Awaydays – South Shields

Boxing Day mornings for me usually start with a raging hangover, followed by a quick peruse through my outbound messages to see who I need to apologise to and why. Then it’s onto facing up to whatever pissed up kitchen disaster I’d created (or at least attempted to create) at 3am as for some odd reason, every takeaway place is closed in the early hours of Boxing Day. Then it’s on to going downstairs to face up to extremely disappointed family. 

This year wasn’t much different HOWEVER, I was compos mentis enough to not try and set the house on fire with a questionable cooking creation this year. 

My masterpiece from the early hours of Boxing Day 2017

Thankfully these days, we don’t need to spend Boxing Day on a bus to some godforsaken Cumbrian shithole that would make Chernobyl look like Paris. With the rise of The Gateshead Old Boys Club (Spennymoor), Darlington 1883 and the Diet Mackems (South Shields) Boxing Day trips are short and sweet affairs these days that provide much more fun drinking opportunities. 

After a short metro ride up to the Toon, me and some of the lads met up at the Dog and Parrot for some scran and a few pints, as the idea of bathing with a toaster sounded much more fun than actually going into South Shields for a drink. 

As ever the scran was top tier, though the pints of Stripe were manky. Clearly the lads on the bar hadn’t bothered to wash the glasses properly after Christmas Eve, so that meant we had no other option than to start on the three trebles for £11. 

After a few of them we headed across to the central station metro with some sneaky cans and made the way down to Bede metro. We did half expect to bump into a few of the Gateshead lads as we made our way past the International stadium but as ever, that place was a ghost town.

The 2 min walk to the First Cloud Arena (what a shite name btw) was a really odd one. Walking through probably one of the greyest and dullest industrial estates outside of Eastern Europe, past a very out of place new housing estate to the away end was weird enough, but the fact that literally no sound was emanating from the ground was bizarre. The locals walking alongside us all looked miserable as sin as well. 

Over the years following Spartans, I’ve been to some pure fucking shitholes but never have I experienced such a soulless atmosphere at such a big game like that. 

As we arrived in the away end we met up with the rest of the lads, as a load had been to Tams for a few pints. After we exchanged some pleasantries and chatted about how pissed everyone was the night before – my thoughts turned back to beer. 

Everywhere else in the ground, you’ve got marquee’s and bars serving what I would imagine are some decent pints – however in the way end have to settle for warm cans of Carling for £3.50 from a manky burger van. 

By time I’d bought a can and remembered Carling tasted like arse, the game had kicked off and you could tell from the get go, Spartans were up for it. 

Each and every one of them started the game at full speed, closing down Shields players and chasing down every loose ball while displaying more energy than Tyrone Biggums after 10 cans of Red Balls and copious amounts of crack. 

Given the quality Shields should have in that team, I expected things to settle down and become a bit of a nervous affair however, that didn’t happen. Mika and Cedric tortured their defence to the point where I was almost feeling a level of second hand embarrassment for their lads.

When the first goal eventually came, it was well deserved. Our corner routines of late have been called into question, but Dev’s delivery was neigh on inch perfect. It looked like Bod’s got the final touch on the ball after Ced appeared to get a touch. Unfortunately the original highlights on the socials look like they were filmed on a potato, so it’s a bit tricky to confirm. 

Once again though I expected Shields to get back into the game and for that goal to be their wake up call, but it wasn’t. If anything the Blyth lads kicked it up a gear, and pretty much began to bully Shields. 

Mika having managed to turn a defender on the edge of the box fired a shot away and the ball was sent out for a corner, and not a single Shields player even attempted to fire the others up. They just walked back with their heads down and lazily tried to pick up a man. At that point, the writing was on the wall. 

The 2nd goal of the day was probably my favourite of the day, with Mika doing well to feed Forbes in the middle, who then played in Ced and his turn and finish was just perfect. Pure elation in the away end, as everyone began to properly lose tha shit. As for Cedric’s celebration, I live for that shit. If you haven’t seen it, check out South Shields highlights.

Shields then had an okay spell, where they tried to create some chances but Dan Langley was more than equal to everything they were capable of throwing at him and collected every single cross with ease.

Myles Boney was also having a decent game for Shields in goal, denying Mika as he struck a well hit effort from outside the box that looked like it was going to dip in. Moments later he produced a brilliant save from Forbes which ended up going for a corner, and after another corner routine it was 3-0. 

By now I’d ended up at front and when the third goal went in, it was pure pandemonium! I had a feeling that we’d get something out of the day, but being 3-0 up in 35 min’s in such dominating fashion was mind boggling. All I could do was laugh my tits off. 

Right before halftime it should have been 4-0, as Rhys did really well to work the ball down the right flank and put a ball across the face off goal but McGowan and Mika couldn’t get a touch on it.

The feeling at half time was a surreal one. We’d be so dominant I thought there was no way we could throw it away, and it would need a total miracle from Arca to turn it around. But given the fact we’d been more than capable of throwing away points at times this season, the pit of doubt in my stomach was still there. Probably along with the fear of Shields turning the floodlights out at some point in the second half if we’re still winning late on.

The second half felt like it took an age, but Spartans bossed it. Shields pushed early on, but our defence was on top form. At one point went Mika went off, the lads passed the ball around the back for a solid 3/4 mins with total ease – which gave the away end a great laugh. 

Shields did of course pull one back late on through Paul Blackett, who had been carrying an injury throughout the game apparently. Just goes to show you how good he can be.

As the final whistle went, an unadulterated sense of joy swept through the away end. After years of under performing against our North East rivals and having had the piss taken out of us by fans across the local non-league scene due our struggles over the last few years, it felt great to completely dominate an opposition team who have 4 times our budget, and who’s fanbase was quite literally non-existent 10 years ago. 

I think myself and everyone else was also buzzing for the likes of Fents, Shaw, Ced, Bod’s and Big Willy who were all more or less cast away by South Shields at point or another, some in deplorable circumstances. That win would have no doubt been even sweeter for those lads. Less said about Geoff’s twitter meltdown the better.

If I was to single out individual players I’d be here all night talking about how good they all were. In short, every single of the lads were top fucking tier. I will though make an exception to briefly talk about Joe Oliver. 

In his first few games for the club, he was probably unfairly outed by some supporters who blamed him for some minor errors he made and some defeats when he first came into the team. Despite some of the unfair criticism (some of it even from moi) his head never dropped and he kept battling away. It was a surprise to see him at right centre back the other day against Chester, but he did really well and I was pleasantly surprised by him. Yesterday against Shields, he was absolutely fucking belta and made some very good players look like they belonged in the Northern Alliance Premier. Hopefully he’s got a lot more of that in his locker and he confines to develop with us. 

I must as well say our away support was class as well. Atmosphere in the away end was brilliant even before we went 1-0 up. As for the hosts, the loudest thing to come out of them all day was that insensate fire alarm.

After that result and performance there was only thing any sane man would do, be a total degenerate and get absolutely shit faced, resulting in a lock in and then a raging hangover. Absolutely worth it though. Hopefully come Saturday, we can de it all again!