Sixer’s Sentiments: Welcome to Vice Chairman Miliband


Although the club has not officially confirmed any appointment* Pete Sixsmith muses on the football affiliations of Prime Ministers and almost Prime Ministers, including the best PM we never had

*stand-in editor panics about spreading misinformation while M Salut is swanning around abroad

I am not one for reading the Daily Mail – indeed I would usually reject fish and chips if they came wrapped in it – but my attention was drawn to it this morning while I was trying to persuade the cat to take a pill by stroking its throat, a task that brings hours of entertainment as I comb the kitchen floor trying to find out where he has spat out the damn thing.

The Today programme mentioned that the Mail was running a story about Miliband Major becoming Vice Chairman of Sunderland AFC. I thought about buying a copy on the way to work, but decided against betraying my class and read the story on line.

And for once the Mail seemed to be right. It has a dreadful record – I am sure that all readers are familiar with the Zinoviev Letter of 1924 – and this story was written in the sneering terms that Associated Newspapers reserve for Socialist politicians, who are clearly expected to know their place and doff their (flat) caps to the toffs who, quite rightly in their distorted view, run this country.

They did a mock up of Miliband Major in a Sunderland shirt, but true to form, they used last season’s, a fine example of research by their political staff.  They also had him holding a banana, a reference to a less than flattering photo image from his failed campaign to be leader of the Labour Party.

Our more knowledgeable readers may remember that he lost that to his younger brother ( a man who my colleague at work always likens to Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame), so Miliband Major  is clearly  on the lookout for extracurricular work away from the jolly old House of Commons.

Prior to this exclusive, I had never heard him utter any great love for SAFC. I suppose being member for South Shields he would represent Mags as well  (although most of them would have enormous difficulty in making something as complicated as a cross on a ballot paper) so it is better to keep your mouth shut rather than make a complete arse of yourself as Blair did when he said that he sat in the Gallowgate End watching Jackie Milburn pass to Hughie Gallacher when he was in short trousers at The Choristers School in Durham.

The Mail says that Miliband Major is an Arsenal fan, which seems reasonable seeing as he was brought up in North London (with a short hiatus in Leeds – Miliband Minor is a Leeds fan – idiot!!). He went to school at Haverstock Comp and he must have been surrounded by Gooners there, maybe even by the wonderful Monty and Rupert, whom the Emirate’s tannoy called upon, on our last visit to Ashburton Grove.

As a result of this appointment, can we now expect to see groups of left leaning North London intellectuals clustering near to the South West Corner in order to follow their guru’s example of finding a proper football club to follow? Will his influence pervade the Durham Branch away coach and lead to conversations on Marxist Theory and Cuban Politics rather than on who has the biggest boobs in the Daily Star?

David is not the first prominent politician to be involved with Sunderland AFC. Sir Anthony Eden, a Tory of the old school, Foreign Secretary under Chamberlain (Neville, not Alex) and Churchill (Winston, not that infuriating bloody dog) and Prime Minister in his own right for a few months in the mid 50’s, was a keen Sunderland fan.

Eden was born at Windlestone Hall, midway between Coundon and Chilton. His family had been coal owners in the past and he was quoted in DR Thorpe’s excellent biography, as saying that he occasionally joined the Durham miners on their pilgrimages to Roker Park in the days after the First World War.

He may well have attended the 1937 FA Cup Final and was apparently reprimanded by those in the Royal Box for singing “You’ll Never Cure That Stammer” at King George VI. In his later days, according to Thorpe, he expressed great delight at the FA Cup win over Leeds United in 1973, although what he would have made over the debacle at the weekend, goodness only knows. It would probably have upset him as much as the Suez Crisis did!!

Politicians and football don’t really go together. I can’t think of many who are real fans, most being like Blair and jumping on the bandwagon. In one of my many conversations with him, I observed that he should become a Sunderland fan as “we had a better team and a better stadium” (this was 2000 when the Mags were rubbish and the full Meccano rebuild was still in progress). “You can never change your football team” said the then P.M “Aye, but you can change your principles and beliefs” came the muttered response from a grizzled veteran of the staff room.

Michael Foot was a loyal supporter of Plymouth Argyle and was even given a squad number in one of their promotion seasons. I have just finished reading Kenneth O Morgan’s superb biography of Foot and there is a great picture of a handful of Foots sitting in the stands watching a game. He even persuaded the local council in Hampstead to rename his street Pilgrims Lane. Top guy!!

Cameron pretends to be a Villa fan, while Clegg has never shown the slightest interest in the game. Coming from Beaconsfield he should be a Wycombe Wanderers fan, but I would imagine he spent his teenage years writing out lists of promises and then tearing them up at the earliest opportunity.

Rumour has it that Thatcher was a closet Grantham Town fan who would lecture fellow Gingerbread’s fans on the terraces at London Road about thrift and never spending more than you earn, until they got fed up of it and set fire to her school uniform.

So, welcome to David Miliband. Here’s hoping that he can get off to a winning start on Sunday and that his tenure as Vice Chairman of the world’s greatest football club is a little more successful than his attempts to be the next Prime Minister of the UK. Do you think he really knows what FTM means?

5 thoughts on “Sixer’s Sentiments: Welcome to Vice Chairman Miliband”

  1. Haven’t we all got ‘political views’?? I wouldn’t consider ever voting tory but it doesn’t change my view of the football.. I’m sure Quinny has his own views too but he seems to be doing quite well..

    Milliband i’m sure will be offering negotiating skills and a contacts list you couldn’t buy for 50k – there’s no way he has been brought in to ‘politicise’ the club.

    Could be a very shrewd move by Quinny and i’m sure one that has taken everyone by suprise

  2. I have little doubt he has qualities that could enhance the club, but will the fact he has unwaving political views be good for the club and its supporters. I would hate to see political bigatory define Sunderland in the same way that it does the Glasgow clubs. The club should be all things to all people and not follow any political or other idealogy.

  3. Will he sing ‘The Red Flag’? Does he know the words or the sentiment?
    If I am being cynical – like most politicians he will jump on whatever vehicle/bandwagon suits his career. This could therefore be a compliment as he has chosen us as the one team that will give him credibility as a man of the people with the a local community at heart. The man is clearly no fool.

  4. It’s a nice notion for there to be no politics in sport Keith but where there is money and ambition there is politics. Ignore those facts and you might as well be King Canute wishing the tides away.

    Great piece Sixer! This must be the only football site anywhere that would reference the Zinoviev letter!

  5. Regardless of political persuasion Sunderland has working class roots in the early part of the 20th centuary this meant socialist roots viz miners shipbuilders and steel workers from the Durham hinterland. During all this time the club has never openly professed any political connections or support. Tom Cowie was a avid Tory but loved the club and it has been suggested that Murray offered financial support to the labour party but they didn’t shout this from the church steeples. I can’t help but feel that there is no place for politics in sport and any perceived political alignment will disenfranchise those of the opposite ilke. Milliband is obviously an intelligent and shrewd man with talents that could be an asset to the club, but it could cause disharmony in the board room and alienate certain of the fans. John Major was a Chelsea supporter was very visible at the games but took no part in running the club. I believe the gutter press will look for the negatives and will continually show Sunderland as receiving favours from their political connections, maybe even a trophies for cash scandal. I need to know the man sitting next to me is a Sunderland fan and has the same deep rooted love for the club as I do I don’t want to know who he votes for or listen to him slating the club for employing a Troskyite or whatever. I don’t think this is a good idea. Not because Milliband is Labour but because he is a politician which will always evoke passion and differences which have no place in sport. I would also add my political alignment is with Labour but I want my football team and party to be separate

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