Branch Lines: sharing the ‘ecstasy and misery’ of Sunderland fans down south

Ian Todd

In the second item in our new series of SAFC Supporters’ Association branches, this is an introduction – for those who need it; Monsieur Salut is aware that many readers, himself included, are members – to an essential part of the Sunderland-supporting family that clocked up 50 years of existence last year. It should be read in conjunction with the piece about that anniversary, reproduced below, and written by Ian Todd, co-founder of the branch …

Spotlight on The London Branch

The London and Southern England branch was formed in 1967. Having a regular membership of around 450-500 members (the average over the past 10 years) all based across the South East, bringing together Sunderland fans of all ages for social get-togethers, match trips, with the aim of supporting each other through the general misery and ecstasy that is being a Sunderland AFC fan.

A founder life members of the parent body, the SAFCSA, Ian Todd raided the association’s membership list during the summer of 1966 and wrote to all with addresses in London and the Home Counties.

The result was a meeting before the game at West Ham in February 1967, attended by about 50 potential members, a club director and the parent body’s chairman, at which the London branch was inaugurated.

Suffering only occasional dips linked to the fortunes of the team, the branch has grown steadily over the years, with over 700 members at its 1999/2000 peak, is the largest of the associate branches of the parent body and one of the largest such supporter groups in the capital supporting a provincial team. Former branch members have been involved in the formation of the Peterborough, North Herts and Sussex and Surrey supporter groups and close friendships and working relationships are maintained with them.

As well as running group travel to all games whose timing hasn’t been made impractical by Sky television, the branch has a number of teams which take part in both friendly and competitive cricket, darts, football, pool and quiz competitions against other supporters’ clubs in the London area. It publishes a newsletter Wear Down South at least three times per season and e-mails all members regularly on club and branch matters.

The branch maintains a website at on which you can join on-line and posts regular updates of activities on at Facebook and on Twitter

From the branch’s Facebook page

And now for the piece Ian wrote in March 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the branch’s creation …

From Feb 6 1967: Ian’s letter to fellow SAFC fans announcing plans to establish a formal branch of the Supporters’ Association

Monsieur Salut writes: the London and SE branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association has just reached 50 years of age. In common with many who leave Sunderland-supporting parts of the North East to ply their trades in and around the Smoke, I eventually got round to joining the branch after seeing numerous mentions in the matchday programmes of various London clubs where I had attended away games. I’d put my membership at around 30 years, but I could and should have joined sooner, since I moved south a few months before the 1973 FA Cup Final. Plenty have done much longer stretches. Step forward Ian Todd, who was largely instrumental in creating the branch 50 years ago and has been a tireless mainstay of its activities.

… read what Ian had to say in a piece headlined ‘It’s all my fault’ in the new edition of the excellent branch newsletter, Wear Down South

In the summer of 1966 I visited the HQ office at Roker Park of the Supporters’ Association which had been formed a year earlier and was granted access (no Data Protection legislation then!) to their membership register from which I extracted the names and addresses of those who lived in London and the Home Counties.

The letter you see above was the result and about 50 members gathered before the game at Upton Park on 11th February the following year [we drew 2-2].

The chairman, Stanley Lambert, his vice chairman and two other members of the association’s committee in Sunderland attended and explained how they felt a group of fans in the South East could democratically be incorporated into the parent body. I was asked to form a steering committee and was grateful that John Coaster, Jack Petty, Len Spensley, (now sadly all deceased) and Michael Gatward stepped forward to volunteer. Len even recruited travellers for the embryo Branch’s first coach trip which took place to West Bromwich Albion a fortnight late [drew 2-2 again]!

Throughout the next few months other trips were run as well as developing the administrative arrangements necessary to become a fully fledged associate branch of the parent association. That was achieved at the inaugural annual general meeting on 30th September at which a full committee was elected with Jack Bone, Ian Earle, Joe Wetherall and Albert Younghusband adding their talents to those of the original helmsmen (minus Michael Gatward, who stepped down).

Wear Down South for the 2014 League Cup final. Image: Rob Hutchison

Whilst I was always hopeful that a branch with solid foundations could be established, the progress, indeed the durability, achieved over 50 years is principally due to the many who have been involved over that period not only as committee members but supporters in so many other ways and without whose efforts we would not be celebrating this summer’s events.

It is to them you, the current members, should be grateful. Collectively they have made my 1966 visit to Roker Park so worthwhile.

Click the image to visit the Salut! Sunderland home page

2 thoughts on “Branch Lines: sharing the ‘ecstasy and misery’ of Sunderland fans down south”

  1. I was having a look through a box of stuff looking for something a few months ago and started looking through some old programmes which were in the box.

    Included in one was an article about Ian attempting to set up the branch. I’ll dig it out when I’ve a bit of time to see which match it was and how times have changed.

    I’m pretty certain that in that programme was a copy of the Football League Review which included a letter from a Forest supporter complaining about people referring to Notts Forest which just goes to show that some things never change!

  2. Forever grateful to Ian and the branch for travel to away games in the late 60s when a student in London. I’ll never forget the 2-1 win at Old Trafford then going back to Ian’s flat to watch ‘Match of the Day ‘ and Kenneth Wolstenholme’s immortal words ” and Sunderland just here to make up the numbers” Happy Days

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