The Sunderland beach ball

Things are getting desperate at Sunderland for the long-suffering and depression-addicted fans like myself. First we nearly beat Manchester United, and are pegged back to a draw after a last-minute face-saver from them. And now, would you believe it, we have beaten Liverpool, or rather Liverpool have beaten themselves at Sunderland’s home, the grandly – and naffly – named ‘Stadium Of Light’.

One of Liverpool fans was apparently keen on a visit to Sunderland’s seaside resorts (Whitburn, Seaburn and Roker), and brought a beach ball with him to the ground. In a fit of enthusiasm, he punched it on to the pitch, where it bobbled about near the goal (and was actually in the goal a few minutes before the incident). Up bobbed our current star striker, Darren Bent, who hit the ball towards the goal. Sunderland plyers often do this, in the hope it will go in, but we who follow them know better – that it will hit a cross-bar, or go over, or rebound from the goalkeeper, or miss by miles.

But no. It hit the beach ball, took a slight diversion, foxed the goalkeeper, who tried to save the beach ball as well as the match-ball, and result? Sunderland 1, Liverpool 0, and it stayed that way. This is an incident that will live on in Sunderland folk-lore for many a day (there is only a limited amount of folk-lore to go round in Sunderland).

Our manager, Steve Bruce, has wisely remarked that only a ‘saddo’ would know that there is a rule which says that if a ball strikes a foreign body on the pitch, and goes into goal, the goal should not stand, and there should be a drop-ball at the site of the incident. How right he is, especially as Liverpool’s keeper didn’t look to me like he would have saved the shot anyway.

Here it is:

Poor Liverpool lad who brought it. Nothing to play with at the beach. My father once asked a riveter at the shipyard where he was manager where the riveter was going on holiday. ‘The Burns Country,’ said the riveter, rather surprising my father as he didn’t think the riveter looked the haggis type.

‘Whit-Burn, Sea-Burn…’ the riveter continued.

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