Bridget Galloway – Goal Machine

Bridget Galloway

I had the pleasure of speaking to Bridget Galloway, goal machine and front player for Sunderland Ladies. In the second of my interviews with the hugely talented and hardworking Sunderland Ladies team, Bridget explains what the team is looking to achieve this season and who inspires her in the women’s game, amongst a whole host of other things.

Bridget explains that she made her debut in 2016. She was at Newcastle School of Excellence and then joined Sunderland School of Excellence when she was 12 years old. She moved into the development squad and then into the first team squad. When asked about her toughest test this season, she quickly answered.

‘Definitely Birmingham in the FA Cup. We took a different game plan into the game and executed it well.’

WSL side Birmingham Ladies are a side two leagues higher than Sunderland Ladies in the football pyramid, but it didn’t show. The Sunderland Ladies side are a team that normally plays on the front foot. In that game, they played in different way and were aware they would not have as much possession as in league games. The ladies were unfortunate to lose the game 1-0. The match ultimately decided with a late strike, which saw their visitors go through to the next round. Bridget again played well and the Birmingham defence never had a moments peace, with the hard working and tenacious forward a constant thorn in their side.

The conversation turns to her stand out moments of the season so far, and I’m hoping there’ll be more to come, as the season reaches a dramatic end.

My hat trick against Hull and Middlesbrough and scoring as many goals as I have this season’.

The prolific goalscorer has 21 goals to her name to date. The latest of which was a coolly converted penalty in the recent league win against Sheffield.

Bridget has many strengths to her forward play.

‘My speed can cause problems for other teams. I’ve scored quite a few goals this season as well.’

I add, her phenomenal work rate. Fans that have had the pleasure to watch the Ladies team, would agree with that. When chatting about advice she would give young forwards, she quickly said;

‘Set short and long term goals and keep focused’.

When I’ve watched Bridget this season, young forward players would have plenty to take from analysing the game of the 20 year old striker. She is a prolific goalscorer, ruthless in and out of the box, incredibly hardworking and adept at leading the line with her movement and strength.

When asked about any players she models her game on, the name of Beth Mead is quickly mentioned. The former Sunderland Ladies star is held in high regard by Galloway.

‘Her finishing is great and also her creativity. I made my debut, replacing her, back in 2016. I worked with her in training, in the technical sessions and shooting drills. She has fantastic character and always shared knowledge and gave advice.’

The conversation moved on to the aims and ambitions for the rest of a potentially hugely successful season for Sunderland Ladies.

‘We want promotion and to win the cup’. When asked about her personal ambitions, she said ‘I want to improve as much as I can, keep scoring goals and developing as a player. To keep playing every minute of every game’.

Galloway has always been into sport. When she was younger she played with her two older brothers and her Dad. She enjoyed athletics, swimming, gymnastics and tennis. She watched her brothers play and enjoyed a kick around at half time, she explained enthusiastically.

‘I want to score as many goals as possible and to try and win the golden boot’.

Her ambitions in the game indicate a hugely determined young lady.

‘I want to play full time, at the highest level I can, and become the best I can’.

Sunderland Ladies have a great team spirit. She mentions her close friends within the team, Mollie Lambert and Louise Griffiths. Also, Claudia Moan and Georgia Gibson who she also studies with at university.

I ask what it’s like working under manager Melanie Reay.

‘She’s a great coach and motivator. She is able to get the best out of everyone. She takes no shit and you know where you stand with her. Her training sessions are excellent. She was a really good forward herself and the shooting drills are great. She’s really experienced, but she has a laugh at times.’

We talk about the Sunderland Ladies fans.

‘Thank you so much for your incredible support. Let’s go on and get promotion.’

Galloway is a pacy forward, who cites team mates Mollie Lambert and Katie Barker as fellow speed merchants. As we finish off our chat she is keen to state that they are taking it game by game. Sunderland Ladies fans could be in for a treat as the season moves to its conclusion in the coming months. There could be a league and cup double on the horizon. These ladies will do all they can to achieve that. The least we can all do is get to as many games as we can to support them. Please come along, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it and it’s a fantastic family atmosphere, whether you attend the home games at the Hetton Centre or Hebburn, the home of Hebburn Town.

