‘Great time to be a Sunderland supporter’ – and he means now

Jake and art: he knows what he likes
Jake and art: he knows what he likes

The writer of what follows started out as plain Ordinary Jon, his base “mostly Leicester”. We wondered whether he would choose to come in closer from the cold and now he has, revealing himself to be Jon Adamson*, a Peterlee exile. And this is the first blog posting he has written on his passion for Sunderland AFC. It appears in original form at http://www.ordinaryjon.com/1/post/2013/10/great-time-to-be-a-sunderland-fan.html and reads, with his consent, like this …

OK, we could have a few more points on the board. We could, perhaps, do with a young (or even an old?) Kevin Phillips up front, just on the off-chance that we manage to create something resembling a chance in the opposition’s box. Steve Bould at the back might help. Having a manager would be good too! However, I still think it’s a great time to be a Sunderland fan!

Supporting Sunderland has never really been about winning. We famously won the FA Cup when it still mattered, in 1973, and we basically beat all the best teams in the country to do sso. That was two years before I was born. Since then we’ve won a few lower leagues and lost a few Wembley finals and that’s about the limit to it. So supporting Sunderland definitely isn’t about winning trophies and I’m not sure it’s about winning games. It’s about the collective struggle, the despair, the joy, the hope, the striving for better; it’s the whole “football as a metaphor for life” thing.

Sure, I have wonderful happy memories of great victories: Marco scoring when we won the second leg play-off at SJP; that diving header by Gordon Armstrong at Roker Park; the Onuoha goal in the 0-3 demolition of Chelsea at the Bridge.

However, equally some of my best memories of supporting the lads are about times we’ve lost or at least times when we’ve been on our uppers.

I remember standing in the Roker End for the second leg of the relegation play-off against Gillingham; relegation play-offs – remember those kids? – they didn’t last for long did they?

No, but typical of Sunderland to be the biggest casualty of that quickly abandoned trial… and we went down on away goals! A grim time but towards the end of the game, as the depressing reality of relegation to the third tier for the first time in the clubs history grew closer, I can still remember the fans singing loudly (yes, even in the Roker End), “we’ll support you ever more, we’ll support you ever more, Sun-der-land! Sun-der-land Sun-DER-land!”. No cacophony of booing, no hurling of now-redundant season ticket books towards the dug-out. None of that. Instead, actual support. It probably helped that, by that point, the man stood in the dugout was Bob Stokoe rather that Lawrie Mackem/enemy but nonetheless it gave me goosebumps then, as it does thinking about it now. I was 12 then and in it for the long haul.

So the point at which Sunderland had – by any objective analysis – the worst team that they have ever had was a seminal moment for me supporting the Lads. Just around the corner from that moment of great despair, the next season was brilliant. A young player called Marco came along, we ran away with the league (albeit the Third Division) and had some great entertainment along the way.

There have been other moments of light in otherwise dark times too. I remember sitting in the clock stand with my dad for a game just after we’d swapped Billy Whitehurst and Ian Hesford, plus a huge bundle of cash for “it’s an easy one for…” Tony Norman.

Someone shouted that Whitehurst had scored in the first minute of his first game for Hull. As the muttering and “bloody typicals” died down someone else shouted, “wait, Hesford’s just equalised!”. I remember my dad choking on his drink – not a big fan of hapless Hesford was my dad. I can remember that, but I can’t remember what the score was or even who we were playing?

And who could forget the comical hat-trick of own goals in seven minutes against Charlton under Sgt Wilko? And the bloke doing his nut and being hauled out of the North Stand by a group of stewards as a chant of “one lucky bastard, there’s only one lucky bastard!” went up as he got an early release from the misery of watching Sunderland that day.

Jake's stylishly irresistible invitation
Jake’s stylishly irresistible invitation – the Man Utd ‘Who are You?’ will appear here from Thursday morning

So, why is it a great time to be a Sunderland fan now?

Well, because it’s always a great time to be a Sunderland fan of course! Yes, things haven’t been great, but you don’t need that long a memory to recall that they have been a lot worse. I guarantee that there will be at least five brilliant things which happen this season which Sunderland fans will remember for years to come. They won’t all be the same things but that’s the point. It would be typical of Sunderland, after this horrendous start, to then beat Man U or go on a good cup run. And then still get relegated.

Like all long term relationships in your life they can sometimes be frustrating or depressing but, what are you going to do, give up? Support someone else? Nah, stick with it, stick with supporting your team. Great things might happen soon and you wouldn’t want to miss it.

Getting to know ... Jon Adamson
Getting to know … Jon Adamson
* We invited Jon to fill in with as much detail as he wished, beyond what could already be seen in the self-description at his blog: ‘Researcher. Parent. Sports fan. Music listener. Observer of things. Visual thinker.’
This is his response: ‘born and raised in Peterlee, exiled in Leicester since 1996. Former SAFC season ticket holder and now Midlands-bound parent of three little smashers (these two points are related). Also do research, info-graphics, running & cycling.’

