Ok so turning up five minutes before a match might not be the best idea but there were mitigating circumstances. Firstly my Sunderland supporting colleagues and I had to travel down from Leeds after work on a busy motorway network. Moreover the opportunity to get a feed at my parents’ house was too good to miss, especially the cake.
So I found myself in a long queue at the ticket collection point with five minutes before kick off. Tempers were fraying as the Ticket Office employed its own unique style of ineptitude. The queue descended into farce as the match started, people shouting out their names before even reaching the window, and the law of the jungle took hold. I’d printed out my details to make it easier, or so I thought. My surname in big letters at the top was clearly not prominent enough. In any case a bloke next to me shouted louder so the assistant scurried off to find his tickets arriving back to me with a blank expression even when I explained she had my piece of paper still behind the glass. Thankfully I checked the envelope before I departed the window as it contained only my Arsenal and Hull tickets and not one for the match that night. I was amused to see that any Sunderland fans arriving to claim tickets did not receive the usual printed version, but a slip of paper with their name on, more akin to a school chitty. “Take this to turnstile 47 and show it to them there duck”, said the assistant. I wondered if it excused the recipient from games lesson.
I finally found my seat 15 minutes into the match, so I feel I cannot provide an adequate match report. However the offering was so poor there’s little to report in any case. It was not one for the purists and no great loss if you’d remained at home and followed it on Teletext. Indeed I missed plenty more of the game as a creature that appeared half human half Ewok kept blocking my view as she and her offspring leapt up at the slightest hint of excitement. Needless to say the excitement was actually minimal. Apart from one decent move resulting in Fuller hitting the post after Tonge slipped in a delightful reverse pass, Stoke largely employed the Delap missile as their main creative outlet. Sunderland, who showed little appetite to perform, largely coped with this approach until Fuller darted in to head home a Delap throw on 76 minutes. Kenwyne Jones forced a good save from Sorensen late on but there was no way back for the under par visitors.
FT Stoke City 1 Sunderland 0
It was a vital three points that pulled Stoke out of the relegation zone but it was far from pretty, and not just the football. Mrs Ewok’s partner was revealed towards the end of the game minus his shirt, a portly youth settled several rows behind us proudly displaying his naked belly. As I said, far from pretty. Indeed after the long delay on the M6 returning to the Leeds and the arrival well after midnight it was hardly worth the effort! At least I had bragging rights in the car, although there was little to brag about!