A fascinating debate has developed at the Blackcats e-mail forum about Sunderland fans, their expectations and their demeanour. Some readers are also in that loop and will have seen the thread. For others, I present – with their consent – the exchanges of two leading participants, NZ-based Geoff Bethell and, from much closer to home (Chester-le-Street), Mick Goulding, both occasional Salut! Sunderland contributors. Since Monsieur Salut once managed nought out of 100 for general science – very unfair as they marked it out of 45, doubled the resulting figure and added on five for the percentage; I was denied my five – he is the last person to advise on this particular application of the Oort Cloud …
Geoff Bethell: I often think about the club and why everything always seems to go wrong; why players who do well elsewhere fail at Sunderland; why we can never get over the hump. My problem here is that, whilst we are probably no different from many another club really, no matter who is running it the same things seem to happen. When I ask myself what is the only constant thing at the club I can only come to the conclusion that it is the “Oort Cloud” generated by the supporters. This, of course, has a major positive effect – when things are going well. Niall Quinn saw the Oort Cloud in its glory and fell in love with the place. But I see the negative effect when things aren’t. I read that the players are often shell-shocked at home before a game starts – scared to make a mistake for fear of supporter ridicule. Yes, the personnel of the supporters changes over time as well as does that of the club, but the Oort Cloud doesn’t. I see it as a rabble-generated aura which holds the club back in times of strife, causes club resources to be squandered for the sake of a quick fix, and is the major contributor to our instability.
Mick Goulding: The Oort Cloud: I’m sure we all wonder, sometimes, why – no matter what happens, who is in charge etc – Sunderland always end up being s***. Yes, the fans are a constant; but so is the geography and so is the weather. There’s a well-known scientific axiom that ‘correlation isn’t cause’. Just because the fans are the most significant constant, doesn’t mean they are responsible for what happens.
Considering the amount of s*** we’ve put up with, it’s amazing that we still get 40k per week; and this has actually kept the club afloat through many bad times. Taking this kind of support for granted might be a cause of mismanagement – but that’s not the fans’ fault. Squandering resources for the sake of a quick fix to appease the fans (if it’s indeed ever happened) is certainly fan-related, but it’s still not the fans’ fault. It’s simply mismanagement.
But the real problem with this theory is that it isn’t logically consistent. If the passion and loyalty of the fans is responsible in some part for the “good stuff” (the stuff Niall Quinn latched onto) and has a positive effect, it’s more than disingenuous to say that, when things go wrong, the exact same passion and loyalty not only has a negative effect, but is actually the cause of the problem in the first place. That’s just misplaced blame-throwing and finding a convenient scapegoat to excuse the real issue – which is a continued mismanagement.
This whole notion – often spouted – that it’s the fans’ expectations which are to blame really gets on my nerves. I object to it, because it’s an insult, a lie and a f****** cheek. What expectations do fans really have? They are actually so low, for a club of our size, as to be pitiful. We pretty much don’t have any expectations, beyond mediocrity and survival.
The fact that we continue to feed on scraps and keep coming back for more proves it’s a lie.
GB: I notice a disrespect to other clubs. I’m not talking about Newcastle, Leeds, Coventry, who are special cases. I’m talking about the so dubbed “dross” which comprises clubs who are round about or slightly below our standard. I’m often left wondering if we are included in this category. It depends what you read of course, but I’m not seeing such disrespect from the supporters of other clubs. Maybe I need to immerse myself in a couple of random clubs and see what supporter dynamics is like in general. However, disrespect to other clubs I dislike. It demeans only us.
MG: Disrespect to other clubs: I don’t really share this as an issue and don’t see much evidence of it on a grand scale.
GB: The Newcastle thing. I don’t recall that there used to be quite the hatred there is now. I know I’ve talked about this before and received reasonably argued replies about local political issues which have emerged since I’ve left the country. But the Newcastle thing has extended to “fat Geordie bastard syndrome” – diatribes against ex-Newcastle players and staff who have come over to the red and white side. “It never works out well” alas becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I felt for Chopra and Clark. They NEVER gave us less than their best. I get the impression that we are all waiting for some little incident to happen, blow it up out of all proportion, and shunt them out of the club via the Oort Cloud effect. Clark? For GOD’s sake. He was placed in an invidious position by a bunch of Newcastle supporters. Why do we worry about such things? Chopra? I’ve seen that incident time and time again and I’m sorry but I cannot for the life of me agree that what he did was a deliberate attempt not to score. He never bottled it on the pitch. His few goals in a not particularly creative side kept us up – most of the goals he scored were vital ones. The attitude of some of us to Chopra frankly made me puke and ashamed to be associated with the club. Why do we do these things? ….
MG: The Newcastle thing: Yes, I agree with you that this has got much worse than it was when we were young (when it hardly existed at all, beyond friendly rivalry). It’s the way of the world, I’m afraid, and fierce partisanship seems have taken hold of football, because football itself has become more “important” in people’s lives. However, the prevailing culture will inevitably affect those closest to it more than those farthest away; so this really is one of those areas where people on the other side of the world are not fit to judge. You’re detached from it, because you’re detached – so naturally it looks more like an irrelevance to you.
This is nothing to do with who’s the best/loyalist fan etc; it’s simply a fact of life. If you aren’t close-up to football (and I don’t just mean just local fans, but also including those attending away games) then you don’t get affected by its fall-out.
I think you’re simply wrong about Clark and Chopra. Clark played well for us and every fan appreciated him. The t-shirt incident, though, spat back in our faces. He got away with it, not the end of the world etc, but we have a right to say he’s a twat. If somebody has been welcomed to a party at your house and shared your hospitality and you’ve all had a great time etc; you wouldn’t be happy to hear the next day they’ve been down the pub
with another crowd, laughing at you and taking the piss out of you.
Chopra is on record as admitting what he did and isn’t even bothered about pretending otherwise. He’s just a twat.
GB: Supporters think they are God. We have elevated the Oort Cloud into Heaven. Bardsley should apologise to God maybe – but to US? Who the hell do we think we are? We need to get a sense of perspective here.
And not just over Bardsley. I note too that there are more and more posters on Blackcats who are slowly coming round to the idea that, whilst Bardsley may have been a bit of a ninny, he is still worth his weight in gold on
Hope that gives you a bit of insight. None of it I haven’t said before. This is the first time I’ve put it all into one posting. Sorry if there are a few typos. I’ve not gone over it with a fine toothcomb. If I get bombarded with replies I can’t guarantee to make further comment. We are all entitled to an opinion.
MG: Supporters think they are God: No…they really don’t. But their relationship with the club is never going to be entirely passive. We have a right to expect certain standards, if for no reason other than the money and effort we put into it. Who do we think we are? Well…if players want us to get behind them, support and encourage them every week, we have the right to expect them to respect us, just a little bit. We know they’re getting paid, and will be off somewhere else soon; but while they’re here we have the right to expect them not to insult us or take us for idiots.
When Bardsley shows the club up in public, and then takes the p*** out of our result, he’s taking the p*** out of us by extension Not to realise or acknowledge that needs his (and anybody else’s) head to be up his arse.
M Salut adds: the exchanges between Geoff and Mick have been enhanced by excellent comments from other Blackcats subscribers. No disrespect is intended to them by my decision to limit this posting to the views of the main protagonists.
Fancy leaving a comment? Not sure what you have to say fits this post? Go to the new feature – https://safc.blog/2013/07/salut-sunderland-the-way-it-is/ – and say it there.