One thing is for sure, we’ll be seeing more goals from Galloway from now until the end of the season.

Haway Away!

Many of us have been there: you’re skint, you’ve got a demanding family and a hectic home/work life balance, you went to that night out with [place random name here] and embarrassed yourself just two weeks ago- yet you’ve somehow found time, money and approval to go away to follow The Lads…and you can’t wait.

There’s just something about going away that makes it special and, in most cases, it’s got nothing to do with the match itself. Sure, you’re going to watch it and you have all of the hope and trepidation that come with that but, be honest, that’s not what you’re thinking about the night before an away day whilst you struggle to say hello to sleep.

No, you’re looking forward to harking back to your more innocent days. Those days you loved when you were free to roam the land; when you did what you wanted, when you wanted. When you didn’t have that annoying, mocking monkey on your shoulder, prodding your temple to remind you of the jobs you need to do. When you and your closest friends felt like you had all the freedom and empowerment in the world and procrastination simply meant you hadn’t asked your mam to wash your jeans yet.

You can’t wait to see familiar faces – many of whom you don’t know- and share the joy (you hope) or, more often than not, the frustration that comes with the disease of supporting Sunderland. You can’t wait for that oh so satisfying sound of the ring pull of your first can, slashing against its metal counterpart and ripping through it to reveal the strong scent that alcohol gives off at silly o clock in the morning on the train to nowhere.

When the day finally comes, you’re full of the optimism of youth again. Last week’s disappointing display is long gone. This is it. This is the game that will go down in infamy. This is the game that, when your life is in stoppage time, you will tell everyone that will still listen that you were there.

All week, your alarm has screamed at you to get out of bed and you’ve ignored it. You’ve lost your daily argument with it Monday-Friday as you’ve tiredly succumbed to its repetitive ring. But not today. You’re awake before it. You’re showered, dressed, prepped, coffee’d up and even had time for a butty in front of the tele before your alarm even knows what’s happening: now who can’t get up eh?!

All the while, you hope and pray that the result and performance allows you the ability to sing with pride and give it the biggun to your opposite number. But, you know what, you’re going to play your part either way. You’re going to be amongst friends. You’re going to be a part of a band of brothers and sisters who are going to show the world that We Are Sunderland.

It’s not that the hope kills you- it’s the hope that gives you the memories that make you…and it’s fucking great.

Stripes Go With Everything

Any fans most exciting part of pre-season, in my eyes, is awaiting the kit reveals. The anticipation, the rumours, then the disappointment when you see it isn’t what you expected.

We’ve had that many times over the last few seasons, but what makes a good kit? Is it evenly spaced stripes? Is it stripes on the back? Is it the uniqueness that is so often lost in kits these days? I don’t think we can answer this, what’s beautiful to one person is ugly to another.

For me, I assimilate a good kit to a good season. The Adidas kits have been horrendous, as have the seasons we’ve played in them.

The 2000-2001 Nike kits were my favourites, our second stint with the Nike swoosh brought with it another 7th place finish in the Premier League whilst also occupying the 2nd place spot for a brief spell in February and quarter finals of the League Cup. I picture Julio Arca, Kevin Phillips, Micky Gray and our Niall. I picture success.

Sunderland’s next 3 years weren’t great, I’ll concede. But still we look back on the Nike kits as classics. In years to come they’ll be as sought after as the white Hummel 1992-93 away kit.

As of next season a new dawn is upon us, Nike are coming back for a 3rd series. What’ll happen? Will the kit be a success or a failure? It is also worth noting the deal will be serviced by Spennymoor based, Just Sport Group. A company themselves steeped in history most notably for their in house brand Avec.

