Neil Middlemiss, Mark Muers, Jon Wardle, Davinder Sangha, Steve Stubbs, Wayne Greenwell Jason Amour, Michael Pearson, John Oliver, David Gourlay, David Staples, Scott Hembrough

Our dispute with the Tyne & Wear League in the Summer of 2004 dragged on. We had looked to move to a Saturday morning league elsewhere, which included a Christian League. The only main issue was that we had to have a member going to church each week. We nominated Kelsey.

However, the WCFL was the best option. The only thing holding us back was Michael Booth’s season ticket. Eventually we decided for it and Jason Amour became Team Secretary with John Oliver. Unfortunately, we were too late to enter the WCFL and then undertook a set of friendlies throughout the year. The 2004 games are listed here and the 2005 ones are listed in the 2005-2006 Archive.

26th May 2004

Tash gets snipered twice!

McNerney bags a goal after Sangha’s hard work.

What’s the first rule for a manager arranging a squad?

If you want 12 players, make sure 13 are there. If you want a squad of 13 make sure you have 14.

The clanger this time was Cola Boy dropping me in it (work). Luckily I’d already made arrangements to call up two replacements, McNerney and the Tash. Everything was running smoothly so far. Gash was getting a jiffy on by saying we needed at least one sub, while I responded by saying I’d jammed T-Mobile’s communications with the amount of fucking texts I’d sent over the last week or so. We were playing a long arranged 11-a-side friendly against O’Neills, but the team was truly decimated due to an important night for the six-a-side at Downhill.

We got a squad together and all but McNerney were making his own way there, but lo and fucking behold, I got a text from him saying he’s waiting at the Downhill gates. Now call me a cynical twat, but I reckon somehow he got Herrington mixed up with Downhill. Simple reallyShanghai andBeijing are all but the same. Despite being back for a few weeks now, I reckon he’s still suffering jet lag. So the time was5:40 and I put the Magnet into full use and got to Downhill within 10 minutes. McNerney told me that we shouldn’t expect much from him as he’d been out of action a while, but by God I expected something now having raced down theWashington highway pretending to be James Pond.

Tash turned up slightly late, but to my surprise, everyone was there and ready. Nerney and Jiff were attacking. Stapes and Digga on the flanks. Gourlay and Gash were in centre midfield. I wanted the Tash in centre mid, but his jaw and arse dropped when I told him so defence it was for him. Jase was with him and Jeff on the left and me on the right.

We scored from our first attack. Jiff stole in and megged the keeper with ease. By this time, the Tash had been snipered twice. The bad thing wasn’t him being snipered, but the fact that the whole team saw it twice. Anyway, they scored from a defensive cock up. I’m sure the Tash was involved, but I couldn’t really see as I was hogging the touchline keeping out of the way of the hard football (blown up by Watty no less). We then scored a superb goal set up by myself. Under pressure, I connected with the ball during a melee and caressed it towards McNerney, who superbly chipped the ‘keeper. A delightful goal created inIndia and finished in

China. But most who saw it would probably say that I just wellied the ball out of defence and McNerney did the dirty work. They then equalised when we decided to play the offside trap. It was 2-2 at half time and we were comfortable and expected to finish them off in the second period.

Amazingly, no one scored. We kept the same shape and had some chances on goal, but so did O’Neills. They probably came closer with more attacking possession, but their end product wasn’t there. Some superb crosses came in, but we seemed to deal with them. The hard pitch also took it’s toll. Stapes was injured, Digga (sponsored by Bukta) was trying on different pairs of boots every other stoppage and Gash wandered off injured. We held on though to be happy with a draw.

I was pleased and I think most of the lads had a good day out. Gourlay did quite well in the second half and so did Digga. Both dropped deep to help out the defence (wonder why they were loitering around where I was standing?). Great to see Phil and also the goal he scored. He started slow but soon got into the swing of things and began to beat players and strike from distance. Jiff was awkward as ever, along with Staples. Gash got stuck in with his centre mid role. Also in defence, Jase was taking the piss out of himself in front of his work mates by dropping a clanger or two. Harper was genuinely superb as always. Weather was good, opposition were good crack and there were no complaints. The real thing that pleased me was that I managed to get a Sassco team out which was fully capable. Stubba, Wardle, Greenwell, Boothy, Baker, Muers, Kelsey, Hunt, Cola Boy and Galey are all nearly 100% regulars. Any team which lost that amount of players would struggle and cancel, but we got the team out and more importantly, they were all Sassco players so at least they knew each other having played in some capacity before.

The interesting question is regarding the future of the team. I know for definite who will pay the £25. It’s first come first served really. I need 14 lads to stump up the dosh and those 14 will be first team and it’s down to them whether they turn up week in week out. Based on last nights turnout, it looks bleak for the likes of Stubba and Muers who I believe won’t pay up before the June 1st deadline – we shall see.

ONeill Sports 2 Sassco 2 James Dickinson, Phil McNerney
Sassco Team: Dave Watson, Davinder Sangha, William Harper, Jason Amour, Gash Brazier, Dave Gourlay, Chris Dixon, David Staples, James Dickinson, Phil McNerney

4th July 2004

Sassco 5 NIFC 2.

McNerney grabs a hat-trick. Greenwell snipered in the first five minutes.

For once, the problem wasn’t getting a team out and ready, the problem was getting there. Somewhere in the vicinity of Killingworth, there is an oasis of pitches. Eventually we found it after directions from the locals. The invasion had begun.

NIFC were down a few players and had to add two or three lads to their squad. We were missing Jeff, Robason, Muers, Hunt and Kelsey. But we had a solid enough line up. Personally, I wasn’t interested in traipsing all the way to Killingworth and not playing, so I was in. Gash and Greenwell were centre halves, Galey on the right. Middle we had Gourlay and Greenwell. Stapes on the left, Digga on the right and up front, we had Fatty and McNerney.

We outplayed them to be honest with you. We were never in any real danger of losing the game once we kicked off. We were a bit wary though, because some of them were built like brick shit houses. But an early goal from McNerney settled the nerves. Phil eventually scored three, but the highlight of the goals was Stubba’s impromptu long range drive which squeezed in. Wardle also scored and we should have had more. All in all we were comfortable. Gourlay played exceptionally well and Gash was also strong in defence and also in the tackle. Good game, good outing.

18th July 2004

Tash, bang, wallop!

Sassco destroy Sunderland North 4-1. Tash is dejected.

Our normal pre-season game against William Harper’s side was still on the calendar despite ourselves not entering any league next season. This was Billy’s team based heavily on the Sporting Club and Durham Reserves unit, albeit a bit weaker. Last season we suffered a 3-2 loss – anyone remember Dunston’s last minute pile driver saved by Davo? Anyway we got a lot of credit for that narrow defeat, but for some reason, the key players for Durham seemed to think that it was a flash in the pan our performan ce. Well the team’s been running for nigh on two and a half years now and each season we always identified weak spots and ironed them out. Put simply, Tash’s minions were no match for a battle hardened Sassco team. We’ve been unbeaten since our final league game against Britannia. A superb 2-2 draw with a makeshift team (with me and the Tash in defen ce) against O’ Neills followed by a strong team winning 5-2 in Killingworth. This time I changed the full backs. Galey, first choi ce, wasn’t there so I called up Kelsey, who wasn’t stoned, wasn’t pissed and was raring to go. Boothy came back to fill in the right back slot instead of myself. The rest of the line up was the same, only Jiff came in and I put Fatty on the bench, much to his chagrin, so that Jiff could fill up a fast front line with him and McNerney.

