Club versus country (2): even the reserves come first

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Continuing his story of an unequal contest between passion for club and, when it comes to football, loyalty to country, Colin Randall describes the lengths he’s prepared to go to in order to keep up with Sunderland, and not just the first team. One bonus from caring little about internationals: the row over lack of TV coverage of Ukraine vs England has simply passed him by …

The upshot of the severe culture clash between football-mad or, more accurately, SAFC-mad husband and football-loathing partner is that throughout my marriage I have had to organise games around family duties and wifely expectations as well as work.

She’d tell you I have been to endless matches; I’d tell you about all those I’ve missed.

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Club versus country (1): a smoking gun

England play Ukraine on Saturday, depriving us of a Premier match to worry about or, in our mood of new-found optimism, one to look forward to with relish.

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Darren Bent did not make the squad. But is Colin Randall alone in saying he couldn’t care less about internationals and that Bent’s inclusion would not have increased his appetite to any great extent? He is not. Some Salut! Sunderland readers are familiar with this expansion of his reasons for placing passion for Sunderland miles ahead of anything felt about the national side. But for our many new readers, here is the first part of a chapter written for A Love Supreme’s book More 24 Hour SAFC People (our share of the proceeds were donated to charity) . If anyone feels like getting stuck into a debate, we’ll come up with a prize for the best entry …

Looking back, it was as golden an opportunity as Daniel Dichio’s sitter in the Wembley playoff final against Charlton, or indeed the chance of his at Upton Park that would, if converted, have put us top of the Premiership. And I missed mine just as glaringly as Danny had missed his.

In one of the love letters that passed between us long ago, Joelle, then my wife-to-be, wrote that she could think of only one fault in me that she would change. I smoked too much. She might have added others: permanently broke, holes in my socks and underpants, coming from Shildon, being lousy at her native language, French. She has certainly added plenty since and while the French has improved, there isn’t much I can do about coming from Shildon. But back then, it was the fags that concerned her. If only I would cut down, she wrote to me from Le Mans, her home town, she would in return do anything I asked of her.

Talk about open goals. There it was, my cue to secure a lifetime of pass-outs to watch Sunderland !

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