Bragging rights up for grabs

Colleagues from the Hartlepool Borough Council Transport Office will be on opposite sides of the footballing fence on Sunday, when their teams meet each other in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Pictured, from left, are SUnderland fans Paul Watson and Robert Snowball, along with Middlesbrough fans Paul Hurwood and Chris Roberts.
Colleagues from the Hartlepool Borough Council Transport Office will be on opposite sides of the footballing fence on Sunday, when their teams meet each other in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Pictured, from left, are SUnderland fans Paul Watson and Robert Snowball, along with Middlesbrough fans Paul Hurwood and Chris Roberts.
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THEY may be workmates during the week – but tomorrow that all goes out of the window.

These football-loving council workers will be hoping their team prevails when Sunderland and Middlesbrough go to battle in the FA Cup.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s transport office, in Church Street, Hartlepool, has been a ribbing hotbed ever since the North-East rivals were drawn out of the hat – but now the wait is nearly over.

Paul Watson and sustainable travel officer Robert Snowball will be hoping the Black Cats continue to purr under the leadership of new gaffer Martin O’Neill.

On the other side of the fence, Chris Roberts and climate change officer Paul Hurwood are keeping their fingers crossed that Boro halt the slide after three successive league defeats and get one over on their counterparts.

But who will get the bragging rights come Monday morning?

“There’s been a lot of banter in the office,” laughed Paul, the council’s road safety team leader and 26-year Sunderland season ticket holder.

“We have had the bragging rights for the last couple of seasons and obviously things have been going well for us in the last couple of weeks with the new manager coming in.

“But despite the fact we are in a good vein of form, I think all Sunderland fans are nervous.

“The last time we had a big derby game in the cup it was Hartlepool at home, and we only managed to scrape a win.

“I think it’s going to be tight tomorrow, a goal either way.”

Chris, the council’s asset management co-ordinator, agrees.

The Middlesbrough season ticket holder wasn’t able to get a ticket for tomorrow’s match, but will be sat in front of the television for the big game.

“There’s been a little bit more banter than there normally is before a game,” he said.

“But it’s all been light-hearted.

“It’s going to be tough for us, we have a few midfielders out but it’s a derby, anything can happen.”

The bookmakers are in no doubt as to who they fancy to book their place in the next round tomorrow.

Middlesbrough are as high as 4/1 to pull off a shock with some leading bookies.

But Chris thinks an upset may be on the cards.

“I think we might nick it 1-0,” he said.

“It’s going to be close either way, but I reckon we can do it.”

Paul Watson says he never tips Sunderland to win and he resisted the temptation despite the Black Cats being big favourites for tomorrow’s game.

It might be a cup game but he will still be sticking to his normal pre-match superstitions.

“Same socks, same underpants, same shirt - but obviously all washed,” he joked.

“I do it every single game, I’m just hoping it works tomorrow.”

Paul predicts a score draw in tomorrow’s tie, with Sunderland to sneak a win in the replay.