Tash’s team comprised of some new faces, but quality players such as McNaught, Hembrough, Barry Cook, Lee Butler and also the ever impressive Turvey (I think that’s his name) who turned Dalfest’s season around on the Tuesday. Also in the line up was Mickey Pearson, who consistently seemed to slag off Sassco at every opportunity last season, despite not really playing for anyone de cent. The Tash rates him highly though, so he was at centre back (where he had a mare for us on ce a couple of seasons ago).

Kick off and immediately we smelled blood. Cross balls were used and we were being narrowly caught off side or lacked the final killer touch. But it was only a matter of time before we struck. Jiff, playing up front but coming in from the left, struck and the account was open. We had some minor scares. There were goal mouth scrambles but the defen ce held superbly. Now if I told the likes of Barry Cook and Lee Butler, the backline for Sassco would be Boothy, Kelsey, Gash and Stubba, I’m sure they’d laugh it off. I probably would. But then again, I’ve seen them this season and know their stunning ability. Gash and Stubba were nothing short of awesome in the back and kept the shooting on target to a minimum. Watty was also superbly marshalling the team and made certain of most dangerous crosses. Boothy looked extremely comfortable and Kelsey was just taking the piss. Stapes probably had a quite game, along withDixon, but Dixon made amends in the later stages. He needs to stick to his position as out and out winger. Midfield was exceptional. The same duo, Greenwell and Gourlay, who played against NIFC, controlled the ball perfectly when they had it. Greenwell was getting stuck in and Gourlay wasn’t wasting a single pass. Up front McNerney actually had an off day. Some of his control was below par, but he made up for it and held the line so well. McNerney will be playing for the Tash next season and it seemed that he was the one they feared the most – which in turn, took the pressure off Jiff as bagged in the goals.

The second half continued as the first did. Wardle was now on, so we had a front four of Jiff, Fatty, McNerney and Dixon – all goal scorers. Excellent play from Wardle led to the second and decisive strike fromDixon. Unstoppable, just like the team. Now we were taking the piss. So many times we broke through and squandered chan ces, but eventually one of these led to Mickey Pearson on his arse. He misjudged a long ball and Jiff stole through to give us an unassailable lead. The Tash’s team did get one back and I would have expected an upsurge in their team’s performan ce . They got one, but we simply took our next available chan ce with a hat-trick from Jiff and a 4-1 score line. Outstanding performan ce from the top down.

I’m sure I’m going to hear it all from the other side about weak line up, etc. Yes that can be true, but our normal central defensive partnership is usually Robason and Greenwell in competitive games. We also have Galey who’s made the left back position his own. I also missed out Jona for this one as well. And also Muers, for all everyone slags him off. . . well, hang on, you’re right, he is actually shite. We’ll miss him out of this one.

I got the usual waffle about getting a team back in a league, but put your money where your mouth is lads. And it was, as expected, the ones who didn’t bother to pay that made the loudest noise – i.e. Fatty.

26th July 2004

Alfie shows us that he hasn’t lost it.

Haldane, despite his bluster, never had it.

When Alfie summoned up the strength to wiggle his arms to signal a sub, my heart sank. We’d began to build a formidable right side partnership which was coming to fruition only to see it cruelly broken by Haldane’s inept second half performance. It was the beginning of the end. Sassco having lost so many players summoned “guest” players in the same way you would see guest stars on the Simpson’s. Hembrough and Haldane were the chosen two. Robason also came him to make his friendly debut. I was playing as well to solidify the back line. Within minutes I was blowing out of my arse due to the searing heat. Dennis Jackson’s team were strong. With Hunt, Kelsey and Gash playing for them, there was also Davo in goal, Sheepy and also Baker. So it was nearly 50% Sassco. We opened the scoring and it seemed as if we could pierce them open at will. Criminally we missed so many chances. McNerney had a clanger. Don’t know if he’s still got his little red book from his mental brain wash in

China, but he needs to give himself a good kick up the Karl Marx and get back to the real world. Communism is dead and quite rightly so. The lasses looked like blokes and the blokes looked like Kelsey. Hembrough, his guest partner missed his own fair share of chances, although Hembrough did finish his set of goals with ease. It was good fun, my feet were dying due to the hard surface and most of the lads were ready to keel over.

In the second half, we should have finished them off. Greenwell missed a sitter from around 6 yards out and that was it. They kept scoring but we kept coming back. Eventually they went two goals ahead in quick succession and we were finished and couldn’t summon up the energy to fight back. I would have been happy with a draw, but the defeat was well deserved for Redhouse FC. With Hunt, Walker and Wilson pulling the strings up front, we simply couldn’t cope. I haven’t got a clue who scored for us. Think Hembrough got three or maybe four. At the other end we seemed to give them away. Indecisiveness led to a couple of goals and the reliance on the offside trap led to another few. Never mind.

Again, the usual words came out from several people that it was a shame we weren’t in any league, but ironically Dennis at the opposing end suffered the problems which blighted us in the early stages. No one paid him any subs and they came out of his own pocket – my lot paid me in full though. Not easy running local football you know.

29th July 2004

Defensively weak.

Conceding 11 goals in 2 games doesn’t bode well.

humid and overcast were the only ways to describe the weather. Pissing it down was a more accurate term just before the half time break. We were playing Si Williamsons Sunday morning team, Lambton, and for on ce we had a reasonably full strength set up. Jiff was back and so was Kelsey, after sleeping with the enemy. I was also playing and Sammut from Ellie Leisure came in for a game to help out of the right hand side.

It was a lively game and in the end we should have won it comfortably. We did go a goal down, but as ever, Jiff equalised and then put us 2-1 ahead. We were controlling the game until Boothy lashed it into the back of the net – his own bleeding net. He’s shaved the crossbar, post, etc. on many occasions at the other end during the last two years, but seems to be clinical in lashing them past Watty. In the second though, we went 4-2 ahead culminating in a superb individual strike from Greenwell. McNerney had also grabbed one at this stage as we looked sorted. Unfortunately, the opposition made it 4-3 and despite a brief panic, we struck another so it seemed curtains for Lambton, for whom Si Williamson was clearly pulling their strings. late on they pulled another one back and were on top. As always, we panic even though we’re a few goals ahead. Robason gave away the ball immediately on kick off and this resulted in Si equalising. It was with its fair share of controversy as he handled the ball, but referee, Keith Brazier, played on. His shot was perfect as it squeezed in. Miraculously we had an opening, but yes – you guessed it – Little Red Phil was wide with a gaping goal in front of him. I’ll tell you something, I bet he never gets a bird pregnant. Unfortunately it turned sour. Wardle got yellow card which was disappointing as we were all egging Keith to give him a red. He’s had a bit of a clanger in these friendly encounter. Basically he hasn’t scored, although when Jiff’s on the team, it’s so easy to set him up. A simple ball behind the defenders and Jiffs on it like a dot and always beats his man. Sammut played really well. His crossing led to some of our goals and his overall play was very good. Everyone else did okay as well. Kelsey was quiet but solid. Stubba and Greenwell and Wardle spent all day arguing with each other. Robason was calm as always in a vain attempt to keep everyone’s heads up. McNerney had a good one but missed too many chan ces or rather, opportunities. Watty was strong in goal, especially when fa ced with Si’s long, bullet throws. I personally did okay as well. I got stuck in and won some crucial balls. Amazingly I can easily last 90 minutes which superb athletes like Alfie (who I’ve always looked up to) can’t seem to do.

Apparently this could be the last of our full-strength team turning out as most of the lads have their own sides to worry about no. Wardle and co will be outing for the New Demi, while Kelsey and co will be playing for Dennis Jackson’s Redhouse team. But we’ll persevere. Harper’s been harping on about a re-match, which I’ll happily entertain, but I don’t think the strongest side will be out. Looks like another phone call to Holly and Alfie. Oxygen anyone?

