Good day on Saturday gone. Very tight, competitive game against a tough side who you could tell are used to winning over the past few years, but in the end we just had enough to squeeze past Stockton Town. So we play one game and here we are in the last sixty four, seems a bit harsh on some of those who have been playing since September, but we don’t make the rules. My old dad used to say that as he slaughtered me at some game or other. Except he did make the rules. I digress, but do these exemptions for last season’s successes help clubs to prosper? Maybe, I’m not sure. It might be that those early season games get you into the swing of things. In any event there were some parallels between Saturday’s game and last season’s first game in the Vase, against Bridlington at home you might remember, some time early in September. Both went to extra time, and both times we scraped through. Mind, a midweek replay down at Stockton would have been a bit less daunting than last year, when we faced a long journey and a late night in Bridlington, which was not a very popular possibility with certain parties, as I recall.
View from the Cemetery
Two thousand, six hundred and fifty one. A nice number. Most of you will not need telling that was the crowd last Saturday at Mariners Park for the Shields derby. Amazing. A bit embarrassing for those clubs, I hesitate to name names, who can generate barely any interest in the biggest city in the North East, but maybe it's just one of those things. Very good for the league in general and non league football on Tyneside in particular, TV and press coverage and a lot of word of mouth about what good entertainment and good value the Northern League offers. It should help us all.
However back to the business in hand. Vase today, against interesting opposition and in international week so not much else to do and hopefully a good few will take a trip to Meadow Park for their football fix. I don’t think anybody will be disappointed. We played Stockton a while back in a cup tie and a cracking game it was. Maybe Wembley for the winners?
I saw our friends from the Stadium of Light on TV last week, not very good was it? Another unwanted record for the bold boys, worst start ever evidently. Still, don’t despair, with that lot you just never know. I was going to consider the relative strength of the teams they have played this season, starting from the premise that nobody gets relegated by getting beat off Arsenal, so I went to look at the SAFC website. I don’t say it’s impossible to find results on the website, but I couldn’t find them. I did notice however that the five headings on the first page are Buy Tickets, Buy Kit, Buy Merchandise, Book Hospitality, and Book Hotel Room. And then there’s a little logo in Chinese, which is helpful. Entertaining and revealing when people give themselves away unconsciously isn’t it? Don’t ask us how we are doing, just spend money and get on with it.
Still, there are more important matters. Mister Trump continues his outlandish bid to become President of the USA, and might be getting closer. A frightening thought is President Trump, although I think Hillary will still make it. Americans are amazed that we are so interested in their politics evidently, as they have no interest in ours. But then we aren’t likely to blow them all up. Then again it is supposedly true that a random selection of Americans asked to point out Britain on a map usually pick Japan. And most Americans don’t have a passport, and maybe as few as 10% ever travel overseas. Which you would think should give them time to think about their own affairs with more care.
Damn good game of cricket on show in Bangladesh over the past few days, don’t know if you noticed? The first test in Chittagong, nice town, Bangladesh versus England of course. The usually easily rolled over Bangladeshis performed very well and with a little bit more belief could have beaten England for the first time. They didn’t of course, and largely due in the end to Durham’s own, Ben Stokes. Talk about mixed feelings. There was I very disgruntled with the English cricket establishment after their treatment of Durham and happy to see England’s posh boys get embarrassed, when one of the Durham lads pulls the assorted southern softies out of the proverbial fertiliser. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Still, look on the practical side I says, and see if this can be turned to one's advantage. And yes, I believe it can. It is my considered opinion that in the upcoming series against India England will get well and truly trounced, and the English punter being the misguided fool he so often is, and prepared to back England no matter what, this will present a number and ongoing range of excellent betting opportunities. Lump on the Indians, as John Wayne used to say. You heard it here, don’t come crying to me.
For those gentlemen not yet dead, but maybe rapidly approaching it, there is a newish pastime available of which I have been hearing a few tales, and I might have mentioned before: I speak of Walking Football for the over fifties. I use capital letters because by all accounts some people are starting to take it seriously. The idea is to keep those with a love of the game, but no longer keen on, or that capable of, running about and getting kicked, involved and enjoying it again. Good idea. The FA are even talking about producing a set of rules. A reliable source tells me this is all well and good, except nobody takes any notice of the minimal rules that apply now. My reporter also says it's a real good game if played in the right spirit, with an emphasis on good passing and clever movement, but some, mostly he reckons those who didn’t play much in their younger days, but have managed to stay reasonably fit by avoiding cigarettes and alcohol and by going to the gym, have a tendency to spoil it by running about aimlessly and wellying the ball in all directions and none. This may be nothing but prejudice of course from someone who fancies himself as an undiscovered Paul Scholes. Anyway it seems to be booming, which is a good thing of course, keeping the elderly on their feet and dancing is to be encouraged, but I can’t see it becoming a spectator sport, unless the sight of old men falling over and falling out floats your boat.
From the bottom to the top, as Weller says, or at least from the bottom of the form league up to about fifteenth, which will have to do for now. Decent results in the last two games, and against two real good teams, and including managing to hang onto a lead on Tuesday night, which has not been our speciality this season so far. Never mind, on we go, lets be positive.
And speaking of being positive, ho, ho, I note that Maria Sharapova has had her drugs ban reduced on appeal. No doubt all fair and above board, but it reminds me that when the whole thing first blew up I assumed someone had been trying to drug her in order to shut her up on the tennis court, what a racket the woman makes, ho, ho once more; and I regarded that as a very good thing. But no, the noise wasn’t the problem, it was strictly medical reasons that required her to take industrial quantities of performance enhancing drugs, allegedly. Anyway she will be welcomed back with open arms, because there is nothing quite so exciting as women's tennis, is there? Apart from croquet, obviously.
You will probably have seen the little fundraising football prediction competition that the club runs, the Lucky 7 as it is laughingly called. Only have to predict the results of seven games, usually from the Premier League. Not that hard you would think, but it turns out to be a good deal tougher than you imagine. There is always somebody, usually Man United or Chelsea to be fair, who lets you down. And of course most punters blindly support Sunderland to win, with the entirely predictable outcome. Bit like the rest of life in fact. I mention this in a spirit of sadness as I thought I had knocked it off the other week, only to be frustrated in Bournemouth. Not the first bloke that has happened to. Still we try again.
Bit of a crash landing for our lads on Tuesday night. Most people expecting a steady win for us without too much trouble and instead, and for the first time this season, we were second best from start to finish. Good few lads missing, but even so a decent side out on the pitch, but there you go. And a tough game coming up against a booming North Shields, clearly determined not to be left behind by the moneybags over on the brighter side of the Tyne. Still a bit of adversity is good for us generally, so maybe this will be a shot in the arm at just the right time. After Saturday a run of away games, including an immediate return against North Shields, which is not ideal, never like the idea of sides playing each other too close together, grievances have a tendency to fester, but equally it is true that year after year we seem to be better away than at home. God knows why, you would think the Ryhope slope would be a distinct advantage, especially the knowledge that everybody, and I mean everybody, plays better up the slope than down.