Sunderland 3 Southend United 0
Malcolm Dawson writes……don’t be deceived. This was no walk in the park, though we did finish the game as comfortable winners.
More comfortable than the Sunderland supporter who appeared on Friday’s edition of Mastermind, anyway. If you didn’t see it and want to catch up on the i-player I won’t spoil it for you but I managed to get 11 of the specialised questions right to his 12 and beat him on the General Knowledge round, though admittedly I was sat at home with a brew and not in the “chair of doom” with a spotlight and a studio audience focused on me.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..what with M Salut galavanting around the Orient and me having body parts and invasive extras removed in Sunderland Royal last week, it has fallen to John McCormick to keep the site ticking over and a stirling job he’s done too. But I’m home now and though the bulk of the post Palace postings may still have to fall his way, I’ve just got time to upload this piece from Rob Hutchison before Barnes and Benno keep me updated on events at Selhurst Park, showing that there are still some at the club, the manager included, who understand what a football club means to its supporters.
The London Branch celebrates its 50th year this year and as part of the celebrations, Martin Bain, David Moyes & Kevin Ball kindly accepted an invitation to a small invitation-only pre Palace social at the Southwark Brewery. Here’s the craic . . .
“Who’s your favourite player?” Bally asked her ? She turned around to show the name Cattermole on the back of her shirt, which was a rather canny coincidence. “He’s not as good as me, (although he’s very good), and not as hard as me either” was the reply. Epic stuff.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..we were expecting a match report sometime on Thursday but time differences being what they are, not much before late evening UK time. Our Canadian contact Martin Bates, another of our new SAFC NASA buddies, had promised to deliver but in the end the first words came from our old marra Bill Taylor. If you haven’t yet seen Bill’s words and pictures then you can here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). Realising that the team had already reached the UK well ahead of his e-mail, Martin has focused on the experience from a fan’s perspective. As he quite rightly says we have all read the match reports elsewhere so here is his account of a few days where the club went out of their way to give supporters something to remember – at least off the pitch.
Three AMAZING days in Toronto
Sunderland AFC has now returned back home and I have finally had a chance to come down off the euphoria that I experienced during their visit to Toronto and reflect on what was three amazing days in Toronto.
Monday, 48 Hours till the Match vs TFC
Needless to say, I was very pleased and excited a number of weeks ago when it was announced that during Sunderland’s visit to Toronto there was the possibility of a “Fans’ Night with the Team”. Not exactly knowing what to expect I arrived at the meeting place, hoping for a chance to meet some of the players and perhaps get an autograph and picture or two. We North American based fans happily mingled and exchanged Sunderland stories with many other supporters who had made the trip over from England while we waited for the team to arrive. Sunderland AFC very generously provided plenty of food and drink for the fans which was not expected, but as you can imagine was certainly very, very much appreciated. Some of the SAFC press team was also there and I was lucky enough to get interviewed. (I didn’t realize how nervous and excited I was until I saw the video on the SAFC site a few days later.)
First to arrive was former player Kevin Ball. Kevin made himself instantly available to all the fans signing countless shirts and flags and posing for picture after picture. Next was Ellis Short. Like Kevin, Mr Short mingled with the fans and was photographed with just about everyone in attendance. Then the team arrived and by team I mean the ENTIRE team. The design of the venue forced them to walk in individually and I was very fortunate to be in a position to welcome them pretty well on a one to one basis. For the next hour or so all the players spoke with all the fans. I’m sure they signed hundreds of autographs and posed for countless pictures. To a man the players were fully accommodating to all of the fans’ requests. On a personal note I spoke to them about past goals they had scored and what the upcoming season may bring.
Once the players had left I had the opportunity to speak with other fans about what we just experienced. Everyone I spoke to was amazed by the night and it is something that I will never forget. Like I said earlier I was truly fortunate to attend this event.
Tuesday, 24 Hours till the Match
Tuesday evening we held a small gathering at a local watering hole with all the SAFC fans that were in town. Former player and recently retired TFC Captain Steven Caldwell was there and he was very generous with his time, again posing for many pictures with the fifty or so fans in attendance. He even signed my copy of the 2005 Sunderland DVD “Wear on our Way”.
