Wickham’s reception raises question about Sunderland, Crystal Palace and their supporters

Jake's take
How Jake welcomed Connor’s part in the great escape before last
After Connor Wickham’s home debut for Crystal Palace, in which he hit a post at 1-1 versus Arsenal and generally impressed supporters, the Palace blog HLTCO had this to say:

Having spent four years at Sunderland, Connor Wickham could be forgiven for thinking that football fans seldom get behind their own players, but after his first experience in a red and blue shirt at Selhurst Park, the striker was quick to reference the backing he received.

The writer did not expand. He may have had in mind the stand-emptying gesture that reappeared in Saturday’s defeat to Norwich having been seen in the equally wretched game against his own team last season.

But is the implication that our fans do not get behind their players remotely fair? Of course it is not. Given what they have been required to endure almost throughout the present nine-year Premier run, the wonder is they stay so loyal and supportive.

I do not imagine the coach operators in South Norwood have a problem providing enough vehicles for Palace away games, though I invite HLTCO to provide stats to prove or disprove my assumption (having a small ground works as an excuse only for the massively smaller home attendances).

It is easy for those of us spend part or all of the year in foreign exile to say we would not walk out of a match with a lot of time, maybe even the second half and more, still to go. When you consider what the week-in, week-out support has seen as an alternative to entertaining, effective football in recent seasons, it is hard to criticise.

For last season’s game at Palace, Sunderland sold 2,273 tickets (including one to me). It was the first away game after the 8-0 mauling at Southampton, which I also attended. Even allowing for the sizeable proportion of southern-based fans, that is support at a phenomenal level for a round trip of 580 miles for a midweek evening fixture. It’s bad enough getting there from west London.

When Palace travelled north for the return game, it was what used to be a normal Saturday afternoon kickoff and Palace were on a roll. I can find nothing in a cursory online check but would guess they brought between 500 and 1,000 supporters (if this is any guide, their match at Swansea drew an away contingent of about 1,200; but see comments below for an update – I was wrong, though the point stands).

And what happens at away games when Sunderland play as badly as they can? The fans given incredible backing, singing “things can only get better” and roaring their side on to the most improbable of fightbacks. Some left early as the goals flew in a St Mary’s, but most of us saw it out to the bitter end. Plucking a couple of games from the air, anyone present at Hull the season before last or the Emirates last season will testify to the full-hearted commitment of the away support.

Attending football games almost certainly hits the pocket harder, in terms of proportion of disposable income, for people in the North East than London. Yet a team that turns in abysmal performances with such monotony finished sixth in the Premier league table for average attendances last season. Our 43,000 compares somewhat favourably with Palace’s 24,000.

But once the money has been paid and the journey made, the supporters feel entitled to express their feelings according to what they perceive to be the effort, passion and basic footballing technique on display. They’ll even put up with dire quality if they sense the players are giving it everything they have.

If Wickham considered the supporters did not always seem to be fully behind the team at Sunderland, he would also know the reason why.

Duncan Watmore2

Duncan Watmore will tell him the other side of the coin, coming on with the team three-down and 20 minutes to go, playing his heart out and having the remaining supporters practically blow the ball into the net for his consolation goal. By the same token, if Jermain Defoe really is acting like a southern whinger, wanting a move closer to London (some wag rightly suggested Leyton Orient might be suitable) so soon into his contract, he can expect a cooler reception.

The relationship between Sunderland and Palace fans is not always especially warm. But in case Palace fans generally or HLTCO in particularly think we’re a bunch of chippy northerners boasting about our garden shed being bigger than their ground, they might bear in mind that one of their supporters, the actress Kellie Shirley, was shortlisted for last season’s Salut! Sunderland HAWAY awards for interviews with opposing fans.

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
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19 thoughts on “Wickham’s reception raises question about Sunderland, Crystal Palace and their supporters”

  1. Well said Drummer; well said. On top of all the tripe we’ve had doled out to us on the field year after year, we have to put up with facile criticism from third rate pundits and fourth rate fans and fifth rate clubs now.

    Loyal and unswerving and faithful to the last and now insult is being added to injury.