We were the first team in England to have Nike on our kits so I pray we have a nod back to the ‘83 home kit. She was a beauty! I am genuinely excited for the future and for the kit.

For once it feels like they know exactly what we, the fans, want! Whatever the design I’ll buy it and wear it with pride!

Sunderland Ladies – Claudia Moan – Number One

Sunderland Ladies really are a superb side to watch. I’ve enjoyed every game I’ve been to, and as the season moves to it’s conclusion, the games are only going to get more tense and more dramatic. The Ladies are working towards a league and cup double. That’s my thoughts on the Ladies team, however, as I found out when Sunderland Ladies goalkeeper Claudia Moan, kindly took time out of her day to speak me, she’s focused and taking one game at a time.

Moan is a player I’ve particularly liked watching this season. In football, I’ve always thought that you don’t win anything without a quality goalkeeper. Sunderland Ladies have got one in Moan, don’t worry about that. She signed in July last year, having previously been at rivals Newcastle. She’s focused and ambitious and I get the feeling she’s not the only one, in this strong minded, hardworking and technically gifted side.

As as goalkeeper of 21 years of age, she’s got a long career ahead of her. She explained that a full time career in the game is one of her many ambitions. There was no hesitation from Moan, when asked, about how she approached pre-season with the Ladies.

‘I was going into it looking to improve in every session. I wanted to play regularly this season. It was really hard, but so enjoyable’.

Speaking to Moan, and having watched the Ladies this season, it’s clear to see these girls aren’t afraid of hard work. What’s impressed me and the rapidly growing ranks of lasses fans I’ve spoken to, is the quality in every area of the team. This is isn’t a side that relies on one or two players. This is a team oozing with quality.

When she was asked about her toughest tests this season, she quickly replies.

‘Birmingham definitely. Nottingham Forest too, they were straight at us. The weather was bad too. Stoke was another hard game’.

When asked about who she’d include in an all star 5-a-side team, she paused. The answer shouldn’t have surprised me. I’d said, no Sunderland Ladies players allowed. I could tell she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the question. I knew what she was thinking, so I said ok, including your teammates. She immediately started listing players from her side. That for me, tells you all you need to know about the team spirit and togetherness that brilliant team manager, Melanie Reay, has fostered within the lasses camp.

When asked about the many strengths of her game, she was typically modest.

‘When I’m playing my best, my distribution. Starting moves from the back’

I excitedly interrupted with shot stopping. Anyone who saw the save against Southampton, in the cup semi final, would agree with me on that. When she was asked what message she’d give anyone who was thinking of coming to watch for the first time. She replied

‘really enjoy it. It’s a really positive atmosphere. Once you’ve been, please spread the word to other people.’

Moan was happy to tell me about what else contributes towards the incredible team spirit in the camp.

Charlotte Potts and Georgia Gibson are great for positivity and Mel Reay can be a laugh with the things she says.’

What advice would she give aspiring young girls or boys on goalkeeping.

‘Don’t give up. Don’t let anything get you down. Positive thinking.’

Our conversation turned to the Sunderland Ladies support.

‘They’ve been great. The fans have been enjoying the games. We’re thriving off it’.

Claudia lives and breathes football. If she’s not playing or training for the lasses, she’s doing the same for her university. She’s also got her studies, which she’s due to complete in the coming months. When it’s not the football season, she trains with a personal trainer to keep fit for the season ahead.

She counts the people who have a a big impact on her career so far.

‘My Mam, Dad and my two older brothers. They help me have a positive mindset and to push myself on’.

What are her thoughts on her, and the lasses, for the future.

‘I would like to see us get promoted and to win cup finals. I would love for us to have more and more support and for more funding’.

Moan and the rest of the team have a testing end to the season. Who would bet against a league and cup double for Sunderland Ladies? Not me.

