on the edge of the box on six minutes when he was hauled to the ground. But I thought both centre backs played well and dealt with the Donny attacks efficiently in the main.

There was one occasion when McLaughlin had to race off his line and throw his body in the way and another occasion when Ozturk maybe got away with a bit of holding. Donny manager Grant McCann certainly thought they should have had a penalty when, following a free kick and an almost inevitable yellow card for Lee Cattermole, Ozturk and Butler practised their moves for the upcoming series of Strictly Come Dancing and the Doncaster man went to ground. It might have been given on another day, but referee Andy Woolmer deemed it six of one and half a dozen of the other and throughout the afternoon he had refused to give a number of free kicks, mostly when Charlie Wyke had been held as well as that early one against Ozturk. But at least he was consistent.

So we started off with four across the back, but that didn’t mean to say there was no attacking intent and we might have scored twice in the first thirty seconds. Attacking the North Stand for a change, both Power and Morgan had decent chances blocked. After all the pre-kick off flag waving the crowd was up for this and it was just the start we needed.

But Doncaster in a rather smart blue and red change kit were soon on the counter attack and a long diagonal ball from Herbie Kane on the right wing found John Marquis running into space. It was then that the covering Ozturk impeded the Donny man while the referee waved play on. That was on five minutes and we were to go ahead immediately. George Honeyman who showed great energy all afternoon, buzzing about behind Wyke and behind the wingmen played the ball out wide to Aiden McGeady on the left wing. McGeady did what he does, rolled the ball, shimmied, beat his man and delivered a beautiful cross from the corner.

Charlie another MoM type display

Charlie Wyke, who nearly didn’t play as he was suffering from a migraine as kick off time approached, rose high between two defenders and nodded the ball down and back for Lewis Morgan who struck a powerful half volley inside the left hand post and halfway up the side netting from 16 yards. Exactly what was needed to settle any lingering nerves after the news that both Barnsley and Portsmouth had collected all three points.

We were definitely on the front foot and with 14 minutes on the clock, Honeyman was again involved, this time on the opposite side as he fed Morgan. His deep cross was headed back by Mcgeady and with Wyke lurking the Doncaster defence hacked it away, but only to the onrushing Luke O’Nien. His powerful drive swerved towards the top corner, but there was a bit too much swerve and it went high and wide.

Donny weren’t totally out of it but we were clearly on top at this point as Honeyman had a shot blocked, and both Power and Morgan had further chances. The second goal came from a corner, though only indirectly. Power played it short to McGeady, whose cross was headed away by the Rovers’ defence. It was like a bit of head tennis as at least two defenders headed it out of the box, Cattermole then headed it back towards halfway and a diving Honeyman stretched and headed it to Oviedo out wide. He in turn fed Max Power who sent a long diagonal ball towards the penalty spot. Donny keeper Marko Marosi came to punch it but in truth got nowhere near as his route to the ball was blocked by one of his own defenders and Jimmy Dunne who leapt highest of all to head it goalwards, where Charlie Wyke was on hand to ensure it found the back of the net.

This was another fine display from Wyke who is showing the qualities which made him our marquee signing of the summer. Not only is he strong with two good feet and has a decent touch, but he is also by all accounts a top bloke. If only he had a bit more pace.

All game the Lads had shown an intensity and a desire to win the ball and after another crunching tackle Lee Cattermole won the ball in the opposition half, fed Charlie Wyke who after playing a short pass to Aiden McGeady, who in turn found Oviedo on the overlap, continued his run into the box to get on the end of the Costa Rican’s cross, but his stooping header was gratefully clutched by the Slovakian keeper.  We were well on top yet almost conceded just before the half time whistle sounded.

The Roker End pre-kick off

Herbie Kane nutmegged Max Power then tried to run by him. Had Power simply stood his ground and Kane run into him, I might have felt aggrieved that the free kick was given, but as it was the ex Wigan man raised his arm to block the run, dragged Kane down and I couldn’t argue with the decision. The left footed shot from full back Danny Andrew was powerfully struck and rattled the foot of the post. A couple of inches to the right and it would have bounced harmlessly out of play for a goal kick. A couple of inches to the left and it would have gone in. As it was it came straight back off the woodwork and fortunately there was a player in a red and white shirt in the right place to hook it to safety as the whistle blew.

