From our friends across the water, we have heard of good public relations and bad public relations during Sunderland’s North American tour.
Paul Pattison, a long-time exile originally from County Durham (Annfield Plain), told the story of the owner Ellis Short’s wife, Eve, mingling and posing with SAFC fans before the first game in Sacramento. Eve Short went to university in the area and used the occasion to meet up with old friends.
Jesse Burch, an American convert to our cause, told a sorrier tale, of the players themselves making virtually no attempt to acknowledge the vocal Sunderland support at the end of the Pachuca game. A fellow-supporter told him it had been the same after SAFC played Sacramento Republic in the same stadium a few nights earlier.
As footballers grow increasingly detached from supporters, it is perhaps easy for them to forget that small gestures can mean a lot. Not everyone supporting Sunderland at Bonney Field was American or a North East expat. Some travel for the occasion, even to outlandish places and even for friendlies.
“After the final whistle blew,” Jesse wrote here in a post that has now been seen by thousands, “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’.
“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.”
Later, when his article was discussed at Ready To Go, he added: “My understanding is that some of the players stopped to sign and take photos after the match before boarding their bus back to SF. Wish I’d known where that was happening…”
Check out Monsieur Salut – like a 10-year-old according to one hostile reader – at the Sunderland pages of ESPN FC, covering this and other aspects of the tour: http://www.espnfc.com/club/sunderland/366/blog/post/2528856/jermain-defoe-and-sunderland-have-something-to-prove
The thread produced some gems. “Come on man,” said Abu Dhabi Red and White. “This was only a friendly and fitness is the most important thing. To raise an arm or wave to supporters would add to fatigue.” Mind, Abu Dhabi R&W also said he couldn’t care less about salutes after “meaningless friendlies”.
Knowing our Jesse is an actor, Kid Galahad chipped in: “You should have played the ‘do you know who I am?’ (Hollywood edition) card. You could have blagged some VIP seats and signed some autographs FOR our players!”
Kid G welcomed Jesse as “truly are one of us now”, because disappointment is par for the course. “Has your lass had a go at you for moaning about it yet? if the answer is yes then you’ve definitely made it!”
Guinness Guzzler, stout fellow, made the serious points that should strike a chord with Ellis and Eve, telling Jesse:
The fact is (a few mentalists like yourself excluded!) Sunderland aren’t going to win fans in the States just by turning up. If we were successful then yes, if we were mint to watch then yes. As it is we’re a fairly dull side who haven’t (in the Sky era which is all that matters really when it comes to winning new fans in other countries) really had a great side to speak of, the closest we came was coming 7th twice before becoming a laughing stock.
If you’re not going to win fans by being mint at football you’ve really got to market yourself. If you go to the states you get out there, shake hands, clap the people who come to watch you and all that stuff, you go overboard with it if anything, if there’s one thing people in the States might like (and lets be honest, the club want people there to like us, hence the trip) its a plucky underdog with a good character. If we seemed like a nice club fighting the odds we might win a few people over (not many but some). If we seem like a dull side who don’t give a f*** we’ll go home with nothing except a bit more fitness, just seems like a real missed opportunity to showcase what’s good about SAFC.
Jesse said he’d written to the club and I suspect words will, as he suggested, have been had. Maybe Ellis should get his wife to join the fans at Toronto tomorrow night after first giving the lads a dressing room pep talk on how to win friends and influence people.
And it would also be nice to end the tour on a footballing high, with Jermain Defoe on the scoresheet and Jozy not. Winning is not the main point of these pre-season games, as Dick Advocaat and a million other managers have said. It still feels a good deal better than losing.
See all articles in the Sunderland Out West series at https://safc.blog/category/sunderland-out-west-2015/