It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the dark skies were just giving way to the emerging burnt orange horizon, and it was dry with a constant breeze. Like any well-planned expedition though, the local conditions did not have us fooled, we knew where we we’re going, and had packed everything we needed. Gateshead is only 122 miles north but is undoubtedly the coldest and least hospitable place on earth. You only needed to see Tesco Pete’s bright red reindeer Christmas Jumper with detachable fury antlers sticking out of his rucksack to know just how seriously he had planned. Luckily for everyone else though, the jumper was strictly for emergencies only!
Our breakfast stop was by the sea, and for those who eat all their food, there was a special treat. Father Christmas had taken up residence in the bar area, but you only got to visit once you had cleared your healthy plate of food. The place was full of overexcited young children, the noise was deafening, and the Warley Shaymen looked like the team had just lost eight nil. We got out of there in double quick time and made sure we left the sprouts ensuring that Santa will have to guess what’s on Tesco Pete’s list again this year…
Gateshead’s International Stadium is by far the biggest ground in the league, the capacity is only 11,800 but the estate is massive. A safety announcement over the Tanoy warned fans about the consequences of throwing things on the pitch, but there was absolutely no chance of that ever happening. By Tesco Pete’s calculations, he would just about be able to drop kick a football on to the nearest touch line, but only if the wind dropped, he got a lucky bounce this side of the long jump, and three more bounces across the running track. He’d also need a decent run up too, and with the stands full of red seats, that was ruled out as impractical. The pitch is simply miles away.
The game started with a demonstration of keep-ball from Gateshead, it seemed a good 10 minutes of controlled possession. The home goalkeeper joined in the fun, standing well outside his box and passing the ball backwards sideways to his fellow defenders. It perhaps looked good on the telly, but it presented little danger to the Shaymen. A super goal, scored from distance, right into the top corner had us all on our feet celebrating, but much like cheering the goal in your own living room, nobody could hear our support. We were in an open terrace, under a web of metalwork that once housed a canvas waterproof roof. The roof, unsurprisingly, blew off a few years ago with the continuous strong wind, the 140 travelling Shaymen did our best to be heard, but we partied alone.
The second half was more entertaining, the Shaymen look in control with Gateshead already beaten. Their supporters must love playing us, the best they can hope for is always a goalless draw, and that ship had sailed in the first half. The Shaymen doubled their lead with another well taken goal. We partied again in our own little windswept world at the back of the stand. It was a comprehensive victory against a team that usually score lots of goals. There’s now an entire generation of Gateshead fans that have grown up and have never witnessed their team take three points against us. The Shaymen were excellent and really deserved their victory.
Driving back, Tesco Pete replayed the goals back repeatedly on his phone, they were both decent strikes. As the other games kicked off, he monitored the current league position. Dusk began to fall as we crossed the border back into West Yorkshire with our three points. The kaleidoscope of orange skies returned. It really is the most wonderful time of the year, Merry Christmas!
Next up and we’re off to Altrincham, we lost there last Christmas, but we did break their hearts later in the season. No doubt those infamous pesky goal net shakers will be out in force. It’s always nice to be up close to the action.
Miles on the road 3428, Goals on the road 13.
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