Nick Donaldson is a smashing bloke in all respects save that he supports Newcastle United. A past winner of the Salut! Sunderland HAWAY award* (for the best interview of the season with an opposing fan; see footnote), Nick admits he cannot deny enjoying our plight at least a little but adds: ‘You have my sympathies’ ….
If a week is a long time in politics, two years is a lifetime in football.
Two years ago we suffered the barbs of Rafa Beneathus, banners on the Tyne Bridge, the whole gammut of “We sent the Mags down”, hot on the heels of the interminable 6-in-a-row [so interminable it was seven if we count the 6-0 win in a behind-closed-doors friendly – Ed] .
Two years man! Nowt. Even then it seemed Sunderland’s implosion was imminent. Like an Exocet missile, even if you could see it coming you could do f*** all about it. Bang. You had danced around the bottom five for most of the your Premier League tenure, only hanging on by the good fortune of having the Indian Sign over us, guaranteeing a skin-of-the-teeth survival… until we were gone.
Chuck in the reluctant, misguided, owner – broken by his fortune being wasted by successive incompetent, sometimes ridiculous, management and the tarnishing of what Sunderland prided itself on most of all by the abhorrent actions of a player and the club management’s handling of the whole sordid affair which all played a part in what has brought you to this moment.
The foundation of the club was perceived to be a that of moral compass, a club of the people, a club that did things right.
It annoyed us that you revelled in this while looking down on us and our errant players, crass owner, and what you saw as our croissantised pretentiousness from your moral highground. You threw that away.
Am I enjoying your misfortune? Yeah, of course I am. It’s what we do… to each other… and then whinge about the other side enjoying the hurt just too much and whine that when we did it it was “only banter”. You had your schadenfreude, it would be churlish to begrudge us ours.
But I don’t think it’s the end. I reckon it could be the beginning.
Sweep it all away, get rid of everything. Dreadful players, stupid management… that hideous shirt. Start again. Move forward.
It’s hurtful but learn from us, Rafa was key, but the feeling of togetherness and sense of purpose he engendered has been the main reason we are bobbing along into the calmer waters of stability. You need to strive for the same.
There for the grace of Rafa goes us. Two years from now let’s see where we are.
* Nick’s Who are You? interview was described here as one of the finest the series has produced. It was headlined Newcastle v SAFC Who are You?: ‘never met a Mackem I disliked’ and can be seen in full at this link