Friday, 18 May 2012

The Closed Season: SAFC v NUFC London Branch Pool

I may be an FC Union Berlin Man but when it comes to the closed season my friends, I'll watch absolutely anything. In fact, not only will I watch any sport, I will follow a pool match between a bunch of predominantly overweight north easterners and live tweet the whole occasion in real time.

The Match

@SAFCofficial @ALS_Fanzine Follow me to find out how London Branch pool team get along against Mags tonight at Kings Cross Pool Hall.#title

Team sheet for SAFC London Branch Pool v NUFC London Branch. An exclusive. @SAFCofficial @ALS_Fanzine

Rumours are reaching me that the NUFC team features Terry McDermott's brother. #calmdown #calmdown

@mintonthego has voiced concerns over the quality of the green at Mables. #safc #nufc #poolepic

My last minute flights costs me €400. Would not miss this match for the world. Very tense first game at the Kings Cross Venue. #safc #nufc

PS - 1 tweet tonight will be artistic license. See if you can spot it. #safc #nufc

Wow! Controversy in the first game as Doog plays "the worst shot" Matt has ever seen. Re-wracked balls after a 10 min discussion.

Doog takes 1st frame with clean finish polishing off last 4 balls and black with aplomb. 1-0 to SAFC. Gallowgate silenced. #safc #nufc

Explosive break. Cat is among the pigeo...magpies now. This game should be over at two visits if someone can be clinical. Tense evening tho.

Jan, SAFC supremo is struggling. Should have cleared up but misses routine red. Can barcodes level the match? #safc #nufc

Pre-game polishing of the SAFC sword known as "the beast". You'll have to rotate yourselves followers. #apologies

2-1 to #NUFC as Jan squanders the chance to heap pressure on the mags. Paul drags himself away from the TV to grace the table. #safc #nufc

Paul's last name is Robson. Mags whispering that he may be related. After the Terry Mc rumour that would be something. #RIPBobby #safc #nufc

Close game but wide open. My money is on the Black Cats to level. #safc #nufc games will get longer as night progresses. Late finish likely.

2-2 as #SAFC show why they were favourites coming in to the clash. #SAFC skipper Large is up next. Can he deal with the pressure?

Two singles games left. It really is hotting up here at Mables and was worth every penny. After the 6 singles games we have 3 doubles. #SAFC #NUFC

Big game that and #NUFC take an arguably undeserved lead as Large suffers from pressure of being gaffer. It's 3-2 to the Skunks #SAFC

Anaemic performance from Large. Cats are 3-2 down to Magpies #safc #nufc. On the plus side the drink is flowing. #thirstbeingquenched

@CaulkinTheTimes You are missing out on an epic pool game between SAFC and NUFC London branch. Full details on my blog tmrw. Live tweeting!

SAFC have started the stronger in last game of singles. They'll want t level it to have a strong platform for the doubles. #poorsurface

3-3 Get in! Tough game with plenty of chances. The Sunderland lads are cock-a-hoop with that and scent blood. #gameon @ALS_Fanzine

Ben Elton is in the bar. The games between these two clubs really does attract the big names. #popcorn anyone? #truestory

Cagey doubles game. The side that win this know they only need to win one of the next two. #critical #thefirstcasualty

Could be #meltdown on Twitter when people read that Ben Elton was in the infamous Kings Cross boozer watching this one. #inconceivable

Tight pockets making it difficult for Doog. The man takes a while sizing up his options. #longnightahead #tellussomejokesben

It's approaching 10:30pm and the game is in full flow. Could go either way. Ben Elton seems more interested in the pork scratchings #odd

Elton's best performance came in Much Ado About Nothing IMO. Not the case 2night tho with title at stake. #tense #safc #nufc @ALS_Fanzine

Why watch #bbcqt when you could be following my live tweeting of an epic pool encounter b/ween SAFC and NUFC? #doboth

#NUFC are in the driving seat and manage to win a scrappy game. 4-3 up and only need one game to win the match. #safc #undercosh

Jan and Minton are paired together to save the game. Minton was dropped for the singles and has a point to prove. Jan lost so does as well.

