About a decade ago we published a book called Ganterbury Tales, now that all this madness is going on we thought we’d publish some of its content online…
Back to September ’72 for one of our first real (i.e. not Boro or the Mags) away games. We decided on train travel, bought our half fare tickets (for about £1.50 return), and once aboard at Darlo after the short ride from Bishop, headed straight for the buffet car. A small can of Brown was 48 pence, at a time when a pint cost around 12p, so I’m told. Bugger. These exorbitant prices, coupled with the low wages in the distribution side of journalism and dairy products at that time, ensured a virtually dry trip.
We followed the big lads from the station to a pub near the ground, where we secured a half apiece, and sat on the wall outside. This wall dropped a good eight feet to the yard below, where the pub’s two boxer dogs lived. To our eternal delight, we quickly discovered that these brainless animals would chase anything dropped near them- and I mean anything. We amused ourselves for a good while, watching several items being eaten for the second (or third) time that day, until the mounted police arrived.
The travelling support had been in general good humour, and everything was hunky dory until my mouth got in the way – spotting a policeman on a white horse, I gave a loud cry of “hi ho Silver, awa-a-ay!” Everyone on foot had a good laugh, and even the officers on the brown horses managed a smile, but the Lone Ranger certainly did not. He leant towards me and explained in no uncertain terms what he would do with his truncheon should I dare to attempt satire again. As his truncheon was the size of an industrial broomshank, I decided that comical backchat was unwise, especially when he’d not objected to me having a drink when I looked closer to fourteen than eighteen. Eight months ahead of that famous day in May ’73, seven of the Cup Final team were on show, with Billy Hughes on the bench. The match itself was a half-decent affair, as we didn’t lose, despite going behind to an early goal. The home side, prompted by the magnificently name Dick Krzyzwicki (in the days when foreign names were a rarity. He’s Welsh, by the way) pushed us back early on, but we soon got to grips with things and the equaliser was no surprise.
Well, its arrival wasn’t, and while the scorer did get the odd goal, the manner of this one was a bit special. Ian Porterfield was somewhere near the halfway line and facing Monty when he hooked the ball over his own shoulder, and In true Sunday morning style, the centre half left it for the goalie, who in turn left it for the centre half, and the ball dutifully floated into the top corner on the half hour. A particularly large Sunderland fan celebrated by throwing me what seemed like nine feet into the air, but forgetting to catch me on the way down. The effect on my ankles was such that I spent the rest of the match hopping from one foot to the other in some kind of manic rain-dance. The bloke drives taxis around Bishop now, so I take care not to give him too large a tip in case he gets over-excited and knacks my ankles again. Despite the classic strike-force of Dave Watson and John Lathan, we couldn’t improve on this, while at the back, Keith Coleman, wacky Jacky, Tricky Dickie, and Mick McGiven kept Town at bay on all but that one early occasion. McGiven took his defensive duties a little too seriously and added to his first half booking with another in the second – his only two bookings of the season. Off he went, and that made for a nervous final 25 minutes, but we hung on. Actually, I think it’s fair to say that both teams hung on. Two months down the line, temporary new boss Billy Elliott would decide that Watson might be a decent turn at centre-half. Well done, that manager.
With a 1-1 scoreline at the final whistle, it was scarves away, in true 70s tradition, and back to the station hopefully incognito. We had time to kill before our train came in and had to share the waiting room with a group of Town fans drinking “ale” (Huddersfield slang for Newcy Brown, apparently), and talking very tough. As this was before ’73, when Sunderland gained huge popularity in all parts of Yorkshire except Leeds, we kept as inconspicuous as possible by saying nothing and smiling sweetly. When our train arrived, we duly climbed aboard, expressing relief as the doors closed and we began to roll along the platform. Passing the waiting room, we spotted the aforementioned Town fans, and hailed them in the time-honoured fashion with the usual gestures and taunts. Fifty yards onwards down the platform, and not yet clear of the station, the unexpected, but inevitable, happened. The train stopped, we exchanged glances of horror, and looked out of the window, back down the track. Sure enough, heads popped out of the waiting room, exchanged glances of glee, and set off at speed towards our carriage.
Now, I’ll never know if this is true or not, but I’m convinced that the Casey Jones in the driver’s cab knew exactly what was happening, and thought it was a big joke. Just as the Huddersfield raiding party arrived at our carriage, the train slowly began to move away, and they couldn’t get the doors open, even in those pre-security days of automatic locks. As the station, complete with fist-waving Yorkshiremen, receded into the distance, we breathed a sigh of relief, and decided that, on future train trips, silence would be maintained until we had crossed the city limits. Get some more 49p cans in.
BOOK INFO: Starting out as a nostalgic look back at following Sunderland AFC far and wide over quiet pint, Ganterbury Tales is a ridiculously detailed recollection of the halcyon days when watching the Lads away from home was usually a step into the unknown. Authors Sobs and Pos bring together a daft story for almost every away game and ground and their experiences will re-ignite long lost memories for those hardy pilgrims who have braved planes, trains, automobiles and coaches to follow our famous club through thick and thin over the years.