Sunderland report cards: (5) my 40,000 reasons for demanding more guts

Luke Harvey

The end-of-season reviews have been thought-provoking and varied, from M Salut’s own maybe excessive support for Steve Bruce – whose continued defence of the failure to replace Darren Bent defies logic – to the hard-hitting analysis offered by subsequent writers. Two, possibly three, remain to be fitted in before Pete Sixsmith has the final word. Here, Luke Harvey* discusses our respectable average attendances and asks the club to match the commitment he has made for next season …

“Twenty-five thousand empty seats…” came the chanting from burly shaven-headed males as the Newcastle-Sunderland free train trundled towards its destination.

??Needless to say my head was dipped low and any thoughts that popped into my head remained there; they were never verbalised as I was very much the minority among the crowd of travelling Newcastle fans.

It’s obviously a bit of an exaggeration to imply that the Stadium of Light often has that many empty seats for its matches; that would indicate the average crowd for a match was only 24,000, and thanks to an increased attendance against Wolverhampton Wanderers it was announced that the average attendance for home matches this season had risen to in excess of 40,000.

Forty thousand would be an enviable total for many teams, and it backs up the oft-heard cliché that fans from the North East “love their football”. Overused? Perhaps. Especially to anyone who, like myself, wasn’t born and raised in the North East. But it would be folly to dismiss the notion as having no truth.

It’s testament to the fans’ loyalty that despite their lack of recent success, both clubs continue to attract such consistent and passionate support.??Testament, too, to the Sunderland fans who still turned up in numbers excess of 40,000 for the final home game against Wolverhampton, with safety already assured, to witness an insipid display where a lack of basic set-piece defending was all too prevalent. That was a performance that capped a terrible few months for the home team at the Stadium of Light, a stadium previously referred to as a fortress given its impregnable status until Blackpool of all teams gave us the run around.

So, too, should Niall Quinn be proud of home contingent who turn up en masse every fortnight to see performances which steadily declined in quality over the season. His statement about “despising” fans who watch the three o’clock Saturday kick-offs in a pub with pictures piped in from far-flung Eastern European countries or beyond can be seen as a little harsh.

Quinn is rightly revered around Sunderland as one of the finest ambassadors for the club, a player whose name is synonymous with the club and whose performances at the turn of the millennium helped the team to consecutive seventh-place finishes. But whether a heat of the moment comment, or a genuine belief, for Quinn to say he “despises” those fans may seem rather over the top.

Given the current financial difficulties being experienced by people the world over, for some to opt to watch the match in a pub for free and instead pay for a couple of pints as opposed to paying nearly £30 per match or £400 for a season ticket isn’t entirely unbelievable.

Instead of bemoaning the fans who choose not to attend the matches, for whatever reason that may be, perhaps some thanks should be aimed towards the stalwarts who attend every match rain or shine, whether Sky have interfered and caused us a Monday night kick-off or not. These are the fans who ensured our attendance average was so admirable.

Far be it for me to judge how Quinn himself should choose his comments, but perhaps some thanks and admiration should be lavished upon those who make the club what it is every matchday. The fans who sing, chant and cheer on the home side, doing their best to act as 12th man, should perhaps be given more commendation than they currently receive from the club’s higher ups.??

Let it not be forgotten that a significant slice (NB: see comments) of the club’s income will come from ticket sales. The teams with higher attendances generate more turnover and therefore they can buy better players or give players better wages. It’s the fans who drive the team forward and help make it what it is, so pride in our lofty attendances should be shared by everyone associated with the club.

One highly important reason for such pride to be felt is that regardless of the ravages of recession, the fans continue to show up in their droves.

Sunderland is no exception to the rule. As with the rest of the country – and even the world – jobs are scarce, and money is becoming tighter. Disregard Bill Shankly’s old “football is more than a matter of life and death” quote that everyone knows so well; it’s most certainly not true. Football is a luxury, not a necessity and for fans still to be willing to part with their hard earned money for 19 home games a season, including travel for those not local, speaks volumes for the bond the fans share with the club.?

?And you have to seriously question whether you are getting value for money. Not just with Sunderland, but with all football teams around the country. I sit in disbelief and anger as I watch the Bundesliga, where fans get in for 15 euros and stand and drink in the stands, and recall the much stricter rules of English football, and the greater damage it makes to my wallet.

