Salut asks – Who is Sunderland’s secret admirer?

followed around the world

John McCormick writes: I had some time to kill this morning, waiting for the miserable weather to ease up, and got the computer out to check my premium bonds (I hadn’t won) and order hoover bags. I never did order the bags because I got distracted by the little red counter at the top of the Salut home page. To you it might be just a number ticking towards the 3.5 million mark but I, with a password, can go a bit deeper. And what did I find when I did that? Only that we have a secret admirer.

Who is it? I don’t know for certain, but surely there can be only one answer:

Read moreSalut asks – Who is Sunderland’s secret admirer?

I’ve seen Man United fall, now I’m off to Montreal, Martin Bates, Martin Bates

Excuse the coat. It was freezing
Excuse the coat. It was freezing

John McCormick writes: I’m not sure if the title line will make sense to you but when I was putting it up a song was going through my head and I thought…

“…why not, Martin Bates deserves a bit of appreciation”.

The only problem is I couldn’t fit Toronto in, so he’ll have to make do with Montreal.

Here’s the final part of Martin’s trilogy. By now he should have have winged his way back across the Atlantic but, after this game, he probably didn’t need a plane. What a send off.

Hope you enjoyed the trip, Martin, and thanks for the reports.

Read moreI’ve seen Man United fall, now I’m off to Montreal, Martin Bates, Martin Bates

Unanswered questions about Advocaat’s future squad as Sunderland face Aston Villa



For no really good reason
, except that it’s Friday and no one ever seems to write for these pages on Fridays, let’s give another well-deserved boost to the excellent lads and lasses of the SAFC Supporters’ Association branch in North America – SAFC NASA for short.

Just before we get onto transfer talk, the photo gallery is from Martin Bates, one of the Out West supporters who kept Salut! Sunderland in the loop during the pre-season tour.

Read moreUnanswered questions about Advocaat’s future squad as Sunderland face Aston Villa

Sunderland out West: the sweetest hangover I just can’t get over

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.

Martin Bates TFC season ticket holder and SAFC fan with ex Toronto and now SAFC man Jermain Defoe
Martin Bates TFC season ticket holder and SAFC fan with ex Toronto and now SAFC man Jermain Defoe

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.)

Ellis Short mixing with the fans.
Ellis Short mixing with the fans.

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”.

Former skipper Steve Caldwell
Former skipper Steve Caldwell

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.

Plenty of SAFC support
Plenty of SAFC support

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.

Green is the new Red and White
Green is the new Red and White

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.

Plenty of appreciation this time.
And plenty of appreciation this time.

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

safc nasa

See all articles in the Sunderland Out West series at https://safc.blog/category/sunderland-out-west-2015/

Sunderland out West: an American Mackem in Toontown

Malcolm Dawson writes….Jesse Burch went to see Sunderland play Pachuca. Read his excellent report here. Being in the area and having relatives offering free B&B gave him the opportunity to experience life on the dark side. He was dragged along kicking and screaming to watch the home town team play the black and white barcode boys. And boy was he glad he went because it made him realise just how much he has bought into the Sunderland way of life! Here is what he witnessed as he watched the Mags play Sacramento in the same stadium that 24 hours previously he had seen the team in green.

See all articles in the Sunderland Out West series at https://safc.blog/category/sunderland-out-west-2015/

Jesse
Jesse
Jesse takes up the story.

So after last night’s match against Pachuca, I retired to my aunt and uncle’s home in — wait for it — Newcastle, California. I know. It’s not okay. Nevertheless, it was my home-away-from-home last night and I was grateful for a free bed. But here’s where things get embarrassing. My aunt, knowing I’d be here for the Sunderland match, offered me a ticket alongside her and my uncle at tonight’s Sacramento Republic match — against another team from the North East that we have had the pleasure of beating five times in a row.

So I went.

Now, if you’ve read my past two dispatches from Sacramento, I hope you have taken away how deeply I love Sunderland and feel very much a part of its support. I didn’t go to this match as a neutral — far from it. From the moment I stepped back inside Bonney Field and saw all of the black and white swanning around I became borderline ill. Which is strange. Again, I have no geographic or familial connection to Sunderland at all. Nevertheless, it was there in spades: all the dislike, all the bitterness.

Newcastle CA - USA
Newcastle CA – USA

How terrible it was to go from being surrounded by my friends in red and white to being effectively alone and among the Great Unwashed. It was such a dramatic shift! Same location as the night before, but now irreparably changed and corrupted — what a reversal. I missed my compatriots, and how valuable they’d have been to have beside me!

I wanted so desperately to sing “Five In A Row” at Stephen Taylor. And Jack Colback. They were right there. They would probably hear me. There was Tim Krul, just standing there, very close by. I could’ve screamed so many things. But I was alone in a sea of black and white and frankly, I’m just not brave or stupid enough to put myself in harm’s way like that. Sorry.

