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Uncle Leo

This cook is an anti-semite
Nov 19, 2003
NY Parks Dept
Here's a review of Saturday in Sunderland, courtesy of Statski....

I think when the fixtures came out at the start of the season the away day trip to Sunderland ranked high upon peoples away games to do. One hell of a way to go for 90 minutes of football but seeing The Shrimpers playing in a 48,000 capacity stadium just 3 years after it looked as though we would be heading out of the league just made you recall how far our little club has come in such a short space of time.

My personal journey started on the 6.48am train from Prittlewell to London Liverpool Street. That took some motivation to get up for but I could smell my reward at the end of the journey, albeit at the Beano Café on Caledonia Road just outside Kings Cross.

After looking at the menu I opted for the Full English - I wasn’t tempted by the Kurdish breakfast, obviously must be a popular choice round there. Anyway I woofed my breakfast down before the first of my fellow travellers arrived, Matt The Shrimp looking a tad uneasy having to slum it with the likes of me. His tea arrived in a rather cheap and nasty mug rather than the fine china teacup he’s used to. He was most upset when he couldn’t find any sugar tongs to drop the sugar lumps into his tea.

Must say I was a bit surprised by Matt’s choice of breakfast, obvious croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice and pancakes were off the menu so he opted for egg, sausage, beans and chips. Yes, that’s right, chips!! I mean who has chips for breakfast, no wonder our country’s going to pot when you let people have that for breakfast.

In time Uxbridge, Pablo and Yorkshire Blue joined us and at 9.15 we made the short walk to Kings Cross stopping off at Tesco’s on the way to pick up some supplies. Safely on the train Pablo drew the short straw and had the seat on his own, well actually he probably got the best seat after all he wouldn’t have to sit in the same vicinity as Yorkshire who would no doubt be blagging on about how the Hull home game during Chipmunk’s reign was one of the highlights of his Southend supporting days.

The train had only just pulled out of the station and Yorkshire opened his first can, the rest of us declined choosing to have a read of the morning rag and private eye first and let our brekkie go down properly. So what is there to do on a 3-½ hour train journey apart from talk about football? Well Uxbridge, fancy Ladbrokes pen in hand, whipped out the Times crossword, much to my surprise he was actually quite good at it. The man’s wasting his talents at Ladbrokes I tell you, perhaps should get him on Countdown or Blankety Blank.

The boy has clearly come a long way from his childhood scrabble playing days. Whilst perusing the Scrabble section of the time, Uxbridge told us how at the age of seven, playing Scrabble against his Mum, he tried to get a triple word score with the word ‘c*nt’. Even though said word was in the dictionary, Mrs Welham vetoed this attempt and also gave the young whippersnapper a clip round the ear.

That crossword was finished in no time so Matt whipped out the Times Jumbo crossword and proceeded to fill it in on his own. He handed it back over to us with a few blanks left; once again Uxbridge finished it off, two-man team on this train. None of us could get 15 across though. I forget the exact wording of the clue however Matt came up trumps with Sugar Tongs, obviously we all know what they are but they’re not commonplace in our households.

The train was journey was just over 2hrs long when the food trolley went past, I couldn’t resist but have a look at the snacks on board and then was told by the Northern lass to ‘’Keep your hands off my goods’’ Other thing notable on the journey was whilst having a (long) chat with Yorkshire I found a woman crouched down besides my chair in the praying position, puzzled by this I looked for the direction of the sun and saw that she was pointing East towards Mecca, no not that in the Middle East but the bingo hall just outside of Doncaster town centre where we had just passed.

Anyway the train pulled into Newcastle Central around half 12. Uxbridge and I still having a can left over from the train took our beers with us down to the Metro. I, in true tramp like fashion, concealed it in my pocket whereas Ux decided to display his can of Newcastle Brown to the general public much to the displeasure of a rather unhappy Metro guard. ‘’Are you drinking that’’ enquired the Metro man ‘’No, I’m just holding it’’ replied Ux. Top reply; he really lined himself up for that one. The Metro guard having been made look rather silly then flexed his muscles saying he could have him arrested for drinking on the Metro so go and finish your can upstairs.

