Michael Robinson offers an interesting talking point even if its premise – Sunderland becoming more attractive to star players and their WAGS by relocating all activities except matchday to the leafy, prosperous Home Countries – seems like something a newspaper might have published on April 1. The headline reflects Monsieur Salut’s instinctive response. Wear Down South is a great name for the newsletter of the London and SE branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association, but SAFC Down South? Please Mr Robinson!
Now that the dust has settled on another nerve wracking season, the minds of most Sunderland supporters will turn to transfers. Who comes and who goes, what will our squad for next season look like?
Amid the excitement and anticipation there will also be concern, not only that we get it right but that the club attracts players with not only the right level of ability but the right mindset required to play for Sunderland.
There are other concerns too. Will we be rebuffed again by one of the many players who support Everton, or will the attraction of the bright lights of the capital mean we lose out in the hunt for players to the likes of Palace, Watford, West Ham and even Bournemouth?
Will Sam prove to be any better at attracting players to our footballing backwater than other managers? I seem to recall either Poyet or Keane, or perhaps both, moaning about how difficult it was to attract players to move the North East [Keane I think, with his suggestion that players should ignore their WAGS’ shopping prefernces, though Poyet may have said something similar – Ed].
In thinking about the latter I recalled a short newspaper article I read sometime last year on this very topic.
The author suggested that clubs like us and our black and white neighbours up the road would stand a better chance of attracting better players if our base was located further south.
As I understood it the suggestion was for us to relocate the Academy of Light along with our business offices closer to London, but still play our games at the SOL.
This would mean our players training and living in the Home Counties and enjoying all the benefits of the supposedly more sophisticated southern lifestyle.
On match days players and entourage would fly up to the wilds of Wearside, play the match and then head back home to their southern enclaves, where no doubt they could party with and exchange footballing tales with players from the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs.
Apparently this model has been adopted by some American Football teams in the NFL and baseball teams. I am sure I read of a football club in Russia doing something similar by basing players in Moscow.
Looking at the idea from purely business point of view, I can see how this could make sense. If this was to improve our chances of success would it really matter where the players were based?
I think it opens up an interesting debate regarding why supporters support the clubs they do. Is it purely for success, as I suspect is the reason for most of Manchester United’s far-flung fan base, or is it a bit more tribal than that?
So, would it bother fans if the club adopted the model referred to above? I would certainly like to see us have a successful team but am not sure how far the club should go to achieve this. Investing 10s of millions of pounds in players is one thing but would relocating to the south be a step too far.