11th of December 2009 - 16th of December 2009
Sunderland - Portsmouth
score: 1-1 (22' min Darren Bent 1-0, 90+2 min Kaboul 1-1)
Sunderland - Aston Villa
score: 0-2 (24' min Heskey 0-1, 60' min Milner 0-2)
This would be a different trip than all the other trips before. Nick posted long ago the message that he would love to do this trip. Two homegames in 1 week (!). He'd also posted some other options: Liverpool away and a London away game. Unfortunately all the other Dutch Lads decided to put Liverpool away on their number 1 wishing list, so there weren't that much interested. Except for....Drew ofcourse. He would do this trip together with Nick, but he had to go back on Monday. He would miss the Villa game....and maybe something as much important as the Villa game. More about this later in this review.
Friday the 11th of December:
Nick and Drew meet at 7.45 AM at the busstop Nachtegaal in Lisse. They get the bus from there direct to Schiphol airport. Nick had already done the on-line check in, so throught the customs, cup of coffee and at 9.40 AM they left Dutch territory. Everything was as planned and at 10.00 AM they got on the bus at East Midlands airport to Nottingham city centre. Jon had to work this morning and Nick and Drew decided to do some shopping. The bus stopped almost in front of the HMV. No worries that we would get bored. Like little kids in a candy store we didn't know where to look. And 90 minutes later we stepped out of the doors of the HMV with some extra kilo's of luggage and some pounds less. Well, and Drew already knew that he would never get all this stuff in his single hand luggage bag for the way back. Across the street there was a Marks & Spencers. So we went inside in the middle of some Christmas shopping ladies to find a new bag. We found that very quickly, but there was a huge que. Anyway, Drew got in the que and when it was his turn the phone rang. It was Jon. He'd just finished work and asked if we wanted to have lunch at the Test Match. Of course we will. Taxi to West Bridgford ! We got past the Notss County, Forest and the cricket ground and arrived a bit earlier than Jon. Alan recognised us immediatly and served our first delicious pint of the trip. When Jon arrived we orderd some food. At the table next to us there were about 8 older men who were having Christmas lunch. Great to see the typical English tradition like crackers and paper crowns. We had a burger, another pint and then off to Lowdham, home of Jon and Kathy.
At Jon & Kathy's we could drop off our luggage, watch some tv and have a cup of coffee. Kathy was home as well. She had a party the night before and stayed for the night in Derby. Drew had bought a music-quiz DVD at the HMV, so we decided to do a quiz and then off to the next village (Southwell) to a nice Indian restaurant (according to Jon & Kathy). And it definetly was a good one! Nick thought he was in a Greek restaurant by throwing a plate on the floor, but it really was an Indian. After a delicious curry we went back to Lowdham, watched the Buzzcocks and then off to bed. There was a long car trip planed for the next morning.
Saturday the 12th of December:
Early wake up call. The plan was to get in the car around 10.00 AM for a 2,5 hours long drive to Sunderland. Kathy was joining us, so with all the luggage in the back we got in the car. It wasn't that busy on the road and Jon knows exactly where the gas-pedal is. At 12.30 PM we arrived at our guesthouse. Traditionally this was the Balmoral again at the seafront. Jon and Kathy went to their own studio (that they bought as Kathy is working for 4 days a week in Newcastle), but this one is too small for more people. Anyway, Victoria welcomed us with open arms and showed us our rooms. Drop the bags there, fresh up a bit and Jon was already waiting for us so we could go to our first stop: The Avenue. A quick pint there (it was 1.30 already) and then off to the Howard Arms. We met Brian and Eileen over there. We also noticed that the Howard Arms was redecorated. The walls had new colours and the paintings and photo's were replaced....but ours was still there ! After another pint off to the Stadium of Light because Nick wants to be on time. And we were. We found our seats and the match started.