We took our seats and I reverted to supporting Sacramento Republic as best I could, while shooting eye-darts at anyone in that strip. Thankfully, the SRFC support is loud and brash and they out-sung and out-stomped anything “Toon Army” could muster. Newcastle were gifted an own-goal but generally were outplayed by Republic. The Ginger Pirlo did a lot of tugging on players’ arms and passing sideways. Stephen Taylor even took a direct shot to his privates (that made my night). But overall, nobody stood out as particularly dangerous.

The upshot is that despite McClaren’s braying on about how he thought training in hotter weather in Sacramento was the right choice, it didn’t make much of a difference. Newcastle are still rather useless.

And I’m tired. I’m going to bed and then returning to LA in the morning.

I have one more thing to do before I leave though. On my way out of town…

FTM? What's that mean? For the media? Follow the Mackems? Five Times  Mags? We know!
FTM? What’s that mean?
For the media? Follow the Mackems? Five Times Mags?
We know!

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

safc nasa

Sunderland Out West: Muppet Show where fans were the real stars

Malcolm Dawson writes….we’ve already had some belting stuff from our friends in SAFC NASA. What follows is no exception. Jesse Burch may not have seen our boys as often as the rest of us but he shares our passion, shares our pain and has, through some long distance form of osmosis, absorbed the DNA of the true Sunderland supporter. Whilst most of us back in the UK were snugly tucked up in bed he was there to witness the latest pre-season outing against the Mexicans of Pachuca and he suffered at first hand, what those of us who live a bit closer to Wearside experience on a much more regular basis.

Here’s Jesse’s account of his day.

SAFC 1 – FC Pachuca 3

Jesse - post caffeine fix on the road to Sacramento
Jesse – post caffeine fix on the road to Sacramento

I’m embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t sleep the night before SAFC’s match versus FC Pachuca. I live in Los Angeles and set my alarm to wake up at 4:30am for the drive up to Sacramento and was lights out at 10pm. But I lay there and tossed and turned until 12:30am, like a kid on the eve of Christmas. “I’m too old to be behaving ilke this,” I thought to myself. But I couldn’t help it. The day had come.

From the moment I heard that Sunderland would be traveling to California I knew I’d be there to watch them play. So I wasn’t surprised in the least when I woke up before my alarm went (at 3:45am), rolled out of the bed, and into the car at 4.

And on the drive before the coffee stop
And on the drive before the coffee stop

Because I was unencumbered by my kids and wife — and their requisite rest stops and bathroom breaks — I was able to get to Sacramento in about five and a half hours, which is very good time. Unfortunately, because I got started so early, that brought me to Sunderland’s pub HQ a full two hours before they opened. Nevertheless, I parked in the back beside a trash dumpster, rolled the windows down to fully appreciate the aroma and cool down (it was already hot), and jotted a few thoughts for this dispatch.

As I was struggling to sleep the night before, I was struck with the realization that my heroes, my team, were in the same time zone I was. It’s perhaps a trite or simple observation, but hear me out: my experience of Sunderland is intrinsically-tied to distance and time. The thousands of miles from England and the subsequent shift in what is for me traditional “game-time” (early breakfast) colours a lot of my experience of supporting Sunderland. It’s exceedingly unusual for me to have a day spread out before me in which to luxuriate and celebrate before making my way to the ground to watch the team I love so much.

As I was ruminating on this, Bonnie, from the Bonn Lair, saw me as she was getting into her car to make a market run. “Here’s another Sunderland fan!” she said, to no one in particular. I introduced myself and she kindly allowed me to head inside the pub where it was much cooler.

The Bonn Lair is a really, really great little pub — with an emphasis on little. I can see why its proprietor, David, was concerned about how many punters we’d be bringing in, as it’s cozy inside. But lining the walls were pennants, flags, memorabilia and scarves from every club under the sun. The decor was comfortable and homey, and as I sat myself down in a deep booth to wait, I was happy about what was the random choice of this pub based on its proximity to Bonney Field.

Jesse's flag at the pre-match pub
Jesse’s flag at the pre-match pub

In my conversations with SAFC they had suggested that there could be between 150-200 people coming over from England, in addition to those in the US affiliated with NASA. I had done my best to publicise the location, but anxiety started creeping in as the pub staff were making preparations around me. And even though I wasn’t the host, per se, I started to worry that the promised numbers wouldn’t show.

Thankfully, shortly after the pub opened, I was joined by some of my friends from NASA Region 9, and then more, and then more. Before I knew it, the pub was a blur of red and white — some old faces, some new; some from a few hours’ drive, some from as far away as Holland! But the one unifying feature of the lot was their kindness. Indeed, I have yet to meet a Sunderland supporter who isn’t an all-around decent person. The old adage that “he’d give you the shirt off his back” applies to pretty much everyone I met yesterday.

Graeme and Riki
Graeme and Riki – SAFC through and through
Red and White Army at the Bonn Lair
Red and White Army at the Bonn Lair

As the afternoon passed, we drank and ate and laughed and talked — mostly about the team and the debut of the new away kit, but also about our various families, lives, and interests — and before we knew it, it was game time. Some of the NASA folks had bought tickets to a chartered bus to the ground, so we headed across the street to ride to the stadium. Once there, we hurried through the fairground — where a garish and busy county fair was very much in swing — and made our way to our seats.

