Cemeteries in Italy are interesting places; the locals are still quite big on the kind of over the top memorials that went out of fashion in Victorian times back home. Much use of marble columns, cherubs, angels and the like. And, which has never been our style, pictures of the deceased themselves, though rarely looking cheerful, which is I guess understandable. Although mostly of a damn good age, despite the still largely universal tabs habit. All that olive oil I guess. I mention this as today's thoughts come from over a fence on the shores of Lake Garda rather than the more usual tatty structure in Ryhope, and more to the point, without a view of a football pitch. But still with a view of football. Kids in Italy still seem keen on kicking a ball about in car parks and on the street in a way ours aren't much any more. Makes me quite nostalgic. Big kids running rings round littler kids, the occasional bloke joining in for a couple of minutes till 30 years of fags starts to take its toll, and one side's goal always twice the size of the other. Do they play 20 half time and 40 the winner like we did? I hope so. And always a white ball so you can play in the dark. And the one with the ball is king.
View from the cemetery
Well, they said it looked like a tough start, and they weren’t kidding were they? Though it might well have been different if we had taken our chances last Saturday. Consett looked a solid side but we coped well overall, and were certainly always in the game. Tuesday night was more testing. Early days, but I am told by my travelling correspondent that Dunston looked the real deal, even if we competed throughout and the scoreline maybe flattered them a bit. There are a few sides who have started like a house on fire, and we seem to be engaged with most of them over the next few games!
Welcome back dear friends, here we go with another nine months of heartache, nail biting and soul searching to look forward to. Glancing through the league registration site, as you do at this time of year, in search of possible opportunities to pinch a couple, I notice that my old mucker Gustavo De Paulo da Nobrega e Silva has signed for Tow Law. Another transatlantic plane fare wasted. I jest of course. It was their Bert I really knew well. Still, damn fine name for a footballer, or a President come to that, gives the league a little touch of class. Unless it turns out he has two left feet and is allergic to the cold...
Well, performances mostly better than results in these last two games. Silly mistakes in both spoiling decent efforts. Still a learning curve for a lot of lads I guess. But nice to see a jolly good crowd in last Tuesday, best of the season by some way, and rumour has it that Saturday could be even better. Not the last away trip for North Shields before Wembley, but a slightly less onerous journey than over to Carlisle on Tuesday night, and, as a consequence, we hear the hordes of the rejuvenated North Tynesiders are coming en masse. And very welcome they will be too, at least in most parts, although by all accounts things were getting a little fractious in the clubhouse the other night. Sold all bar the tables and chairs I hear, run off their proverbial. Still, attendances are a major problem. By some way the worst supported club in the Northern League First Division, why is that? And in one of the biggest urban areas in the region. Takes some working out, and not a title the club would want. Niall Quinn, when with Sunderland, used to muse on the difference between one club and two club cities, and I think we suffer from the Sunderland or nothing mentality. Just a case of fighting on I reckon, at some point a few more will see the virtues of a cheap day of highly competitive football of a Saturday afternoon. Probably time for some lateral thinking re promoting things again for the start of next season. The odd Friday night? Occasional free or very cheap admission? Got to be worth a try.
I joked a couple of games ago that our lads could play these last few games in flip flops and while smoking cigars. At least, I thought I was joking. During the second half on Saturday it looked like our brave boys had taken me very much at my word. Seven goals, six of them at the wrong end in forty five minutes? Give me strength. Mind, our sole second half effort was the pick of the bunch, a two touch spectacular from the kick off, canny from the Bogie man. Never mind, on we go, because tonight should be easy...
Another good win on Tuesday night, and at home for a change. Excellent spirit shown by all, and worthy winners I thought, with our pace a constant worry to Whitley Bay. Nothing quite so tasty as pace, as I may have mentioned before. Although one gets the impression that getting beat off the raggy lads from Ryhope doesn't rate that highly as far as some of our footballing colleagues are concerned. And why should it? Nobody likes getting beat. But it pays to be honest with yourself about it. My old man used to say, and he wasn't wrong, that the greatest single advantage you can have in life is to be underestimated. Seems to me that sometimes people look at the league table when they should be looking at the pitch. That’s fine by me, let’s take full advantage when we can. Mind, dad's old metaphor used to finish with something about people still underestimating you as it slid between their ribs, but that’s not really suitable for a family web site so I'll miss it out. But you get my point...