5th August 2004

Dov 6 Tash 3.

When Sangha came on to replace Dixon just before half time to inspire a superb second half comeback. For William Harper, the obsessed Sunderland North Manager, it was the equivalent of chopping off his own d*** and then getting it stuffed up his own backside.

There isn’t a great deal to say, but I’ll try and milk it for all it’s worth. Old Tash thought the 4-1 win was a flash in the pan and was obsessed with a rematch. I reluctantly agreed and this time it was the Tash who had the full strength team out, while I was looking for players. Luckily we had well enough, with only me as the sub and Gash as a ten-minute hero. You couldn’t see a more contrasting set of ideologies. At 7:05pm, there were only four of us in the changing room. By the team we got on the pitch, the Tash FC team was limbering up by professionally warming up. Us lot were stubbing out old tabs and lighting new ones. Also for the first time, Muers made his friendly debut which was basically asking for it. Also the Stubba / Kelsey confrontation was on hold. Until after the encounter. I needed all my boys fit and ready to go.

Tash’s confiden ce really put the shits up me as he was ultra-convin ced his team wouldn’t fail this time. He had a changed forward line up and also two de cent centre halves. But, despite a more promising opening half for them, we erupted. A goal scored was probably my fault by bunging Digga out of position as right back! I eventually switched Muers back there on ce Digga walked off at his own accord. Too much holiday booze had taken its toll on him. I had to come on and if there’s one game I wanted my full team out, it was this one. Me coming on didn’t bode well at all. But that’s where the fun began.

In the second we scored two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead. They equalised and then we just fired up for more. 6-3 was the final scoreline. Muers, Wardle, Jiff, Greenwell scored and Red Phil got two. We certainly should have had loads more. Jiff shaved the crossbar on occasions and played a true blinder. Wardle looked increasingly comfortable in the second half with Greenwell, and in my opinion, for the first ever time in two years, played ex cellent in ce ntre mid. Stapes seemingly won all the high balls. Muers had a better second than a first (that’s a compliment). Nerney, again, had a slow start but tortured them in the second. Stubba and Roba were absolute rocks at the back. It showed the dominan ce considering that when Barry Cook scored their third goal, Stubba was on the wing dragged out of position. Digga had a mare but should have stayed on when I switched him back to right wing. Kelsey didn’t come under any pressure and only went off late with a bad back to be repla ced by Gash. Watty was comfortable in goal as well. He punched several times much to some peoples criticism, but having been in goal, the punch is much better than grabbing it and possibly losing it. Well done to all lads. Proud of you all.

There are differing ways to look at this game from a third person’s perspective.

The first is Tash’s obsession to beat my team. He still hasn’t given us any credit and the first thing I heard was that “we never slaughtered them!” We’re running out of fixture slots. How many more times do Sunderland North need to be lashed. Now he was there at the start when we were muppets and lost 8-1. We’ve also had ups and downs over the last two seasons, but the most important thing is that we seem to know where our positions are. We are a very good unit and the team spirit is second to none. This is brought about by myself fully controlling the team and not allowing any prima donnas in. Everyone knows the score in the side. Everyone turns up with full subs and fully kitted and always fully up for it.

Secondly. Tash panicked and changed his team too much. The original line up, in my opinion had a good shape to it. A direct comparison is that from our 8-1 two years ago, Watty, me, Wardle, Greenwell, Dixon, Muers, McNerney and Gourlay were all there and still form the bulk of the team. A little over a year ago, the team which lost 15-1 to Mountain Daisy included, Watty, Roba, Kelsey, Stapes, Greenwell, Wardle, Digga, Muers and Stubba (and me). Keep with the line up – don’t panic over one result. Hembrough is wasted at the back. He “guested” for us against Dennis Jackson’s team and scored four goals and should have had more – say no more. They need proper pa ce up front. The tall lad on my side of the pitch should have probably been up front. I always bung the likes of McNerney, Jiff and Digga up front simply for their pa ce .

Also, finally, respect. For some reason, the opposition simply won’t give us any respect. Strange really. If I ask anyone what they think of the likes of Wardle, Greenwell, Stapes, Jiff, McNerney, Watson and Roba, etc (note – no Muers). The response would be very favourable. So just because it’s me running a team, doesn’t make them collectively shite. And remember, I played a half and a bit and felt very comfortable.

Next two games: Sunday against Wavendon KO at 12:00pm, meet at 11:30am. Monday night against Grangetown KO 6:30pm, meet at 6:00pm.

8th August 2004

Dunston (somehow) grabs a hat-trick.

Depleted team performs exceptionally well.

Without Wardle and co, and more importantly, without Watty in goal, Sassco were under pressure to get a team out. I managed to get Chris Johnson from Houlston in goal, at least for the first half. And after Tash dropped us in it, we dragged Lee Melia off the streets to play. Apart from that, the team wasn’t too different. We had Jase returning for the first time since the O’Neills friendly game and Ryan McNaught came in to play for a winning team for a change.

Wavendon had shit loads of players. They must have had at least five or six subs and in the searing heat I expected them to come out on top. Like all Sassco games, we started slowly as Wavendon had quite a lot of the play. Chris Johnson made some good stops and defensively we were reasonably strong. We actually went a goal ahead when amiss-hit Muers cross crept into the top corner. 1-0 up and just before the half ended, we gained a second. This time from the spot. Muers scored to give us a handsome 2-0 lead.

The second saw Chris having to leave early, and Dave G, turning up to watch (wearing glasses, etc) was persuaded to go in goal. It was the second half where I expected the team to suffer and concede goals. We certainly did concede, but scored plenty at the other end. We went 4-0 at one stage before Wavendon made their inevitable comeback. They were up to 4-3 at one stage before Muers made it 5-3. Wavendon scored again, but that was their last. It was 5-4 and we pulled ahead. The final score was 7-4. McNerney helped himself to two goals, while Greenwell and Digga got the others. Muers’ hat-trick still baffles us all.

Not bad though – this was a line up without Wardle, Stubba, Robason, Boothy, Watty, Kelsey and Jiff. So the result was even more surprising. I was slagged off a bit by playing a few players onside, but the morons who shout “offside” should actually consider looking along the line before shouting it like a bunch of tits. Also defence was being slagged off by the midfield, when it was the midfield losing it and then expecting someone else to pick up the pieces. No matter.

It seems as if we’ll be entering the Combination league next season or maybe this season if a team drops out.

19th August 2004

Minnie takes the plaudits.

5-5 draw in the lashing rain.

In increasingly humid weather conditions, we took on Wavendon again, on a Thursday night. The team was as normal, but with Chris Middlemiss guest starring for us. As with all added players, he had a good game and came away with a hat-trick. First half,

We were under the cosh for most of the first but managed to squeeze a couple of goals in reply. Minnie grabbed the reply while Greenwell hit a speculative shot which Butler let through. However, they did gain the upper and it was 3-2 to them at half time.

In the second we improved vastly and gained a goal advantage. At 5-4 we had three gilt edge chances, Digga Greenwell and Minnie all missed good opportunities and they equalised at the end. As mentioned, Minnie grabbed himself a hat-trick, but the highlight was probably Wayne’s goal from Digga’s corner. This was the first time in two years that we looked dangerous in taking a corner. Greenwell also had a cracking shot against the post from a free kick.

It really began to piss down when Si came on for injured Gash. Then Gash came back on for injured me – then I came back on for injured Wayne . Good laugh though. Ironically this was a strong outfit we had out, far stronger than the previous one which beat the Wavendon. But it was balanced more as that was Wavendon’s first game this season.

