It’s The Hope They Couldn’t Stand: that elusive Kevin Ball epic

Nic Wiseman
Nic Wiseman

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:

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The Ithics Files: (1) when Magic asked for more ‘or I join Rangers’

Someone had the idea of reproducing a few of the best moments of It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand, the shortlived Sunderland fanzine about which Nic Wiseman wrote here yesterday. I can’t promise how many there’ll be, but it was a good shout so here, at enormous effort (I have no scanner), is the first in an occasional series.

We’re back in November 1999. Issue 16 is out. The end, sadly, is nigh for Ithics. But what better than to go out on a high? The mag actually managed one more edition before closing down. But in the penultimate issue was this extraordinary transcript of hard contract negotiations between our star Scottish winger, Allan Johnston, and John Fickling, then chief executive of SAFC. Sadly, it turned out to be as genuine as the Zinoviev letter, a product of the vivid imagination of Nic’s co-editor, Mark Egan. You can’t have everything …

John Fickling:

Allan, sit down. I hope we can get everything wrapped up today. You asked for £10,000 per week on this new contract. That’d make you one of our best paid players, but we think you’re worth it and we’ll settle for that amount.

Allan Johnston: 20 grand.

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The Sunderland fanzine born of hope, with a suspiciously Newcastle look

Among all that has been written about Sunderland AFC, there was once a fanzine called
It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand. It was launched as the club moved from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light and was a publication destined for an exhilarating but short-lived life. There is no anniversary to speak of, no particular reason to look back on a bold publishing venture. But a discussion at the Blackcats e-mail list, which played a crucial part in the birth of ITHICS, prompted Salut! Sunderland to ask Nic Wiseman, the fanzine’s co-editor, to recall that heady time …

It was the end of the 1996-97 season, the Premier Passions season, the last season at Roker Park.

A group of Sunderland supporters bonded by being members of an e-mail list called Blackcats trooped out of the Fulwell End for the last time having seen the team dispatch Everton 3-0. It was a result that gave us hope of avoiding the drop and thus beginning life in our shiny new stadium in the Premiership rather than the Nationwide First Division, as the second tier was known then.

We had been in abysmal form and this win had given us a fighting chance. As we descended the steps into Association Terrace one of our number – I thought it was Mark Egan but others challenge my memory and tell me it was, in fact, Emma Nichol – spoke for all of us when she sighed: “I wouldn’t care if we were relegated already, it’s the hope I can’t stand.”

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