Bottom of the league side Portsmouth was todays opposition. And right before they had to play Sunderland, they changed their manager. Avram Grant is the new man and it seems that he can get them some points again. But anyway, Sunderland had almost all the posession in the Stadium of Light. It was just waiting for the goal, and it came. Ofcourse it was Darren Bent after Jordan Henderson had nutmegged his opponent. Love it....this has got to be three points for the lads. Half time was 1-0 and it seemed like it will be an easy afternoon for Sunderland. Portsmouth didn't have any shot on target, so how could they score? The second half was again one-way traffic. Sunderland was in control but didn't create that much. A Reid free kick ended on the crossbar, but that was from a direct free kick. Anyway it stayed 1-0, so the three points were in the bag with the zipper still open. Until the 88th minute when Portsmouth showed that they can attack. Nobody expected this, on the pitch and in the stands. There were still some tense minutes to go. And the thing that nobody expected happened. Fulop made a brave save in the 92nd minute, but Kaboul was quicker to react for a rebound than two Sunderland defenders. He smashed the ball in the back of the net. Unbelievable. Kaboul took his shirt off and celebrated with the 34 travelling Portsmouth fans. Ofcourse he got booked for this (his second, so red card), but straight after that the referee blew the final whistle. Shite! Two points lost. With a hangover we walked to the Howard Arms where Brian and Eileen were waiting for us. Jon and his friends walked to the Wolsey where we arrived later on. In the Wolsey the pints kept coming in. There were a lot of Jon's friends that we also knew and the music was good. Drew and I had already had a burger before and after the match, and this was good thinking as we didn't get anymore to eat for the rest of the night. Around 9.00 PM we left for the Queen Vic for a karaoke. Nick got on stage again with Kathy for "Baby when you're gone". And never try doing something special for the second time. Nick spoiled Kathy's performance and felt sorry. Nick also did "Just a gigolo" solo and even Pottsy got on stage. After that is was time for a final round in the Roker Hotel, next door to the Balmoral. It was quiet there so Nick had time enough to stalk the DJ and ask for songs that HE wanted to hear. Killers, George Baker, Stealers Wheel...nice ! Anyway, the DJ had finally people on the dancefloor. With more drinks than good for us Drew and Nick finally found their beds at 3.00 AM.
Sunday the 13th of December:
The night before hasn't done good to Nick. He is having trouble finishing his breakfast. But he has got to eat, because there are lots of new plans for today. Jon would pick Drew and Nick up together with Jon's mum and Kathy. They would drop us off in Haswell Plough at Mark and Sam's. Jon, Kathy and his mother would go to Durham for a Sunday lunch and after that a visit to Jon's sister. Later in the afternoon Jon and Kathy would find out where we are. When we arrived at Mark's it was very quiet. Sam was working and apart from Mark there was no-one around. Mark had been in the kitchen again that morning for making pizza slices, wedges and other delicious food. We also had a cup of coffee (!) and with Boro-Cardiff on the telly there was enough to do. After an hour we decided to cross the street and visit the Plough-inn. We were welcomed there by Haswell Plough's very own Waldorf & Stadler. One of them was having Guinness in a Newcastle United pint glass. We had a great laugh. On the side there were three more lads who joined our discussions. The discussions were most about Newcastle, their lower league status and Mark's size. All of this with lots of humour so we had a great afternoon. Around 5 PM Sam arrived from work and we had plans to visit some friends in Murton. Sam insisted on bringing us to Murton. This is a village between Haswell Plough and Durham, so on the way back to Sunderland. We would meet Jayne and Stewart over there in their local the Village-inn.
When we arrived, Jon, Kathy and Pottsy were already in. The pub was crowded and Mark and Sam joined our table. Half an hour later Jayne and Stewart arrived and it was a great afternoon/early evening. Stewart still speaks very good Dutch and all the others couldn't understand why. Later that night the big tv screen was on, because it was x-factor final. It was Joe McElderry from the North East who won the show. This was welcomed with mixed emotions in the North East. What amazed us the most was that everybody knew all about the show and their candidates. Even the ones who don't like the show! At 10 PM it was time to get back to Sunderland. Kathy drove and we made a stop at La Dolce vita for a bite that we ate in the guesthouse. We also wanted to watch television, but when Nick just touched his bed, he was already asleep.