Could be a tactical masterstroke from SAFC manager Large. If it goes wrong he'll be facing the axe in the morning though. #bigcall

The tension is unbearable in Mables. Ben Elton orders a G&T and seems to be settled in fr the night. #nopopcorn #shame

WOULD. YOU. BELIEVE. IT. The wood carver from Prague and @mintonthego have won with ease. Mags hammered and it rests on the final game. 4-4.

All over. Dramatic last frame. Robson attempted the pot. Failed. Mags cleaned up. No recriminations. Pardew not there to milk it. 5-4 mags.

Always a hard game but played in the right spirit. #NUFC generous in victory. Elton appears to have enough material for his book & has left!

Great night following the match. Thanks to @mintonthego and hope you have all enjoyed it. contains all tweets in 1 post

The London Pool league

When I first moved to London as a fresh faced youth, I did what anyone with only one mate in the capital would do - I searched out a way to connect with people from the area I was born and had left only a few years previous. My parents had met each other in London and had been members of what is commonly referred to as "the branch" or "the London branch" - the full title, Sunderland Supporters Association London and Southern England does not exactly roll off the tongue.

The branch was formed in the summer of 1966 by Ian Todd, who painstakingly wrote to all of the Sunderland fans in London and the Home Counties. By February of the next year, he had single handedly amassed over 50 interested members who met before Sunderland faced West Ham United at Upton Park. The London branch was born. It was the first branch to be formed and is the largest with over 1,000 members.

Prior to my moving to London, my mum, using the slightly easier method of e-mail, contacted Ian to let her know that her son would be starting a new life in the capital. Ian is clearly a stickler for keeping records (or has an astounding memory) as he replied and referenced my mum's old address. Prior to Sunderland playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge I was given a description of Ian and headed to Parsons Green to find him.

The match was a sell out and I spent the afternoon in the pub with a Norwich fan who had somehow joined the branch. We chatted all things football and after the game branch members returned to drown their sorrows. As luck would have it there was a celebration that evening as a branch member was having his stag do. I was warmly welcomed in to the fold and after numerous pints told of a quiz, cricket and pool team.

I joined the cricket and pool team. I played both sports to a level that can only be described as mediocre. However, if you can buy a round and sup a few pints - you're in! My branch cricket appearances were limited to going in at number 10 and loafing about in cow corner or deep mid-wicket. The cricket team even went on tour and to this day still have two regular trips.

I embraced the concept of a small pool league with promotion and relegation (there are two divisions) with gusto - what's not to love about drinking a few pints of a Guinness on a school night whilst fraternising with supporters of your hometown club? Originally the branch had Swiss Cottage as a home venue. The Swiss has a pool hall with numerous tables in a dimly lit back room. Sandwiches and small sausages would be brought out at the mid-session interval which occurred after 6 games of singles. The home team was in charge of organising the culinary aspect of the evening and ensuring there was enough change to operate the pool table. I once recall playing an away match (where and against whom I have no idea) and we were treated to some Indian snacks. You'd think we were eating at a Michelin starred restaurant the way we talked of these delights. The Swiss Cottage was managed by a Sunderland fan, hence the affiliation. However, when a blade came in, we were no longer welcome and became a team without a home. The Charlton Athletic of the pool league.

The fact that Sunderland has a branch so large speaks volumes about the passion people have for the club. It is the largest supporters association in London. I'll not embarrass those involved in the running of the branch but it is only due to people volunteering their precious time and organising travel to away games that allows the branch to be the success that it is.

Thursday night was a small game of pool in a Kings Cross boozer between 12 or so blokes. The live tweeting started off as a bit of a joke on an e-mail thread. However, I thought the night deserved some background and I hope that I have demonstrated another of the reasons that makes me proud to be a football fan. I met some superb people through the branch and it certainly aided with my acclimitisation to 'the Big Smoke'.

It's clearly a bit sad live tweeting a pool match but I hope I have outlined why it was more than that. I'll be looking to explore FC Union Berlin's many supporters branches throughout the season. They are dotted around Berlin and contain only a handful of people and are predominantly used to share travel costs I understand. I'm sure that whilst small in number they contain many characters to rival that of the London branch.


  1. They met in Oxford Street in our day but there was nothing quite like walking into a London pub and hearing the dulcet tones of Wearside in the capital

  2. It's all about those dulcet tones.