The writer of what follows started out as plain Ordinary Jon, his base “mostly Leicester”. We wondered whether he would choose to come in closer from the cold and now he has, revealing himself to be Jon Adamson*, a Peterlee exile. And this is the first blog posting he has written on his passion for Sunderland AFC. It appears in original form at http://www.ordinaryjon.com/1/post/2013/10/great-time-to-be-a-sunderland-fan.html and reads, with his consent, like this …
OK, we could have a few more points on the board. We could, perhaps, do with a young (or even an old?) Kevin Phillips up front, just on the off-chance that we manage to create something resembling a chance in the opposition’s box. Steve Bould at the back might help. Having a manager would be good too! However, I still think it’s a great time to be a Sunderland fan!
Supporting Sunderland has never really been about winning. We famously won the FA Cup when it still mattered, in 1973, and we basically beat all the best teams in the country to do sso. That was two years before I was born. Since then we’ve won a few lower leagues and lost a few Wembley finals and that’s about the limit to it. So supporting Sunderland definitely isn’t about winning trophies and I’m not sure it’s about winning games. It’s about the collective struggle, the despair, the joy, the hope, the striving for better; it’s the whole “football as a metaphor for life” thing.
Sure, I have wonderful happy memories of great victories: Marco scoring when we won the second leg play-off at SJP; that diving header by Gordon Armstrong at Roker Park; the Onuoha goal in the 0-3 demolition of Chelsea at the Bridge.
However, equally some of my best memories of supporting the lads are about times we’ve lost or at least times when we’ve been on our uppers.
I remember standing in the Roker End for the second leg of the relegation play-off against Gillingham; relegation play-offs – remember those kids? – they didn’t last for long did they?
No, but typical of Sunderland to be the biggest casualty of that quickly abandoned trial… and we went down on away goals! A grim time but towards the end of the game, as the depressing reality of relegation to the third tier for the first time in the clubs history grew closer, I can still remember the fans singing loudly (yes, even in the Roker End), “we’ll support you ever more, we’ll support you ever more, Sun-der-land! Sun-der-land Sun-DER-land!”. No cacophony of booing, no hurling of now-redundant season ticket books towards the dug-out. None of that. Instead, actual support. It probably helped that, by that point, the man stood in the dugout was Bob Stokoe rather that Lawrie Mackem/enemy but nonetheless it gave me goosebumps then, as it does thinking about it now. I was 12 then and in it for the long haul.
So the point at which Sunderland had – by any objective analysis – the worst team that they have ever had was a seminal moment for me supporting the Lads. Just around the corner from that moment of great despair, the next season was brilliant. A young player called Marco came along, we ran away with the league (albeit the Third Division) and had some great entertainment along the way.
There have been other moments of light in otherwise dark times too. I remember sitting in the clock stand with my dad for a game just after we’d swapped Billy Whitehurst and Ian Hesford, plus a huge bundle of cash for “it’s an easy one for…” Tony Norman.
Someone shouted that Whitehurst had scored in the first minute of his first game for Hull. As the muttering and “bloody typicals” died down someone else shouted, “wait, Hesford’s just equalised!”. I remember my dad choking on his drink – not a big fan of hapless Hesford was my dad. I can remember that, but I can’t remember what the score was or even who we were playing?
And who could forget the comical hat-trick of own goals in seven minutes against Charlton under Sgt Wilko? And the bloke doing his nut and being hauled out of the North Stand by a group of stewards as a chant of “one lucky bastard, there’s only one lucky bastard!” went up as he got an early release from the misery of watching Sunderland that day.
So, why is it a great time to be a Sunderland fan now?
Well, because it’s always a great time to be a Sunderland fan of course! Yes, things haven’t been great, but you don’t need that long a memory to recall that they have been a lot worse. I guarantee that there will be at least five brilliant things which happen this season which Sunderland fans will remember for years to come. They won’t all be the same things but that’s the point. It would be typical of Sunderland, after this horrendous start, to then beat Man U or go on a good cup run. And then still get relegated.
Like all long term relationships in your life they can sometimes be frustrating or depressing but, what are you going to do, give up? Support someone else? Nah, stick with it, stick with supporting your team. Great things might happen soon and you wouldn’t want to miss it.
* We invited Jon to fill in with as much detail as he wished, beyond what could already be seen in the self-description at his blog: ‘Researcher. Parent. Sports fan. Music listener. Observer of things. Visual thinker.’
This is his response: ‘born and raised in Peterlee, exiled in Leicester since 1996. Former SAFC season ticket holder and now Midlands-bound parent of three little smashers (these two points are related). Also do research, info-graphics, running & cycling.’
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