For his first contribution to a series he devised in a quiet moment between delivering papers, visiting obscure football grounds and losing weight, Pete Sixsmith very nearly won the Freedom of Derby, so contented were the Rams fans who strayed here long enough to see it.
Second instalment: back where we won 5-2 to clinch promotion yonks ago, and where more recently we went two goals down before snatching victory in the first of our pre-season friendlies.
This was a great idea for a series. Let’s hope Sixer’s lighter shape can withstand the demands it will place on him for all the instalments to come …
We hadn’t played at Gigg Lane for almost 20 years and then we end up going there twice in four weeks; it’s the footballing version of the London bus syndrome – wait for ages and then two come along at the same time.
After we scraped a 3-2 win in Simon Grayson’s first ever game as Sunderland manager, we now return to Gigg Lane for his first cup tie as Sunderland manager in the newly named Carabao Cup which has been the Football League Cup, the Milk Cup, the Littlewoods Cup, the Rumbelows Cup, the Coca=Cola Cup, the Worthington Cup, the Carling Cup, the Capital One Cup and the EFL Cup. Some great drinks sponsors there; a pint of Worthington Extra Smooth anyone?
Bury have a very tidy and well-appointed ground. It’s an all-seater with a nice sweep to it and is situated in a quiet part of the town. There are some splendid terrace houses nearby, well built and solid, which reflect the weaving history of this Lancashire town.
The town centre with its famous market is a 20-minute stroll away. Black pudding aficionados are well catered for and there are some decent pubs nearby. Ramsbottom, a bit of a culinary hotspot is twenty minutes by either bus or steam train. What’s not to like about Bury?
I have been there a few times with my first visit being in early August 1979 when we were in the same group as The Shakers for the Anglo-Scottish Cup, a pre-season tournament which pitted the might of English football against their Scottish counterparts.
We were in a group made up of Bury, Bolton Wanderers and Oldham Athletic, a group that oozed tripe, black pudding and barm cakes with a dollop of pease pudding thrown in.
New manager Ken Knighton had been promoted from within after Billy Elliott left for the Royal Ballet and he had supervised a promising four game unbeaten tour to Switzerland. Optimism was high amongst the Roker faithful as we sought to finish one position higher than we had in May and win promotion.
Ken and his assistant Frank Clark stuck by the players who had done well the previous season and no new players had arrived in the summer – no transfer window in those days. The team that turned out at Gigg Lane was a strong one;
Siddall; Whitworth, Elliott, Ashurst, Bolton; Chisholm, Lee, Arnott, Rowell; Entwistle, Brown.
We drove down and camped in the Waggon and Horses on Manchester Road, quaffing several pints of Thwaites Bitter before lurching into the paddock in front of the main stand. Full expecting a stroll in the summer sunshine, I reacted badly to Whitehead’s obvious foul on Barry Siddall for the first goal, but cheered up when Kevin Arnott swerved in an equaliser.
The sun and the ale got the better of me and I dozed on the terrace but was sharp woken up when Gordon Taylor and Danny Wilson combined to set up David Gregory to put Bury ahead. He made it three a couple of minutes later and when Kenny Beamish converted a penalty to make 4-1, Bury had scored three times in five minutes.
Wayne Entwistle (he of the orange ball hat trick against Bristol Rovers the previous season), finished off a move to make it 4-2, but it was a gloomy car load that hurtled back across the Pennines, taking solace at Wetherby’s Frying Pan and next door neighbour, The Royal Oak.
There was probably much grumbling over the pints but I think we were more patient in those days. Knighton added good players in John Hawley and Stan Cummins, took a (failed) gamble on Claudio Marangoni and called up plumber Barry Dunn who made a couple of vital contributions as the season went on.
We finished second, a point behind Leicester and a point ahead of fourth placed Chelsea; had it been three points for a win, they would have gone up instead of Birmingham.
The Mags finished between Cambridge United and Preston North End.
Since that day I have seen us win promotion there and taken in a couple of Bury games and FC United of Manchester when they shared for a couple of years. Swinton Lions have also shared Gigg Lane but they now seem to be the sole occupiers, which must please the groundsman.
They opened the season with a solid 1-0 win over Walsall and they have a mixture of experience and youth in their team. Lee Clark (hiss, boo) will probably make changes for Thursday as they have a derby match at Wigan on Sunday and The Carabao Cup may not be high on his list of priorities.
The regular keeper is Joe Murphy who often graced New Ferens Park in his spell with us and they have experienced players in Chris Maguire, Jermaine Beckford and 38-year-old Ryan Lowe who will give them a solid base.
They deserved to be two up in last month’s game but tired towards the end and Khazri picked them off, setting up Josh Maja for a couple of well taken goals. I imagine we will rotate our squad so expect to see Robbin Ruiter, Papy Djilobodji, Jack Rodwell, Wahbi Khazri and John O’Shea starting.
As for me, I shall be avoiding the Wagon and Horses, although I may quaff a pint on the East Lancs Railway Station Bar – and why not?