Thursday, November 20, 2008

Watch Your Back, John

At long last I made it to a football match at Sheffield FC's ground. This was on Tuesday evening and it was 8 weeks since I had attended. On the surface it looked as if we were in for a drubbing.

It was the second round of the Unibond League Cup. Our opponents, Durham City play in a parallel league. Although they are in fifth position, they are unbeaten and have sufficient games in hand of the teams above them to readily take over the top spot.

In contrast, Sheffield FC have a middling league record and have suffered so many injuries that when the teams ran out onto the pitch I only recognised five of our players - two of whom used to occupy the substitutes bench.

But my fears were soon put to rest. After 13 minutes we had established a two goal lead and were pouring on the pressure. We were three up after 63 minutes and seemed to be coasting it.

Jez Mitchell, a new signing had provided the assist for Mick Goddard's opening goal and added the two other goals. In the first half he had three carefully placed shots which just crept past the Durham post. Then a Durham defender made a dramatic save by blasting the ball against his own post.

Next to me Dave was busy on his mobile, letting the absent Martin know when each goal whizzed in. Near the end, however, the tide turned with Adam Johnson (73 Minutes) and Tommy English (83 Minutes) putting Durham back in the game. But it was only just that we held on for a 3-2 victory as we had dominated most of the game.

Events were enlivened when the Sheffield FC supporters heard the referee regularly shout out to the Durham captain Stephen Harrison, calling him "Steve". A series of wisecracks came from the terraces on the assumption that Steve was the ref's son. If we hadn't gone on to win, I think that there would have been calls for a steward's enquiry.

When Dave, Janet and I settled into the Coach and Horses pub after the match, it was time for chats with the visitors. I originate from Easington which is just eight miles east of Durham, so I was keen to find out what gossip I could.

I came across two Durham supporters. One was from Shiney Row and the other was from Murton Colliery. John Cummings (photo above) whom I know well, is the MP for the Easington Constituency and he worked at the pit at Murton. When I mentioned this the reply came back "why I, I used to wash his back for him at the pithead baths".

I next talked to the Durham City goalkeeper Craig Turns, as the programme said that he was born at Easington. It turned out that he had been born at the maternity hospital at Littlethorpe, Easington Village and that he really originated from nearby Seaham. But that was fine as our son was born in the same "baby farm" and the first job I ever had as a railway clerk was at Seaham.

The programme notes also said that Tommy English a Durham goalscorer was born at Easington. But he had left the crowded pub before I could discover whether he was another product of the baby farm. I had shouted at him from the touch line about his Easington connection, but I didn't hear what he shouted back. Perhaps I incensed him that much that he ran up the field and scored!

Four of the Durham team had been on Sunderland's books at some time (including "Steve" and Craig the goalkeeper), whilst two others were born in Sunderland. But although (like John above) I am a Sunderland supporter, this did not undermine my support for Sheffield FC. My chance to support Sunderland from the terraces will come on 26 November when Sheffield FC host a match between Sheffield United Reserves and Sunderland Reserves. There is only once that I ever supported a team playing against Sunderland Reserves and that was when they played Easington Colliery Welfare. I am hardly going to desert the lads to support a bunch from Bramall Lane.

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