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.
View from the cemetery
So first off, the Ghostly Gadgie’s musing on the much hyped Manchester derby. Pep v José. My first thoughts? Paul Pogba? Very good running in straight lines with the ball at his feet, not much good at anything else. Well worth the £90 million? Or the most over priced player ever in the transfer market? You decide. City very good, very solid football, and without Agüero at that. De Bruyne looks about twelve, but can play. Not sure about the back line, long ball up and at them I recommend. Although this cynic has previously expressed doubt as to Mr Guardiola’s chances of ever putting a football brain in Sterling’s head, to be fair he seems to have made a decent start, better one is forced to say, than Mr Woy ever managed. As for United? Looks like it will end in a crying match to me, José not the type to mince his words or delay action he thinks necessary. Can’t keep that Rashford boy out for long.
So the first competitive Ryhope derby ends in a draw. Probably just as well, wouldn’t want the chip shop set alight again and blood running in the streets would we? That 130 strong bunch of the local elderly can be deceptively volatile. We can all breathe again until Boxing Day or thereabouts. Though hopefully not Boxing Day itself, I will have train sets and computer games that need sorting.
As I write the big boys transfer window is coming to an hysterical climax, and very entertaining it is. How many players costing £10 million or more will prove to be complete flops? At least half I reckon, given past performance, with a good few failing to play at all. Who is the new Mido? That's what I want to know. Christian Benteke is a strong candidate in my opinion. Reminds me of the old Joe Bugner joke; built like a Greek statue, but sadly doesn’t move quite as well.
So, off and running with a couple of good wins, nay three wins, in hand already, and maybe a little disappointed not to be unbeaten. Is this RCA? Not our usual start to the season, that's for sure. Long may it continue. And of course the long awaited, fifty years or more, derby with the CW to look forward to on Monday. Monday morning mind, which maybe optimistic in crowd terms, given the likelihood that the residents of these parts will have been celebrating late the night before. But a big day, however many turn out, over 150 years of history between the two clubs and this the first league meeting between the two. Has there ever been a proper cup tie even? Not sure, but no doubt El Queso will know.
By some miracle your favorite deceased correspondent is writing this from the Edinburgh festival this week, a wonder of the zombie arts. Not much football to be seen in the Scottish capital of course, nowt new there the unkind among you will say, but plenty of comedy. Equally unusual in Scotland normally, the same harsh critics will say, I know, but let us not be too cynical. Yes it's festival time in auld reekie, and damn good it is. Having said that, the red trousers of Kensington and Chelsea are much in evidence along with their loud wives. Bad enough the down market version you get at Stamford Bridge, the full on real McCoy is something else. Makes you proud to be English and wonder if you can get a postal vote for the SNP.
Friday, 19 of August 2011. Seven goals against Birtley Town. And a win in the FA Cup. Thought I should mention it, as we haven’t won an FA Cup tie since. Never mind three lions on a shirt and Jules Rimet still gleaming, this feels like thirty years of hurt to me, or near enough anyway. I don’t expect to be rocking up to Wembley to see RCA v Chelsea in the final anytime soon, but I would like to see us get past the middle of August in the FA’s premier competition one of these days. We do always seem to get tough ties mind, poor old Birtley excepted, and we are bad starters most seasons I know but even so, even so....
This certainly feels like it has been a long old season, and another postponement the other night at Seaham doesn’t help matters. And today's opponents must be feeling it even more. Morpeth will still have twelve games to play after today and before their trip to Wembley, and most of them at home on what is, to be fair, looking like a pretty battered surface. They will be hoping to get through it all in one piece and fit to do themselves and the league justice against Hereford. I reckon they will be OK though. Nothing like a day out to the big city to revive your juices. Even though I am generally very conservative in matters of football it does seem to make the case for smaller leagues which the FA supposedly hope to implement on coming years. Four games fewer doesn’t seem much in August, but by now it looks a lot. So bring it on I say. Looks like we are going to have some change this season anyway, with a few clubs supposedly qualified to enter the league, which makes it look bleak for Stokesley in particular, which is a shame. A few years back they were flying. And at the right time of year if the football is poor you can always nip round the other side and watch the cricket. And Bishops might get their wish to go the other way as the FA get the old cherrypicker out. It will undoubtedly end in tears, but there they go.
Well, it's very entertaining at least. Four games of defeat after defeat, and then a victory, who knows what to expect next? A hard fought victory at that, the score line made more comfortable by Hopey’s late couple of goals, but before that it was all hands to the pump as the terriers of Bedlington kept biting our ankles. Bit of a mix of metaphors, but you had to be there to see it. Sadly for them it is starting to look like those in the bottom three places now will still be there at the end of things. They are all fighting to be sure, as we know, but so are those just above them, and with a good few points in hand. Be a shock to see clubs like Bedlington and Durham in the second division, but we can’t worry about that. So never mind, on we stumble, only a quarter of a season to go.
But at least things are relatively rosy overall. It's been an exciting season, and whatever our little ups and downs now, we can always cheer ourselves up by reminding ourselves that they aren’t anything like so bad as they are for our friends over the water, or, even worse, the battalions of the damned further north.