Angel No.2 warns the club not to ignore their fans
All these end of season reviews and polls. For Sunderland fans they should have taken place at Christmas when it became obvious the 2002/03 season was going to be the season fans would sooner forget.
Bear with me for a minute and set aside the fact that the lads have been relegated and officially hold the title of the worst premiership team on record. Obliterate the fact we’ve had 3 different managers in 9 months, none of whom have managed to live up to the title of manager. Take out (oh how we wish we could) an ineffective chairman who sticks to his seat in the boardroom like its been superglued to his arse. Discount the players (and their transfer fees will surely be discounted in the summer) – and what do you have left?…..
Fans who have parted with hard earned cash for their season tickets and anything else Sunderland AFC can persuade them to empty their pockets for. Proud, uncompromising, loyal, loud (or at least when they’re on an away day). The list of adjectives that could be used is longer than me arm.
Last away game of the season has traditionally been a game where the fans let their hairs down. Villa last Saturday was no exception. Even though the team already had a big ‘R’ next to their name in the league tables thousands made the journey to the midlands determined to enjoy themselves. And did they do that! Fancy dress, congas, sports day, it all went on, on the terracing of Villa Park. For me it summed up perfectly what being a Sunderland supporter is all about. It’s a kind of war mentality, if you like, people might try to grind us down, the futures not good, the teams playing crap but what the hell, lets make the best of it. And by all accounts those lads and lasses certainly made the best of last Saturday. I was looking forward to some nice remarks by the journos in the Sunday press – hardly a mention. Why?
You meet Sunderland supporters in the funniest of places, usually when you’re least expecting it. Give it 10 minutes and they’re your mate. That’s the way it goes, it’s a family thing really. Chances are you were, like me, born into Sunderland. Supporting Sunderland was in the family, passed down like the family debt from generation to generation. The family might move out of the area but they still supported the lads. My own family has 5 generations of Sunderland supporters and over the years we’ve spent enough to cover the national debt of a small country supporting the lads. Sociologists should study Sunderland fans to prove their nature/nurture argument.
There are many who would argue that footy has been taken over by money and they’re probably right. Balance sheets now seem to take precedence over everything else, with the necessity of making a profit or even just breaking even. The game is ruled by television rights, share prices and city brokers. But surely there will come a day when the money is cut, media interest may wane, the city brokers will find the next ‘good thing’ to invest in – and when that happens then we get to the bottom line…….
Sunderland AFC, a word of warning, ignore your fan base at your peril. All that’s left now is pride. Take that pride for granted, mock that pride, abuse that pride and you are nothing, absolutely nothing. Our fans have had to stomach a lot over the last season. We’ve heard the promises that you have failed to deliver (Mr Murray are you reading this?) We’ve paid the money and suffered mediocrity (and there’s been more than enough of that) We’ve all commiserated with the 83 families on Wearside who’ve seen their family incomes drop because of your ineptitude whilst playing staff remain amongst the best paid sportsmen in the country (and where the hells the justice in that?).
Sunderland fans are at the end of their tether. They’ve been promised the earth, a ten year plan to Premiership success, and what did we get? At least one season in the Nationwide and countrywide piss taking. Perhaps the fans are they’re own worst enemy. For years we’ve accepted the ‘yo yo’ tag. This relegation must be particularly hard for our younger supporters to swallow. Older ones like me find it slightly easier to accept, we’ve seen it before, our expectations were tempered with that little voice inside you head that said “this is too good to be true”). Talk to you’re your dad and they’ll tell you about the times when we were nearer the bottom than the top of the old 2nd Division (now the 1st).
So what can the fans be proud about this season? Precious little. I often wonder who penned the phrase “It’s the Hope That I Can’t Stand”? Sunderland’s answer to Shakespeare definitely because it sums up totally what being a Sunderland supporter is all about. A special mention here should go to the Rezzies, hopefully they will get a decent reception on Sunday. As for the rest of the playing staff, I’ll leave that decision to you. Just a thought though, if performance is measured in pride, the manager would be advised to pick his team from the supporters that show up on Sunday.
Enjoy the close season. We will regroup and fight another battle next season hopefully. Take care.