26th September 2004

Sassco 4 NIFC 2.

Unofficial outing ends successfully despite Dunston’s attempt to destroy morale.

Another game against NIFC was hastily scheduled after all the slack arse shits wouldn’t put their hands in their pockets to pay for Paintball. This time we had a minor struggle with players. Gourlay was injured but was press ganged into coming along due to us only having 11. Sammut didn’t even turn up after the 1pm phone call was diverted to voi ce mail (always a sign that someone ain’t turning up). Boothy is still under the thumb and Digga was apparently hoying up during the Great North Run. So Minnie got the call up and did his duty.

Team was reasonably strong. Watty, as ever, in goal. Gourlay, Gash, Stubba and me along the backline. Stapes, Greenwell, Wardle and Jeff in the middle and up front, the increasingly shite Dunston and Minnie.

NIFC really wanted to beat us this time, and they probably had a better chance of doing it. Last time, we had Nerney on form along with an uninjured Gourlay as well as Galey playing. This time we were out of sorts. The first half was hit and miss. With Dunston, inexplicably, missing from around a centimetre out. Don’t ask me how, but there was more chance of me swearing at the ball and it going in as opposed to Dunston scoring. He spent most of the first half playing “keepy up” before getting bludgeoned off the ball by a huge West African player. Anyway, we did score and it was Minnie who did the good work from Jeff and Greenwell. We conceded though, around five minutes before half time. One of their lads ran through and lashed the ball past a hapless Nutmeg. Despite this, we should have been ahead. Dunston kept missing and Greenwell was really unlucky after he beat around four players only to see his shot squirm wide.

Second half started absolutely diabolically. We were being tortured and it was surprising that we didn’t concede. Watty made some cracking stops, coming mainly from one-on-ones. Eventually the deadly decision had to be made. Dunston was killing us up front and had to be palmed off to the right wing. Jeff was placed in centre mid, and Fatty was plonked up front. He was playing shite in the middle, especially when we didn’t have the ball. Instantly it worked. Jeff flicked a ball on for Wardle who scored. We were on the up. Dunston eventually scored his solitary goal, which was a cracker and Wardle beat the keeper to slot in the fourth. They did manage to score another goal to make it 4-2, but the lad who scored came off the sidelines (injured or taking a drink – who knows?) to poke in the consolation.

Good game, enjoyable outing.

23rd April 2005


6-4 win was very comfortable.

For our first game for several months, I expected things to run smoothly. They didn’t. First Jase and John (Team Secretary and Assistant Secretary) were late, secondly, someone had destroyed the 11-a-side goals at the Raich Carter Centre which meant we were forced to play in the hockey goals!

But the game went ahead. I expected a comfortable win and in the end we did get that win. Starting were Watson in goal. Jeff, Harper, Stubba and Gourlay in the back line. Stapes, Wardle, Greenwell and Emu in the middle while up front, Neil Middlemiss was making his debut for the team with Chris Dixon.

We soon went ahead after some opening exchanges where SAA boasted more shots on goal. Muers soon lashed in the second after he set the first one up. He then got another and Greenwell got the fourth. One of the best parts of the first half was when Harper scythed Muers down just when he was going to take a free-kick. A truly classic moment. Well at least it stopped Emu taking a quick kick and wasting it. We were over comfortable. SAA were struggling with positions but their 6 man (yes six) midfield completely obliterated Wardle and Greenwell, so it wasn’t a surprise when after a lengthy team talk, they came storming back. Camped in our half, they got their opener. By now they were roared on by a huge crowd who happily took the piss out of us at every opportunity (friendly banter though). Jase was on for the Tash in the second but he couldn’t prevent more pressure. But eventually it died off and we went 5-1 ahead then 6-2. They soon scored two more quick goals late on. One was my fault. A perfect example of practice what you preach. Launch it and be decisive. The lads were very sympathetic and Harper said to me after the game, “yep, done it myself plenty of times.”

So 6-4 in the end. Stapes, Muers (2), Wardle, Greenwell and Minnie got the goals. A good game. Very enjoyable under unusual circumstances. Shame John Oliver, Sammut and Hembrough weren’t there as it would have been a good time to get the first game out of their system.

Venue: Raich Carter Centre, Sunderland
Unofficial Friendly
Sunderland African FC 4 6 Muers (2), Stapes, Wardle, Greenwell, Middlemiss. Watson, Harper (Amour), Clark, Stubbs, Gourlay, Muers, Stapes* (Sangha), Wardle, Greenwell, Middlemiss, Dixon

23rd April 2005

Great win.

5-3 with Digga (in defence) and Minnie having blinders.

After losing John Oliver, Mark Sammut, Billy Harper and Jason Amour, it’s quite refreshing that the main point of conversation after the game was whether Dixon, playing in a right-back position, or Minnie with his four goals deserved the man-of-the-match award. Digga’s last appearance there was in the game against Sunderland North where he hauled himself off. This time, I explained the fact that from time to time, we are going to be short and players need to adapt. I clinched the argument when I said “it was him or me.”

Within moments of the opening, I knew we had another win on our hands. Time and time again we broke through their defence. Greenwell was partnered by Gourlay in the centre and both did exceptionally well. NUDFC were more organised than SAA, but we still coped. The highlight was the back line. Jeff and Stubba have played in their positions on a regular basis, but both Wardle and Dixon (on the right) had stunning games. All the back four cleared their lines and we were soon 2-0 up. Good work from Muers led to goals from Hembrough and also Middlemiss. Both the new forward players were combining well and it was good to see Hembrough playing for Sassco again as his pace was clearly causing problems for the opposition. Shockingly, we allowed them back in by silly defending (i.e. playing keepy uppy on the left hand side). They were soon back in it with two goals. But brilliantly we scored one straight from kick off. Middlemiss again.

The second half saw us struggling with fatigue. Most of the team had played in the morning as well as yesterday and we only had the one sub. It was 4-2 with Minnie scoring again and then they got one to make it tight with 4-3. Eventually a long clearance from Watson led to the fifth and final goal – you guessed it – from Minnie again. He scored four in total and had chances to get more. Both him and Hembrough combined well and the whole team did exceptional. Watson had to go off late in the game to be replaced by Muers. I came on and launched into a crunching tackle which did my confidence good after the Saturday disaster. Stapes and Muers did well on the wings, but Digga was a revelation as right back. Time to time he stormed forward, but at the opposite end, he always won the high ball and was comfortable.

A good game, in searing heat and on a brilliant pitch. Good luck to the NUDFC team in their cup final at Aldershot on the 7th. Hopefully they’ll become one black and white team to bring back a trophy. You know what the rest of them are like……

Venue: Bullocksteads Complex, Newcastle
Official Friendly
NUCDFC 3 5 Middlemiss (4), Hembrough. Watson (Sangha), Clark, Stubbs, Dixon, Gourlay, Muers, Stapes, Wardle, Greenwell, Middlemiss*, Hembrough,

12th June 2005

West Denton hammered 10-2.

Not very pleasant surroundings though.

On reflection, I think I will have to turn down any fixtures away from Sunderland in the future as this wasn’t the ideal situation. Firstly, we got stuck by detours to Peel Retail Park, but surprisingly, everyone was there. Apart from Staples being given a lift by Chris Haldane. “We’re two minutes away,” said Stapes to me on the phone before letting me know he was near Heworth Golf Course.

