Back in 2004, Sassco were without a league and undertook an odyssey of friendly games, pre-season and also throughout the season.

A total of 18 games were played after the 2004 season ended in May and the 2005 season commenced in September. The highlights included an away day (hammering) to Shildon AFC at Dean Street, but the most notable victory was a double whammy over William Harpers, Sunderland North All-Stars.

Sassco surprisingly defeated Sunderland North, emphatically, in the opening encounter, which annoyed Mr. Harper so much that he demanded a replay and was ultra confident. Needless to say, Sassco won the second game as well.

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.

There’s no way on this Earth you are going to beat us this time | William Harper – July 2004

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.