Doncaster needed to do something and half time brought a double substitution with forward Alfie May and attacking midfielder Allie Crawford, replacing Coppinger and Whiteman. My brother, watching the game on TV in the Three Horsehoes somewhere in Spain, texted me at full time to say he thought the second half had been a bit more scrappy and so it was, as Doncaster had more of the ball in our half of the pitch, but we defended resolutely and apart from the penalty shout I never really felt any apprehension, although I can never really settle when we are only two goals to the good.

We had in fact almost got a third five minutes into the half when the ball broke for Oviedo who ran at pace down the left wing, cut into the penalty area and shot for goal from distance. The ball seemed to take a slight deflection off a defender and just like at the end of the first half, the ball hit the post in more or less the same place but this time, went safely behind. A goal kick was given and no-one seemed to contest the decision so maybe a trip to the opticians is in order.

We had other chances, McGeady and Wyke might both have found the target, Wyke making space for himself after a lovely ball from the Irishman and producing a decent save from Marosi but it was Doncaster who arguably came closest as Dunne, misjudged a high ball and let May in behind him. Fortunately McLaughlin was alive to the situation and came rushing off his line to block the shot.

There was the penalty shout when Ozturk wrapped his arm around Andy Butler but Butler was leaning into Ozturk. Some refs would have given it – this one didn’t.

We had other opportunities. Wyke was sent clear in the first half but he wasn’t quite quick enough to get one on one with the keeper and eventually played it to McGeady who was closed down and late in the second half substitute Will Grigg had a decent shot saved. In truth this was a fairly comfortable win, though by no means a walk over. But once again the commitment was there from these players. Let’s hope that will stand us in good stead for the remaining four fixtures.

The one refereeing decision which didn’t go our way was at the Pirelli Stadium where Portsmouth’s 94th minute winner against Burton should have been ruled out on two counts. Those two points mean that we still have the same total as next Saturday’s opponents, although we have improved our goal difference.

Of course we still have Monday’s games to go but with a game in hand on Barnsley, Pompey’s visit could possibly be the defining moment of the promotion campaign but I suspect there will be a few more twists and turns to come before we head to Southend on Darth Vader’s birthday.

Ha’way The Lads.

Highlights of the game via safc.com

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Sixer’s Rochdale Soapbox: a victory won on the playing fields of Cleadon

Malcolm Dawson writes….this was a pretty good day all round. The sun was shining as we left County Durham and it stayed that way as we made our trouble free journey down the A1 and M62 arriving at Brighouse just as the sun climbed above the yardarm. Surprise, surprise the pub was awash with red and white striped shirts enjoying a beer and a Wetherspoons breakfast. I’d hazard a guess that most other pubs near the roads leading to Rochdale in this part of West Yorkshire and over the county boundary would have been the same.

We managed to get parked close to the ground and I got myself a commemorative mug.

There are many different ways to win. The home game with Rochdale had been relatively straightforward and provided the satisfaction of a comfortable victory, but there is a different kind of contentment that comes from conceding early then sealing victory in the dying minutes. As we saw in that first game of the season against Charlton, and last week at Wembley, this is a team that will keep trying until the final whistle and testament to the work ethic that Jack Ross and his backroom team have instilled at the Academy of Light.

And still the sun shone.

I was home by 7.30 which is not much later than many a journey back from the Stadium of Light when there’s been a big crowd. On the whole a pretty good day.

Rochdale might be struggling near the foot of the table but there have been few easy games in this league and this was another where our boys had to dig deep to get a result. How did Pete Sixsmith see things and what sort of day did he have? Read on to find out.

ROCHDALE (away)

The Duke of Wellington was not a great football fan. As a pupil at Eton College, he was probably more inclined to the eponymous Wall Game before he became an eminently quotable soldier and politician.

He preceded the European Reform Group by two centuries when he said “We always have been, we are and I hope we shall always be, detested in France.” His view of railways was spectacularly wrong – “Depend upon it sir, nothing will ever come of them” – but he was often succinct with his advice. When, in his dotage, he was asked by Queen Victoria how to rid the Crystal Palace of sparrows, he replied “Sparrowhawks, Ma’am, sparrowhawks.” It worked.

His best known quote relates to Waterloo – the battle not the station – which he described as “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life” and that could well be a summary of the win at Spotland on Saturday, a win that left us maintaining our lead over a dogged Portsmouth, breathing down the necks of a worried of Barnsley and putting us within catching distance of long time leaders Luton Town.