SAFC Ladies – Well worth a trip to see them in action

SAFC ladies

I’ve been fortunate enough to have watched the Sunderland Ladies team, on a number of occasions over the last couple of months. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the games I’ve seen. There’s a lot of things that have contributed to my enjoyment of the matches. I think for me, I was surprised at the team spirit that the manager has fostered. In the games I’ve watched, whatever the conditions, whatever the other team has thrown at them, they don’t seem fazed at all. They appear unflappable and focused. I think this may be in the mold of their manager, I’ve never met her, but have only heard good things about her.

The players seem like a real approachable set of women. I’ve seen from my own experience, and from that of others, that they interact with fans on Twitter where they can. They really appreciate fans coming along to support them. If you’re thinking of going along to watch a Sunderland Ladies match, I’d ask you to do so, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

Goalkeeper Claudia Moan is a superb performer. It’s testament to her concentration, that her levels never seem to drop. In some games she doesn’t have a lot to do, but when she does, she doesn’t let anyone down. However, as seen in recent games against Birmingham Ladies of the WSL, and Southampton, top of their league, she’s been a lot more busy and has performed well. She’s definitely one to look out for in the future. Let’s be honest she’s only going to get better.

At the back, the Ladies look particularly strong, both McCatty and Potts would not look out of place at a higher level. Their reading of the game is exceptional. When looking at the midfield, Maria Farrugia is so tenacious and is great to watch on the ball. Do I need to try and say something about club legend Ramshaw, that hasn’t been said before. This girl is a classy performer on and off the pitch, by all accounts.

Every quality side needs someone who can put the ball in the net on a regular basis. The Ladies certainly have that and a lot more. Step forward Bridget Galloway, she is the proper all round centre forward. She scores lots of goals, she can run the channels and she never gives the opposing centre half a minute of peace. In Herron, they have a young player of quality and huge potential. She’s destined for the WSL. Let’s hope it’s with Sunderland Ladies.

Finally, the atmosphere at the games is great. There’s no negativity and the players are approachable after the final whistle, with time for fans photograph and autograph requests. Get yourself along, you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.

The Fanzines

I felt compelled to write a piece on the fanzines covering our club. I’m just a fan like you. My say is as valid as yours is. I genuinely believe most of the writers, podcasters and contributors to the fanzines think the same.

I struggle to see why they get so much criticism. I have read tweets from contributors to the fanzines, stating they welcome constructive criticism and that is going to be helpful for them to improve their content. However, some of the tweets I see are not constructive in nature, in some cases they are just abusive.

I have seen during my time using Twitter that some of the contributors are working towards a career in journalism.

The way I see it, it’s fantastic that these lads and lasses have the platform in which to speak to former players and members of the current Sunderland set up. I’ve seen that two of the lads who I’ve enjoyed engaging with on Twitter have gone on to work for the club, and the other is working for a local media outlet. It’s great that they can do this in the north east of England. Also, there are many other contributors who do it solely because of their love for the club and to engage with fans on their opinions.

I don’t always agree with their opinions, but I don’t go onto Twitter to give them personal abuse because of this difference of opinions. Their content is usually really interesting and gets you thinking about the club. This can range from new signings, to ticket allocations, to reminiscing about games from back in the day.

I’ve never seen them state that they speak for all fans, which is part of the criticism I have seen levelled at them over recent weeks. I don’t actually know any of the contributors to the fanzines, other than the Twitter conversations we sometimes have, but I personally thank them for the work they do bringing us the podcasts, articles and appearances at the fan zones. It costs nothing to us as fans and supporting the club would be a lot less fun if they didn’t do what they do.

Enjoy the content these fanzines produce, or if not, try to be constructive in your criticism.

Sunderland…. it’s a tough place to play

Ah…. Sunderland it’s a tough place to play. We’ve all heard it before, the myth, the legend. The absolute load of rubbish. It’s always rolled out by a player who got found out by the crowd, or the lazy pundit who has seen a few highlights from their comfy seat in the studio.

I want to go on record to say its probably one of the easiest places to play. We just ask for 100 per cent in every game they play. We don’t ask for anymore. If the quality isn’t there, that’s not their problem. It’s that of the recruitment team that brought them in.