  2. We the long suffering SAFC fans are painted in the media as ungreatfull yokels who should be glad to see our team humiliated by the giants of Norwich , Villa , Palace at home because it occurred in the premier league . We walk out peacefully simply because we can’t stomach this charade any longer and we’re in the wrong ?Maybe if we showed the passion and loyalty to smash up our city centre , invade the pitch or punch an innocent animal it would prove our loyalty to the resident MOTD comedians who are paid a fortune by us the licence payer to bore the country stupid . No one and I mean no one else would put up with the utter sh##e we’ve had to put up with for decades and still support so peacefully and in such numbers . We will never rise to the bait and lower ourselves to those levels though so the lot of them can sling their hook !

    • I have stopped watching MOTD. In truth Alan Hanson was the only decent pundit they have ever had. They sit there, having watched a piece of footage a dozen times, and then explain [ usually in convoluted English ] what any six year old can see for themselves.

      Linecker should stick to advertising crisps, and what can you say about Shearer? Banality in action.

      IMO Graham Sourness is the best TV analyst, by a considerable margin.

  3. The team’s complete and utter rubbish. It’s the fans fault though. Give the crowd something to cheer, even just one in a while. Some effort, maybe even some skillful play. One day we might even get a win. That would really give the supporters something to moan about.

    The majority of our players are overpaid, lazy, and lame. Some of them have been getting away with murder for years and have it coming.

    • I don’t think I could disagree with that Jeremy. And we never seem to learn. Why do we keep bringing in over the hill, or never will be players on long contracts? How can that be a sensible or viable policy for the future?

      It was obvious last season that Coates lacks pace [ he was the 5th choice CB at Liverpool who are very poor in defence ]

      Kaboul was finished as a PL player two years ago. He couldn’t get on the bench at Spurs, and nor could Defoe before he went to Canada to see out his pension.

      Our club has been mismanaged at every level for years, and sadly, shows no observable evidence that it remotely understands how to break the cycle.

  4. Exactly right Tom. The Sunderland fans will get behind the team and give them amazing support at the merest glimmer of good football. The fact that we’re the most underachieving football club on earth (in terms of attendances in relation to success, over decades) makes this very rare.

    But we still have to admit that the lack of investment in players at the right time, awful transfer dealings, inept tactics and team selections and lack of commitment from the players .. is all the fans’ fault.

    Yep, that old chestnut reappears periodically. The media, in particular, love it.

  5. So its the fans fault? Not that old chestnut. No club in works football has such fabulous support in relation to the lack of success and constant disappointments.
    Toxic? The supporters have been loyal and patient and on some ways too soft in letting the club constantly dither from one disaster to another, clearly not learning any lessons. The start to this season is another example of this.
    Tom Lynn

  6. I have been a Sunderland supporter for over 50 years so I do know something about this topic of discussion. I came across the article purely by accident and have been surprised both by the inference that Wickham may somehow have felt hard done by at Sunderland, but also by the tenuous link to the quality of Sunderlands support in general.
    Connor Whickham never received anything but full support at the Stadium of Light, despite rarely reciprocating. Of course he was well received at Selhurst Park, they are on a high at the moment and all is well with the world. Wickham may well to go on to prove his many detractors wrong, we will see, but we wish him well.
    As for the quality of Sunderlands support, and making reference to fans leaving the stadium before the end, I would defy and group of supporters in the world to react differently. What the Sunderland team have laid on the table over a long period of time has been absolutely abysmal, they would test the patience of a limpet. Deep down, we know that we should have been relegated under Martin ONeill, again under Paolo Di Canio, and again under Gus Poyet. Really, this team shouldn’t be in the Premier League. It is soul destroying having this year on year. Given the same circumstances, Crystal Palace fans would do exactly the same, make no mistake. Up the road in Newcastle, the reprisals would have far more reactionary, I’m sure.

  7. Sorry. but it’s what I’ve felt for a few seasons now, a section of our home support is toxic.
    Toxic to the atmosphere, toxic to the players, toxicity permeating the whole club.
    Is it any surprise that beating the barcodes is the only highlight of the season? Even the most pesticidal toxic can’t find it in themselves to rubbish their own team in front of the Mags – result….. we win.