Again, it’s not just Sunderland and the Premier League where you seem to part with way too much money for a 90-minute spectacle and also part with too much money for an undersized drink at half-time. I spent the first few weeks of last season frequenting Brunton Park to watch my local side Carlisle United. A ground where they feel it’s justifiable to charge £18 to stand in the paddock and watch League One football. I put the question to you, does that sound like money well spent? Especially when in two weeks I managed to pay £36 to watch goalless draws with Swindon and Brighton & Hove Albion. It’s times like that you have to seriously question whether or not you can part with so much money to see often weak football.

And what of my attendances in the North East? A miserly two games this season, that was all I could make. And I saw as many goals too. Did I get value for money at my two matches? Well, it could be argued I did – and that I didn’t. My first trip was to a goalless draw against Manchester United where we turned in a great performance but couldn’t find the breakthrough, Zenden hit the post and the team played well but alas there were not to be three points. My second trip saw about 92 minutes of us being bullied by Newcastle before Bardsley’s shot rebounded onto Gyan and into the net and for those few seconds alone I was probably happy enough to regard the £60-70 the day cost me as wisely spent.

Congratulations, too, to Hartlepool United who are going all out for promotion next season and rewarding their fans by charging them less if they can break 4,000 season ticket sales. Perhaps Quinn and the other figureheads at Sunderland should pool their ideas together for something equally rewarding, perhaps £50 back to season ticket holders if we average over 42,000 at home or sell a specific number of season tickets. ??

Either way Quinny, you have approximately £300 off me for a season ticket next year. Please spend it wisely. All I ask in return is that we perform with more guts in front of the home fans. I’ve done my bit, it’s in your hands now.

* Luke Harvey is Carlisle born and bred so his home matchday trip is 60 miles or about an hour and a half. A committed supporter “via my grandad who was born in Pennywell but who I never met”. Luke is studying journalism, wants to be a sportswriter and performs the useful service of bringing down the average age of Salut! Sunderland contributors

28 thoughts on “Sunderland report cards: (5) my 40,000 reasons for demanding more guts”

  1. Gentlemen. There is but a time for pedantry and petty squabbling. Leave that to the House of Lords, please, as a final request.

    It is fine in the House of Lords, but out of place in respectable chambers such as within the dignified and higher moral echelons of Salut.

  2. Since we have strayed into matters concerning the use of English, I should own up to one of my own brushes with pedantry.
    I wrote the style guide for the launch of The National, a newspaper published in Abu Dhabi and employing quite a few British journalists but also Americans, Canadians, Arabs, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and people from the Indian subcontinent. My first battle was to establish that we’d use British English. I won that one hands down. But getting everyone to observe the rules was trickier. How do you stop people writing such “words” as normalcy, or reporting that “cops” have “nabbed” some suspects, if they have been doing so all their adult lives? Bill Taylor, who grew up in Bishop Auckland but is a naturalised Canadian, thought I was no more than a style fascist and I imagine some of my former colleagues probably agreed with him. I do realise that having had such a role, everything I write is open to attack. An editor at The National took delight the other day in telling me that in a piece of mine, he had made “a couple of minor style changes – I bet I’m not the first guy to grin as I write that sentence”. It came as no surprise since I knew that my style guide had been revised and extended, just as was intended. All publications with style guides tweak and make new rules, or abandon old ones, as they go along. As Luke prepares to embark on his career, he should expect to have to conform to a different set of rules and guidelines at each place where he works (except at those with no style guide at all).

    On my blogs, I apply only some of my own rules since I take the view that they represent a more informal means of communication. I even let Bill litter his contributions with Americanisms.

    This, just one example of my weekly musings while living in the UAE, may amuse fellow pedants:

  3. …and what about overuse of myself and himself Malcolm – me and him seem to have disappeared from the language.
    Roll on York City when talk will revert to football.

  4. That should have course have read (pronounced OW – ER)

    Not sure how that happened as H is nowhere near W on the keyboard.

  5. David Pedant. I have to agree with you and having taught in East Midlands’ primary schools for over 30 years I have lost count of the number of times I have said to the locals with their flat vowels it’s our (pronounced OH – ER) not are (pronounced AGGGHHHHH!).

    But for me the real anathema is – must of, could of, should of, might of etc. AGGGHHHH!

  6. Birflatt Boy. I decided to back out when it became apparent that he:

    a) Did not understand the respective roles role of writers & editors with the first having responsibility for writing the story/establishing the relevant facts and the latter correcting spelling, punctuation and (if necessary) precising a supplied article/manuscript etc.