Look at the recent games at the Stadium of Light. The fans have seen a side that has a game plan, adding fantastic work rate and we’ve really bought into that. We’ve fed off each other. It’s great to have that feeling of togetherness. The fans are frustrated that we’re in League One, but we know we can help the team achieve our end of season target of promotion.

Whilst I’m having a mini rant. I also give you ‘expectations’. The fans have high expectations. If you call not being happy playing our football in the third tier of English football, than yes we’ve got high expectations. It’s quite laughable really, isn’t it?

When you’re at a big football club like ours, there will be a certain amount of pressure that comes with it. Any player would surely relish this and look forward to the challenge and adulation that success brings. I attended a talk in with Peter Reid and Kevin Phillips late last year. They said to play for Sunderland you need ‘big bollocks’. I agree wholeheartedly, however this only involves giving 100 per cent, showing for the ball, getting stuck in and not hiding away when things aren’t going to plan.

So Jack Rodwell doesn’t find it an easy place to play, because he has a heart the size of a pea and he was found out in no time at all. Someone like Lee Camp doesn’t find it an easy place to play here because even when you watched him in the warm up, he never looked prepared to give everything he had, even though it was obvious he wasn’t good enough to wear the shirt.

Take a look at some of the players the fans have taken to their hearts over the years I’ve been a Sunderland supporter. John Kay, Kevin Ball, Lee Cattermole and Luke O’Nien, to name but a few. They have differing levels of ability, but ‘big bollocks’ as Reid and Phillips so aptly described it.

So please don’t give me the hard place to play narrative. They’ve got high expectations up there sob story. Get your head down, work hard and engage with the area. You’ll become a legend at this club simply by adding quality to what we ask as minimum requirements.

Short term pain. Long term gain.

I don’t currently know what to think, it’s a strange time for us Sunderland fans. I want us to win every game we play, however I’m aware that a win buys the manager more time in the job. I can’t see the owner spending money in the transfer window and perhaps that’s a good thing. I like things straightforward. You have a committed and financially strong owner in place. There’s a manager who has the backing of the players and fans, then you can move on together with the common target of promotion.

That’s not the case currently at our club.

It seems that we may have to accept another season in League One. Stewart Donald is trying to find a buyer, but how long is that going to take. I always felt that the finances were not in place to do what is necessary during the January transfer window. The for sale sign at the club gives the current owner less of an inclination to provide any funds. Some may point to the departure of De Bock and imminent exit of McGeady as allowing potential for some incomings in this window.

I’m not sure if any money will be spent. I think we will need to make do with loans and potential free signings, where clubs may allow a player to be released early, when coming to the end of their contract in the summer. With the previous record of our current recruitment team, it’s going to be a lot to ask to make a minimum three or four successful signings, from the market we’ll be shopping in.

I think the short term pain of another season in this league may be what is required to enable time for a new owner to come into the club and assess the situation we find ourselves in. There must be a long term plan put in place when this happens. We can’t afford to stumble from one poor short term decision to another. In my humble opinion, when a new owner is in place, they need to speak to a person who knows the club and what it takes to be successful at Sunderland.

The first name that comes to mind for me, would be Kevin Ball. There are a number of other people who would also be adept in this area. The new owner could then look to bring in a manager who would galvanise the players and the fans to believe that we can get out of this league, and ultimately stabilise the club in the Premier League, in the long term.

I read from some fans that the manager’s job at Sunderland is not at all desirable and that we as fans are somehow demanding and have high expectations. I think most football fans would agree that believing we shouldn’t be playing our football in League One, is fair enough indeed. We expect 100% effort from our players in every game, but for me we also need to improve the quality of the squad in certain areas, to see us move up into the Championship.

So in short, this season may possibly end up in mid table obscurity, which is utterly unacceptable for this football club. However, if Donald could find a buyer in that time, with the right resources, it may possibly be a price worth paying.

Stewart Donald: Salesman or Messiah?

