Couple travel from USA for Mariners’ historic Wembley final

Anthony and Sandy Mackay
Anthony and Sandy Mackay

A football-loving couple are set to kick-off their silver wedding anniversary celebrations - with a 9,000 mile-round trip to watch South Shields FC.

Anthony and Sandy Mackey are to fly from their home in Memphis, USA, to London to see the Mariners take on Cleethorpes Town in the final of the FA Vase at Wembley this month.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

The match on Sunday, May 21 promises to be the biggest in Shields’ history, and the first time they have visited the national stadium.

It is an occasion Anthony, 58, originally from Biddick Hall, South Shields, is determined not to miss - so much so that plans to celebrate the landmark anniversary with a holiday in the Caribbean have been shelved.

He said: “It’s not quite the Caribbean beach holiday Sandy hinted at - it’s better!

“I’ve been keeping a close eye on South Shields’ progress in the FA Vase and once they got past Team Solent in the fifth round, I raised awareness with Sandy of the possibility of them playing at Wembley and that it could be a once in lifetime opportunity.

“Mind you, such is the chairman Geoff Thompson’s ambition that it might not be the case!

“I’m absolutely thrilled with what Geoff and co have done for the team and the town, and look forward to hopefully seeing him being rewarded by holding the FA Vase aloft, plus witnessing Julio Arca realise his dream of playing at Wembley.”

Anthony and Sandy, 57, recently relocated to Memphis from Houston, Texas, after a change in jobs.

Anthony had served his apprenticeship as a fitter at the Mercantile Dry Dock, in Jarrow, in the late 1970s, and then started a sea-going career in the merchant navy.

He met Sandy - who was a waitress in a pub restaurant he used to frequent during his time on a cable ship in Astoria, Oregon - in 1990.

Upon his return home, they kept in touch, and eventually they decided to move to America together.

As a youngster, Anthony regularly watched South Shields FC play at Simonside Hall against the likes of Wigan Athletic.

He added: “On a Saturday afternoons, my Dad and I used to walk to Simonside Hall to watch South Shields play.

“The major opposition in those days were Wigan Athletic and Hull City Reserves.

“I can recall them playing Port Vale and the attendance being boosted for the sole reason that Stanley Matthews was playing.

“I can also recall a schoolboy international taking place there and over 20,000 fans crammed in to see England play West Germany.

“At the time, Gerry Donohue, Len Smith and Bert Garrow were my heroes.”

Anthony has kept up to date with the Mariners’ fortunes on Twitter over the last two years, with his interest spiked following the arrival of Julio Arca, a hero of his from his time spent with his other favourite team, Sunderland.

He will now spend the cup final weekend in London with Sandy, his cousin Claire and her husband Dean.