Martin Bates is our latest Out West reporter to keep an eye on all things Sunderland in North America. Martin, a Canadian with Sunderland family origins, has the advantage of following our next opponents, Toronto, in all games in which they are not playing us, if that makes sense. So he knows all about both clubs and all about the possible battle royal between ex-Toronto man Jermain Defoe and ex-Sunderland man Jozy Altidore. Let Martin set the scene …
See all artiicles in the Sunderland Out West series at https://safc.blog/category/sunderland-out-west-2015/
It was in the late 1990s with the invention of the internet and cable TV that my passion for devotion to Sunderland really exploded. I subscribed to the SAFC website therefore allowing me to listen to each of the games live radio broadcast.
The sports tv packages here in Canada are brilliant for watching EPL games. On any given weekend during the season I can watch just about every game live on TV. I would say that from about 2003 I have either watched live on tv or listened to via the SAFC website just about every Sunderland match.
Last year I was truly fortunate to fly back to the League cup Final vs Man City. Being with the Sunderland fans in Covent Garden the night before the game is something I will never forget.
Despite the loss, being in Wembley when Borini scored was nothing short of amazing. More recently I have become a proud member of SAFC NASA which is the official recognized SAFC supporters association here in North America. We host regular viewing parties where us Sunderland supporters gather to watch the lads play. Granted with the time difference these are usually at 10am on Saturday mornings.
All those contributing to the Sunderland Out West series belong to the Sunderland SAFC North American Supporters’ Association. Check out the association’s Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/safcnasa
The Opposition – Toronto FC (aka TFC)
TFC only came into existence in 2007.
In that season, the starting lineup for TFC game had three former Sunderland players in it. Andy Welsh, Carl Robinson and of course the now TFC Legend that is Danny Dichio all started that day.
Dichio scored TFC’s first ever MLS goal for the franchise and to this day we still sing his name in the 24th minute of every home match.
I am a season ticket holder for TFC and like supporting Sunderland, supporting TFC has been very difficult at times.
Making the Playoffs in the MLS is the goal of every team, yet to date, TFC has come close but have never actually made the MLS payoffs.
They start every year with new signings and we keep saying “this will be our year” yet it has yet to happen. Since 2007 TFC has had nine coaches including Mo Johnston and believe it or not even John Carver was coach for 36 games in the 2008-2009 season.
The MLS is run different than the Premier League. There is no such thing as promotion or relegation. There are salary cap restrictions on the amount of money you can pay players. There is the “Designated Player” rule which allows each team to pay three players whatever they want regardless of the salary cap.
As you may be aware, the MLS has become the “last stop” for many well known footballers. The list is too long to mention and generally once a footballer goes to the MLS they do no return although this does happen on occasion.
Many TFC fans finally believe that they now have the correct three Designated Players. TFC’s Captain America, Michael Bradley (although he is no Claudio Renya) is the midfield general.
Sebastian Giovinco has been nothing short of sensational for TFC this year. He may be small in stature but his performances week in week out for TFC have been massive. In my opinion, he is the most talented player TFC has ever had.
That leaves us with one DP left and that is Jozy Altidore. Jozy’s time at Sunderland is well documented and it took Jozy only 90 minutes in his first TFC game to score twice.
His start has been hampered a bit with a hamstring injury but he still has scored 6 goals in 12 appearances. TFC sits 3rd in the Eastern Conference as I write this and is playing well.
The TFC fan base is great and I am proud to be a season ticket holder and I sit in the supporters section each week. Well until Sunderland arrive then it will be all about Sunderland for me and I will be sitting with the SAFC supporters for this game.
Sunderland v TFC – the game.
The playing of this game (I assume) was part of the deal that swapped Altidore for Defoe. Ah, Jermain Defoe.
As a TFC fan too, where do I begin with him? In 2014 his signing with TFC was marketed as “a Bloody BIG Deal”.
He arrived here with a lot of fanfare and the city was truly a buzz with him. He started last year with TFC like a house on fire, scoring on his debut and totalling 11 goals in his first 13 games for TFC. Then something happened.
The England 2014 World Cup squad was announced and he was not included. In my opinion, that is when he mentally quit TFC.
From that moment forward he was often injured, did not score another goal for TFC for the rest of the Season and TFC’s run to their first ever playoff appearance died a slow death. As a result the vast majority of TFC fans blame Defoe for this collapse last year. He is not a popular person amongst the TFC faithful and they were glad so to see him go.
For years in the summer TFC has always played here in Toronto visiting “Big Teams” from around Europe.
Personally I have seen TFC play Spurs last year and Man City earlier this year.
These games are always marketed as “great friendlies”. Not this one against Sunderland. This one from the get go was marketed as “nothing friendly about it”. The marketing people at TFC probably realized that Sunderland is not the same draw and needed something to fill the stands. Sunderland and Defoe specifically have certainly been cast as the villain for this match. The TFC facebook pages have not been too kind to Sunderland at all. While I do not expect a capacity crowd by any stretch I do expect that Defoe will get quite a unpleasant vocal reception from those TFC fans. The same ones incidentally that cheered him to the heavens just over a year ago.
It certainly will be an interesting match. With the US National Team releasing Altidore from the Gold Cup, there is a chance that we could see both Defoe and Altidore on the same pitch at the same time, albeit on different teams.
* Martin Bates on himself: I am a golf teacher and manager at Glen Eagle Golf Club about 30 minutes north of Toronto. I was born just outside Toronto and have lived within 30 minutes of it all my life (going on 45 now). I am blessed to be a Sunderland fan thanks to my parents who were both raised in Pennywell and they emigrated to Canada in 1967.
My house when I was growing up had the picture of the ‘73 FA Cup winning team on the wall and I distinctly remember back in the 70s the weekly tradition of my parents awaiting the radio broadcast each Saturday at noon (Toronto time) with the football scores coming through to see how Sunderland did. Although I am 100 per cent Canadian I never took to hockey or other North American sports. I played football from the time I was five and it has remained a passion to this day. From the age of seven till about 18, I’d be sent by my parents to Sunderland for a month’s holiday each summer, staying with relatives and cementing my love for the city and the people. My aunt and uncle were Sunderland season tickets holders for well over 40 years until their passing.