The Iron Duke

It was by no means the footballing master class that we produced on Wednesday. This was a win that had to be dug out after we went into the break a goal down to an invigorated Rochdale side who gave everything and ended up with nothing. Had I been a neutral, I would have felt some considerable sympathy for them and their newly appointed manager, Brian Barry-Murphy, but sympathy is of no use if you are in the relegation zone.

It needed a performance of some character to overcome them and we got that in the second half, with Charlie Wyke, Dylan McGeouch and Luke O’Nien leading the way as we stormed back to take three oh so valuable points and send a shudder down the spines of Tykes’ and Hatters’ fans and management.

Aiden McGeady, the catalyst of the splendid win at Accrington on Wednesday, was missing and was replaced by Lyndon Gooch. He lasted half an hour before he limped off and was replaced by George Honeyman. Cometh the hour, cometh the man as they say in the gentrified parts of Southwick, Shildon and Shotton.

By half time we were a goal down and struggling. Rochdale had absorbed our early pressure, with keeper Josh Lillis making a fine save from Will Grigg and when our defence committed its only serious lapse, Ian Henderson was on hand to take advantage of a Joe Bunney cross to put Dale ahead.

Henderson formed a striking partnership with Aaron Wilbraham, a partnership with a combined age of 73. The former is a mere stripling of 34, the latter a venerable 39 and they caused us some problems, mainly by denying both Baldwin and Flanagan the space to move forward. At Accrington on Wednesday and at Wembley, both had brought the ball out. This was denied them here.

Henderson’s shot was the only one on target from a Rochdale player and McLaughlin had a relatively quiet afternoon although he did make a fine second half save when a clearance from Baldwin ballooned into the air and he had to be quick to push it over the bar.

The players did the usual “girding up of loins” and showed their character and fitness in the second half.

Dylan McGeouch was outstanding, fetching and carrying and wearing out Camps and Rathbone, who had thwarted him in the first. His drive and energy enabled us to spend the entire forty-five minutes on the front foot and he will continue to play a major part in the promotion push.

Charlie Wyke had won many sceptical fans over on Wednesday with a thundering performance at The Crown Ground. He did it again here and was rewarded with the kind of goal that he scored for fun at Carlisle United and Bradford City.

Denver Hume played him in and he rolled a Rochdale defender before turning and tucking away a well-placed shot beyond the keeper to level the scores and create an impetus that ended up with a late, late winner. He looks fitter and more up for it and he appears to enjoy working with Grigg. There is less pressure on him and Grigg is a much more straightforward player to link up with than Josh Maja was. The sound of his name ringing around Spotland will have done him a world of good.

We pressed for the winner.

Denver Hume, a tad disappointing today, was replaced by the returning Bryan Oviedo which meant that the thrust of our attacking came from the full backs. By this time, O’Nien was running Joe Bunney ragged down the right hand side and it was from here that the winner came.

In the 89th minute, O’Nien once again got past Bunney and into the box. His low cross was picked up by George Honeyman who turned it past Lillis to send the 3,500 Red and Whites into a frenzy and to heap despair on the Blue and Whites who were preparing to celebrate a point well taken.

Skipper goes wild at Spotland

We closed the game out comfortably and news came through that Luton had drawn and Barnsley had lost so there was joy unconfined amongst the hordes as they poured back to the buses and cars scattered around the residential streets of Spotland – although in my case I missed the street where the bus had parked and had to be collected on the main road having walked a mile away from the ground. My face was redder than a Sunderland track suit top. Silly old fool…….

Sometimes promotions are won when you have to dig a win out. We are good at come backs and have a reputation for resilience. Late goals at Walsall, Wycombe and now Rochdale have put us in a strong position. The squad is the deepest in the division and players who have come with strong reputations and had not so far lived up to them, have stepped up and shown why Jack Ross and Tony Coton brought them to the club in the first place. Others have improved as the season has gone on and have played major parts in continuing this promotion push.

The only drawback in going up is that it takes away the visits to places that we have rarely been to before. Rochdale was a pleasure. The sun shone, the town looked good and there was plenty to do pre match.

Many headed for a large Wetherspoons where a customer came in, took his coat off and revealed a Newcastle United top. He was ushered out by staff as the Greater Manchester Constabulary arrived and called him an idiot.