What has Stewart Donald done?

Stewart Donald
Stewart Donald, SAFC owner.

This is a question I’ve been asked many times. So a small background on me; I was born in Sunderland and I am a lifelong lads fan… however I live in Portsmouth so have to deal with Pompey fans on a daily basis. As they aren’t privy/interested in Sunderland news I frequently get asked why I dislike Stewart Donald.

Ultimately, I don’t dislike Stewart Donald as a person. I’ve always found him to be very approachable and have enjoyed chats with him over a beer in many a pub garden. The part of Stewart Donald I dislike is the business acumen.

That business acumen Stewart Donald has is very astute and smart. However, it isn’t what I think we need or desire. The fans demand someone who gets the club. Someone who understands what it’s like to have been in the quagmire one week and the top of the world the next. Someone personable, participative, passionate and well permanent. All of those qualities were shown by Stewart Donald. And then in the famous words of Billy Ocean, “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going”. We stopped hearing from him, we felt like a mum who’d forgotten to send a birthday card. Understandably, the twitter debacle was within reason. But if you’re going to give access all areas on twitter it’s to be expected that 1 or 2 morons may do something silly and for that, on behalf of most Sunderland fans I apologise. The words said aren’t reflective of anyone I know.

Charlie Methven
Charlie Methven

Now let’s be realistic for one moment, while I was trying to think of what has changed, I mean REALLY changed I rattled my brain for half a day. Finally it hit me! Stewart Donald bought some new red seats, not only that he also invited us down to fit them. This brings me back to the astuteness of the man, I’m sure Champagne Charlie has something to do with this absolute genius PR move though. The fans rebuilt the seats! We’re re-connected. That was all it took Ellis. You should’ve just changed the seats and we’d have loved you again. I do concede I’m probably being a tad unfair here because he has also had a pint with some fans up and down the country. But seriously apart from that, what has he done?

“He’s streamlined the club and made us more profitable” I hear you cry. Has he though? Or has he made multiple people redundant to try and balance the already balanced books? Has he stripped the club of its biggest outgoings, to increase his own incomings? If he has made us more profitable why did we need to borrow £10 million from the FPP lads for the PA system and a lift? Maybe I’m looking into it with biased eyes but this doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t sound like a club that is profiting from anything! I think it’s also worth noting Stewart’s net worth has risen £20 million in the short time he has been with us.

During The Donald years more has gone wrong than gone well. For instance, the Checkatrade Trophy. Don’t lie, we all secretly wanted to win it, even if it was just a “Mickey Mouse Cup”. For the Southern Supporters in the South Branch, we didn’t just WANT to win, we NEEDED to win. Living in the south, with pompey fans daily reminders of how rubbish we must be if they’d beat us. Even though we can’t directly attribute this loss to Stewart Donald, it was at this game that fans started noticing something awry within the camp. Reports of Charlie and Stewart not talking, reports that Juan didn’t want to sit near either, reports that Charlie wasn’t even coming to the game! Of course, a lot is paper talk and I understand but it gave a small insight into the club.

Josh Maja
Josh Maja

Failure to gain promotion is something I highly blame not Jack Ross, not the squad, but Stewart Donald (and the rest of the board) for. When it became clear that Josh Maja wasn’t sticking around, we should’ve acted fast and got a replacement in. A decent replacement would’ve seen us promoted, a more speculative and ambitious replacement would’ve seen us promoted… we ended up with Will Grigg who’s fire has been extinguished under Sunderland’s tutelage, a certain Mr Grigg who wasn’t even wanted by the manager. We needed promotion, Stewart knew that, Charlie knew that, the fans knew it! But somehow it all fell to pieces. From January onwards we looked troubled in front of goal. We looked like an Italian early 90’s team. We would try our hardest to score, once we did we knew we wouldn’t get another so did our damnedest to defend that 1 goal cushion. This tactic inevitably ended with us drawing 9 games 1-1 from January to April alone!