Wednesday, Match Day is finally here
Sunderland AFC and SAFC NASA (North American Supporters Club) arranged for all fans to meet at pub very close to the stadium. As a TFC season ticket holder I can tell you that this particular pub is normally a TFC pre-match pub, but NOT on this day. Patrons wearing Red & White striped shirts arrived early on a beautifully sunny afternoon. SAFC supporters’ flags decorated the entrance and everyone was truly excited about the forthcoming match. After a few hours of meeting & greeting we headed en-mass and marched together the short walk to the stadium, singing songs on the way. The TFC fans that we saw all looked on in amazement as we walked and sang because as I can attest first hand, they had never seen support like this before on home turf.
We were all in the seated in the North Stand of the stadium in our Red & White but the team came out in Green. Not what I was hoping what they would wear but hey, I get to see the team play.
I won’t go into a detailed match report about what happened on the field as I am sure everyone has read the match report by now. Instead I’ll stay focused on our fans. We were full of voice at the beginning of the match but then we quieted down as there was not much good happening on the pitch as far as SAFC was concerned.
After going behind early in the second half I was dreading the possibility of losing this game to TFC as the ridicule I would have to take at the next TFC home game would be intolerable. Fortunately for me AND much to the dismay of the about 6000 TFC fans in attendance, two goals by Jermain Defoe spared our blushes.
Perhaps someone had a word with the team about what happened at the conclusion of the two California games because to a man, the team came over to our stand clapping and waving at us after the final whistle. This was very welcome and I did feel for Jesse about what he and his fellow supporters missed at their games.
Once the team left the field, about 80 of us piled into various cabs and headed back to the pub to keep the party going we continued to sing and have a pint or two until closing time.
In conclusion, these three days in Toronto with the team and the fans surpassed all my expectations by a mile. The new friends I have made and the pictures and videos I now have are all thanks to SAFC. To that end I thank them and “I know I am, I’m sure I am, I’m Sunderland til I die.”
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
See all articles in the Sunderland Out West series at https://safc.blog/category/sunderland-out-west-2015/
Malcolm Dawson writes…..we at Salut! Sunderland are forever grateful for the input of members of SAFC NASA as The Lads prepare for the forthcoming Premier League campaign on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The background of its members is varied but it matters not one jot if they were born in Washington D.C. or Washington Tyne and Wear, there is no doubting the passion they show. Graeme Beattie explains how and why he became involved with the North American regiment of the Red and White army.
Fly me to the moon, or past Pluto.
SAFC NASA and me – a personal journey.
I was born in South Hylton in 1961 and didn’t have a choice which club I was going to support. My first game was sometime in the mid 60s, standing on the “Big Step” in the Fulwell with my Dad. A move to Newton Aycliffe came in 1970 and every home game we’d battle through the traffic to get to the match. When I got my own first car, my mates and I would take turns to drive, home and away. This coincided with another move – to the Mainstand paddock. We bought our first season tickets in the mid 80s just as Lawrie Mac came along to put us back on the football map.
By 1994, I was working in oil & gas and travelling a lot, so started having to miss games, it hurt to be stuck in an hotel room somewhere in the world trying to follow the lads on a dodgy internet connection, without other Sunderland supporters around.
Eventually, by way of Aberdeen, Beijing, (I can’t quite explain how nerve wracking it was to be on a flight from China while my club were playing an FA Cup semi final in 2004.) and Edinburgh, I found myself, in 2006, in the biggest oil town in the world; Houston TX.
At that time, there was very little Premier League coverage on TV here, let alone Championship, so I began to make the trip to the SOL a bit more often during our promotion season, including that heady night v Burnley, watching Carlos Edwards score “from the banks of the River Wear.” Since then, as the TV contracts in the US were negotiated, then renegotiated, we’re in the position where we can watch every Sunderland game as a matter of course.
When I arrived in Houston, I didn’t know any fellow Sunderland fans here other than having seen one on a message board. We agreed to meet up for a drink and to watch a match together, and that led, eventually, to a group of Sunderland lads meeting up in Houston every week to watch the match. About the same time, we got wind of someone trying to kick off an official supporters club in the USA, and one of the Houston lads got in touch.
