It comes as no surprise to see from the official SAFC site that tickets for our end at West Ham are still available. They would have sold out long ago but for the greed of the host club in asking £46 for what is not necessarily the best view in the house.
But the original announcement on the WHU website justified the higher price on the grounds that the match could settle the Hammers’ immediate fate and was therefore one that could rightly be re-categorised. Er … cue for a climbdown? Free beer in the away end? Safe passage home?
Meanwhile, reaction among Sunderland supporters to West Ham’s relegation has been mixed. Pete Sixsmith sent a text saying “a nation mourns” and about the only positive a Hammer could take from his words is that when it was Newcastle United, the nation laughed. At the Blackcats list, I found a couple of people in happy frame of mind at them going down, though one SAFC fan, born in the south of Mackem stock, said: “Bit different for me as several family members are West Ham fans and my sister and nephew chose to go that way.”
Me? I resent Gold and Sullivan’s appalling fleecing of travelling supporters this Sunday, but that is not reason enough for gloating. I have several friends who support the club, and only one known enemy, and therefore sympathise with them; at least in the Championship, the friends should see wins and goals, while the enemy will be beaten up by Millwall, Cardiff and Leeds neanderthals.
And I am by no means sure we can muster a team for the final game that would be capable of lifting us higher than the dismal 14th place we now occupy. This, though, is how Pete put it before the equivalent fixture (West Ham away, not the last of the season) of 2009-2010 …
Once upon a time, I considered living and working in London. In the 1970s, the leftward leaning ILEA was offering houses, cars and probably caviar and champagne for any teachers brave enough to face the capital’s schools.
I seriously considered it and decided that if I did take the plunge, I would watch West Ham as my “London” team. They were similar to Sunderland – a working class club, although without the history and tradition that attached itself to Roker Park.
Unfortunately for the gilded youth of Ferryhill, Co Durham, I never took up the offer, and Upton Park has only benefited from my company a dozen or so times. I have seen a few decent games there – a cracking 3-3 draw in the late 70s springs to mind, as do a number of limp defeats and a wonderful win, of which more later.
But one game I did not see was the one on October 19 1968.
Of course, it was never an 8-0 defeat. Geoff Hurst (a man with a history of dubious goals) had punched the first one in with the aplomb of Muhammad Ali dispatching Brian London.
Monty and his fellow defenders were so demoralised and shocked by this blatant cheating that they took the moral high ground and refused to participate in the game. It shows how poor The Hammers were as they failed to score more than eight.
Alan Brown was our manager that day and, as a member of Moral Rearmament, a title that says it all, he clearly believed cheating was wrong. This attitude permeated through to the players, hence a number of bottom third finishes in his second time at Sunderland, culminating in a second relegation for the club in 1970.
In 1968, as a callow schoolboy at Bishop Auckland Grammar School (aka as The Eton of County Durham), my paper round money did not quite stretch to regular trips to the Smoke. That Saturday afternoon, I contented myself with watching Leeholme Juniors and catching Sunderland updates on the radio of my father’s Mark 2 Cortina.
No 5 Live or Radio Newcastle in those days, so when the final score came through at 4.42 (games finished early then), I was driving along Leeholme Road. The shock was so great that the Cortina almost ended up in the Co-op window.
The shame was considerable for a few days, particularly as the Mags were going quite well, and I was ribbed at school by both fellow pupils and teachers, who realised that they had a serious case of Football Obsession in their classrooms. But I got over it, eventually, and revenge was sweet one April night in 2005.
That was the night when goals from Julio Arca and Stephen Elliott won the Coca Cola Championship for us and led to grumbling of such a massive extent that I thought an earthquake was about to strike the East End.
We had already been promoted while the ‘Ammers were very close to dropping out of the play offs. Their manager, Alan Pardew, was under serious pressure from fans who believed that the Academy, as they styled it, had an absolute right to be in the Premier League.
I wangled a place on a school trip to London and went to the game with a Sunderland supporting colleague who had little experience of away games. We kept schtum on the train out and more so on the way back, letting out a huge roar as we returned to our luxury accommodation in Sussex Gardens well after midnight.
It was a very interesting evening. Marlon Harewood kept falling down in the penalty box before he eventually squeezed one past a very impressive Ben Alnwick on the stroke of half time. Then, Julio and Elliott notched two beauties and the crowd turned on Pardew, as they may well turn on Sullivan and Gold if there is a repeat result on Saturday.
Now, as the Old Teachers’ Home beckons, I have no thoughts about becoming a surrogate ‘Ammer. Should I ever have the misfortune to have to relocate to the Great Wen (Boris Johnson et al), my team of choice would probably be Fulham; safe, comfortable, undoubtedly middle class and ideal for an old middle class **** like moi.