My team

The paper I work for in the Gulf, The National, launches its Saturday edition today (Nov 15), making it a seven-day-a-week publication. The sports section has a new feature – My Team – and has shown a healthy sense of priorities, running my piece on Sunderland as the first in the series. Here it is….but after reading it, post a Comment telling Salut! Sunderland why YOU support SAFC and what it means to you (or another team if you strayed in here but support someone else). Footie books for Christmas will be the prize for the best entry, as judged by me and assuming sufficient people reply to make it worthwhile

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You do not, or should not, choose a club to support in the way you select from a menu or rack of clothes. Clubs choose you.

Well, that is how it used to be. You followed the team in the town in or near where you lived as a child, or which had been your father’s team even if the family had moved away.

One fellow supporter of Sunderland AFC characterised his allegiance as an “act of malignant fate”.

But his commitment, like mine, was never in doubt. We both grew up in County Durham, in north east England, at a time when Sunderland was part of the county.

My father first took me to see them play at Middlesbrough when even standing on tiptoes failed to produce a clear sight of the pitch. Somehow I glimpsed Brian Clough’s winning goal and knew in an instant that Sunderland would be the passion of my life. And how I have suffered for that passion.

The “Bank of England Club” of the 1950s descended, following the first relegation in their history, into a sad yo-yo existence; each time they rose to the top flight, they fell back again.

Short-lived flashes of excellence (winning the FA Cup in 1973, finishing seventh in two successive Premier League seasons) seemed little more than tantalising overachievement.

Decades later, I am just as dedicated, to the extent of keeping my season ticket despite moves to France and then the Unied Arab Emirates.

But why shouldn’t I be? I may have endured eight relegations; I have also seen nine promotions.


Colin Randall

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1 thought on “My team”

  1. I think it’s the River Wear. There must be something in it that draws dwellers who live along its path to the sea to follow Sunderland. That s the only reason why Bishop only seemed to have Sunderland fans. I don’t think the OK bus ran a footy special to Newcastle for that very reason.
    They say that you tend to support the first team you watch live – a bit like those who believe you tend to marry your first full sexual experience. (Sounded better than ‘marry your first shag’). This could be further evidence of why I support the Lads – but I certainly didn’t marry Tina from Blyth (circa Butlins, 1969).
    My first experience was being in the Roker End. I can’t remember the actual year but Bill Brown (Spurs) tipped a shot from King Charlie over the bar. The shot was from the half way line.
    Travel was courtesy of my Aunty Dorothy who worked in the OK offices. Years later, a far more dangerous form of travel was adopted with Sixer driving his dad’s MkII Cortina.
    Memories include: beating Chelsea 4-1 with a Bobby Kerr hat trick (I think), being thrown out of every pub in Manchester on my first away trip (the game where someone knocked Monty unconcious and we got beat 5-0), the Cup replay against dorty Leeds at Hull where the ref (Ken Stokes) disallowed an obviously legal goal. After this Hull evening game, we walked back to the coach park when occupants of an Austin A40 gave some abuse which we returned. The A40 stopped. It then disgorged the highest number of viscious big bastards ever to get into such a small vehicle. I ran blind through Hull and have never returned.
    Many years later, I now drive up from Essex with some of my Essex born sons who all support the Lads – but sadly not often enough. I try to make up for it by generating a sizeable interest from the Loughton area where my school is. Check the school website and note the photo carefully positioned over my right shoulder – (www.roding-sec.essex.sch.uk). There is a significant % of the Loughton population who now seek out the Sunderland result.
    Supporting the Lads keeps me in touch with my roots and therefore who I am. Reading Sobs (also a Bish Lad) brings it all back – self-depreciating, piss taking, joy through suffering etc etc. Reading the Salut site keeps me in touch with my old mate Sixer and so many Bish Grammar memories. Happy times.

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