It's Non-League Day this weekend, and there's plenty of SAFC connections to local clubs to keep you interested.
Well it's time once again for a much hated international break. I used to enjoy international football, and I've given Fabio Capello every shred of support I possibly can, but I do have a breaking point, and it came recently. I can't recall the exact moment, but frankly I've stopped caring until something changes.
I'm sure there are plenty of you just like me who feel this way, and luckily for both of us, there is a remedy in the shape of Non-League Day. Non-League day is an annual event, to draw fans back to grassroots football, and has been a growing success.
So, with details of this weekends games in and around the area, and some historical connections to SAFC you might want to check out, here's Michael Hudson to tell you all about it...
There used to be a time when you could pick up a ticket for the football at no more cost than a trip to the cinema, when you could stand to watch the game without the threat of a banning order, when you could drink beer in sight of the pitch, see a team full of local players, buy a programme and a burger and still get change from a £5 note.
Actually, you still can - and with the continuing wrangles between club sides and national associations meaning it’s a Friday night kick off for England in Bulgaria, there’s no better time than this weekend’s Non League Day to rediscover the simple joys of watching a game of football.
The Northern League – founded in a Durham City pub in the summer of 1889 and the oldest grassroots football league in the world – has a reduced programme of fixtures with many of its teams in FA Cup preliminary qualifying round action. In Division Two, bottom of the table Seaham Red Star – the club where Bobby Davison, Nigel Gleghorn and Steve Harper started their careers - host Ryton and Crawcrook Albion in a 3pm kick-off. Adult admission is £4. Kick off’s at 3pm.
The city’s biggest non-league football team, Sunderland RCA, are beginning to look like a decent outside bet for the Northern League title. With Jim Montgomery and George Herd both on the coaching staff, Neil Hixon’s side went top of the league with a 3-2 win at South Shields on Monday and put seven goals past Birtley Town in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup. Signed from Consett in the summer, the prolific Gavin Barton has hit two hat-tricks already this season.
The FA Cup weekend sees RCA at Spennymoor Town, the Manchester City of the Northern League. Four of the Spennymoor’s starting line up – Lewis Dodds, Keith Graydon, Stephen Capper and Craig Turns – began as juniors at Sunderland. Anthony Peacock was an FA Youth Cup winner at Middlesbrough, Jamie Poole made it to the third round with Blyth Spartans and skipper Leon Ryan twice lifted the FA Vase when he played for Whitley Bay. Things are no less impressive off the pitch either. Along with Bishop Auckland’s new Heritage Park, Spennymoor’s Brewery Field is one of the two best grounds in the Northern League with covered terracing and seating, and a bar overlooking the pitch. Adult entrance is £6 and kick off is at 3pm.
The local game in the Wearside League takes place at Silksworth Welfare, on the pitch where Bobby Gurney scored some of his first ever goals. Ashbrooke Belford House – eighth in the table with two wins and nine goals from their opening five games – play early leaders Darlington Cleveland Bridge in the Sunderland Shipowners Cup. Silksworth Rangers make the trip to Stockton Town, while the city’s other team, Sunderland West End, take on Coxhoe Athletic, whose quirky Beechfield Park ground has one of the best playing surfaces in north-east England. It’s £2 adult entrance at Coxhoe, where you get covered seating and picnic benches to eat your half-time pie and chips. Kick off in all the Wearside League games is 2.30pm.
Many thanks to Michael for the info, and you can follow him on Twitter - @DolphinHotel and you can also find him on @Grassroots11 for all your local football needs. For even more information on Non-League Day, head on over to www.nonleagueday.co.uk