Monday the 14th of December:
The day had arrived when Drew had to leave. But not without shopping of course. He hadn't done enough shopping in Nottingham, so off to the Bridges for some more. Jon dropped us off at Sport Soccer and had to do some other shopping himself. He knows us very well and knew where we woud be for another hour. Later on he took us to an outlet centre and then it was time to get Drew on the train in Durham. From there he would get the train to Leeds/Bradford from where he would fly back to Amsterdam. There were a lot of tears and after this emotional farewell Jon and Nick got back to Sunderland. They'd planned a visit to David Henry. Dave has had a terrible accident a couple of weeks ago at work. He walked into the cantine where someone had dropped some butter on the floor and thought it wasn't his/her job to clean it. Dave slipped on it, had a nasty fall on his wrist and twisted his back. It has happened a couple of weeks ago, but Dave still can't sit. He can walk a bit and for the rest of the day he has to lie down in a specific move. He was more than happy to see us, because he gets bored. After this visit Jon and Nick went to Newcastle. There was something very special planned for that night. Nick had asked Jon to check if there were some great gigs in these days. And there were some! Unfortunately this was after Drew had decided to leave on Monday. And this was something he would regret. But what has to be done, has to be done. Ian Brown was in Newcastle, Bill Bailey did a show in Gateshead and Echo & the Bunnymen played in the Newcastle Academy. What a choice! Nick decided that Echo & the Bunnymen (heroes from the past for Nick and especially Drew) was his favourite. Before the gig started Jon and Nick went to a modern pub/restaurant and when Kathy had finished work she joined us for a great meal. After that we went to the Academy. A big venue. About 1,5 times the size of Paradiso. The balcony was closed, so it wasn't sold out. But it was still crowded anyway. Ian McCullough and the lads didn't dissappoint us. All the great songs were played. Seven seas, Dancing horses, Killing moon as an encore and Lips like sugar as last song. There was lots of smoke on stage, so you couldn't see that much of the lads. We hope it was the real Echo and the Bunnymen, otherwise it has been a very good cover band! At 11 PM they left stage and time for us to drive back to Sunderland. Nick arrived for the first time ever on his own at the Balmoral. That was a strange feeling. He did put on the telly this time for a while, but then off to bed and make a longer night of sleep than the nights before.
Tuesday the 15th of December:
Today was planned as a cultural tour day. Nick had a good night of sleep and woke up early. After he'd finished breakfast he made a long walk at the seafront and on the pier to the lighthouse. Nick had also given Jon an almost impossible challenge. He wanted to know more about the mining history from the north-east. But unfortunately there is not that much left of this history. But Jon had found something. This was a mining museum in a small village near Hexham, about 1,5 hour drive from Sunderland. Would it be worth it? After a nice ride with lots of B-roads they arrived at the museum. And to be fair, it looked very impressive. The mine was still there and there were big fences around it so it would stay in perfect state. But it also looked very quiet.....and we saw directly why: opening times Wednesday till Sunday. What a dissappointment. What now? But Jon is as always very good prepared. He saved an alternative. Close to this mine there was also an old Roman Fort near Hadrian's wall. Nick had visited about 9 years ago together with Lenneke a Roman fort and was impressed, so Nick agreed immediately. The roads became more beautiful and hillier. The view was fabulous and after a while we saw the Fort in the hills. It had rained for the last couple of days, so the grass was very wet. But the closer we got to the Fort, the more Nick enjoyed this visit. A great view and a lot of history. Nick didn't know where to look. The surrounding was stunning. Jon couldn't resist saying that we drove for almost two hours just to watch some old stones, but after this visit Nick has had a great day already.
After this we drove back to Sunderland with a stop in Corbridge. Jon said there was a great pub in this village where you could enjoy a good pubmeal. And again what Jon said is always true. We had a terrific Beef & Ale pie. After this we drove back, it was still matchday. Jon dropped Nick off at the Balmoral, drop some stuff there and we agreed to meet again in an hour time in the Howard Arms.
