Our quest to explore how Sunderland AFC are regarded in the wider world continues with a second edition of Dropping The Gloves. This time, we turn the brilliant Back Page Football and it's Manchester City supporting co-editor Neil Sherwin.
Until City grabbed themselves a hugely generous benefactor and began their mission to dominate the football world, their fans were often lumped together in a group with our own as examples of fiercely loyal and perpetually let down supporters who deserved considerably better. Those days are long gone, but is there still some lingering respect there or are we barely a blip on the City radar now?
Over to you, Neil.
Stoke are known for a physical game and strong set pieces, Arsenal for possession football. Do you consider Sunderland to have a similar identity, and if so what?
Sunderland for me are one of those clubs that I’m indifferent about. I don’t hate them but don’t have much reason to like them either. Identity wise, there isn’t a particular style that makes the club stand out. I always associate other clubs with links to my own, and Niall Quinn is the most obvious tie to Manchester City. Quinn was my boyhood idol so always like to see him do well and if that’s at Sunderland then so be it.
You lot also get a spot in the long term memory for being the side against which Stephen Ireland unveiled the infamous Superman underwear.
Taking money out of it, how competitive do you think Sunderland can hope to be in the transfer market? Which clubs do you consider their natural competitors for signings?
Sunderland should be a very attractive prospect outside of the big four or five clubs. There’s a really solid fan base, a nice modern stadium and the folk upstairs seem to have their heads screwed on.
Natural competitors would be the likes of Newcastle United (boo I hear you say), Everton (they’ve regressed in recent times for me) and Aston Villa. Basically anyone in the 7th to 14th bracket.
From your vantage point, what would you consider to be the iconic or most memorable Sunderland moment during your time watching football?
Definitely the aforementioned shorts dropping incident.
That aside, my first real Sunderland memory is the 1992 FA Cup Final where 7 year old me was gunning for you to beat Liverpool to wind up a decent portion of my family. You let me down that day.
The Michael Gray playoff final (or the Clive Mendonca one, whichever) was an epic battle and encapsulated all that’s great about one off finals, though it probably doesn’t hold such fond memories for Mackems.
Niall Quinn claims that Sunderland have dropped their 'yo-yo club' tag. Do you agree with that and consider Sunderland now an established main stay of the Premier League, or is it a club you would still not be surprised to see involved in a relegation battle?
Sunderland shouldn’t be anywhere near the dropzone, plain and simple. If they are then there is something very serious wrong. For me they are an established Premier League club now and should be looking to move up the table towards a top seven finish, not worrying about late season relegation six pointers.
I think all clubs like to pride themselves on quality of their support. Comparitively speaking, and as a neutral observer, how would you rate the Sunderland fans?
Great supporters in my experience. They’ve had tough times (the McCarthy relegation year springs to mind) but have always been loyal to the club. I’m just old enough to remember the Roker Park days and that spirit has carried on to the Stadium of Light, even if there has been some disillusion at times.