What is this post... An idea? Definitely. A thought? Probably a ridiculous one. A plan? Yes... I really think this could work if done correctly.
This time of year, also known as transfer silly season brings up the same conundrums every single year... that our geographic location isn't appealing, that the club won't connect with the fans. Of course from there, people go even more mental thinking about other stuff such as the game day experience and the like.
I've thought of an idea, which would only require one or two cosmetic changes to the club, which could change all these perceptions and criticisms, if done correctly.
For too long now, Sunderland have been about as edgey as a satsuma. That's not to say we're alone, nobody around the league is doing anything differently, all just being nice and existing within the league. It's about time we tried something different... It's about time we embraced the negativity around the club, and used it for the positive.
I want readers here to submerge themselves in my plan. Take each point one by one, and add it to the bigger mental picture they're creating in there mind. so without further ado...
To kick off this shift in attitude, both club and fan need to be on the same page. Alright, we're miles away from London, and people aren't too fond of the North East... EFF THEM. That's the attitude we need to have. We need to collectively turn this situation on it's head, and establish the club as a 'rebel force' in the league. Sort of say "Alright then, you don't like us. Fine, we're here, and we're gonna be good. Deal with it"... akin to what Ian Holloway tried at Blackpool this season, but to the nth degree, and without the whimsical phrasing.
And now for my few minor tweaks to the current infrastructure and change a few opinions about the club...
1. Create The Spark
Quite simply a spark needs to be ignited. It needs to come from the club too, as they are going to have to be actively encouraging all the fan involvement, and certainly spending a little money on the whole thing.
For me, the perfect starting point would be a new kit complete with cool as **** advertising campaign. Something a little different. Perhaps a third kit, but for me, certainly a black kit. Black, the most obvious and typical colour of rebellion, and the fact we've previously had a black away kit would mean it isn't a precedent either.
Something dark, mysterious, a bit of edge in the promotion side of things... crossing over to the dark side.
Also this is not a slur on Umbro who have created some cracking kits for us, but this is just the start of everything, and Umbro are pretty damn good when it comes to marketing. Just look at the recently relaunched NY Cosmos.
2. The Club Encourage Fans
Now then Niall sit down, I'm not for one second suggesting a reduction in ticket prices, they're fine (although if you want to make them cheaper then...).
Following the success of the new kit (one assumes) we need to kick it up a notch. The club need to get the fans on side more and help create an atmosphere around the club, that we - fans, players, officials are all one at this club. We're told it often enough, but how many of us really feel it?
I'm proposing, following the success of the Ha'way The Flags initiative, and the Sunderland Football Group who have gone great lengths to improve the atmosphere inside the ground, more needs to be done.
Niall, please encourage more fan involvement. I'm not talking Bolton Wanderers Foam Fingers, or t-shirts that create a mosaic etc, but just pick up the baton where those have started. Give us a few more flags, give people permission to stand and jump around (at their own risk) even Ajax who have a modern stadium have faux-grafiti around the interior.
3. New Entrance Music
Ah the entrance music. Even in my time we've gone through Z-Cars, Queen, Republica, U2 and The Futureheads. Now then only really Republica was iconic, mainly because it's usually associated with a period of success. The Prokofiev which has preceeded various tunes at the Stadium Of Light is also outdated now for me - The amount of times I've gone to games with someone unfamiliar with SAFC who have said 'Why are they playing the music off The Apprentice?' isn't worth counting any more.
I propose change. Something more rocking, something others aren't using, or wouldn't consider using. Having thought about this fairly long and hard (ooh-err) I've settled on Metallica - Seek & Destroy. The sound is iconic, it's upbeat, it kicks a few people in the face. Listen for yourselves...
Do have a listen, and compare with the current effort by local boys The Futureheads. Whether this sort of music is your thing or not, I'd rather head down the Metallica route though. Lets face it, I'd rather go with their opening verse which says "We're looking for you to start up a fight" than The Futureheads' "Why don't we get it started with a kiss"... The only thing fitting about the current song is the title "Beginning Of The Twist" as the first minute is usually the time we as fans start getting our knickers in a twist about, well, everything... lets "Seek & Destroy" instead.
Alright, we're getting there. We've created a bit of intrigue. We've got the fans in full voice with flags, banners and all that sort of thing. We've kicked things off with a belting tune, and now to put the icing on the cake, lets complete the entrance to the pitch with some fireworks and some smoke.
Just like the best atmosphere's in Europe, we could quite easily ge this going, and most the time it looks pretty damn awesome, lets just go for it!
5. The Attitude Of Our Stewardship
No, not the much hated 'Blue Coats' although they'd have to ease up too, I'm talking about the noises from Sir Niall and Steve Bruce. We're well aware that our geographical location plays a part in some players not wanting to come to the club... How about we stop mentioning that, or indeed how 'difficult' it is to convince them. A change in tact is needed here, and it's perhaps the most crucial element. With the above hopefully contributing to an atmosphere of initimidation, rebellion etc, we need the seniors at the club to start doing the same.
Balls out, we need to be of the thought "eff you, we're building something special here. If you don't like it, or don't want to be part of it, then do one"... even be as bold to say that in public. Build that sort of seige mentality that everyone is against us, but we don't care, we're here, so deal with it. Time to stop being so bloody placid and get agressive, time to stop sucking the Premier League dong and towing the line.
In conclusion, I think these measures would drastically improve supporter-club relations, give us an edge over other teams in the league that we are different to the others, we're the ones who stand out or are special. We might not offer the best wages, but it sure as hell is the best place to play every other week. Be a part of it, or don't bother.
As I alluded to earlier, I think this mentality will breed confidence and one-ness amongst everyone involved at the club, and who says you can't buy team spirit eh?
Speaking of costs, it would certainly cost a fair bit to put on 19-20 times a season, but lets face it, spending money on this would significantly improve things as opposed to the same or more it would cost to keep Nyron Nosworthy or George McCartney around for another year... I say we embrace the negatives, and turn them into a positive and a building block.
How would you like to see things improve? Leave a comment and let us know.