After Stoke,we welcome another footballing giant in Wigan Athletic. Pete Sixsmith may well give that one a miss for a ride on a potential Wembley bandwagon..
After the display we were forced to sit through on Monday night, only the most devoted followers of the Marquis de Sade can be looking forward to the visit of the Wigan pie eaters with any enthusiasm or expectation.
Wigan had an even worse result than we did, losing at home to serial bankrupts Notts County in an FA Cup replay, which prised 4,000 Latics out of their armchairs and into the DW stadium to watch open-mouthed as their team were dumped on.
That should reduce the Wigan following from the tiny to the miniscule, and should lead to a huge number of empty seats in the South Stand. Add to that the fact that there may well be an empty seat in the East Stand (Row 34, Seat 404) as I am caught on the horns of a footballing dilemma.
The problem is that Shildon, my home town team, is involved in an FA Vase tie at St Ives in Cambridgeshire, at the same time as Lorik Cana leads out his bunch of overpaid underachievers. Where to go? After Monday, there was only one answer and it wasn’t Monkwearmouth. I had made up my mind to abandon The Stadium of Light for Westwood Road, St Ives.
I miss very few home games. The last one I dipped out of was three years ago, in Keaneo’s promotion year, when Shildon played at Retford and Luton Town were the visitors to the Stadium. I made a poor decision that day – Sunderland won, Shildon lost and a number of fans disgraced themselves and their town by hurling racial abuse at a Retford player.
This time, the Railwaymen are much further along the Wembley trail. They are in good form, having won all 4 games played since the Big Freeze eased its grip on local football, and last weekend, against Vase holders Whitley Bay, they looked very impressive as they ran out 3-1 winners.
This is as far as they have got in a national competition since the late 50’s when they reached the last 16 of the FA Amateur Cup. The Secretary at the time was one Ernie Randall, father of this site’s proprietor, and a man who had had his hands on the inside leg of just about every male in Shildon – what with him being the manager of The Northern Clothing Company, purveyors of trousers to the aristocracy.
I watch them regularly, although it is usually in midweek, and I have dreams that see Shildon and Sunderland in Wembley finals in consecutive weeks. Thanks to some defending at Portsmouth that Darlington RA would have been ashamed off, that dream is on hold again – probably permanently.
But the Shildon one is alive and kicking and is a real possibility. St Ives are in the same league as Stotfold, whom we beat two weeks ago, and are reckoned to be about the same level. That means they are beatable if Shildon play to their capabilities and don’t let themselves down. As a Sunderland supporter, I should be immune to optimism, but you have to hope that things will go your way.
At the time of writing, it looks as if the game will be put back a week due to a waterlogged pitch. The ground is close to the River Ouse and has a reputaion for absorbing water; a Friday afternoon pitch inspection should allow me to attend the Wigan game and the rearranged Vase match next Saturday.
The transfer window doesn’t operate at this level, but it does further up the pyramid. I note there is talk of scrapping it, but where would that leave Sky Sports News? Jim White and his gormless sidekick must be the only people this side of Uranus who can work up any excitement over the words “David Healy has gone to Ipswich on loan”. Mass hysteria was only prevented from breaking out in the studio by the mundane moves taking place. David Craig looked most uncomfortable outside the Academy rather than his regular spot opposite Shearer’s Bar as he intoned the words “Alan Hutton’s in there and we think he’s about to sign”. You could see him looking for a bedsheet proclaiming “Wellcum To Huttton; No Boycoutt Here” but he was disappointed.
To Darryl Murphy, Nyron Nosworthy and David Healy, here’s hoping things go well for you. Nyron did well in the promotion year, but was clearly lacking the quality to make it at the top level, while Murphy scored some vital goals for us. The winner against the Smoggies that cemented our place in the Premier is one I will long remember, as well as an absolute stunner against Wigan the same season.
Three points are vital on Saturday. The last time we played Wigan was after their 1-9 defeat. This time it’s even more humiliating; whacked by the Original Magpies. We need to finish them off and do it well. A scrappy 1-0 win isn’t really enough, we need to play with some conviction.
Mind, Jason Scotland hasn’t scored in the Premier League this season. Hope he does not join Kitson, Nugent and Utaka by breaking his duck against us!!