Dazed and confused.
The words spring to mind listening to Steve Bruce after most games these days.
Some will say that mirrors the tactics on the field but let’s stick with his
increasingly puzzled attitude toward Sunderland’s supporters.
If it is any consolation, he’s hardly the first manager to wonder what he’s got
But Bruce, at least for the first two years of his reign, constantly talked about
how it is different in the North East and how he understands that difference because he’s from the area. And that’s one of the reasons he took the job.
These days he doesn’t look so sure anymore.
Every week he gets more defensive: after the Stoke results he blamed the press for over-the-top insinuations about his future but you felt it was really the supporters he was having a go at. After Saturday the media smokescreen lifted and Bruce took aim at the folk who fill the stadium and support from all parts of the globe.
He can’t understand us. He’s finally figured that out.
Again he’s not alone. Most days we can’t understand ourselves much either. (Nor can we understand why we haven’t had a left winger since Noah got his feet wet).
So are we different from other fans? Or are all supporters of football clubs
basically the same – cheering when we win and booing when we lose.
We are different.
And its not a new phenomenon.
Back in the glory season of 1963-64, one of the greatest in living memory even
though we were in the Second Division, even then we needed a boo boy.
Those days it was right winger Brian Usher, who 40 years later, still remembers the abuse he took.
And if the players of today are trying to get used to playing at the Stadium of
Light then they should thank providence they weren’t parading their stuff before the Clock Stand paddock. Talk about eating your young.
Yet those same fans, if they see effort, commitment allied to some skill, can raise a journeyman player, for example a full back such as Joe Bolton, into a near-legend.
And, as the great Danny Blanchflower once admitted, scare the living shit out of the opposition.
Best guess is that for far too long football was all we had. It was our one and only chance to show we mattered in a country where Sunderland was always on the fringe.
People didn’t have much. The match was a gathering ground to right all those slights which spread down the generations. The only hope to come out on top. It simply matters more.
That’s a big weight to carry.
But for those who don’t falter and can keep their feet and their nerve theirs is a
lasting place in those toughest of hearts.
Only big men should apply.
(Our Canadian Correspondent)