Yesterday saw M Salut’s old mate Bill Taylor writing in entertaining fashion at Salut! North about his first proper kiss (a form of intimacy that sounds extraordinarily outdate these days). Now for a rather more depressing tale: the return of Bill’s disenchantment with the club most readers of this site follow with limitless passion …
The editor of this blog has a lot to answer for.
Before Colin Randall brought Salut! Sunderland into existence and I started reading it, I was a very passive Mackem: a supporter more in the breach than the observance.
If there happened to be a Sunderland match on Canadian TV, I’d watch it with interest and pleasure. Or sometimes displeasure. But I’d watch.
Otherwise, I did little else than check the results every week, exult in their victories, shrug when they played a draw, curse when they got beaten. And then think no more of it for another week.
It was better when my dad was alive. In my weekly phone call to my parents, we could compare notes and hark back to what seemed, with the luxury of time, to be better days.
An undemanding form of fandom. True to the way I was brought up, I loved Sunderland, hated Newcastle and didn’t feel the need to do much else. Didn’t take much notice of anyone else in the league, didn’t have much idea of what was really going on.
And then Salut! Sunderland came into being. Bit by bit, I started getting interested again. Following the Cats more and more closely, mentally dissecting individual performances (including the manager’s) and monitoring all the other clubs, too.
A good win could set me up for a whole week. A bad loss would have me cursing. Sometimes a stupid draw would have me cursing more. I won’t say the team became an obsession but it was taking up a good deal of my time.
And for what? One roller-coaster season after another; an inspired win here, a game contemptibly thrown away there; one blind ref after another, one idiotic foul with a concomitant red card after another.
One week I’d be convinced we were heading into Europe, the next equally sure we’d be struggling to stay out of the drop zone.
Truth to tell, the most interesting season I can recall is when we fought our way back into the Premiership. That’s one reason why I was so high on Blackpool last season – they weren’t, as became apparent, the best team in the world but they never stopped fighting, never stopped coming forward, never stopped playing football.
And Sunderland sometimes did stop. They’d look like 11 individuals who’d never heard the word “team” and were still learning the basic principles of the game. They’d loll around the field as if they hadn’t slept for days (one or two of them possibly hadn’t) and while they seldom threw games away, they did give away more than enough.
In short (as I wrote here at the end of last season), they’re a typical middle-of-the-road club. Give or take an unprecedented run of luck of bad-luck they’ll finish around 10th, give or take a couple of places either way. They won’t become relegation fodder but neither will they aspire to European competition.
Which is why I’m getting off the roller-coaster. I’ll continue to follow the Black Cats, just as I’ll continue to read Salut! Sunderland. But I won’t attach life-or-death significance to each week’s result or individual players’ performances. By the end of the season, it’ll all have evened out and we’ll be somewhere in the middle with nothing in particular to be ashamed or proud of.
If I’ve lost a lot of interest in the club it’s because I don’t think they’re nearly as interesting as they could or should be. Heretical as it may sound, maybe a relegation battle would change that.
For the record, I remain unconvinced that Gyan will finish the season with Sunderland and my faith in Steve Bruce remains severely shaken. I’m not sure he’ll see out the season with us either.
And I really do believe the club could do itself a bit of good by signing Joey Barton. If only to get up the noses of those guys who play in black-and-white stripes but otherwise aren’t so very different to ourselves.
But whatever happens, I don’t think it’ll make an awful lot of difference to our overall performance.
What this also means is that I’ll probably be posting fewer comments here over the coming months. That, of course, will come as a relief to some…