Notts County blogger Richard Medley had to put in some effort to travel to Sunderland...it was well worth it!
County out class Premier League opponents
The arguments had started some weeks ago.
There are four of us. Two Full-time Magpies, one post-Sven bandwagon-jumper who insists despite lack of evidence that he's had a season ticket for 'years' and an adopted Ram who due to laziness and general coercing has become an adopted Notts fan.
As I had heroically driven the 233 miles to Torquay on the final day of last season. There was finally a comparable trip to force one of the others in our little Magpie following to do.
If I had a pound for every time I'd said 'I don't care which one of you drives, but it isn't going to be me' over the last six weeks or so, well, I'd have made about thirty quid.
Thrown into the mix was this weekend's trip to Southampton, which seemed to be used as some sort of bargaining tool between the other three. The Derby/Notts boy wasn't coming to Sunderland but was coming to Southampton, and post-Sven was coming to Sunderland but had had his shifts swapped round at work and was now in a race against time and management to be fit and more importantly available for the Southampton trip.
'I'm coming to Sunderland for sure', says Sven 'and I'm sorting Southampton, leave it with me, I will sort it'.
Saturday morning comes and time to depart for Wear side, to be greeted by the news that Sven will definitely-probably-maybe miss our first outing at St Mary's.
So, we made our way to Sunderland in Laddo's (NCM) incredibly comfy BMW, playing the newly acquired FIFA 11 on the I-phone for large parts of the journey, having to stop the driver craning his neck for a replay as a rejuvenated Ben Burgess scored a couple to put Notts into the second round of the FA Cup.
Try as we might, we couldn't force the I-phone to pair Sunderland v Notts on FIFA 11..it just wasn't happening.
Somewhere in our little minds was the theory that if we beat Sunderland on the I-Phone, then it would surely be repeated at the real Stadium of Light (no, not in Lisbon) a few hours later. For some reason it had to be in a cup, we couldn't just play an exhibition game against the Black Cats, because then that would have no bearing on real life...obviously.
After parking at the Wessington Pub at about noon, sampling 2/3 pints and a spot of lunch, we aimed to leave about 2pm to walk the 25-ish minutes to the ground.
Laddo has by this point spoken to his Wearside-based chum, who's told him it's definitely walkable. 15 minutes of trekking along some dual carriageway's mud verge later...and we're getting somewhat concerned. The stadium on top of the hill, that's been visible the whole way, just isn't getting any closer.
We then decide to chance it walk down into an industrial estate in search of a taxi/bus solution....where it turns out there's a bloomin free of charge Park n Ride to the ground, that we've been walking, sorry, stumbling parallel to for nearly 25 minutes!
We make it to the ground terrified that the massed Notts following will have ignored club instructions to sit in their allocated seats and left us spread out and probably near the corner flag. To our utter delight, we found waiting for us by sheer chance the three best seats in the house and a never-ending chorus of song from the Black n White army.
What followed were ninety of some of the most memorable minutes I've experienced as a Notts fan. 24 years and counting. Notts were superb to a man on Saturday and ITV should be ashamed of the coverage given to Notts.
As all too often, it's all about the failure of Sunderland and the achievement of the underdog is just about ignored. Steve Bruce fielded Bent, Gyan, Richardson, Ferdinand, Malbranque, Henderson...the list goes on.
They were undone by dogged resilience, heart and passion, which all too often is praised ahead of the skill, technique and talent displayed by the FA Cup underdog. Yes there were times when we were hanging on, the last 5-10 minutes spring to mind.
Apart from that, we took on a side placed 6th in the best league in the world, on their own patch, and won. ITV hang your heads. Put Townsend back in his tactics truck and drive the thing off a cliff.
See you in Southampton on Saturday.