In 2013 SAFC North American Supporters Association (NASA) was born. NASA’s raison d’etre is to bring together Sunderland fans on this side of the Atlantic, and to continue to grow the fan base over here. With over 200 members we’re now the biggest overseas branch, and close to being the biggest overall.
We have members from Alaska, Canada, Mexico and from every corner of the lower 48 states. There are expats, and their families, but we also have Americans who had no connection to Sunderland but who are now devoted and passionate about the club, and love learning about the club history.
The club have recognized NASA as an official supporters association, and this brings some benefits, such as tickets for games, or invitations to club functions, for example earlier this year some of us were invited to the British Embassy in DC to be present at the SAFC / DC United partnership launch.
There are meet ups for every game, all over North America and an AGM each year with guest speakers, our Life President, the great Richie Pitt joined us at last year’s meeting, whilst our guest this year was one of my favourite ever SAFC players, Stan Cummins.
Speaking personally though, the biggest benefit is the opportunity to be with fellow Sunderland supporters, to meet like minded people from all over North America. I’ve been to some great places and met some great people, people I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to meet. The 8-0 drubbing v Southampton epitomized it for me; a large group of us met in a pub in Santa Monica, California. Many of us hadn’t met each other before and we had to sit through that horrendous performance. Within minutes we were singing, dancing, and generally turning the place into a party. I met a lot of terrific people that weekend, and long may it continue.
Have you ever seen a Geordie on the moon…..?
Graeme W Beattie
Our own Nic Wiseman, who has been helping out on editing for a few months, was co-editor of one of those fanzines that deserved to prosper but didn’t. Salut! Sunderland reproduced highlights in a half-decent series, but one key item was missing – a piece about Kevin Ball that initially had the man himself feeling rather cross before peace was made. Nic has located that article. Let him introduce and then reproduce it, as well as plugging a new site all Sunderland fans should visit: https://ithics1.wordpress.com/ …
Pete Sixsmith is beginning to feel spoilt. A couple of nights after seeing the Lads waltz to victory at the home of football’s current laughing stock, he was at the Stadium of Light for a visit from the Newcastle Development Squad to play ours. The winning habit was not broken …
On his night of fame – a cameo in a BBC programme about the Northern League that fell some way short of the Andy Warhol four-minute test – Pete Sixsmith found himself dodging paparazzi and autograph seekers at Eppleton for a youth development squad match against Stoke City …
John McCormick is among Kevin Ball’s admirers. But, as Gus Poyet sets about the mammoth task of saving Sunderland AFC from relegation and Ellis Short ponders the club structure from top to bottom, he argues that the time may have come for Bally to move on. Not everyone will agree …
Malcolm Dawson writes…in all honesty I’m not sure many of us in our heart of hearts expected a win but as always most of us will have wished for a performance that would produce an upset. We always go in hope, even when we don’t go in expectation and for a while on Saturday, it looked as if our hopes and dreams just might come true. It was a gutsy first half followed by the down to earth reality which is part and parcel of being a Sunderland fan. As usual Peter Sixsmith was perched on his eyrie, high in the East Stand and as usual he brings us his version of events on the pitch.
John McCormick writes:
I was expecting the weekend off but M Salut has sent an e-mail asking if I can put up Bally’s backchat. As ever, I’m happy to oblige but I have to say I’m struggling with a dodgy network and an iffy computer, so graphics might not make it. Here’s the text, straight from the gaffer at the SOL. Pictures will be added as and when I can and, like the team and their manager, I won’t rest until it’s working properly:
In terms of effort I thought everything was there for us
The players worked hard; they deserved their lead in the first half and created several other chances.
At the start of the second half we expected United to come out as they did.
From my point of view – and the players feel the same – we all felt that the [first] goal could have been prevented and that something could have been done about it, and the same could have been said for the second goal.
It’s minor details that if we get them sorted it will stop these sorts of goals going in. That’s something we’ll be working on.
In terms of effort I thought everything was there for us.
It’s fine margins against the top teams and the higher you go, those margins get smaller and smaller.
There were parts of the game the players will be really happy with and parts they will be disappointed with.
I thought the fans backed us really well throughout and it would have been nice to get something at the end.
The fans got right behind us and we really appreciate that.
All the best,