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15 thoughts on “‘Great time to be a Sunderland supporter’ – and he means now”

  1. As a Leicester fan I always enjoyed a visit to Roker Park, we occasionally even had a paddle beforehand !! I have often wondered how Steve Whitworth & Bob Lee played for you ? Steve was a very good full back with England caps who never really realised his potential. Bob was an old fashioned forward who we thought you paid an awful lot of money for ?

  2. As a Leicester fan I agree with the above comment. When you look at some of the teams that have been in the top flight in recent seasons I thought we are bigger clubs than them & we have been out of the top flight for a decade.

    Our best days were in the 60’s & 70’s & under O’Neill ( if I dare mention the name ! ) in the 90’s but mostly it has been tough to be a City fan. I miss the old grounds like Roker & Filbert Street, they had more atmosphere & passion than the modern grounds, but at least no one can take away the memories of the good old days. As for your FA Cup win that was in the days when the Cup really mattered .

  3. Whilst I do understand the sentiment of the piece, and being 54yrs old I’ve seen most of the good and bad times, I do wonder….why not just a teensy weensy bit of success along with some more good times?

    I look at Swansea, Wigan, Stoke, Bolton (under Big Sam), Birmingham, and they’ve all tasted European nights, either through league position or winning a pot. Even New9ast1e have had runs in the Champions League, ffs!! Are we really lesser clubs than these?

    A pot, a top 7 finish and a team playing decent football with the respect of the football nation……too much to ask?

    • I agree really mate. Hopefully I’ll live long enough to rewrite something about how it’s all about the quality of the football & European adventures! I’m sitting watching Swansea winning again in Europe as I write this & you do think; why can’t that be us? One day mate…

  4. One of the great memories that one Drummer. That little gentleman Speedie nearly landed on top of us when Gary grabbed him by the throat and pushed him over. It was right in front of us. It was a wonder Speedie got out of the Clock Stand alive that night. Great memories.

    The Sixer will remember it as vividly as me as he was stood on the barrier in the usual spot right behind us.

    It’s not fun like that any more, sadly. I loved Roker and loved the days when we were absolute dross.

    • Strange isn’t it? The WHOLE crowd claim that the Bernno incident happened right in front of them, including me. Were we all standing on the same spot or does memory play tricks?

  5. I know this sounds funny but I’d like our players to be a little more “upset” when they lose. As opposed to swapping shirts at half time with the other team.
    If Sunderland lose, I’m peeved for most of Saturday. When they win, it has an affect on me.

    I was reading an interview with SAF and he liked players who got upset when they lost (Keane, Beckham etc) didn’t like losing. Thats what kind of players I’d like. PDC had some faults but was 100% committed and passionate and when the team lost , he was upset. A PDC with man management skills would be a formidable boss.

    From the players point of view I can understand why a “steady” personality is needed otherwise they’d get too depressed to play well, but I sense that this group of lads there is a bit of passion lacking. A passion that ends up with you stretchered off at the end of a game because you’ve given 200% and aren’t physically able to move.

  6. Aye, to be honest apart from those Reid years we have being mostly dross in the top flight . Has any team apart from Sunderland spent so much to achieve so little? I know we have a proud history of title wins but even the last one is a lifetime ago . Anyway that’s not in the spirit of this article which I enjoyed, the three own goals at home to Charlton had us in the Wheatchief by half time ( I know stop to the end but we were just at rock bottom at the time ). Of course how can anything top our captain Benno being sent off for attempting to twist David Speedy’s head off? My brother and I still agree its one of the funniest things ever seen on a football pitch or off it to be exact .

  7. We came, we lost, we couldn’t give a t***, Sunderland!

    Some great memories in there and a good read Jon. You wish it was as much of a laugh these days as in the eighties and nineties but it’s a much more serious competition now.

  8. This had me chuckling because the real fun of being a Sunderland fan has in my experience always been when things were far, far worse than they are now.

    The Third Division season was a great example of that. Losing at Twerton Park 4-1 against Bristol Rovers, when we finished the game with 10 men and I dropped my pie on the ground on the way back to the car.

    Losing 3-2 to thanks to a Steve Berry brace having been 2-0 up after a quarter of an hour at Aldershot where you could watch a group of old folks playing bowls behind the ground.

    Laughing out loud at the complete ineptitude of the likes of Saddington, Cunnington and the like.

    Great days and a great article which sums it up for me. I don’t enjoy it at all when we are in the top flight and apart from a couple of seasons under Reidy I never have in all honesty.

  9. Yes it reminds me of why we support the Lads but also of that golfing story where in a pro am in Scotland one player had failed with his fifteenth shot to get out of the bunker.

    He turned to his caddie and said” funny game golf isn’t it?”

    The caddie replied “Aye sir but its no meant to be.”

  10. Thanks for that, I think it sums up (very well) the feelings of many SAFC supporters.

    Unfortunately/fortunately they won’t wash with one ex SAFC follower (I can’t bring myself to refer to him any other way)!

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