    This, despite claiming to have been a journalist for 45 years!!

    b) Possessed nothing more than a propensity for childish insults, rather than being prepared to debate.

    Sad but true!

  7. It’s all gone very quiet here after the spat between Mr Taylor and Mr Johnson.

    Thank heavens for that brief respite

  8. Good article.
    It’s nice to visit a footy website trying to elevate itself, although not surprising given the number of journos on here.
    The discussion has become overlong and petty, but it’s still pleasing not to have to read elementary spelling errors such as in “are house is pink” which is amazingly common on many a site.
    Thank you.
    By the way Phil, would “not having referred to him” sound better than “having not referred…”

  9. H’way lads calm down man.

    I still think this was an excellent article and far more interesting than this spat between two of the more interesting and normally reasonable contributors to Salut.

  10. No more insulting than you were about Luke. And career as what? You still haven’t elucidated. You’ve written “articles, training manuals and national/local advertisements…” that tells us very little. It certainly doesn’t appear to qualify you to comment upon what does and does not constitute slipshod journalism – leaving aside that Luke’s splendid offering here isn’t actually journalism, as such. And if you can’t figure out the relevance of introducing Colin into this discussion, then you’re dumber than your logo shot makes you look and I would hardly have thought that was possible.
    Yes, you’re right. That WAS an insult.

  11. I would re-iterate (and qualify) that in a career spanning, approximately, the same length as yours that I have never (to my knowledge) got my facts wrong (in print)!

    I am not a liar but, maybe, you think that I am because you accept slipshod journalism as acceptable – I don’t!

    You, also, still failed to explain the relevance of referring to Colin but just chose to attempt to be insulting.


  12. Never once got your facts wrong? You’re a lucky man. Or a liar. Me, I’ve been journalist for going on 45 years and I still make errors and rely on editors — viz my omission in the sentence that apparently baffled you in which I missed out the word “just” in front of “the owner of this site.” But even without that, it still makes sense (to anyone with an ounce of sense) and doesn’t at all contradict what I’ve been saying – yes, Luke made an error; yes, Colin should have corrected it. These things happen. But perhaps not in your perfect, if rather simplistic, little world.

  13. Oh dear Bill, it seems that you missed my point about responding vis-a-vis publishing.

    However, leaving that aside, I will attempt to answer your question.

    I have, in my career, been responsible for writing articles, training manuals and national/local advertisements.

    Most, I would like to think, have not contained any glaring errors although I can remember one where I miss-spelt marital as maritial, on an application form that I had designed.

    However, I cannot honestly recall one instance whereby I could be accused of “getting my facts wrong”.

    I am confused, though, by your comment regarding Colin.

    Having not referred to him in any way, on this thread, what was the relevance of your remark?

    You said. “Though I’m wondering if that is, in fact, the case, given that you don’t seem to understand the rather basic fact that Colin isn’t the owner of this site but also the editor and final pair of eyes on any submission before it appears here.”

    My initial reaction, when I read that was EH?

    Please read it again – apart from it not making sense, you do seem to appear to contradict yourself!!

    Finally, it (IMHO) is not a “perfectly human mistake” to base an article upon something that will be, instantly, seen as being utter “garbage”.

    Luke should have checked his facts and reread his article before submission!

    No worries, though, as he will surely enjoy a lucrative career with one of the “Redtops”!

    What surprised me more was “salutsunderland’s” comment “I did wonder when posting whether it was accurate” because IMHO “wonder” should never have entered into it!

  14. I was asking whether you were an expert on journalism, Phil; whether you had experience as a writer and/or editor and could thus comment from a position of wisdom on Luke’s perfectly human mistake. I’m assuming you’ve written, edited and published a great many times and always been error-free. Though I’m wondering if that is, in fact, the case, given that you don’t seem to understand the rather basic fact that Colin isn’t the owner of this site but also the editor and final pair of eyes on any submission before it appears here. In that role, of course, he should have corrected your spelling of “lazyness” to “laziness.” Oh, I guess that means you’re NOT perfect….

  15. I can only assume that Bill Taylor was referring to me when he said “You’re an expert then, are you?”

    If you would care to be more specific I will attempt to answer your question.

    I would make the point, however, that there is a world of difference between responding (posting a reply) to an article and publishing it.