It was a discordant environment, what with the field surrounded by a pointless monorail track, Ferris wheel, and sounds of carnival rides. It all rendered the match almost an afterthought, but I felt a slight surge of excitement to finally be there, to finally see the Lads in person after a little over eleven years.

Unfortunately, the excitement turned to almost immediate revulsion as the Lads took the pitch in what I can only describe as one part away kit, one part highlighter pen, one part Kermit the Frog costume. Dear God. What are we wearing?! A chorus of “Green Army!” sprung up to our left as I put my face in my hands. I’ve seen bad kits before, but this takes the cake. We look like fluorescent popsicles. Toxic waste. Lime lollies.

Sigh!

It's time to put on make up - it's time to light the lights - it's time to get things started
It’s time to put on make up – it’s time to light the lights – it’s time to get things started – click on pic for a better look at the green kit

Anyhow, the match started brightly and my initial horror was quickly put to rest as Jack Rodwell put us in front quickly with a well-worked goal.

And then we went back to being Sunderland. I had hoped we wouldn’t be worse than we’d been on Tuesday, and we weren’t. Much. But we weren’t that good either. Pachuca sprayed the ball around comfortably for the next 80 minutes, we stood off them, they scored three goals and Pickford made a good penalty save. Other than that, honestly, the only highlight of the match — for me, anyhow — was fellow countryman John Calfas’ lyrics to a new song about the abomination we were wearing. (Blinded by the kits/They’re green and they glow/And they’re giving people fits.)

But here’s the thing that ultimately soured me to the match — and I intend to write the club about it, because this is just not on, in my opinion:

After the final whistle blew, the players, en masse, simply walked off the pitch, their backs turned to the red and white in the stands, to the flags adorning our end of the stadium, to the support who had travelled far further than I had on their own dime. O’Shea and Pickford turned halfheartedly, clapped twice, and joined the rest. No acknowledgment. No thanks.
The gentleman next to me muttered, “They did the same thing on Tuesday.”

All the way from Jarrow to California
All the way from Jarrow to California

What did I expect? Certainly not to be joined at the pub by the whole squad or anything. I’m not unreasonable or stupid. But this was downright disrespectful. Something, lads! A wave. A clap. A thank you by way of simple acknowledgment for the support and effort to be here and watch you go through the motions (and lose, again). Someone needs to have a word.

But despite my disappointment I returned to the thought I had after sitting in Santa Monica for the NASA General Meeting back in October and watching us lose 8-0 to Southampton: that SAFC is the support first, the team second. Sometimes I feel they don’t deserve us.

Indeed, as Niall Quinn so astutely pointed out, “”If Sunderland produced a team as good as the fans, then they’d be in Europe every year.”

Our bus - their bus
Our bus – their bus

We made our way back to the pub, singing as we did on the way to the match, and parted ways until the next time. Despite feeling let down by the players, I thought, “I am still wholeheartedly devoted to this club.” Because the club is the people.

Someone should remind the Lads.

Jesse on himself:

I’m Jesse Burch, US-born and bred and have been supporting Sunderland since the year SuperKev won the Golden Boot.

Why Sunderland? Totally, utterly random. A friend of mine invited me to join a Premier League low-stakes, week-to-week betting pool whereby we’d pick results for quarters.

Like I said: low stakes. To make it interesting, he suggested I follow a team myself, but the only ones left (his mates had chosen their teams already) were Southampton, Derby, and Sunderland. I did my bit of research, liked the Quinn-Phillips partnership, have always loved an underdog anyhow – and the rest is history. I could’ve walked away without reciprocity at any time in the last 15 years, but I can’t. I’m Sunderland ’til I die.

safc nasahttps://www.facebook.com/safcnasa

Way out West: New World sympathies

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.

safc nasa

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.

Graeme Beattie - our man in the Lone Star State
Graeme Beattie – our man in the Lone Star State

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.

Who's that with Graeme?
Who’s that with Graeme?

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

https://www.facebook.com/safcnasa

Sunderland Out West: a stiffer test looms against Pachuca from Mexico’s Premier

Jesse
Jesse Burch

So Sacramento Republic move offstage and CF (that’s FC to us) Pachuca are ushered on from the wings. Paul Pattison, from the Sunderland AFC North American Supporters’ Association (and long before that from Annfield Plain), did sterling – or should that be top-dollar – work before and after the defeat at Sacramento. Now Jesse Burch – appropriately an actor and as through-and-through American as the name suggests – takes a bow, introducing himself and the second match of SAFC’s North American tour, when the Lads return to Sacramento’s Bonney Field stadium to take on a club founded by British miners, tin not coal, in the capital of Mexico’s Hidalgo state, in honour of whom Salut! Sunderland has dug out a clip of the marvellous Show of Hands song Cousin Jack …

Read moreSunderland Out West: a stiffer test looms against Pachuca from Mexico’s Premier