After such a disappointing campaign last season, this summer’s hectic business in the transfer market surely reflects the club’s determination to achieve better things in the forthcoming campaign, writes Malcolm Dawson. With all the interest in the Italians and the Cape Verde Swiss, the Argentinians and Swedes, the Americans, the Senegalese French and the Uruguayans, it is an Englishman who is occupying Pete Sixsmith’s thoughts …

Sixer offers Mag builder a history lesson

Sixer wonders what more is in the pipeline

In the frenzy of signings that we have made in the summer, the one Englishman who has joined us has somewhat slipped under the radar. Step forward Duncan Watmore from Altrincham – Conference North play off qualifiers and a club with one of the best known names in non-league football.

In one way the switch from Moss Lane to The Stadium of Light will be relatively seamless as both clubs play in red and white stripes and both have struggled to keep their place in their respective top leagues. For Alty a succession of last minute reprieves ran out a couple of years ago and they slid into the second tier of non-league football.

They had a decent side last year, reaching the playoff semis, where they lost to Brackley, while in the FA Cup they lost a First Round tie to Burton Albion having beaten Shildon in the earlier qualifying stages.

All in all a good season for a part time team who will forever live in the shadows of Manchester United, a mere 20-minute tram ride away – although they failed in their main aim which was to get back into Conference National.

Running a club like Altrincham must be difficult. They have a loyal fan base but that base will not be very wide and it would take a brave youngster to support his home town team when Rooney and Co are nearby and Aguero and his chums are just a bit further down the tramway. So when they get a decent youngster they will take the opportunity to move him on.

But it is not an exact science, plucking the aforementioned youngster from the (relative) obscurity of Conference North, giving him a full-time contract and then hoping that he metamorphoses into a player who will bang in 20 goals and go on to be part of a Sunderland side that finishes top of the Premier League and an essential element of an England World Cup winning side.

Young Duncan has a good pedigree. He went into the Manchester United system as a youngster and although he was released at the age of 13 he will have acquired good habits with the Old Trafford coaches. He joined Altrincham managed by former Bradford City and Watford player Lee Sinnott and combined football with his school and University studies.

In the season just gone, he made 33 starts and scored 17 goals – not at all a bad return. He was a consistent marksman in a team that included the prolific Damian Reeves (41 in 50), often working as the second striker, using his pace and determination to run at players to his advantage.

Duncan may also be the only player on the club’s books to be educated in the private, rather than the state sector. He attended Cheadle Hulme School which does not include the likes of Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback or Adam Johnson in its alumni and which I suspect does not regard football as a major part of the school curriculum.

He has been listed as part of the club’s development squad alongside John Egan, Billy Knott, Louis Laing and others. He will presumably spend the next couple of years hidden from view as it is rumoured that the Under 21 games are going to be played at the Academy and not at Hetton. That’s a shame and I hope the club and the Premier League review their stance on development squad football.

Our record of signing players from non-league is a mixed one. Len Ashurst who came from Prescot Cables on Merseyside went on to become a regular for 10 years, while Sunderland-born Lee Howey was signed from Bishop Auckland and played an important part in Peter Reid’s first promotion team. His two goals at Portsmouth probably turned our season round and gave us the impetus to push on.

On the other hand, we took Jamie Lawrence from Cowes Sports and in the four games he had in 1993-94 failed to impress. He moved around and is still playing for a struggling Tooting and Mitcham United team in the nether regions of the Rymans League.

David Buchanan joined us from Blyth Spartans in the mid 80s and, after a decent start, faded away as quickly as a Zoom on a hot day.

Let’s hope in four years time Duncan Watmore will be the name on everybody’s lips as he clinches the Premier League title for Sunderland before making plans to head England’s scoring force in the World Cup in Russia. If he does, remember, you read it here first.



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Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.

10 Responses to “Sixer says: all change at Sunderland and Watmore to come!” Subscribe

  1. malcolm July 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    Dave Buchanan is listed in “All The Lads” as Newcastle born but when I got my first teaching job in Ashby de la Zouch the locals were proud of the fact that he was an ex pupil of Ashby Grammar School. I played cricket with his brother Anthony for a local team. David was on Leicester City’s books at the time with Gary Lineker and was seen by many as the bigger talent.

    Funny how things work out

  2. Jeremy July 16, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    What intrigues me about the Watmore signing is exactly how it came about, specifically in the mix of incoming players that have immediately followed.

    The likes of Cabral, Diakite and the rest (including Moberg-Karlsson, and Ba etc) have presumably fallen under the watchful eye of our newly appointed scouting team, but Watmore, at least on the face of it may not have done. Nobody has mentioned anything about the mechanics of this transfer but in an interview that I saw on YT Watmore said that his knlowedge of our interest in him coincided with PDC’s arrival. Maybe PDC was thinking of taking him to Swindon at some time previously, and that it was the manager who spotted him.

  3. Pete Sixsmith July 16, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    Apparantly it was Kevin Ball who noticed him. I looked for some connection between Bally and the Altrincham management team, but could find nothing. I am sure that he and Lee Sinnott would have clashed on field at some time. Maybe the Manchester United connection kicked in before Pop Robson was kicked out – he had contacts at Old Trafford.
    Or mabe there is a Sunderland supporter on the staff at Cheadle Hulme School? We do get jobs in the private sector, you know. That reminds me of the story about a Sunderland supporting housemaster and the son of a prominent Mag at a well known public school. But we’ll save that for another time……………..

  4. salutsunderland July 16, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    Wasn;t there a connection between John Byrne and private schools? Either his brother taught in one or JB went on to do so after football …

  5. scotter July 16, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    So do we have a British scouting system or not?

    The Hetton/Academy situation is intriguing.

    If we are to have an enhanced development squad,like the Udinese model, will we be getting a feeder club? If so where?.

    I can’t think that the current academy set up allows proper competitive match time on a regular basis.

    If you buy in young players (for a lot of money!) how do you get the best out of them?

    To be honest the academy system shows what amateurs run football administration in this country. Its a model which was foist on clubs with threats and menaces and was never likely to work (just like another white elephant — the St. Georges complex –sorry Sir Bob).

    • Ian Todd July 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

      Not sure why you think St. George’s is or will be a white elephant. It’s benefits will of course take time to bear fruit but don’t evaluate it just in terms of future success of the England team. I’ve been lucky enough to be there twice and the place is absolutely buzzing with footballers, male female and disabled, coaches, club medics, referees all doing their training and sharing experiences. And benefitting from facilities they could not hope to have available locally.

  6. Ian Todd July 16, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    I’ve not seen it mentioned anywhere but Duncan’s dad is Ian Whatmore who was for a while Chairman of the FA and like others before and after him got frustrated at his lack of power in bringing about changes he knew were needed.

    Not that any of that makes Ian a better (or worse) footballer of course!

    • Goldy July 16, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

      I was gonna say that! Well, some of it.

  7. Pete Sixsmith July 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Another (relatively) interesting fact is that Ricky Ponting is a shareholder in Altrincham FC. He is friendly with one time chairman Geoff Goodwin who drives the Australian Cricket team coach when they are over here. Goodwin also owns the executive coach company.

    • Jake July 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      ….Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!… .. .

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