Run and Football 2023-24 Pre-season game 4

As soon as I heard about this game, Berwick Rangers v Sunderland XI, I wanted to attend. A testimonial for the Berwick Rangers Club Secretary who had been a volunteer at the club since before I was born. England were World Cup holders when Dennis McCleary was asked to help out at the club. He’s been there ever since. With the increased movement of players and volatility of volunteers 54 years including 24 different managers seems worth celebrating. As someone who started out running local teams at the age of 16 and envisaged doing it all my life Dennis is achieving the longevity I lacked. By the age of 27 I had moved away from football administration and haven’t returned.


An English town near the border, Berwick play in the Scottish pyramid. The club had a long history in the Scottish Football League before falling into the Lowland League in 2019. I’ve not been to Berwick before it should be fun with the beach less than a mile away from the ground. As I pull into the grassy field which doubles as a car park there are a few fans already outside the ground. Brian and I have brought enough clothing options for a weeks holiday to cover every weather eventuality.

Car parking outside the ground

A quick change later we set off in a window of good weather for some exploring. A left turn takes us through the centre of town in the direction of the fish quay and beach. It is easy to find the waterside and we turn right away from the town into Spittal. I’m immediately drawn to a large tower on the skyline and we head towards it reaching the beach along the Lowery Trail.

Chimney from the Spittal Chemical Works

On The Beach

I start running along the beach and head for the waterline. There are a few people out but not many. Brian decides to stay on the promenade and I try to enjoy the wet sand and lapping waves. At the end of the beach I’m expecting Brian will return the way he has come but he’s soon persuaded to join me on the beach, getting his feet wet and enjoying the sand (if not the camber).

Brian on the beach

Back at the tower my feet are soaked at it feels like I’m running on stilts with all of the sand in my shoes but it has only been about 3 miles so we head for the two bridges in town to check them out. The older bridge is narrow and more interesting with only one car able to pass and the double lane bridge isn’t as interesting but more functional. Brian tries to lose himself by not watching which corner I run by but a couple of residents point him in the right direction.

The old bridge from the newer bridge

We find ourselves back in familiar surroundings near the fish quay and by now the footpaths to the ground are blocked with supporters so a bit of parked car dodging is required. A minute or so before I reach the car the threatened rain comes down in buckets and everything is instantly soaked. Trying to get changed is a nightmare but as soon as I’m ready the deluge stops. We head towards the ground hoping for a good game.

Berwick Rangers

In the Sunday Sun during the 1980’s and 90’s Berwick always got a double page spread which made me think they were as big a club as Newcastle and Sunderland. In reality they probably wanted to sell papers in North Northumberland seeing a gap in the market. Shielfield Park is home to Berwick Bandits speedway so the first thing that hits you entering the ground is the track. Another beach, this time around the pitch.

Speedway track and main stand at Shielfield Park

We make our way round to the terracing not long after the game starts. I’m enjoying the sunshine more than the football when another heavy shower hits and we get under the roof. The first half is typical pre season with plenty of accurate passing but not much intensity or pressure.

A first half Sunderland attack before the rain

Under Cover

When the rain comes Brian comments it is the most exciting aspect of the match so far. It is hard to disagree with neither side creating much. The stand was a nice mix, an older shell with newer lighting and advertising hoardings. Our view from under the roof was good even at the back. At half time the score remained 0-0. Sunderland had enjoyed most of the possession but only fleetingly looked dangerous. Berwick worked hard and defended well but had only created one chance.

View from the covered terrace

Second Half

Sunshine reappeared at half time increasing the temperature by a few degrees. Sunderland take the game to Berwick and look brighter. On the hour a loose pass in the defensive third is intercepted and a few seconds later Sunderland are ahead.

Second half action

The game continues in a similar vein for the next 5 minutes until Berwick equalise with an excellent shot from outside the box. No chance for the keeper to save that one and a rare moment of attacking quality from the home team. A few minutes later Spellman who we watched last season at Blyth takes the ball down the wing cuts inside on the touchline, beating a couple of men, and puts a nice cross in the box. A teammate passes it into the net for a 2-1 Sunderland lead.

Second half action

By now both teams have made multiple changes and the game is a bit more disjointed. The Sunderland subs are able to get into the game straight away while their Berwick counterparts struggle. In the last 10 minutes Berwick come into the game before a Sunderland goal a couple of minutes from the end finishes the game as a contest. Man of the match is Denis McCleary.

The dark clouds close in as the game finishes

Match Report on Sunderland AFC website

Entry Fee Adults suggested donation £10

Programme £2

Attendance 703

Run fun 8/10

Parking availability 10/10

Match entertainment 4/10

2023-24 Number of games attended 4

2023-24 Number of new grounds 3

Berwick Rangers FC website

Run on Strava

If you enjoyed reading Run and football 2023-24 Pre-season game 4 I’m sure you will like dipping into our other articles on Run and Football for the 2023-24 season.

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