Here I am, and here we are, and here we go into day four of no football. You’d think that as rational adults we’d be able to cope with something as straightforward as the lack of sporting events, we manage it every summer, don’t we?
Of course, we do, but that’s planned, and we can fit in the odd pre-season game or summer tournament, and we can also plan the football-free weeks by turning into tennis or cricket fans, or just going on holiday. We can also cope (sort of) with late postponements like Bristol Rovers away, despite the loss of the price of the hotel room, and we can cope with even later postponements like Palace away years back, when I’d just settled into a London Spoons with a burger and two pints of Director’s (look, I’d ordered the first before I realised the second came as a free side-order with the burger) when the shout came to get back on the bus because the game had been muddied off.
We can even cope with getting on the bus to Blackburn on a snowy Tuesday dinner-time only be told the game was off but would be on the next day, weather permitting. Weather permitted on that occasion, but, as with the previous two examples, we were safe in the knowledge that the game would be played sooner or later.
This time it’s different. The initial decision is that there’ll be no football until after April 3rd, but that date could, and in all probability will, move further into the future. What do you do on a Saturday when there’s no football? In theory, we should have plenty of options, as we’re constantly moaning about games being moved to Sundays or even Fridays, so it’s not as if we haven’t had a bit of practice. What did you do the day before we went to Coventry recently? Personally, I can’t remember, and it probably involved licenced premises, but it’s all about your routine being upset, isn’t it?
Years ago, when we drove to the match, it was a case of watching the start of Football Focus, leaving home, getting to the Salty to watch the end of Saint and Greavsie, then the main event. Nowadays, out bus leaves for SR5 at noon, leaves SR5 at six, and drops us back at the Green Tree about ten to seven for an hour or so’s reflection on the afternoon’s events.
Then it’s a case of tea/supper, and down the Welcome to watch MOTD. If it’s an away game, we’re off earlier (obviously), and back later (obviously), but usually still in time for MOTD down the road. If it’s a Sunday game, Saturday afternoon is usually spent watching Bishop, as everybody should have a non-league team. If we know there’s no game (FA Cup 4th round, for example - or 2nd round, in our case. Pffft) we can have a cheeky weekend, or longer, in sunnier climes. Not this time, as there’s not any flights anyway.
It seemed as if I was in the minority of Sunderland fans last weekend, as I didn’t say “sod it, I’m going to Blackpool anyway.” I had offers, but there are two reasons I didn’t accept. Firstly, I don’t like the place, as I’m too old for chucking two gallons of rubbish beer down my neck then going in the Fun House and I’m too young to find it romantic.
Secondly, I’m not travelling 100 miles to sit in a nice pub a mile from the seafront when I can walk 100 yards and do the same.
As it was, I went to the Allotment Association Annual General Meeting, which is basically eighteen people sitting in a shed talking about compost and seeds for half an hour. Desperate times, but it had to be done, and it was followed by a fair amount of digging, just to take my mind off things. Then came the news (not really, I looked for it) that there was a game at Spennymoor against Hereford. No brainer, really – Bishop were at Aycliffe, which involves a forty-minute bus journey followed by a bit of a hike, while Spenny is ten minutes and a short walk. Therefore, a couple of pints later, and with the message displayed on the side of the bus (Follow the Moors for less - £1 off entry with your bus ticket) firmly in my thoughts, I bowled up to the turnstile only to be told that it had to a special kind of bus ticket. Typical black and whites.
Never mind. There were a few familiar faces, including one I hadn’t seen since we used the football special train from Sunderland to Norwich many moons ago. I’d never seen so much drink on a train, it was stacked at the end of each carriage, and that was the stuff the Lads had taken. They were also selling drink on the train, and let’s just say it was a proper mess by the time we got to Norfolk. The face I hadn’t seen since then was reprimanded by the polis for spitting in the canal and came back with the timeless classic “it’s a fair cop but society’s to blame.” No smile from the polis, but we all reached Carrow Road intact. Happy days, apparently - it ended 0-0, and one of the highlights was Ron Guthrie taking exception to a rather boisterous challenge on Monty and sticking a hefty one on the perpetrator. Red card.
Anyway, back to Spenny, and, of course, there were a few comments along the lines of “didn’t this Hereford lot beat Newcastle in the cup?” amongst the crowd of 1,200ish, which included a goodly number with SAFC inclinations, several of whom happily supped their pints on the terraces. I’m not sure if they’re allowed to do that, in fact, I know they aren’t, but no harm was done and Spenny, unfortunately bedecked in black and white stripes, romped home 4-0, with two of the goals being absolute beauts.
There was my football fix, so I had a swift pint and headed home. Mind, but the telly early on a Saturday night is pretty dire, isn’t it? I suffered that for a few hours, and, with the MOTD option down The Welcome being off the menu, was grateful that my eldest lad’s band was on at the Merry Monk. After a fair while discussing how the season could be concluded in a satisfactory fashion, nowt sounds fair for everybody, a couple of hours of funk’n’soul’rock’n’roll finished the evening off. Sunday was almost as strange.
As the only football on the telly was FC Rostock v Lokomotiv Moscow on YouTube Russia, and the Hoss doesn’t have access to YouTube Russia, I stayed in and counted my SAFC dvds, blessing the day I forked out a tenner for ten of them that feature games that are unavailable officially. Mind, but the telly early on a Sunday night is pretty dire, isn’t it? And nee MOTD2 to fall asleep in front of.
Basically, it’s been a strange weekend, so much so that our lass had to ask “is it Monday today? You were in on Saturday dinner -time and teatime, and you didn’t go out yesterday, so I’m a bit lost.”
That’s one weekend down, and dee knaas how many more to follow. Next Saturday was footy-free anyway, thanks to Bury being unable to count and being taken over by a bit of a con artist, so I’ve arranged a bus trip up Weardale, target, several pubs. That trip is, of course, subject to the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, despite him looking the sickest man in the country (perhaps the pressure is getting, understandably, a bit much.
Fancy constantly worrying about how bad Boris can made your facts sound, eh?). After that, well, Shrewsbury is a possibility, but I’ve a feeling that game won’t happen, and the two bargain nights I’ve booked at the posh hotel in Kingston on Thames, and the services of Mr Harrison the local guide for the two evenings, will not be needed.
Basically, life goes on. It’s a bit weird having no football, but it’s something we’ll have to get used to. A bit like not being able to go to the pub, or socialise, or buy bog roll, put it this way, when football does come back, this will be a very different country. Something we’ll have to get used to.