On days such as this, it would be wrong for Salut! Sunderland to detach itself from events in a cruel world away from football. Our sympathies and solidarity go out to all those affected or bereaved by the tragic fire in a tower block in north Kensington, London overnight
Monsieur Salut writes: blame Barry Emmerson, ex-Ryhope Grammar, former cricketer, SAFC daft, football wise, chauffeur – in his smart limo – to everyone from matchdays refs to a soon-to-depart goalie. At Facebook, Barry pushed an episode of Call the Midwife in which his great friend Cass Farrar’s son, James, played a villain. And played it very well.
I’ve known James Farrar since he was a teenager, through meet-ups with Cass and Barry at, especially, away games. He’s great company and a credit to Sunderland lad Cass and his very Welsh wife, Bethan. I once got him into the Telegraph for work experience which – given his Clark Kent looks – might have propelled him, as with Clark, into a career in journalism. Sensibly, he chose acting and modelling instead and is doing OK. Here James answers a few questions about his beloved SAFC and the stage/screen progress that is impressive enough to make this a long-awaited addition to Salut! Sunderland‘s Celebrity Supporters series …
Salut! Sunderland: tell us a little about the Farrar family, its mighty Sunderland and Welsh connections and what it was like growing up away from either the North East or Wales
James Farrar: we Farrars are known as a mixed bunch in South London. Dad, an ex-colliery lad with a strong Whitburn accent, and mum’s broad Welsh accent means us “children” always get a strange look, sounding as we do more like Michael Caine than Micky Gray. I remember chanting at Roker and the fellow season ticket holders saying “that lad’s in the wrong end”.
When did you first come to realise you were a Sunderland supporter, like it or not?
Dad once bought me a cheap season ticket for our local team Charlton to save him having to take me home and away to watch the Lads. Unfortunately, when he was going off with his mates to Oldham away I was more interested in being with him.
An away support that beats any in the country meant that I was hooked from day one. As a small child I went to Wembley for the playoff final with Charlton and it broke my little heart. Dad was away (against his wishes!) so I went with Uncle Pete. I walked into school the following day proud with my VAUX red and white strip on and faced the wrath of the local Charlton boys. Well at least it wasn’t Millwall, I’d have walked away with a black eye.
What do you recall of earliest encounters with SAFC?
Around the heartache, Peter Reid gave me the happiest days of my Sunderland supporting life. Super Kev is my footballing hero but Bally, Julio and Quinny are up there. A memory that will stick in my mind forever was winning 0-2 away at West Ham, Varga and Hutchison on the scoresheet.
We were second in the league and it felt like it was totally deserved. It was down to a belief that Peter Reid had instilled in a bunch of workhorse, passionate players. I remember seeing Clive from the London branch, almost in tears. He said, “remember this moment James, it’ll never happen again.” I hoped it would but even if it doesn’t, this team has given me so much joy.
And how has mum put up with it all?
Dad and I have spent our lives following Sunderland and we owe a lot to my mum for being so understanding. I married Ali in March, who is just as understanding – as long as I take her dad to Selhurst for a few pints and the game. He is Palace!
You wondered about journalism and maybe had other notions but plumped for acting and modelling. Explain
I graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2010. I cut my teeth on the teen soap Hollyoaks and followed this with BBC and Channel 4 dramas. Most recently I was seen as East End gangster Lester Watts in Call the Midwife. This wasn’t the first show in which I’ve played a bad boy or gangster. Maybe I’m getting a name for it but it isn’t half fun.
Alongside acting I model for a big agency in London called Select who represent the likes of David Gandy, Jamie Dornan and Oliver Cheshire. It’s a great way to make money and travel the world…it also gives me the freedom to drop everything I’m doing once a big acting role arrives. Acting always being number one….after SAFC that is.
As it stands I love picking up good British scripts. British drama is just as good, if not better, than US at the moment. However, there is more being made in America and the budgets are higher so I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up there. I love LA but Ali and I would miss our families. And going to the match regularly.
Do you play for anyone or have you done so? if yes, what position and your self-assessment?
Played a high level for my local club Bridon Ropes in the Kent County League for years. I don’t play 11-a-side regularly now due to work but when I do I play up top and can still put the ball in the back of the net.
How hard is it being a Sunderland fan among gloryseeking Londoners?
It isn’t. They don’t understand the jubilation when we win after a run of losses. Each relegation battle recently has brought about emotions I doubt most football fans will ever experience. Extreme lows followed by extreme highs.
Best moment as a supporter?
0-5 away at Pride Park springs to mind. We had a few very memorable matches with Derby and we usually went as we always came away smiling! 0-5 was stunning though. Although, being 0-4 up at Palace this year was equally as stunning. Me, dad and 15 of my London mates were there as part of my stag do! Unbelievable.
0-3 away at Crewe. It was the day Jonny Wilkinson won us the Rugby World Cup so our journey home on the beers wasn’t half as bad.
Best player/s you’ve seen for us?
Recent years – Danny Rose and Danny Welbeck, two players on loan. Says a lot about recent years.
Past: SuperKev, Claudio Reyna, Tommy Sorensen
Tore Andre Flo, Jon Stead
What is needed at the club?
Loyalty. Leaders like Kevin Ball on the pitch. People who want to win for Sunderland…starting at the top.
How often do you manage to get to games?
It ranges season to season but usually five home games and plenty of away matches – all of the London games.
Can you imagine supporting anyone else or just giving up on SAFC?
Don’t be silly.
James Farrar adds a few unprompted words: please keep an eye out for me at the match. I love speaking to like-minded Mackems. See you next year at Craven Cottage. That’s always a great trip after a few pints on the Thames!
As for the season to come, if we are given something to shout about during pre-season and then into the first few games I think the SoL could become a fortress like it was when we first moved in there, a place teams feel overwhelmed to visit. That along with a Championship goalscorer and a no-nonsense manager could mean top six.