My wanderings took me past the site of a theatre where Gracie Fields made her first public appearance, I gazed in wonder at the Gothic splendour of the Town Hall,

Hitler’s favourite Rochdale landmark

so admired by Hitler and spent a pleasant hour in the Rochdale Pioneers Museum where I bumped into Gary and Jane Stout. He has just retired from teaching so I was able to assure him that it was a time to look forward to.

The Baum next door to the museum fed and watered me with a cottage pie with pickled red cabbage and a pint of Admiral from Rochdale’s Pictish Brewery. Should you find yourself in the town I heartily recommend this fine pub with its cheery bar staff and excellent food and drink.

The Baum

So, apart from wandering the roads of Rochdale post match, a grand day out and a pleasant journey back in the light. Home by 8.00, I even stayed up to watch the highlights on Quest. I shan’t be bothering with that any more.

We now go into a sequence of three successive home games which will define where we finish up. Let’s get behind the team and roar them home. Near run things are fine once in a while but straightforward victories are much better for the blood pressure.

I don’t know what the First Duke of Wellington would have made of all of this, but he would have admired the fighting spirit of Jack Ross’s troops.

“Up Guards and at ‘em” seems a fitting way to end.

Ha’way The Lads…..

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The Accrington Stanley Guess the Score: now for the bigger prize

It is obvious enough. Time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and put together the run we need to overtake Barnsley and leave Portsmouth and Charlton behind, says Monsieur Salut.

Of course Sunday was a great occasion and a game we all wanted to win. But promotion is – for me – by far the bigger prize.

Guess the Score.

Read moreThe Accrington Stanley Guess the Score: now for the bigger prize

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team – Accrington Stanley

Malcolm Dawson writes…….the games are coming thick and fast and thanks to the TV we have three home floodlit games in eight days. This is keeping Pete Sixsmith busy as he trawls his memory banks recalling his first ever sighting of the next visitors to the Stadium of Light. Friday will be the third time I have seen The Stanley, having watched then at Tamworth some years ago and I was there in the downpour at the back end of last year. Peter wasn’t at either of those games but he has of course seen them more than once and in the North East at that.

 

TFTEISYT ACCRINGTON STANLEY

I missed Accrington’s first visit to the Newcastle Road ground in October 1890 due to a busy day oakum picking at the workhouse so I never saw Jimmy Millar’s two first half goals. By the time I had graduated to Beadle’s Assistant, Accrington had resigned from the Football League and had disappeared back to the Lancashire Combination.

And you thought Peter was a teacher before he retired!

They came back in The Great Expansion of 1921 as Accrington Stanley and spent the next 40 years in either the Third Division (North) or the newly formed Division Four. They resigned from the Football League again in 1961 due to owing money all over the town and the board decided that it was time to throw in the towel.

I never saw them at Darlington so my first view of them must have been towards the end of the 1988-89 season at Kingsway, Bishop Auckland in a Northern Premier League Division One game.

Kingsway

Bishop were in their first season at this level after 99 years in the Northern League. Bishop had been serial FA Amateur Cup Winners with 10 successes in that competition and they had won the league 19 times before forsaking Willington, Crook Town and Durham City for glamorous visits to Colne Dynamoes, Irlam Town and Droylsden. They also got a trip to Mid Wales thrown in when they played Newtown. They came second that season behind Colne and I am pretty sure that I saw them beat Accrington Stanley 2-1 on their two and a bit sided ground in the centre of Bishop Auckland.

This was about the same time as the (in)famous Milk Marketing Board advert so no doubt the Accrington players got some stick from the resident wags in the Kingsway crowd.

Accrington Stanley – Who Are They

The last time I saw Stanley play was at Hartlepool in November 2016. I was with my good friend Willie Fyfvie in the main stand thanks to complementary tickets from his son Graham, who was one of the Assistant Referees that night. Pools won it 2-0 although only the good lord and referee Richard Evans, knows how.

Stanley were by far the better side with Billy Kee missing three glorious chances in the first half. This game turned on the hour when the hapless Mr Evans mysteriously gave Pools a penalty and sent off Accrington full back Mark Hughes.