Anyway, we got there in decent time and trudged towards the pitch, during which dipstick Dunston lost the ball on a high hedge. No changing rooms, so back to the cars. The team line up was Beam (debut in goal) with Jeff, Jase, Sammut (in his debut this season) and Digga in defence. In midfield, Stapes and Dunston on the flanks with John Oliver making his debut with Gourlay in the middle of the park. Up front it was the Greasy Spaniard with Hembrough. Ryan McNaught was warming the bench ready for a second half start. We were missing key players. Captain, Wayne Greenwell, along with our leading goalscorer, Jon Wardle, were both missing. Both were in Edinburgh, along with Stubba, who is still classed as our main central defender and also, more importantly for this game, our reserve goalkeeper. Dave Watson, our number 1 was in Malta getting married (again). The Tash was missing again with some obscure excuse – fixing a shelf or something.

So despite the depleted team, we still put out a very strong line up. Immediately we were obviously better than the opposition, but we looked disjointed at the back. A ball over the top led to free-kick given away. They scored from it after it hit the post and we fell asleep for the rebound. We then equalised with Minnie grabbing the goal. I expected us to hammer the opponents, but another free kick saw Beam drop a proper clanger in goal. It went straight through his legs! Now it was game on. The Geordies were getting arrogant, but we soon shut them up. Dunston helped himself to hat-trick before half time, but most of the hard work was done by his team mates. Dunston was just there to pick up the pieces. One came from an excellent Middlemiss step-over directly into goal from low Muers’ free-kick. Not great football – but functional football. We used our superior ability to bludgeon the goals past them.

In the second, I made some changes. Firstly John O came off to be replaced by Ryan. Sammut moved into central midfield and Ryan was centre half. Muers also went into goal now that his work rate was going to be zero. Beam took his place on the right wing. I wouldn’t say it worked because of the changes, but Beam scored early in the second to put us 5-2 up. It was now a strong and more relaxed Sassco against a very poor West Denton team and anyone was up for scoring as we were clearly going to get ourselves a high score. But by this time, the referee had no control over the game at all and didn’t clamp down on any of the aggressive behaviour from them. It wasn’t surprising – it’s expected when a bunch of Mackems turn up and humiliate you in front of your own people. Everyone from Mick McCarthy to Steve Cram got slagged off including Minnies “quiff.”

The goals were added to by Ryan McNaught, then Minnie, Beam, Minnie again and then Staples. Game over. Hembrough shockingly didn’t get one and it took all my powers of persuasion to stop him quitting football to take up tennis, but he combined well up front and for a change, the goals came from elsewhere, which is good for the team. Overall the collective did really well. A shaky start from the back line wasn’t even heard of after their two goals were scored. Jase, Jeff, Sammut and Digga all looked calm. Digga, especially, did well considering it was his second game in that position. The John O and Gourlay partnership sort of worked, but it was difficult to make out as the pitch was really too small to see if there was a huge impact. It would be interesting to try out John O with Greenwell as both are similar “enforcers,” but this overshadows the fact that they can both easily pass the ball comfortably. Both flank players played as they always do and were crucial in getting the goals, while up front, Minnie and Hembrough were always a threat. I had to reluctantly award the man-of-the-match to Dunston for generally being in the right place at the right time. Anyone of our lads could have got the award, but Dunston got the goals which allowed us to relax and enjoy the game once we were a few goals up. I’ve also got to mention the “forgotten one,” Jeff Clark. He was outstanding in that he did his job in clearing his lines on almost every occasion, despite being a predominantly right footer in the difficult left back position. It’s great to see all the players having the ability to play in different positions. Digga can function on the right side in any position, while Dunston and Minnie also give us options in attack (as well as in goal!). As always, Dunston is much more effective in the right wing apart from in attack where the pressure is off him to get the goals. The result is that he always seems to get goals from there, as our feared forwards are usually heavily marked. Sammut was comfortable in defence and equally effective in the centre midfield spot. Gourlay, as expected, didn’t waste any passes when going forward and everyone got stuck in when it counted.

No game lined up for the foreseeable future, but I think I can’t be arsed to travel far and wide and play against a team which can’t even get stripped in the correct kit. I’ve since heard that the referee gave us an exceptional report saying that we were outstanding on our game and didn’t give in to any provocation during the game. He slated the opposition though, which isn’t surprising.

Venue: All Saints College, West Denton Newcastle
Unofficial Friendly
West Denton 2 10 Muers (3) Middlemiss (3), Johnstone (2), McNaught, Stapes. Johnstone, Clark, Amour, Dixon, Sammut, Gourlay, Muers*, Stapes, Oliver (McNaught), Middlemiss, Hembrough

9th July 2005

Very difficult.

But Minnie (4) and Hembrough (3) were clinical.

Greenwell, who was badly tackled all game, this time checks to see if his opponent is okayTravel problems weren’t too bad. I had to pick up Stapes, Muers, Hembrough and Minnie, but when we arrived there, all were present and basking in the sunshine. But when we got to the pitch (with Gourlay and Pearson arriving) it was quite evident from the moment the opponents turned up that it was going to be difficult. The last game saw good effort from the team but bad organisation. But this time it was full kits, pre-match warming up and god knows what else. Keith Nobbs, who is running the show, has evidently done an excellent job in the last few months on setting the African team on a course to success.

We had the team that I expected. Only Watty was unavailable at the last minute but this was half expected. The Tash refused to play after I mistakenly said, “Probably not,” to his request to be there. He turned up as a spectator with sun glasses which obviously came free with a teenagers magazine or something. The other problem was that most of Redhouse FC’s squad turned up to watch and hope we’d be humiliated. So despite the sunshine, it was turning out to be an unpleasant day for me.

Our main problem was how to play this game. If all went to plan, the opponents would attack in droves while leaving their back line exposed. This time we had Hembrough partnering Middlemiss in attack and goals were expected. The game kicked off and it did go to plan. The opponents opened the scoring with a cracking drive past Fatty in goal (he volunteered).We looked as if we were going to struggle. We were very disjointed at the back and the heat was burning us and affecting us badly while the opponents seemed undaunted by it. But on our breakaway, we equalised almost immediately. Soon we were 3-1 up and coasting. Minnie and Hembrough were very solid up front and based on a ratio, they tended to slot home every second chance. Greenwell, though, missed a true clanger when he was one-on-one. It was soon 4-1 and we were almost home and dry. Other chances were missed during this period including several goalmouth scrambles whenever we attacked.

But that’s where it got difficult. The African team came back strongly and scored a couple of goals (including a beauty from Dave G) and should have had more. It was 4-3 and even the half time break didn’t help us out. Rapidly tiring, we struggled again at the back while in midfield, John Oliver and Greenwell had their work cut out by trying to stop their supremely talented opposing number 8. He seemed to be at the heart of everything and we failed to pick him up. John O tried to do a man-to-man job on him but it broke down. Also the number 8’s quick turns and spins outwitted John O, playing in bad footwear and also Greenwell. I soon came on for John O and immediately was stuck into the action. Jase went centre half while Mickey Pearson moved from right back to centre midfield where he was a positive influence on the game. But before that, they equalised. It was 4-4 and this was just after I cleared off the line. They were fully on top and all the Redhouse FC squad probably expected us to wilt.

But it didn’t happen. We broke away and scored again before adding another two goals to give us a 7-3 scoreline. Muers also subsequently got dismissed for fighting, allegedly the opposing lad called him a “white c**t.” (so now you know how it feels Dunston). There were several scuffles during the game involving Dunston, John O and Amour. But it didn’t explode and the game was a satisfactory run out for both teams.

