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.
View from the Cemetery
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...
Blimey, all settled with four games to go, who would have guessed? Not me, that’s for sure. I have spent the winter anticipating a last game nail biter. Eight and a half months, or 229 days as some say, in the relegation spots, and then all over and done with a few games later. Feel a bit short changed now to be honest! Only joking of course, I'm really looking forward to watching our lads playing these last four home games wearing flip flops and smoking lah di dahs. Although no doubt our lords and masters on the league management committee would have something to say about that. Be fun watching them trying to find a relevant rule mind...
Well, what might have been last week, eh? What price Marske as we prepared to take that penalty? Still, credit to them, a great never say die effort. And to be fair, all credit to our lads, they bust a gut all night. So disappointing, but nothing comes easy in this league. Never mind, on we go.
But, moving away from our parochial concerns, the usual fun and games I see re clubs wanting to join the league. Ambitious, well run and creative clubs, trying hard to produce something of value for their communities. Got to be worth something to the powers that be in Blyth and Stockton you would think? No disrespect intended mind, but we are not talking boom towns here are we? Not exactly streets paved with the proverbial. Lot of local big nobs keen to join the bandwagon you would imagine. So did I. No, not quite. Well, it turns out that a range of obstacles, mostly it looks to me of the short sighted and obstinate nature, mean that Stockton and Blyth Towns respectively have to wait at least another year to test themselves at a higher level. The capacity of our towns and cities across the land to shoot themselves briskly in the backside never ceases to amaze, but there you go. Still good news for some famous old names currently finding life tough. It's an ill wind, just as long as it doesn't blow our way...
International weekends are often a damp squib, with many a football fan bewailing the lack of Premier League action while the national sides play meaningless friendlies. They should of course be out supporting non league football, but that is another matter.
However this last weekend has been a bit different, mainly because all of the home nations have more or less of a chance to make it to the finals in France next year. The expansion of the finals to 24 teams is the thing that makes this possible, and although the football authorities get plenty of well deserved stick, not least from me, this is one thing they should be heartily applauded for. The more the merry for these twice yearly big championships I say. And although my travel options are restricted these days as you know, and I don't set up for a travel agent, I will say that if you can afford a tent and a bus ticket you should definitely be planning to get yourself to the South of France next June. Plenty of the old vino collapso, guaranteed sunshine, and a good time to be had by all. Only thing you need to hope for is that you don't end up in the same part of the world as England, those so called fans ruin it every time. But if you get Austria, Slovenia and Italy or some such, then game on. And you don't even need to go to the games, the towns and cities will be jumping with lots of things laid on in parks, beaches and the like. Sounds like just the job to me. If only...
A word or two on the cricket World Cup. Australia won. Not a surprise then.
But back to local matters. Out of the bottom three no less, can this last? Well, we all hope so. Long way to go and some tough fixtures amongst them, but no despair hereabouts. Wish I could make it to Billy Synners next Saturday, what a game that could be! If you are going spare a thought for us grounded characters, and keep the faith...
So we win well at home at last, thought it would never come! Only the second home win since well before Christmas, let’s hope it’s the start of a rush of home points. And a good display it was as well, after the usual hiccup to start of course. A few changes and Mr Bogie took his chance didn't he? Two cracking goals and a hard working performance. But he was a long way from the only one. Lewis slammed a couple against the post, when he wasn't being flattened, and overall I thought there was a lot of good stuff played and a very good attitude on show. Let's keep it up.
So astonishingly it turns out that England's cricket team is in fact even worse than the football team! How unlikely was that?
Luckily, as most of the action has taken place deep in the night hours we have been largely spared the sad sight. If this applies to you let me bring you up to date. The one day game in cricket has moved on all over the world, with the style of play and levels of aggression a million miles from where they were a few years ago. All over the world that is except with England, who amazingly have managed to go backwards while everyone else went forwards. We persist with a "gameplan" based on a complete refusal to face up to reality, a belief in long outdated ideas and a love of a cute single rolled down to fine leg. "Keeping the scoreboard ticking over". Useless. Almost a textbook example of British management uselessness in fact. And all those opposition batsmen constantly wondering whether to hit it for four or six. Will anything change? Doubt it.