On the face of it, a few months after the agony of relegation at Wimbledon on the final day of the 1996/97 season wasn’t the ideal time to start a Sunderland Supporters’ branch in Manchester, but that is when the branch came into being.
Dennis Tueart, the first guest speaker at what later became the Greater Manchester Branch thought it was a bit of a wind-up when he was asked to come along to the inaugral meeting at an upstairs room in a pub in Cheadle Hulme in the City’s commuter belt.
“Dennis was gobsmacked when he arrived to see that nearly 50 Sunderland fans had turned up” said Chairman, Dave Bowman. “He admitted that when I had rung him up, he thought it was a bit of a leg-pull, but we had a great night and things have just gone on from there.”
“At the start, it felt more like a victim support group than a supporters’ club because of everything the club and the fans had been through” added Dave Bowman. “But we stuck at it and everything turned out alright in the end.”
A succession of top-notch speakers followed at the regular monthly meetings including Leighton James, Craig Russell, George Mulhall, Peter Davenport, Vic Halom, Gary Rowell, Mick Docherty, Alan Kennedy and Mike Summerbee. This helped to establish the branch, though the transport side of things took a little bit longer to get going.
“We had to use all of our subscription money and raffle cash etc to subsidise our coach travel to keep the fares realistic and affordable”, said Dave. “The net result was that we ended 1998 with just 46p in the bank. But it paid off, now we are able to run a full coach to every home game; we have also managed to peg the prices despite several rises by the coach company and everybody is happy”
As well as organising transport to all home games and selcted away matches, the Greater Manchester Branch run a successful “5-50 Club” fundraising scheme to keep the cash coming in. Any other branch interested in starting a similar scheme should contact any of the branch officials listed on the contacts page of this website.