Rarely have I felt such mixed feelings about the fate of two clubs whose relegations have been confirmed on the same day. Sad for Pompey, elated at Coventry’s descent.
Too many Coventry City supporters simply cannot get a grasp on how bitter Sunderland fans rightly still feel about the manner of that relegation in 1977.
Yes, we went down principally because we hadn’t been good enough over the season to stay up. That is a circumstance most SAFC fans have known and accepted. I lose count sometimes but have witnessed something like eight Sunderland relegations.
And yes, too, Jimmy Hill and Coventry ought to have been kicked out of the league for their gleeful exploitation of the ”crowd congestion” that gave them a later kickoff on the last night of the season. This allowed the players of both sides, Coventry and Bristol City, the opportunity, duly taken, to keep the score at 2-2 for the remaining 15 minutes in the knowledge that Sunderland’s defeat at Everton meant a draw would keep both up. Miraculously, the result from Goodison had popped up on the electronic scoreboard.
As the A Love Supreme fanzine put it tonight in a Facebook status update: ”Dear Coventry, enjoy League One. Hahahahahahaha. Yours, Sunderland.”
Indeed, no tears will be shed on Wearside, or anywhere Sunderland supporters are exiled.
Pompey is different. I have always enjoyed going to Fratton Park, despite the certainty of heavy rain in the away end, uncovered until recent years, whenever we played there and the feeling that you were gathered on a bomb site.
Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspapers, which owned the local papers in each city, may have been no more than a business collaboration. But it injected an element of shared identity. And Pompey has always seemed a proper football club supported by proper fans. Shame on the charlatans who have inflicted on such a club its present plight.
When Pompey, on their way out of the Premier, reached the FA Cup Final for the second time in three seasons in 2010 (this reference has been corrected after an error was pointed out by Frattoniser at the PompeyonLine site), my Paris-based pal Peter Allen, a lifelong Portsmouth fan, wrote these words here:
Portsmouth fans have a lot in common with the fabled band of the RMS Titanic at the moment. The icy waters of bankruptcy are lapping in, most of the lifeboats have long since disappeared, and we’re left manning the trumpets and drums for what is potentially our last hurrah.
As a highly improbable Cup Final against Chelsea beckons following the end of seven successive seasons in the Premiership many of us are even prepared to admit that there might be a fun side to financial meltdown. We may be relegated, £120 million in debt and a few ….ahem… “accounting errors” away from liquidation, but when there’s a chance to run through a few versus of Abide with Me while wearing a bright blue Afro wig what’s not to look forward to?
It will be Que Sera Sera after May 15, but the game itself will be the kind of David and Goliath confrontation that helped define Sunderland’s own recent history.
In 1973 it was Jimmy Montgomery’s double save from Peter Lorimer and an Ian Porterfield volley which earned the nominally second division Mackems a legendary triumph against high-flying Leeds United. As with Pompey, a dismal few months in Europe followed (you went out of the UEFA Cup in the second round to Sporting Lisbon) before some distinctly mediocre seasons and some very serious money problems starting in the 1990s, but at least you had your unforgettable day in the north west London sunshine to bask in for decades to come.
… The eight musicians on history’s most famous liner played their hearts out during the tragedy of April 14 1912, even accepting requests like Alexander’s Ragtime Band and In the Shadows as the waves crashed in.
Both songs could not be more appropriate to our rapidly sinking club (think Alex Gaydamak, and the place you end up after falling out of the Premiership) but, win or lose, I can’t help feeling that our second FA Cup Final in as many years might still provide glorious inspiration for one of the greatest re-flotations in both financial and football history.
Monsieur Salut will be chuffed to bits if Pompey romp through League One next season while Coventry City are left come May 2013 contemplating League Two – unless, of course, it’s possible to reach the Conference, rather like going to jail in Monopoly, Without Passing Two.