Summer Gold: (3) Tasmin Archer, No 1 star among Sunderland’s celebrity supporters

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Back in 2007, when Salut! Sunderland was a long way from its first million hits, we reproduced a series of Celebrity Supporters interviews originally written a few years earlier for Wear Down South, the newsletter of London branch of the SAFCSA.

It had been the idea of Joan Dawson, whose brother Malcolm is these days Salut!’s deputy editor. What was intended as the final piece –, wrapping up all the successes and failures of the series – appeared on June 6. On the same day, wondering if there might be scope for a new batch of interviews, I wrote to Tasmin Archer, the soul singer who’d had a No 1 hit with Sleeping Satellite in 1992. I’d heard she supported Sunderland; she replied the next day and an interview was set up.

Here, for those new to it, is a repeat of the resulting article. NB: except where clearly updated, all relates to the the time of the interview (June 2007) …

People arrive at their support for a particular football team by a variety of routes. The most common, unless you are a fan of such clubs (or brands as I call them) as Man Utd, Real Madrid or Juventus*,
remains geographical. You started going because you lived in or near the town where the club plays, and were probably taken to your first game by your dad or some other close relative.

Leaving aside the designer fans and glory seekers who latch on to a brand, there are a host of other introductions. Sir Tim Rice liked the name, and the idea that no one else at his Home Counties school supported us. Others were inspired by the images of our 1973 FA Cup success as underdogs against then mighty Leeds.

Tasmin Archer belongs to another category, fans who develop their own affection for, and loyalty towards, a club because of human relationships.

Born in Bradford, and now living in Leeds, the lady with the soulful voice never felt attracted to Elland Road or Valley Parade.

As a child of the 70s, Tasmin, the youngest of four children, was deterred by the twin scourges – often related – of hooliganism and racism. Her brothers would tend to follow players (one of them liked West Ham chiefly because he so admired Trevor Brooking, for example), while Tasmin enjoyed watching most televised sports.

It was not until she met, began working with and subsequently dated Sunderland-born John Hughes that she developed her own fondness for football. “It rubbed off on me,” she says now.

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John would risk the future of this great romance by wittering on about football and in particular his passion for SAFC. “It sort of crept up on me and we started going to matches in the late 80s,” Tasmin says.

“At the time, I was really busy with work and when everything then took off for me a little later, it became very difficult to get to many games. But I finally got my season ticket in 1999.”

Tasmin did little blowing of her own trumpet during our conversation, so let someone else explain a little of what she meant when talking about the time “everything took off”.

This is from a neat little website run by one Phunky Phill, (which now – 2014 – seems to be defunct -Ed):

Signing to EMI in 1990, Tasmin Archer became an overnight success due to arguably one of the best number 1’s of the 90’s, “Sleeping Satellite”. The accompanying album “Great Expectations” spawned three other hit singles, the most famous being “In Your Care” which many people believe to be called ‘Son Of A Bitch’ from the line ending … you broke my heart. “Lords Of The New Church” and “Arienne” being the lesser known, but not inferior, other two. An Elvis Costello covers EP “Shipbuilding” followed in 1994, and spent two years recording her follow up “Bloom”. Due to EMI’s lack of support, the album and singles flopped, which left her disillusioned with the music industry.

In fact Tasmin did return to the studios. Triumphing over a bout of writer’s block, about which Salut! Sunderland knows plenty, she and John slowly developed the album that was finally released with the title On last September. (2104 update: Check it out at

As the relationship with John grew stronger – “I was very shy, but felt very comfortable wiuth him…..he has a very calming presence and our chemistry just worked well” – she became more interested in football. But it was not until a game against Leeds under Peter Reid that she suddenly felt she had become part of our great army of supporters.

A Newcastle fan and a Leeds supporter were among the group attending the match with her. She remembers desperately wanting Sunderland to win and feeling the pain of defeat (it sounds like the home game in the 1996-1997 relegation season, which we lost 1-0).

“It just felt like nothing I’d ever experienced. It felt so good being with fellow Sunderland supporters, like being part of a family or tribe.”

She went through all the familiar highs and lows of the Reid era, and appreciates what Mick McCarthy did with limited resources. But she says she always suspected he did not quite have what it took not only to get us back up again, but to keep us up.

“Even during the McCarthy/Keane row, I remember always being on Roy Keane’s side. I like his attitude, the things he said seemed to make sense. I know McCarthy was the Irish team manager and therefore the boss, but I felt at the time that what Keane was saying – ‘let’s have some ambition’ – showed what kind of guy he is. Just turning up is not good enough for him.”

And now that Roy Keane is ours? “I have my feet on the ground,” says Tasmin, clearly a fast learner on what it means to follow Sunderland. “But I am optimistic. Roy is absolutely right to say aiming for fourth bottom is not good enough; you have to be realistic but that kind of talk sends out bad, give-up vibes. You have to be a bit cockier and he has that understanding.”

Tasmin was especially impressed last season by Dean Whitehead. Nyron has “come a long way” but she wonders how he will fare without the classy presence of Jonny Evans.

John and Tasmin get to so many games now that their loyalty points ensure ticklets for the trickier games, Colchester and Luton away in the promotion run-in being good examples. “I hate not being there…..cannot even listen on the radio because it’s just not the same. When you’re there, you feel as if you can actually do something about the way the game is going.”

The question had to be put. Was being at Luton, seeing us climch the championship in spectacular style, better than reaching number one ion the charts.

But no matter how many times I asked, regardless of how I changed the question around, it was one she found hard to answer. Different emotions were at play, it seems. And in any case, some of her strongest professional feelings have surrounded live or studio work, being part of a team of people she regards as gifted musicians.

“I do realise it was a brilliant thing to have happened, getting to number one,” she says. “But my way of thinking is just to move on.”

For the future, Tasmin wants to go on making the sort of music that pleases her and her fans, whether or not it please the masters of corporate pop. And to get to lots of games.

Salut! Sunderland warmly thanks Tasmin for her time, and for her thoughts on football and music. Thanks, too, for the wonderful photograph accompanying this posting.

It is naturally of Tasmin, but not as you might expect to see her if your paths crossed in the West Stand.

“I used to wear colours,” she says. “Then I became more blasé about it, and it’s more occasional now. But they’re there in my heart.”

* Tasmin and I occasionally exchange tweets etc. At least one other SAFC-related publication, The Legion of Light, flattered us by imitation, running its own interview some time after our exclusive …

Interview: Colin Randall

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