I’m sure we’ve all heard what a debacle that transfer window was and Stewart Donald’s refusal to allow the new series of the Netflix documentary be aired until the January transfer window was wiped from the camera reels. I get it, it was their first big window. Their first time to do something meaningful, I believe where it went wrong was a podcast that Mr Donald did not long after taking charge. He said “the piss-taking party is over”. Yet, in that same podcast he also said “we have a huge league one budget, one that would beat half the championship teams”. Any club, player or agent listening to that had just rubbed their hands together, the piss taking party could continue as Sunderland have said they have money.

I actually bumped into a well known goal scoring talismans agent during a charity football match and got talking to him about Sunderland, his player was due to come to us in that January window. He was one the MANY strikers we tried for, the rumour we had been told was this particular player asked to double their wages to join Sunderland. Professionally or unprofessionally he showed me evidence to the contrary. He asked for £5,000 a week more, £260,000 a year. A small fee to pay for someone currently tearing the championship to pieces. He was told we simply did not have those funds available and alas the lad didn’t sign.

Jack Ross
Started with a bang and went out with a whimper

My final gripe, is the sacking of Jack Ross and the subsequent hiring of Phil Parkinson. As a squad we had stagnated, we weren’t picking up the results the fans demanded. As painful as it was for some, Jack had to leave. What we didn’t know was, we had no money to replace him. Had we known that I think it may have changed a few minds, nonetheless Phil Parkinson come in. The only man silly enough to take the poison chalice of the Sunderland managers job. This is a man who knows how to earn league one promotion having done so with Colchester United and Bolton. I’d guess there’s many a Sunderland fan out there who’ll also remember a certain League One Bradford side beating us in the 2015 FA cup 5th round to reach the Quarter Finals.

This is and was, on paper, a fairly decent snap signing. It wasn’t inspiring, but it was promising. Yet, he seems to have the players doing everything completely the opposite way of Jack Ross. Instead of being methodical in the build up and tight at the back. We became headless chickens unable to work for each other and only for ourselves. This saw us reach our worst times as a football club. We shouldn’t keep changing managers, I agree. My counter question is this, what is it you want from Sunderland Mr Donald? Maximise profits? You’re a businessman, I understand it. Well if that is the answer you need to speculate to accumulate! You need to put something in to make us that attractive proposition that saw you want to take over this great club!

The North-East fans of football have a higher demand of satisfaction, we aren’t happy with mediocrity. We want near-on perfection and when you have Sunderland fans on board you get 100% of our heart, when you lose just 1% of that it doesn’t take very long for the other 99% to follow

Hark Now Here, The Sunderland Sing

A new year, time to reminisce. I went to my first Sunderland game in the early 80s. I was 3 years old. It was a 7pm reserve match and I was taken home at half-time as we lived a quarter of a mile from Roker Park and my Dad went back and watched the second half. I’ve no more information that that. No idea of opposition, time of year, or the result.

Those things were not important. The key was at 3 years old my Dad had made me a Sunderland fan. I was forced to go to Church as a kid but when given the choice sacked it off and became an atheist. With SAFC that luxury is not there no matter how hard you try. And I’ve tried. Even moving to London did not help due to the infamous London Branch – I even ended up playing sports I’d hardly played before (cricket) as well as ending up with a season ticket. Moving countries makes it worse. SAFC reels you back in during the good times and the bad.  

Fast forward 37 years. As we were in the 80s we’re back in the third division. As in the 90s we are protesting about the Chairman. And as every decade, perhaps since time immemorial, we’re calling for the managers head. The names change (Cowie out, Murray out, Donald out) but the issues remain largely the same: exquisitely inept footballing decisions made by people with limited financial clout and seemingly a only a modicum of footballing nouse. 

Cowie recruited ‘McManyMoney’ as he was known in our house and great SAFC historians have poured over those days. Suffice to say it’s almost universally accepted that he was the wrong man, at the wrong club, at the wrong time – great appointment aside from that. Murray was a more complex figure. A faux ‘vote’ to claim a mandate for leaving Roker Park. If you disagreed with leaving Roker you cast a  vote. If you did nothing you were counted as being pro the move.

