Is supporting Sunderland a waste of time and space?

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake

Others have hauled me over the coals and I now accept I was probably too kind, as supersub for Pete Sixsmith’s Sixer’s Sevens, in stressing the late efforts to salvage a point at Chelsea.

My seven-worder, “Fought like tigers. Undone by woeful start”, was intended to convey both a spot of praise for the way we played in the last half hour at Stamford Bridge and exasperation at how badly we’d begun the game.

But the choice of words struck a discordant note with some. Even Big Sam seems to have been emphasising the negatives of the match more than I did.

People have had enough.

No one thanks me for the occasional reminder that in our current nine-year stretch in the Premier, only one manager has got close to delivering results commensurate with such great support – and that manager was Steve Bruce. I shall go to my grave admiring him for that finish in 10th place, though I also share most Salut! Sunderland readers’ disgust at the way he has conducted himself since his dismissal when thing went wrong, as they most decidedly did.

From the rest, we’ve had relentless dross, wretched football and rotten results, Premier survival assured by the failings of others or extraordinary escapes accomplished by late heroics.

As things stand just before Christmas, we’d be fools to expect a similar outcome – survival by the skin of our teeth – this season. Five points adrift of a place out of the bottom three, we face two games few expect us to win or even draw (Man City away, Liverpool at home) and a third, Villa at home, that has danger written all over it.

As put by David Jobling, a recent Guess the Score winner (and no, he didn’t get his prize for predicting a Sunderland win), “all I see this season is gloom”

David says: “I think we have dodged one bullet too many. I can’t see even Sam saving us unless there are again major personnel changes in Jan. I think we will get beaten by City but put up a decent fight. Liverpool is a hard one to predict. Villa is definitely a key game. I think we might be about dead by end of Jan.”

Salut! Sunderland is read mostly, on my reckoning, by mature supporters ranging from home-and-away stalwarts to exiles. When they start talking as David does, you know we’re in deep trouble.

It could all suddenly go well. A cracking performance at the Etihad could be followed by points next Wednesday and again versus Villa, with more to come as January progresses. We don’t expect it, but it might just happen.

The reality, unfortunately, is that unless Allardyce works wonders in the transfer window, it is difficult to see us clawing a way out of the relegation zone. Can we honestly say there are three sides worse than us?

All the same, as 2016 approaches, it is right to salute that one, constant source of SAFC heroics: the support. Forget the mass walkouts when the likes of Villa and Palace pile on the humiliation.

Instead, consider the fantastic home attendances (for a team that has won all of twice at the SoL, league cup apart, so far this season) and the routinely sold-out away allocations. Feel the passion, especially away. I wish I could say the same about support for this site: today’s readership figure has struggled to get above 200 and this week’s Guess the Score has barely attracted 80.

In the bleak midwinter for Sunderland supporters, it feels a thankless task. But maybe I get too obsessed with how many people come here. And as I told David Jobling in my reply, my own level of support will never change whatever division we play in and however many or few visit Salut! Sunderland.

So to answer the question posed in my headline, “no, a hundred times no”. We’re keeping the faith.

And in conclusion, appropriate with City our next opponents, here’s a little something I prepared earlier. It first appeared here a few years ago and went something like this …

On the evening of Dec 9 2002, Sunderland lost 3-0 at home to Manchester City.

Earlier that day, I had joined a queue at London’s Canary Wharf, where I then worked, to buy a couple of copies of Niall Quinn’s autobiography and have them signed by the great man, who was out of the team because of injury.

For my copy, I asked for some message about the night he’d scored the winner and later, after Tommy Sorensen was carried off, kept goal at Bradford City in March 1999. This he did with the words: “To Colin. From a pretend Goalie! (v. Bradford) – Love, Niall Quinn).

Then I asked him to sign a copy for Pete Sixsmith. Despite the awful state Sunderland were in – 18th – I suggested something upbeat, offering hope of survival. After a short pause for thought, he wrote simply: “Keep the faith.” By the end of the night we were 19th; Howard Wilkinson was no kind of saviour and Sunderland were relegated with the first of our two record-creating lows, 19 points.

8 thoughts on “Is supporting Sunderland a waste of time and space?”

  1. It would be great to be a force in the PL again but when is it going to happen?

    Everyone fears relegation and thinks it would be the end of the world. It never is. Many of us have seen it before. The seasons in the championship have generally been good ones in the last 20 years, with decent (ish) footy and wins.

    A lot of those games still stick in the mind. Nowadays I can’t even remember who they played a month ago!

    There would be more games in the championship. More wins. Cheaper tickets. More games in the North. Not paying £50 to sit behind the goal at Chelsea to witness a match over in two minutes.

    People constantly say how important it is to stay in the PL because of the new TV deal. Why? There is a new TV deal every three years. The money doesn’t seem to make an iota of difference on the pitch though. Not at Sunderland.

    Mediocrity reigns but the very average players employed are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams in comparison to their skills and abilities.

    It is a gravy train for non-entity players from abroad. Why should Sunlun sign someone on massive wages who is not good enough to get into an average Serie A side?

    Footy is meant to be fun. An escapism. Entertainment. There’s been very little of that in the last nine years of simply trying to exist in the top flight because “the TV money is important”.

    I remember when Ricky S’Bragia took over from Roy Keane and Sunderland stayed up six or seven years ago. Everyone thought at the time it was a chance to get established in the top flight and bring in decent players and maybe have a return to the (two) halcyon years under Peter Reid.

    It wasn’t. But relegation wouldn’t be the end of the world either. It would be the start of another era. And one that is perhaps not so riddled with greed.

  2. Fed up ? Yes . Contemplating jacking it in ? Never . It’s part of our DNA this club . We feel its history , its triumphs and its many failures and we become part of them as the club becomes part of us .Do we avoid the drop at the end of the season again and face yet another god awfull campaign of struggle , or do we take our medicine at last , face up to the problems we have and start again ? Whatever happens it will be both good and bad and that my friends is SAFC .

  3. It’s a lifelong habit and to stop is unthinkable. I am used to failure in the old first division and its successor but, ever the optimist, lots of success in the second division/championship. Our experiences supporting Sunderland are similar to the vast majority of football supporters and the very last thing we endure is lonliness.

  4. Having not been born in Sunderland and living my whole life in the Cotswolds I can truly say supporting Sunderland is hard but worth every second! My Father came down from Hylton castle in the 60’s looking for work and got considerably more. I followed the lads throughout the 80’s and 90’s mostly away but home when I could. Now I have passed the curse down to my two sons who are 12 and 6 and the most passionate fans you will find. It’s character building I always tell them and two bigger characters you won’t find anywhere!

    The hotel has been booked and you will find us all at the Liverpool game shouting and screaming as normal. Let’s hope for a result as always.

    Keep the faith! There is a corner of the Cotswolds that will forever be red and white!!!

  5. I asked myself the same question after the Chelsea match. I attended Stamford Bridge with my two Essex born sons and their cousin who had flown in from Baltimore. I asked them if they had ever wished they supported another team, Arsenal, Ipswich, even Colchester United. Almost without hesitation they replied ‘no’ and said supporting Sunderland was consistently rubbish in terms of results but they wouldn’t swap the passion for anything else. Having condemned them to a lifetime of misery (football wise) at an early age I was quite moved but knew what they meant. There is nothing like supporting Sunderland….

    • We are what we are…Thats true,many times ive said what the crap am I doing,but I cant get them out my head,,,,however bad they are……

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