The news that away fans will be moved to the North Stand Upper for the 2012-13 season has been unavoidable of late whenever you head over to the SAFC website or visit any discussion forum, but debate rumbles on about what to do with the South Stand now that's been sorted out.
One such idea has been to convert it into a "Singing Section" and no matter how cheesy and rubbish that sounds (I'll discuss that later in the article) it's imperative I feel that we have a proper 'home' end that can make a difference to those on the pitch, and become iconic of our home. If you feel the same, don't tell me, tell the club on their survey.
You can take the survey here - www.safc.com/southstand
We've made posts before about improving the atmosphere at the ground, and having taken the survey myself, I thought I'd lend some more thoughts...
So, a "Singing Section" has been mooted for the South Stand. I hate the term "singing section" but an atmosphere does need to be created one way or another. Whilst technically correct that we should make it a section in which people singing takes place, the term itself just sounds wrong and kinda forced.
It sounds like something a newish club would do to encourage atmosphere, where as at Sunderland we have a rich history, and I'd much rather it was encouraged to become the "Home End" that the North Stand never was when we first moved to the Stadium Of Light.
I think for starters, the club needs to ditch the term "Singing Section" for the reasons above, and should also ditch the name South Stand.
Whilst I understand that naming the stands after directions is all well and good and won't cause any sort of fuss if it came to renaming them via sponsorship. If I recall the North Stand was The Kronenbourg North Stand for a bit and nobody really noticed.
Leave the North, East & West Stands as they are, open to sponsorship and the likes, but the South Stand, in order to become anything special needs a name. The Fulwell End was iconic, not just in design, but for the passion of the fans in it. However, also if you just said to Joe Average Sunderland Fan "The Fulwell" they know exactly what you're on about and it instantly harks back to a better time. Atmospherically anyway.
Whilst I'm not sure of what exactly we should call it, I think we should use it to honour a former player or manager. Perhaps renaming it "The Porterfield" or something, and informing fans that this will never change, nor wil the club buckle to the corporate pound.
For the South Stand to be anything special like The Fulwell, it needs to be made known, from the off, that this is not only the Home End (that will come organically) but it's also YOUR stand, it belongs to the fans who in part made the club what it is today.
From the minute you walk into the South Stand it needs to be something special. Something that can create memories and be passed down through generations. It might seem drastic, but I'd like to see the concourses of the South Stand shut off from the rest of the ground. Inside, the bars and food outlets need to be less 'standardised' with the rest of the ground. Perhaps bits of Roker Park which now adorn the Sports Bar could be moved in. Provide some memories for older fans whilst creating them for younger ones. Leave Sky Sports News off the TV screens and make it SAFC-centric. Show re-runs of classic games with the days opposition and the like. Basically, make it different and special from the rest of the ground.
Of course when the game kicks off, the stand needs to continue this special atmosphere. Without question I'd like to see it adorned with banners, flags and so forth. Even at Old Trafford the other week, there's banners in tribute to players and managers past and present. I'd love to see us do the same and cut back on the Health & Safety gubbins which currently ruins the atmosphere.
It would be nice if the club actively encouraged this sort of thing, such as providing hooks and specific areas for the likes of Ha'way The Flags to hang their work and so on.
For any of this to happen however, the notorious 'blue coats' needs to have an understanding of the situation too. Let people stand-up, jump around and do so at their own risk. Manchester City actively encourage and play on "The Poznan"... Manchester United fans stand wherever they go. Even at the Stadium Of Light I've jumped around, fell over the seats in front in celebration and I know that's my own doing. Nobody who would really class themselves as a supporter is going to sue for a grazed knee.
Another thought which has been mooted is also turning it into a family area. Now this is only one mans opinion, but for me there's more than enough family sections for families to choose from, I'm not sure another is really required in all honesty.
If we're going to do something with the South Stand, it needs to be special. So if we're starting a fresh on it, let's go balls-deep and do it properly. I know if it did become something like this, I'd feel more encouraged to go in there, because at the minute going in the South Stand just feels like everywhere else in the ground - slightly soulless.
So if you want to see a big noise made and a return to the glory days (at least off the field), don't tell us, tell the club by doing so on the survey. It's only open until November 16th, so you need to get on it pretty quick.
Make your voice heard at www.safc.com/southstand
We the fans have the power to change things for the better. That doesn't happen often, so take the chance while it's here.