Chris' Blog: Sunderland Fans Are 'Small Time'? You Must Be Kidding Me...

Michael Regan

No Captain's Blog today - Michael Graham is off teaching his firstborn his plans for world domination or something - so instead it's Chris Weatherspoon's turn to gift us an opinion. And, this week, it's a critique of Sunderland's fans that has got his goat...

Something rather strange happened early on Saturday evening. No, I'm not talking about Manchester United sealing three points at home to Sunderland, as not since May 1968 have the Black Cats nabbed a victory at Old Trafford.

But, far from being content with a fairly comfortable 3-1 victory for the Red Devils, a prominent United blogger took to the World Wide Web for an amusingly bad tempered rant. Scott, of the popular and well-respected Republik of Mancunia blog, launched himself into a hefty tirade. Sunderland fans, he claimed, were "small time" and - ultimately - "shit fans".

Some context is perhaps required here. It will have escaped few on Wearside that some in the red corner of Manchester, most prominently Wayne Rooney, had vowed "revenge" upon Sunderland for their fans behaviour in the final game of last term when, as the travelling United hordes learned in the away end of the Stadium of Light that they'd lost the league title to their bitter rivals, the home fans erupted into a mocking 'Poznan' celebration.

Scott seems to have been one of the Reds that found such mocking particularly hard to take. He has previously been a willing participant in our 'Fan Focus' feature here on Roker Report, appearing in the column for each of the past two seasons. However, this time around, our advances were rebuffed - something Scott was quick to point out on Twitter on Saturday evening.

Now, this is all somewhat petty. A harmless joke gone wrong, if you will. Yet still it rankled over at Republik of Mancunia towers - the site's post-match reactions saw fit to label Sunderland fans "the most small-time bunch we've had at Old Trafford for a while." This particular feeling of ire came as a result of the away end on Saturday's decision to again 'Poznan', as well as chanting about Sergio Aguero's late winner for City at the very end of last season.

The attack from United quarters that soon came was a ridiculous one, suggesting that Sunderland fans would rather cheer the efforts of another team - such as City - than their own. As stated, it provided Scott, whom we're assuming has struck us firmly off his Christmas card list, with the impetus to call Wearsiders "shit fans".

Call me sensitive, but I feel the record needs setting straight here.

Unlike Scott and the other 70-odd thousand regular inhabitants of Old Trafford, Sunderland supporters have not been the fortunate recipients of decades of big money signings, nor have they benefited from year after year of clear success. You have to go back 39 years since Sunderland won anything significant; in that time, United have won no fewer than 30 major honours.

Scott and his Manchester United cohorts have not had to suffer the ignominy of two of the lowest points totals in top level football in history. Sunderland crashed and burned their way to 19 and 15 point totals twice in the space of four seasons. By contrast, United have never failed to win less than 20 games in a season since before the inception of the Premier League.

Yet, despite those shameful seasons, Sunderland fans still arrived at the Stadium of Light in big numbers. In 2002/03, the club's average attendance was 39,698, the fifth highest in England. In 2005/06, that figure fell just as the side's fortunes did, but at 33,904 it still remained tenth in the nation and one of the largest in Europe.

On Saturday, the neutral BBC even saw fit to commend Sunderland fans for their support of their team. Travelling to Manchester on a whim and a prayer, one down after fifteen minutes and two down after twenty, the game as good as gone, the away end were incessant, roaring out chant after chant - the majority, whatever United fans may say, in support of their own team and players. Ben Smith, the journalist covering the game for the BBC, was moved to tweet:

Must mention Sunderland's tremendous travelling support. They were, quite simply, outstanding.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but this doesn't sound like a fan base that is either "small time" or "shit". That feeling is only compounded when you consider this upcoming weekend. Presented by the always sensitive Premier League fixture computer with a 650-mile round trip to Southampton three days shy of Christmas, in a time of economic hardship no less, Sunderland have sold out their allocation.

On Wearside, such events hardly merit acknowledgement. Even despite the club's distinct lack of success in the past half-century, even given the terrible form the side has been in for the best part of nine months now, ardent red and whites continue to turn up in their droves both home and away, despite being charged an arm and a leg for the privilege; the post-New Year trip to Anfield will cost plucky Wearsiders a lofty £44 for a view hardly worth half that.

Obviously, Sunderland cannot compete with the likes of Manchester United in respect to how many fans they have. United are a truly global brand. Frankly, I've always found the need for fans of separate clubs to compare their respective sides' attendances a bit sad; a sort of football supporter dick measuring contest. But, when attacked in the way they have been this past week, it seems only fair that Sunderland fans are defended.

In truth, the only thing "small time" about this whole event is the reaction of those United fans who have taken such deep offence to what was nothing more and nothing less than what we can only term as "banter" amongst fans. Those quick to admonish Sunderland fans for their behaviour were also quick to forget that, in being the only side not to lose against Manchester City last season, Sunderland did more than anyone else to help United to the title.

Honestly, Scott, it's not our fault you guys blew it.

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