So upstairs we went to finish our cans and we were greeted by half of my football team who had gone up to Newcastle for the weekend. Einstein the ringleader with his long flowing locks was first to greet us. I hadn’t seen him for a while but personally thanked him for taking half my football team away (allegedly weakening it) when we had an important game on Sunday against Cardinal FC.

The Metro journey to the stadium of light was a short trek but not eventless due to the Sunderland Irish/Pikey supporters club on the train with their blow up doll. They proceeded to go through the SUFC squad calling everyone a “foodge packer”; they cracked a few gags and left us in peace. We went into town for a swift couple of beers – meeting glasgowsufc in the process - and then made our way to the ground for the game.

Sunderland’s ground is truly a magnificent stadium, I was still pinching myself that I was going there to watch us play. Into the ground and there were 33,000 on show with about 1000 Shrimpers having made the long journey North.

Onto the game SUFC lined up pretty much same as per usual:
Flavs, Hunt, Efe, Clarke, Hammell, JCR, Maher, Macca, Gower, Freddy, and Bradders. Subs: Collis, Francis, Moussa, Harrold, Foran.

Game kicked off and I was hoping that we wouldn’t suffer another case of stage fright in front of a big crowd, one thing for sure we had one hell of a game on our hands. Sunderland these days under Roy Keane are a different animal and with the addition in recent times of Carlos Edwards, Dwight Yorke & Stern John look a team more than capable of getting back to the Premiership.

We looked good for the opening 3 minutes but that was about it as a low Carlos Edwards cross was buried from close range by the unmarked David Connolly. Not the best start, I was hoping that would give us a kick up the backside but 10mins later we were two down. Hysen twisting Hunt inside out putting him on his backside in the process before slotting home. Our backs seriously up against the walls now but we’ve pulled back 2 goals before so I wasn’t prepared to write us off yet.

With Sunderland two up they took the foot off the gas but still created chances, although Darryl made a couple of smart stops. JCR looked our best player, full of energy, unlike the rest of the side that strolled around the park doing faff all. Hunt and Hammell I thought were especially poor, forever giving the Sunderland wingers an easy option. For once Macca and Maher couldn’t keep hold of the ball and we know that when these two don’t tick then neither do we.

The half-time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for me personally. I was starving so went down to the kiosk to enjoy two of the pies. I was especially pleased to see Ux make a better effort in eating his pie; those of you who recall my QPR away report note that I said my dogs ate with more grace.

Second half kicked off hoping Tilly had given the boys a bit of a rocket at half time and told them to up the tempo. Personally I have no problem losing as long as the effort has been put in. Once again Sunderland started the better side testing our back line. Our best efforts coming from range in fact it was balls back from the Sunderland back line that caused Fulop more problems.
Tilly threw caution to the wind for once and made a triple change. Gower, Macca and Bradders off with Moussa, Foran & Harrold on. None of them could make any impact as Sunderland pushed forward in numbers and on 77 minutes sealed the game with Stern John lashing home from close range. The Shrimpers had only just back into position when Sunderland broke again and once more John lashed home unmarked from close range.

A true thumping but I’d like to see any side go to Sunderland and get a point, they played some fantastic football, probably the best display I’ve seen this season. That final whistle came and the Shrimpers faithful applauded the 2 teams off the pitch. For me our support was superb, always singing making some noise, this comment was echoed by several Sunderland supporters I met on the way home.

Well the nice long journey home awaited us, we could console ourselves with a few more cans and some overpriced train grub – (all day breakfast ciabatta, who on earth came up with THAT idea?). For me after getting back into London I still had an hour and a half trip back to Southend, I can well and truly say that when I got home I was knackered and hit the sack straight away, even the Mrs coming home drunk offering me some action couldn’t have disturbed me.

Unfortunately, on the way back to Newcastle from Sunderland, Matt the Shrimp received news that his father-in-law had collapsed that afternoon up in Scotland. Luckily for Matt, being in Newcastle meant he could pretty much jump straight on a train heading north over the border so that he could be with his relatives. It's lucky we weren't away at Plymouth that afternoon, really! My thoughts were pretty much with Matt and his family for the rest of the evening, it puts things into perspective when something like that happens. I’d like to pass my best wishes with a speedy recovery on to Matt's father-in-law, and our thoughts are with his wife and her family.