The left side was the most effective. Gourlay fed Stapes, who in turn fed the forward line.The end scoreline would give the impression that it was comfortable, but it definitely wasn’t. But then again, we were missing Jeff Clark, Mark Sammut, Chris Dixon and goalkeeper, Watty. So the back line only had Stubba in who’d be classed as a regular there and even he was due to go in goal had it not been for an injured hand. I think in the circumstances we did really good. Hembrough and Minnie were a class act up front. Hembrough got himself 3 goals and Minnie 4 and you can’t ask for more. Stapes had a quiet game. He got stuck in but there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that he did – but that’s high expectations from us. In the middle, John O and Greenwell struggled a bit as they were overrun, but there’s the dilemma. If either Minnie or Hembrough would have dropped deep, we would have lost our edge up front. John O’s problem was his footwear as mentioned before. Muers produced a few good crosses but didn’t do anything outstanding. Pearson and Gourlay were excellent, Gourlay in particular. Coming out of defence, he made our left side the strongest and most of the goals were initiated by himself. Pearson had a difficult job in the centre half position but did exceptionally well when he was pushed into the middle section of the park. Jase Amour struggled to start with and some of his clearances were bong eyed, but it was tiring out there and for his substantial kite moving about within that long sleeved shirt, you know he did well to keep up. And Wardle was outstanding in goal. Although one shot went through him and another was a cracker from Dave Gourlay, he performed outstandingly and becomes our fifth choice ‘keeper behind Watson, Stubba, Muers and Minnie.

A good game and brilliant surroundings. We still have a bit of a weak back line when some of our regulars aren’t there and this was our first friendly where we were cruelly exposed. But luckily the forward line did it’s job. If the front players are scoring four and the back are conceding four, it’s plain to see where the problem lies. We missed Sammut and (a few months back I couldn’t imagine myself saying this) the defensive qualities of Digga as right back. But we won and that’s good enough. Everyone had a good run out. Keith Brazier did a great job in refereeing, but he did say that he had a problem “understanding what they were saying,” but I said I couldn’t understand my team neither, especially Wardle.

Neil Middlemiss, Mark Muers, Jon Wardle, Davinder Sangha, Steve Stubbs, Wayne Greenwell
Jason Amour, Michael Pearson, John Oliver, David Gourlay, David Staples, Scott Hembrough

Venue: Silksworth Sports Complex, Sunderland
Unofficial Friendly
Sunderland African FC 4 
Gourlay (og) 7 Middlemiss (4), Hembrough (3) Wardle, Amour, Pearson, Stubbs, Gourlay*, Staples, Oliver (Sangha), Greenwell, Muers, Middlemiss, Hembrough
Muers sent off

17th July 2005

4-0 win against the odds.

John Oliver badly injured.

The team limbers up before the gameWe had the bare 11. I was due to go in goal for the Wavy if we had 12 players, but Watty was unavailable so I had to play for our lot. It seems Watty’s going to retire now as his shoulder keeps giving way. We might look for a new player or might just use our existing goalkeepers. Wardle is probably the obvious choice now that we have two other strikers available, but the likes of Muers and Middlemiss have both gone in goal and done a good job, and more importantly, enjoyed it. I remember a time when our only option was Watty and then Stubba. So even though Watty will be a miss, we at least have players in there who I’m confident will do a good job.

It started off well. Everyone was there in the allocated time. I picked Stapes, Muers and Min, while Jase and John got Wardle and Stubba. As expected, Wayne, Jeff and Scotty weren’t available, but I was confident enough. I gave a good team talk because I wrote it down for a change. Firstly discussing where we went wrong in conceding four goals in the previous game. Lack on man-to-man marking was the key. This time I stressed that our task out of this game was to see if we could kill the game as every opposing team will always have a period in the game when they’re on top. Brilliantly, this tactic worked and for the period when Wavy were on top (midway in the first) we coped well and killed the game off.

A bad fracture. Looks like John O could be out for a whileThe good thing was an excellent start. Goals scored in the opening few minutes helped out our cause. We caught Wavendon cold. Stapes opened the scoring after some good goal mouth work before Minnie added the second after snatching the ball from a bad kick out. It was then when John O was caught badly in the face. He clearly had to go off and we were in trouble. We had no subs and in the heat we were in for a fight. Luckily, ex-Sassco Warrior, Gash was there to watch and came on in the right hand side. By this time Jase had taken John to the hospital so we were still one man down. Digga tucked in and earned himself a man-of-the-match award as centre half. Fully accomplished at right back, he had to fill in with Stubba while Gash patrolled the right hand side. This meant Mickey Pearson came in as centre midfield and produced a performance which is one of the reasons why I earmarked him as centre mid with Greenwell a couple of years back at the end of our first ever season as an 11-a-side team. He did a great job with Gourlay as we had our work cut out for us.

Up front Wardle and Middlemiss were making the most of it. Obviously outnumbered, they both came very close on several occasions. But we kept the 2-0 lead up to the half time break. It was burning now and we were struggling with lack of energy, but were delighted with the way the game was going. Wavy offered us a player; Priestly, and he did a good job tucking in at right back leaving Digga and Stubba at centre half. Muers came out of goal as agreed and was replaced by Wardle who did a cracking job between the sticks just as he did against the Africans.

Dunston in goal. God help us, but he didn't have much to do in the firstThe second half was better than the first. We really worked hard for ourselves. The team talk for once seemed to be working. All the lads listened and the importance of killing a game when we’re up against it is paramount to any success we’re going to have. And like Minnie said, with one man down it was test of endurance. It could have gone pear shaped though. Muers missed an absolute sitter in the start of the second despite doing all the hard work. But he atoned for it later and set Minnie up to kill the game at 3-0. He, like Minnie earlier, snatched the ball from a defender and played it to Minnie. Although his work rate leaves a lot to be desired sometimes. When we’re in the shit, all players have to get stuck in and do their marking and work off the ball. With Sassco being 3-0 up, the remainder of the encounter was to see how we could play out before the final whistle, but we ended up playing some of our best football for ages. The team felt liberated and everyone, rightly, can give themselves a pat on the back for the effort. Near the end, Dave G was on his last legs having combined well with Pearson all game. Yet those legs had one last fling as he placed the ball in the back of the net to make it 4-0. “You don’t save those,” was Digga’s comment in his library of cliches (that’s cliche number 34 which comes just before number 35 which is “get some purchase on it.”).

A good game and brilliant effort. Personally I had a cracker at left back. Won most challenges and didn’t really waste a pass, but unlike Gourlay, I don’t think I’m wasted at left back. From the organisational point of view, I should have added a face to squad at least. Playing with 12 players is risky, especially when only 11 turn up. With injuries and other circumstances we could struggle in the future. But Jeff, Greenwell and Hembrough are all regulars and this was a Sunday game so it wasn’t a huge problem.

Venue: Silksworth Sports Complex, Sunderland
Unofficial Friendly 4 
Middlemiss (2), Staples, Gourlay
Wavendon 0 Wardle, Amour (Brazier), Dixon*, Pearson, Stubbs, Gourlay, Staples, Oliver (Priestly), Sangha, Muers, Middlemiss

6th August 2005


Heavy defeat, hardly any chances.

Standing: Sammut, Dixon, Muers, Kershaw, Clark, Sangha. Sitting: Bell, Pearson, Staples, Greenwell, StubbsWe had a bit of a depleted team, but I was confident enough. Main problem was lifts. Poor Digga must have spent half an hour driving round Redhouse and Marley Potts getting hold of Staples then Greenwell (late as always). Then he had to charge all the way over to Ryhope to pick up Jeff before making his way to Newbottle. I had a straightforward run. Picking up Muers and Stubba, then Sammut and finally, debutante, Tommy Bell.

We had the bare 11. Gourlay, Hembrough, Middlemiss, Wardle and John O were absent. Jase didn’t turn up. So changes in positioning which on reflection were wrong. Jeff went from left back to right wing. While Mickey Pearson went from right wing to centre half. Gav Kershaw was making his debut in goal and had a great game.