  8. He was mad but di Canio called Wickhams bluff, commenting on his lack of professionalism and preference for material wealth at the expense of improving himself as a footballer. To the saints above criticising fans who left early last Saturday, get a grip and put your naive moral platitudes to one side. SAFC were a disgrace as they were last week at leicester and often last season and regularly ipn recent times. Sometimes it gets to a point where ‘enough us enough’ and you feel you don’t want to watch cheats representing your football club. Last week at Leicester and at home to mighty Norwich were shambolic, amateurish, gutless, puerile performances. I walked out of both early and was ashamed of my club but not the fantastic supporters who are currently the only reason I keep attending.
    Tom Lynn

  9. I actually read the article in question, and the interesting thing were the actual words Wickham used, which could be best described as the usual cliches and platitudes trotted out by new signings after a home debut. The only comparison of supporters came from the writer of the blog, who seemed determined to perpetuate the media view of palace suppporters, and have a go at us, for some reason best known to himself. I think they’re the ones with the chip.

  10. Your blog post seems to be almost entirely centred around attendance numbers which suggest you have missed the point of HLTCO criticism.

    It’s not the numbers turning up but how those numbers react to performances.

    Sunderland fans don’t own the rights on being let down or disappointed by your teams performance, it happens to fans everywhere.

    Maybe you are right, maybe you do deserve more from your players and coaching staff, It’s not for me to say. But is booing and leaving early really the best way to show your displeasure? Does it do anyone any good? No I don’t think so.

    When we (yes I’m a Palace fan if you couldn’t already tell) signed Wickham there was some SAFC supports on social media wishing him all the best but the majority seemed to be quite negative towards him. That kind of treatment of an outgoing player will no doubt cause the fans of the team he is going into to rally round him, it’ll also encourage the player to cherish and publicly thank the support received from his new teams fanbase.

    Connor WIckham may not be the transfer target I was hoping* for, but I’ll support him whilst he is a Palace player and possibly beyond.

    (*I’m actually quite excited about the prospect of Wickham leading our attack long term.)

    • Leaving aside the tricky question of whether you can “centre around” anything, my blog post was emphatically not exclusively about attendances. It would take no more than one sentence to establish which club had the greater support. I also dealt with the size, quality, support and loyalty of away followers. And I discussed the rights and wrongs of what happens between that support and the team when things are not going well. In other words, no point was missed.

      And, for the record, I wished CW well even if I do feel he only sometimes repaid to Sunderland, even in terms of effort and commitment, what the club invested in him.

  11. There were 1,483 Palace fans at the SOL in April (according to our programme).

    As regards, booing the team, why would anyone be expected to sit there like a happy clapper after the years of shite we’ve had to endure and then watch a bunch of players not even trying. What’s been put before us on the pitch is not acceptable and the players, management and directors need to be made aware of that.

    • I stand corrected on my guesstimate. They’re actually a lot better than a lot of southern clubs in that respect. Whether that level of away support, or even their 24/25,000s at home, would survive what we put up with is maybe a different matter

  12. Nobody can ever criticise the loyalty and sheer bloody minded enthusiasm of the away supporters unfortunately this is not repeated on home soil. The crowd on Saturday against Norwich were a disgrace, they hounded PVA right from the get go and booed every single misplaced pass right until half of them walked out. I was ashamed to be there not as supporter of my team but to be part of this new home support culture which in all my 43 years of going to the games is without doubt the worst support I have ever encountered at Sunderland.

    • I have to agree George. I have never walked out before the end whatever the score and have never booed the team. I’ll criticise after the game but not during it. As M Salut says the difference between what happens at away grounds and at home is tangible. At Leicester even when we were two and three down the supporters got behind the Lads on the pitch. At home every misplaced pass, every bit of poor control was greeted with jeers. Do these people not realise that their negativity does nothing to help the team. Thankfully my season ticket this year seems to be in block of fans who didn’t boo and stayed until the bitter end – except for one youngish lad behind me.

    • I genuinely think these players deserve it! I never booed the mick mccarthy team that went with the record low points because we were on a shoestring budget, and quite simply the quality wasnt there but, and this is the important part, the effort and the passion was there. Now we have a bunch of over paid ‘premier league quality’ players who simply have no pride or commitment

    • I have enjoyed ‘Away’ games far more than ‘Home’ games for a very long time… purely because of the support. Indeed, this may account for the SOL not being the fortress we would all like it to be!

      I can understand boos & criticism after the game has finished or even at half time as the players walk off, but the only thing that players should hear when the match is on, should be deafening support and encouragement. Anything else is counter-productive and a great boost for the opposition. It would be better if the ‘Boo Boys’ stayed away and saved their hard-earned money.

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