Obviously history has looked kindly on Murray and his vision of a decent stadium, expanding the fan base, and doing so within the financial means of the club now appears a masterstroke. Murray was many things but you could never accuse him of wanting to be liked. He saw the value of Netflix before Netflix was invented by inviting the cameras in to film Premier Passions. The first disaster documentary about our wonderful football club.  

Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven. No insurance policy against not either gaining promotion or flipping the club quickly. Piss-takingly bad PR and party to our lowest league position in our history. Fan engagement goes along way in the north-east. They followed the Fat Mike blueprint of pints with fans and as far as I am aware did not quite go the whole hog with replica shirts in the away end. Methven did wear some rank red trousers at times mind.

These guys were populists without the bus. The antithesis of Murray and whilst Short was prone to turning up at the odd branch social he was not publicly on social media nor did he feel the need to massage his own ego. His recruitment of footballing management personal was as if he was a US billionaire with no clue about football.

Anyway, back to the Oxford pair who took a punt on SAFC. The pair (Sartori largely anonymous these days) undertook a gargantuan task and being an exile I’ve witnessed this from afar aside from a handful of glamour ties such as Wimbledon and Gillingham away and Accrington Stanley at home to name but a few last term.

People follow great leaders although do not always agree with them or even like them. People like the fun boss who says yes to everything but don’t respect them. The PR party visibly stopped after two Wembley defeats – Methven even made some comments (rightly or wrongly) about the atmosphere in the stadium in the play-off final v Charlton. I was not there. One Wembley defeat proved enough for me – on top of the previous 3 I had attended. I was too young to go in 1985 and watched with my Nana and Grandad in Grindon.

Methven had just about got away with calling fans parasites months earlier. He’d end up walking away when his Thatcher-loving veneer fell away and his garbled messages became nonsensical, the pressure of financial scrutiny became too much, and Donald ducked Twitter. Public relations were now at an all-time low. They’d made their pod and would need to lie in it. And lie they did claimed some. As we go to Fleetwood today, you wonder did we as fans want to believe their stories of 100 points. “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies” anyone? Interestingly on the valuation Wikipedia cites Sartori as saying 3 million for 20%. If Peter Jones were grilling our owners on Dragons Den the basic maths of our current rumoured valuation would not be hard to destroy. 18 months ago Sartori bought into a venture that was valued at 15 million.  

The Jack Ross sacking was to appease a minority of fans and Donald made his gravest mistake to date in my opinion. First up, I believed from afar it was time for Ross to go. However, as fans we are not privy to the day-to-day goings on. If Donald believed that Ross could do the job he should have a) backed him properly in the summer and b) given him the January window. He showed himself to be man who wanted to be liked and not a leader. My caveat to Ross going was a leader coming in who could unite the fanbase. Parkinson has managed the latter, sadly. 

The Doncaster result gave everyone a lift and no fans I know are taking any crumbs of comfort from that performance. The traveling fans enjoyed the win and that was it. Nobody feels a corner has been turned and we are suddenly on the march up the third tier of English football. Class atmosphere though by all accounts.

Donald has gone into mute mode since leaving Twitter and has not publicly responded to the campaign led by fanzines and backed by a big number from the fanbase. The BBC reported he’d sell up with a “heavy heart” which everyone will have an opinion about. Was Donald the saviour or just a salesman? Did Sunderland AFC get under his skin? He certainly made time for fans. Cynics say they were PR stunts. I’d like to think he meant well and enjoyed some of his time in the north-east.  

Where do we go from here? That’s something for another blog. Time will tell. Safe to predict that the wheel will come full circle and we’ll be back in the top flight some day. I just don’t know how and I don’t know when…and until that day we suffer the ignominy of Fleetwood Town away on January 1st 2020. Hark now here, The Sunderland sing…