The first half started off even. Jeff had a great long range effort saved, but they soon scored off a corner where the biggest lad on the pitch was unmarked. They came close on several occasions, but were thwarted by Gav Kershaw who had a blinder in goal, pulling off some exceptional saves. Yet our biggest problem was the lack of creativity. We simply couldn’t keep hold of the ball and were overly lazy when we lost it. Up front, Tommy Bell was having an uphill struggle as his defenders towered over him. We should have played through balls like we normally do with Hembrough and Minnie instead of to feet and then forcing them to take players on. Nevertheless, the first half ended at 1-0 and we were reasonably confident that we’d get back into it. But unfortunately we didn’t. Soon we were 2-0 down and we completely collapsed unlike in previous games when we conceded we moved into another gear. Eventually it was 6-0 with the final goal being an embarrassing mix up between Digga and Jeff. Digga had it easily to clear (and did), but Jeff came steaming in to deflect it into his own net.

So, being 6-0 down, Newbottle took their foot off the pedal and we came back into it. Tommy Bell gained some space and scored after the ‘keeper parried his earlier shot. It was 6-1, but to be honest, we didn’t deserve anything. When a team is 6-0 up, they tend to take it easy, so it was inevitable we’d get some chances. Overall, we were very lazy. Positioning was wrong, Muers cannot play as a striker and is more effective on the wing, while Jeff Clark would be more suited to the middle or as full back. Stubba spent the second half arguing with their players and ours and only Greenwell and Kershaw came out of this game with any credit. But on reflection, I’m glad we got this out of the way. We’d been on a winning run since September and we were getting complacent. The laziness crept back in which was missing in our last game v the Wavy. Also it shows that we definitely miss the likes of Minnie, Gourlay and Hembrough. Wardle was also a miss up front, but we’ve also got to remember that he usually drops deep, worrying about the opponents instead of making them worry about him.

I’ll get information about this game against Shildon as soon as possible. It should be confirmed by tonight (Saturday).

Venue: Houghton Cricket Ground, Houghton-le-Spring
Official Friendly
Newbottle WMC 6 1
 Bell Kershaw*, Sangha, Stubbs, Pearson, Dixon, Greenwell, Sammut, Staples, Clark, Bell, Muers

8th August 2005

Blistering show from Shildon AFC.

Second half shows the gulf in class.

Dunston gives it his all.The difference in quality between the two teams was quite obvious in the second half. We were camped in our own penalty box giving corner after corner away. Eventually they scored the goal which took them to 3-1.

But it started so differently. A convoy of three cars (mine, Pearson’s and Gourlay’s) travelled the long distance down to the stadium in reasonably optimism. We didn’t have the strength in depth needed. Ryan McNaught and Scotty Johnstone were unavailable as stand-ins, while Trevor Walker and Gavin Wilson had other commitments. Keith Mouat came in to help us out in defence. At the ground, a rousing team talk dwelt on the fact that we had to work harder than we ever had in any game to get some semblance of pride regardless of any result. One of the key issues for me was for the team not to resort to dirty tactics. Lower league teams are rarely given the opportunity to play against Northern League or semi professional sides. I wanted to create a good impression above all and warned my team that no over zealous fouling should be seen and no back chatting or foul mouthing the opponents. We came a good distance to play and enjoy a good game of football and it’s safe to say that we came away with good credit for this in a game where hardly a bad challenge was seen.

The start of the game was something that I didn’t want. We were playing well, but gifted two openers. Frustration, for a change, didn’t creep in this time, as it did on Saturday, but we tightened up and soon started to gain half chances. The pressing and closing down was a sight to behold. We went in strong and fair and forced the opponents to panic. We also won our fair share of 50-50’s in the air and on the ground. So when Gourlay, superbly, drifted in the goal, from outstanding work from Greenwell, we were on the up. It caused Jeff Clark to rise from his sitting position in the dug out and crack his head on the dug out ceiling (for the third time) and claim that “goals like that puts bums on seats.” All the players at this time were performing out of their skin. Kershaw in goal made some important stops and his goal kicking was precise. The back line of Dixon, Keith Mouat, Sammut and Stubba were outstanding and very sure of themselves. They had the hardest task in this game and all performed well, Stubba in particular. The middle of the park was as strong as I could get it. Stapes, Greenwell and Pearson with Muers all did their job. Up front, Bell was partnered by Gourlay, who dropped off and lay off several good passes. We were desperate for an equaliser in the first, but it didn’t happen. We came close(ish), but the whistle concluded the 45 minutes of good work.

Dave didn't look out of place against the Northern League team.Second was all about fitness. We were lacking in it and on our last legs. With no Hembrough, Middlemiss, Wardle, Oliver and Amour. We had the bare eleven. Jeff Clark was sub after he struggled in the warm up and I was the only other fit(?) player left. We were given a run around by Shildon AFC, who, I assume, probably got a bit of a tongue lashing from their manager at half time. They scored goal after goal as most of the team simply broke down in the strict man to man marking which I wanted. Maybe I expect too much from them, but this system will work if implemented properly. It would kill off a game completely and then give opportunities to the strikers more sooner than later.

However, most of the team felt exhilarated. We did our best on a huge pitch, but simply weren’t a match. If only we had Hembrough, Minnie and Fatty and co, fit and raring to go. I don’t think it would have made a huge difference, but from our point of view, we simply don’t have the resources to replace players such as those.

We were made very welcome by Shildon AFC and really enjoyed the experience. Hopefully, with our good behaviour and good show of work in 90 minutes, we’ll get more opportunities from teams at a higher level.

Venue: Dean Street Stadium, Shildon
Official Friendly
Shildon AFC 10 1
 Gourlay Kershaw, Mouat, Stubbs, Pearson, Dixon (Clark), Greenwell, Sammut, Staples, Gourlay*, Bell, Muers

13th August 2005

Good, evenly balanced game.

Johnstone, Staples and Haldane (yes, Haldane!) give us the edge.

The new, official model for Sassco.As mentioned in the previous reports, we had a depleted squad. The list of the lost was scary; Minnie, Sammut, Hembrough, Wardle, Gourlay, Dixon, Bell, Pearson and John O. All were first teamers. To top it off, Gav Kershaw dropped me in it, so Muers had to go in goal. The opponents were newly formed so, on reflection, it was an evenly balanced game. We had player shortages while they were getting used to playing together. Also this was the first game on our new home ground, which was located at the Northern Area. It was a good pitch, we were the only ones there, but the changing rooms were reasonably adequate (if not a bit antiquated). Anyway, we managed to pull a team together, but had no substitutes. Steve McDonagh, Chris Haldane, Scott Johnstone and Jimmy “Crouch” Donkin came in. Ironically, they were probably the best players on the pitch in a game played in contrasting conditions. It was humid at the start, but then the rain came pouring down along with the thunder.

We went a goal down quite early. Lack of decisiveness from Jimmy, Jase and Dunston allowed them to loop the ball in the net. But despite this setback, we soon came back strongly. Beam (Johnstone) was getting caught offside, but it was only a matter of time before he got one in. We were right. Soon we were ahead 2-1. Haldane had got himself into an excellent position from the right wing to bludgeon the ball in the back of the net out of a melee, while Johnstone had scored from a tight angle. But then we got a bit complacent. Firstly, a winger out strode me on the right and sent in a speculative ball. Again, indecisiveness from Jimmy and Muers saw their player creep in and hit it first time. Moments after this, Jeff dwelled on the ball and then that led to a goal. We were 3-2 down and Keith Brazier called the half to an end.

