Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets, Friday 4th December 2015, 7.40pm

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We chose Sydney as the location for our second trip in Australia on the basis that there’s plenty of famous stuff to see and that the Blue Mountains were close enough for some hiking. There were also a couple of A-League fixtures scheduled for the week we were there.

First up was a walk from Bondi beach to Coogee. It’s a well-marked route, although if it weren’t then simply keeping the sea to the left would have been sufficient to avoid getting lost. Bondi was virtually empty, a world apart from the crowded Christmas Day scenes that I’m more familiar with.

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Later in the week we spent a couple of nights in the Blue Mountains and hiked around the Three Sisters. A longer walk the next day into the Leura Forest proved to be a lot quieter, with few people wanting to stray too far from the visitor centre.

I’d recommend the Blue Mountains. We stayed in a cottage on the outskirts of Leura and on the evenings could sit in the garden and watch cockatoos flying from tree to tree in the way that the sparrows do in Teesside.

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First game of the trip was the Friday night fixture between Sydney and Newcastle at the Allianz Stadium . I’d pre-booked tickets, which we collected from the box office, although it’s a game that probably wouldn’t ever have been in danger of selling out.

We were offered santa hats outside, although in blue. I’m not really one for head gear as I’ve got this theory about baldness, and so turned it down, although when it got chillier later on I partially regretted my decision.

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The tickets cost $28.50 each, which is about thirteen quid at the current exchange rate. Not too bad really, considering that Sydney and Australia in general has a higher cost of living than the UK.

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We had seats in the corner that looked as if it were housing the Sydney hardcore and so moved further along that stand to sit at the other end. There was plenty of room with less than ten thousand fans in a ground that holds four to five times that amount.

As the teams were announced, one fella’s name stood out. It was ex-Boro midfielder Micky Tavares.

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I hadn’t seen much of Tavares in his season with us as I’d spent most of it in Korea. In fact, I think I may have seen just one of his appearances, Preston away over Christmas 2010. That game was a drinking occasion though and so I have no recollection of his performance. Or indeed, much else of the day. The photo proves he was there though, wearing the number 37 shirt.

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The presence of an ex-Boro player was sufficient to give me an allegiance to one of the sides, although, in truth, one of the teams being named Newcastle was more than enough.

Tavares was popular with the home support. I imagine that him having played for the Boro was part of it, but I’d also suspect that they recognised his selflessness when, as the holding midfielder, he would sit tight whilst three of the four Sydney defenders went sprinting past him to join the attack as if they were overdue their turn for a spell up front.

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In the second half we moved to the diagonally opposite side of the stadium for a change of view. Unexpectedly the view was that of a spider, wandering around on the back of the seat in front.

I’m ok with spiders. In the past I’ve allowed them to live in my houses on the basis that I’m less ok with flies. In Australia though that all seems a bit risky as they have any number of spiders with fatal bites. I’m no expert at identifying the good from the bad and so there have been times where I regret to say that I’ve flattened them with a newspaper just to be on the safe side.

I might have let this fella go, but he made one sudden move towards us too many and Jen ground him into the terracing to bring the stand-off to an end. She’s ex-military and I suppose sometimes the training just takes over.

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Sydney were probably the better of the two teams. Not surprising I suppose, considering the pedigree of their midfield. They also created the majority of the chances.

The home fans were quite enthusiastic despite the game having been boycotted by some of what are described in Australia as ‘active fans’. Those that had decided to attend were at their loudest whenever they sang their ‘Sydney’ song, to the tune of Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’. It seemed as popular with the kids as the original version was forty years or so ago.

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Sydney took a deserved lead just before the hour when Alex Brosque was allowed as much space as he liked to run into the Newcastle box before drilling the ball into the corner. Newcastle upped their game in the final half hour but it wasn’t enough to prevent Sydney taking the points.

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