When you’re sitting by the Med, far from the snow that has hit much of France in recent days, you are really in no position to lecture stayaway Sunderland fans.
So I will let Niall Quinn do the talking for me. He wants supporters to “stand up and be counted” – who was that steward who retorted “sit down and be counted or you’re out”? – and turn up in force at the Stadium of Light.
A similar point was made by my old friend and former colleague Dave Bowman, chairman of the Greater Manchester branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association, in a recent letter to the Sounding Off column in the Football Echo.
If his branch can make the effort and routinely fill coaches to Sunderland, he said, why cannot fans based within a few miles of the ground do likewise? My own fellow London branch members, who regularly endure transport nightmares to get to and from games, could pose a similar question.
Even living in France, I dare say even I have seen more games this season than a lot of our supposedly passionate fans.
Here, if I mention how many people attend our home games, I get incredulous looks from the French. “How can a team in the Second Division get such big gates?” they want to know. In London, the question is slightly different: “Where have all your fans gone? Bit fair weather, aren’t they?”
Kate Adie said in one my Celebrity Supporter interviews – the next to be posted here – that she was astonished, as a girl growing up in Sunderland itself, to see all the old buses trundling into town from places like Ferryhill and Tow Law on match days.
Maybe it’s always been the case; Sunderland is the county (Durham) team, and a great draw for people who’ve moved away, but too many of the inhabitants of Sunderland are fickle or couldn’t care less.
But let’s hear what Quinnie had to say. His appeal followed the away win at Sheff Wed, when 6,000+ Sunderland supporters created a great atmosphere at Hillsborough. Big Niall wants the same passion at home, starting with Crystal Palace on Tuesday night.
“The momentum is starting to gather pace and we need our fans to get behind the team, in numbers,” he said.
“Now is the time for those who may have wavered in the past to stand up and be counted and back what we’re trying to achieve here.
“We need to send out a statement of intent to teams coming to the Stadium of Light – the crowd made such a difference at Sheffield Wednesday and I’d like to see that replicated on home turf.
“With three massive home games coming up – against Crystal Palace, Coventry and Southend – the support is more vital than ever.
“The club needs the fans and now is the time to make some sacrifices and back your team.”
In other words, it’s time to end the punishment many fans decided to impose after the last but one relegation, and get the stadium full again.
OK, three of this season’s home games have attracted more than the pathetic 33,000 crowd for Lyon’s last home game (as runaway Ligue 1 leaders, don’t forget).
That’s France; our traditions are different. And when he draw comparisons with other English clubs.
We must start thinking of ourselves once more as not just bigger, but much bigger than the likes of Derby, Norwich and Birmingham, not to mention several Premiership clubs.