Second half showed a reasonable improvement. The rain had stopped now and we managed to string a few odd passes together. Eventually we did equalise. Staples banged it in after great work from Beam, who himself got the fourth and final goal. A good game, a good performance. Hats off to Santini as they played really well and should be amongst the better teams in Division 1, according to some of the lads on my team. But a whopping pat on the back for ourselves, coming away from an awkward game, with a depleted squad and taking a victory. We had a bad experience in Newbottle and a bit of an embarrassing time in Shildon, but this game gave me a bit of confidence back – that we can do it with a depleted squad. Haldane had a blinder on the wing. His passing was excellent and more importantly, calm. I had Stubba and Greenwell in the middle for this one and Stevie Mac with Beam up front. Back line was Jeff, Crouch, Jase and myself. We did okay. We panicked a bit on the back line, but overall we were comfortable. Crouch was excellent. He made some cracking one on one challenges in the box to keep us in it at the end, when all our legs gave way. Muers did great in goal, but most of that was trying to impress his lass. I’ve also decided to get Crouch and Scotty Johnstone signed on. I’m going to put Wardle back as the Number 1 ‘keeper as I need reliability. We’ve got a big line up now, so when the full team is available, i’ll have to rotate, but will put priority on the players that have been there the longest. I never want more than 14 players at a game (as if that will ever happen).

Scotty J got the man-of-the-match nomination. It was close between him and Jimmy, but his none-stop running and work off the ball actually created all four goals with two taken himself. Also Chris Haldane needs a mention. He took his goal well and rarely wasted a pass throughout the game. Also good morale boosting support from Fatty and John O on the sidelines as well

Next game versus Hetton Crown at their enclosed ground in the same area, next Saturday at 2:00pm. Should be our last friendly as injuries will be taking their toll soon.

Venue: Northern Area, Washington
Official Friendly 4 
Johnstone (2), Staples, Haldane
Santini FC 3 Muers, Clark, Amour, Donkin, Sangha, Greenwell, Stubbs, Staples, Haldane, Johnstone*, McDonagh

20th August 2005

Too many missed chances.

2-2 draw leaves some walking wounded.

Lovely day, nice game.This was going to be our final game before our league campaign kicks off. I expected a more bigger squad than last week, but unfortunately, some were missing due to injury, work and holidays. So, I got a bit paranoid the night before. We had a total of 13 players, but I was sure we’d struggle or something would come up. So I drafted in David Murton (aka Bunta) from Hylton Castle – just in case. My fears were correct. Minnie was stuck in at work and also Scotty J was going to be about 10-15 minutes late. Bunta went straight in (along with me) in a reasonable looking team. Up front we seemed to have a fair bit of fire power. Bunta and Bell in attack. Stapes, Gourlay, Greenwell and Pearson in the middle. In defence were myself with Donkin, Stubba and Jase. Muers was in goal, due to be replaced after half time by Johnstone.

The opponents were run by Lee Francis, a former player for Groundwork Murton and then Sassco for a few months, in the early days of the Sassco League. I expected the bulk of their superb team to be there, but there was only Francis, in goal and Steve Sinnott in attack. Both had played for me in the 6-a-side on several occasions. Francis was (is) a decent outfield player so it helped us by him being in goal. Also, surprisingly, we saw Patty Walsh, formerly of Toddy’s. An outstanding centre half, so it was definitely going to be difficult.

This time transport wasn’t a great problem. Our boy helped out by getting Dunston and Greenwell, while I got Stapes and Bunta. Everyone else made their own way to the superb Hetton Crown pitch which was the enclosed Northumbria Centre one (rich sods!).

So now to the game. We were caught out a little bit in the opening stages. Sinnott, as centre forward, broke the offside trap (as if we were playing it…) and nearly scored. At the other end, we were coming closer and closer each time. Bunta missed a great chance after some brilliant football, but eventually, Jimmy Donkin, in the right place at the right time, scored when a ball landed perfectly at his feet. Just before this, Beam had turned up so Mickey Pearson went back to his original position as left back when I came off for Beam. But poor Beam broke down and so I had to come back on. We then let ourselves down when from a corner, Patty Walsh came steaming in to score a bullet header, despite myself screaming for players to mark him. There is a reason why I do the tactics as well as run the team, I do tend to know the strengths of quite a few players and we should have sorted Walsh out. Eventually we did and it was only by doubling up on him, especially for corners against us. But the team followed the instructions before the game. If we’d lobbed the ball in the box, Walsh would have won every time. Instead, we played it on the floor so Walsh’s effectiveness in the air wasn’t really shown. By this time we’d realised that Sinnott was the focal point of their attack and probably the only person likely to score. Stubba was doing his work by sticking tight on him. It flared up near the end with Stubba and Sinnott, but of all the players on the pitch, you’d expect Stubba and Sinnott to be at each other.

Soon, in the second half, our good play showed and we did it right by keeping the ball on the floor and passing well. Through balls were difficult, as Hetton kept a good line, but overall we did some good stuff. This eventually led to the second goal from Tommy Bell, he outpaced the keeper and from a really tight angle, scored a superb goal.

But after this we got complacent in attack and didn’t take shots when we should have and missed some glaring chances, including some cleared off the line and Muers missing a sitter. Yes, Muers came out of goal and Donkin had to go in as he was injured and we eventually conceded. Wasn’t surprising. We’d missed too many chances and then allowed Hetton back in it. But the scoring ended there, in our last game before the League commences.

Overall, a very competent performance. We followed the pre-match instructions and didn’t lob the ball in the box or dwell on it too much. Passing was sure and great to watch. One-touch stuff as you’d expect from the forward line we had. Special mention needs to go to Mickey Pearson as he changed positions three(!) times during the game but did excellent every time as left back, right wing then centre half. But it shows, that we have the lads to adapt in all these situations. Pearson got my choice as man-of-the-match, simply because team wise we were all good, but he had to adapt and easily did. Also apologies to Muers. He was due to get a half outfield, but both Beam and Minnie weren’t available in the second. He did great in goal, but was disappointing outfield late on, when he should have scored at least one of the two good chances he had.

Interesting problem on the horizon. Wardle and co’s Saturday morning team have entered the County Cup. Simple situation, if he prioritizes playing for them in this competition instead of us, then he’s ditched from the squad. It’s a simple choice and one that he, Stubba and Greenwell have to make. We’ve got a large squad now and if he does decide not to play for Sassco then we’ll make a few changes, but we’ve got 20 lads signed on now so his loss won’t create a dent. I think he needs to sit down and think about things. I’m always loyal to my team which is why I’ve put off signing on a large squad. I’m glad I’ve added Beam, Kershaw and Bunta to the side now, along with Oliver, Sammut, Bell, Minnie and Hembrough. If Fatty makes the wrong decision (along with Stubba and Greenwell) then he’s out. I won’t object to Jimmy Donkin playing in the cup against us though as he’s one of the later additions to the team and once the full squad comes back (Digga, Sammut, etc.) then he’d probably be sidelined or at the very least, rotated each week.

Sassco always have the best kits, the best website and the best crack. No other team has any website or publicity which even dares to come close to Sassco. Why do you think we get invited by teams such as Northern League Shildon AFC to play in their stadium and Newcastle United’s Official Deaf Team to play in games against them.

Sassco’s not simply a team, it’s a brand name and keeps getting bigger all the time. Some people playing for the team haven’t yet grasped this fact and will probably only get the idea when they aren’t playing for the side.

Venue: Northumbria Centre, Washington
Hetton Crown 2 2
 Bell, Donkin Muers, Johnstone (Sangha), Amour, Donkin, Greenwell, Stubbs, Staples, Gourlay, Bell, Murton, Pearson*