See the whole Beauty and Beasts series, presenting supporters’ thoughts on the succession of SAFC shirts over the years, at https://safc.blog/category/beauties-and-beasts/. And if you fancy a browse through the Classic Football Shirts Sunderland range, take a look at http://bit.ly/1ZNPCJA#sthash.P10KFjhR.dpuf. Our deal is that anything readers buy also helps the site with running costs …
No, I am not at all interested in owning replica shirts, even Sunderland ones.
So, why am I writing this, I hear you say? Well, firstly because I took Colin’s plea for contributions to the shirt genre (oops, French again) topic to heart and secondly because looking through the Classic Football Shirts website, I came across the above which caused a touch of nostalgia.
So, I will share with you why I have no interest in replica shirts and then share with you my moment of nostalgia. My personal view is that they represent another piece of exploitation by clubs of their most faithful and ardent fans.
Clubs know that many fans and their children want to own the latest shirt worn by their idols and so a new strip is needlessly produced every season. I am convinced this leads to financial hardship for some families, driven by meeting unreasonable expectations.
On a personal practical note, I would find it difficult if not absurd to wear a shirt on top of the many layers of clothing a wrinkly needs to survive watching a game at the Stadium of Light!
So, what follows is a thread that eventually leads to a tenuous link with the 2008/9 home shirt.
I started supporting Sunderland in about 1955, inspired by Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly magazine. Living in Bristol meant getting to home games was pretty much impossible, especially for an 11-year-old.
Even when we moved home to Birmingham in 1976, I only managed the occasional home game, contenting myself with watching Sunderland perform at away games in and around the Midlands.
Then, in 2008, having recently retired, I read an article in A Love Supreme magazine about the Heart of England branch of the club’s Supporters Association. A few phone calls with some really kind members and I was “on my way” on the sporting adventure of a lifetime!
On the morning of the 29th of November I drove to Loughborough in Leicestershire and then journeyed on to the Stadium of Light with other branch members. We chatted cheerfully about the club, the team, the season and our personal connections with the club and, of course, how we would beat Bolton Wanderers.
We went to our separate seats to watch the game and, just like a nightmare unfolding, I saw a clearly unfit Craig Gordon concede three goals in rapid succession. Despite Cisse pulling a goal back before half time, Bolton ran out comfortable winners, 4-1.
My mind was in a spin. Was it my fault? What would we talk about during the three hour journey back to Loughborough?
I needn’t have worried, my travelling companions had been ever-presents during both the 19 and 15-point seasons. By the time we had reached Smogland we had already seen several positives from the game and were looking forward to the next fixture.
My memory fails me when I try to recall the exact timing of the announcement that Roy Keane had thrown his toys out of the pram but I like to think it was before we said our goodbyes at Loughborough, late that evening.
In any event, exhibiting all the symptoms of madness, I am still doing it, 156 games (those I’ve attended) and seven shirts (those seen) later. Why? Hmmm. Perhaps that could lead to another series …