    One takes a couple of minutes but the other takes far longer and with no swift deadline to meet (IMHO) the preparation should, certainly, be thorough – including checking the facts upon which the article is based.

    Mistakes when (for example) a match report is submitted can be excused/overlooked, because of time constraints.

    Without those there (again IMHO) can be no excuses!

  16. Bill Taylor said “Lighten up, Phil. All journalists, aspiring or otherwise, make mistakes from time to time and all writers, no matter who, need an editor.”

    I agree!

    However, a professional journalist (or an aspiring one) should check (and edit) the facts that form the “hub” of an article, prior to publishing it.

    He/she should not then rely on the goodwill of a website owner to cover up for the lazyness/ineptitude displayed by not doing that!

  17. Lighten up, Phil. All journalists, aspiring or otherwise, make mistakes from time to time and all writers, no matter who, need an editor.
    Colin, in his wisdom, edited my version of a Steve Bruce letter to remove the “bloody” from “bloody rubbish.” I hadn’t realized he had such tender sensibilities.

  18. “I have overruled Phil’s stern outlook and made a minor amendment to Luke’s text. I did wonder when posting whether it was accurate and should perhaps have changed it, or suggested a change, then.”

    Does that mean that all replies highlighting his idiotic statement will, also, be edited?

    Or will they remain to perplex people?

  19. Jeremy said

    “You are dead right about Quinny. His comments were so far out of order on the people down the pub. He should be looking at whether the people paying their hard earned cash are getting anything like value for money.”

    I can see both sides of this argument.

    However, I’m, definitely in NQ’s corner because I think that he was right!

    Maybe, some people have chosen to use the word “despise” too freely because he was ONLY referring to those people that could afford to attend games but PREFERRED not to and still refer to themselves as Sunderland supporters.

    Maybe, Jeremy needs to understand that (IMHO) value has to be relative and it is not possible to compare Germany with the UK (as much as we might like to).

    Borussia Dortmund v (for example) Bayern Munich – YES!

    Sunderland v (for example) Q.P.R. -YES!

    Borussia Dortmund v Q.P.R. – NO!!

    Maybe, on the other hand, he would wish to compare many other prices and then choose which suit his agenda?

  20. I have overruled Phil’s stern outlook and made a minor amendment to Luke’s text. I did wonder when posting whether it was accurate and should perhaps have changed it, or suggested a change, then.

  21. Whilst all supporters would like to think that their season ticket is the “Be all” of their club’s income then they need to look at their club’s accounts.

    I think that they will find that in the Premier League & The Championship there is no competition – TV wins every time!

    However, I take on board Jeremy’s point regarding lower league clubs and have to (sadly) admit that I am unsure about the applicable %’s.

    Regarding Luke Harvey’s request for an edit.

    If it was up to me, I would say NO WAY!!

    An aspiring “journo” must learn not to make such a ridiculous mistake in an article!!

    * I have made a minor amendment to Luke’s text – Salut! Sunderland

  22. Whilst Phil’s point is undoubtedly correct it is in some ways completely transient in as much as it disappears when a club is relegated. It’s more consistent income always comes through the turnstiles.

    * I have made a minor amendment to Luke’s text – Salut! Sunderland

  23. Phil is, of course, correct regarding the income from ticket sales/TV revenue and perhaps an edit should be made to reflect this.

    But thank you for the kind words thus far. Very much appreciated.

    * I have made a minor amendment to Luke’s text – Salut! Sunderland

  24. What an absolutely superb piece Luke.

    We had some friends over here from the UK (went back last week) and my mate was telling me that he had paid 17 quid to watch Southport v Mansfield Town. Unbelievable that non-league football costs more than Bayern Munich V Hamburg.

    You are dead right about Quinny. His comments were so far out of order on the people down the pub. He should be looking at whether the people paying their hard earned cash are getting anything like value for money.

  25. An enjoyable read that generally (I think) will represent the views of more than a few of our supporters.

    However, a couple of points, if I may.

    1) “Blackpool of all teams gave us the run around.”

    I don’t think that they did. Certainly, the result was not what we wanted but “run around”?

    2) “Let it not be forgotten that the majority of the clubs income will come from ticket sales.”

    I’m sorry but that is absolute twaddle!! The income from TV now dwarfs attendance revenues.

    * I have made a minor amendment to Luke’s text – Salut! Sunderland

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