Cue an eruption of volcanic proportions from manager John Coleman and his long time assistant, Jimmy Bell. Both vented their spleen on Mr Evans and the various water buckets and bottles around their dug out, kicking them with the expertise of men who are well practiced in this art. Words that one would not usually associate with a one-time schoolteacher as Coleman was, were aimed at the Assistant Referee (fortunately Graham was on the other side of the ground) and there was an extended kerfuffle as Padraig Amond waited to take the kick against one of his former clubs.

Billy Kee

It was saved by Elliott Parrish much to the delight of the Accrington dugout but Pools had three more attempts to put it in the net in the father and mother of goalmouth scrambles before Nicky Deverdics finally did so with a spectacular overhead kick. A last-minute goal from Lewis Alessandra added insult to injury and did nothing to spare Evans from The Wrath of Coleman.

Coleman is in his second spell with Stanley, having first slid into the hot seat in 1999. He left in 2012 for an ill-fated spell at Rochdale and then on to Southport and Sligo Rovers, before he returned to The Crown Ground in 2014, where he consolidated their position in Division Two before building a team good enough to take them into the same level as ourselves. At 56, he is probably wise enough to realise that the grass is rarely greener over the hill and he may well stay at Stanley until he can claim his teachers pension at the ripe old age of 60.

Padaraig Amond

Things have not gone well for them in 2019, losing three and drawing two of their five league games. They have not scored since Boxing Day and are in danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap. So, there is every opportunity for us to maintain our charge towards the sunlit uplands of the Championship by seeing them off as comprehensively as we did in 1892 when we walloped them 4-1 on our way to our first ever League Championship. We can but hope!

Can the 2019 squad replicate the achievement of their 1892 predecessors?

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Keith Charlton RIP: ‘in heaven getting Stokoe and Porterfield’s autographs’

Keith

It is rare to be moved so much by the death of someone you did not know, Monsieur Salut writes.

Keith Charlton’s passing has had that effect. I am sure lots of others who didn’t know him personally will look at the photographs of Keith, the first secretary of the SAFCSA Boldon branch and a member for 23 years, and recognise a man they saw at games home and away.

My condolences go to his family and, clearly, many friends. Since, as I admit, Keith and I never met, let others tell the story:

Read moreKeith Charlton RIP: ‘in heaven getting Stokoe and Porterfield’s autographs’

Wrinkly Pete: can’t help falling back in love ….

Peter Lynn, our own Wrinkly Pete, makes a welcome return to these pages with a positive appraisal of all things SAFC. And no, he never actually fell out of love; it was just a lovers’ tiff …


“I can’t help falling in love” – again.

Old fashioned as I am, I didn’t feel right contributing to this splendid website this season until I had seen a few games.

Now that I have; four wins and a draw in a calendar month, I would like to express my feelings for the positive changed atmosphere around the club.

As those kind enough to read my opinions will know, I wasn’t one to blame all of SAFC’s recent past woes on Ellis Short. However, the new ownership (they would probably prefer custodianship) has incredibly quickly replaced a poisonous atmosphere with something approaching genuine happiness.

The replacement of the SoL faded seats is probably the most visible action they have taken but engaging with the local fanzines and allowing space for their articles in the match programme is, for me, more significant.

Both Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven have said they are football fans but that is easily said. Actions like the content of the programme or Stewart Donald standing among our away fans at the Doncaster away game prove their worth.

Their appointment of Jack Ross seems, at this early stage, a master stroke. Not only do his team selections seem sound but his use and timing of substitutions have been perfect in the games I have attended. I am happy to admit that questions I raised about – for example – the replacement of Maguire with O’Nien at Plymouth have been quickly and positively dismissed.

In addition, he has clearly instilled a team spirit that sees players fight for each other and the cause.

At Plymouth, when the inevitable response to our opening goal meant that the home team put us under pressure, our players threw themselves into prone positions in order to block shots. I know some might say that is only what you would expect; I would reply that it is not something you saw as a norm last season.

Further, I should imagine that he is behind the current greater engagement of players with fans, as seen on the train returning from Plymouth with Luke O’Nien’s time spent with our fans.

Speaking of happiness, the atmosphere amongst our fans at away games is now a joy to be part of.

While I have found enjoyment in past seasons it was always a case of expecting the pleasure to be short lived. Now there is positive momentum and I can even tolerate the odd (?) fan climbing up my back to stand on the top of my redundant seat to celebrate another Aiden McGeady super goal!

Ha’way……