The weather was awful. Nick managed to walk between two rainclouds to the Howard Arms, but Jon arrived soaking wet in the pub. Mark, Sam, Brian and Eileen also came in, so was Pottsy. We had a laugh and some drinks again, but as usual, we left in time for the Stadium. Nick was in the Premier Concourse this time. One seat in front of Jon. A good position, but Jon warned Nick before that this was the quiet area. Well Nick didn't notice anything about that. A man next to Nick was shouting for the full 90 minutes to the very bad referee of that night. Aston Villa was the opponent today. They had beaten Man U at Old Trafford last weekend and were in third spot. A team with lots of confidence. And that is what Sunderland haven't got at the moment. Sunderland started well, but they didn't create any chances. And when Villa got their first chance it was a goal. Straight after the goal a huge chance for Sunderland, but when you're down already.... A brilliant save from Friedel denied Sunderland a goal. In the second half there was a second Villa goal. James Milner scored an incredible goal. He got the ball in front of him around 25 meters from the goal and decided to shoot. The ball smashed in the top corner. Sunderland tried, but they were unlucky. Final score 0-2.
After the match straight to the Howard Arms. As it was a midweek evening match, there wasn't much to do after the match. We met Brian and Eileen again, and Pottsy and Andy were also in. Nick had also had contact on a Dutch internet forum about English football with a Telstar Supporter who was also at this match. He would also come to the Howard's with his friends after the game. So we still had a great night after all. Brian surprised Nick again with some presents (does Santa exist?) and way too early the lights went on. Pottsy and Andy took a taxi to the town centre and Nick got in the same taxi. The driver looked a bit strange when we asked for the town centre, but dropped us off. We were looking for a place to get a new pint. What Nick didn't know that it was gay night that night. Well, you might think that we are used to this in the Netherlands. But that is where you expect this. This felt like a cold shower for Nick. It was way too much. Where we see in the Netherlands gay transvestites mix with straight people, this was just gay and transvestites. Of course Nick doesn't care and thinks that everyone should be able to do or think whaterver you want, but Nick just hadn't expected this. And when they start dancing with you and get very intimit because you carry a long cardboard cylinder (with posters and photo's that Nick got from Brian), you don't feel that comfortable. This must have been Nick's quickest pint ever and he almost took the same taxi back to the Balmoral.
It was past midnight again and Jonathan had asked Nick to have an early breakfast. Jon and Kathy still have just one key for the appartment. And Kathy had to work that day so she will get back in the appartment after work, while Jon and Nick went back to Lowdham. That's why Jon had to leave the appartment at the same time as Kathy. And that was early! Breakfast at 7.30 AM and at 8.15 AM in the car back to East Midlands. It was much busier on the road than on Saturday, so we needed more time. We arrived around noon in Lowdham. Time for Jon to check e-mails and at 1PM we drove to Thurgarton village for a last pub-meal. It was fish & chips this time and this was also a very good choice. After that it was really time to leave. Jon dropped Nick off at East Midlands airport and Nick could check-in. He had to show the miss behind the counter that his handluggage would fit in the cabinet....but this was impossible. Nick already thought the worst, but it was quiet at the desk and the girl behind the counter was patient and helpful. She advised Nick to put the cardboard cylinder in the sleeve of his jacket, put two jumpers in the sidepockets of his jacket and then the bag would fit. She even put a sticker on the bag that is was double checked so there would be no problem at the gate. What a great service. And a much needed service. In the gate next to the Amsterdam gate there was a BMI flight to Lodz, Poland. Most of them with lots (or Lodz?) of handluggage. One by one they were taken out of the line and they had to empty their bags and leave things at the desk. That flight was delayed for over an hour. At our gate it was much easier. We left on time and the only complain is that Nick just missed the bus to Lisse at Schiphol. He had to wait for another 25 minutes and at 7.15 PM he arrived in Lisse where the presents that he brought were greatfully opened.....
(written by Nick)