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Talking To Sunderland's Musical Finest - Roker Report Meets Frankie & The Heartstrings

Frankie in action.
Frankie in action.

Hello there, I'm back, again, with more top chatter for you.

Following yesterday's talk with Lee Clark, we at Roker Report went in a totally different direction when setting up today's interview, and were delighted that Frankie Francis, singer of Sunderland's very own Frankie & the Heartstrings, could take time out of his busy schedule to have a chat with us about all things SAFC.

If you aren't familiar with the band, then make sure that you get right on over to iTunes, Amazon or any other reputable website as soon as you have finished reading this, and grab their album Hunger, which has been a mainstay on my iPod for many a moon now, and it certainly won't be going anywhere in a hurry.

So without further ado, welcome along to Roker Report meets Frankie.

Welcome along Frankie, and thanks for taking the time to talk to us. It is more than fair to say that you are now Sunderland's biggest band, and have taken the baton from bands such as the Futureheads, but people might not be totally familiar with your football side. Are you a lifelong Sunderland fan?

Frankie: "I am indeed a lifelong Sunderland fan, as well as Michael in the band. He has a season ticket, although he doesn't get to use it that often, as we're always on the move. I've followed Sunderland since I can remember, and before I was in a band, I did radio at university, which meant I get to join a hospital radio, and got to comment on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light for them. It's my passion, is the football club, and it's a passion that I've had for a very long time. When you're young, you either want to play for Sunderland or be in a band, and at least I got to do one of them."

What is your first memory of the club, or the first game that you remember attending?

Frankie: "The first game that I ever went to was back in 1991, we played Wolverhampton Wanderers at Roker Park, I was in the Fulwell End and we got beat 2-0. I always remember thinking that it shouldn't have been enjoyable, but I loved every minute of it, and I've been going back ever since. I think, the club is very well connected with the morale of the whole town, and if the club is doing well, then the town itself does well, and it is quite rare that a club can still that sort of thing to a place. There's some kind of connection socially between the club and the people of Sunderland, and you notice that especially if you go away, then come back. When the side's doing well, people are generally always happier, and the town on the whole is a great place to be.

So, looking back over the years, do you have an all-time favourite player?

Frankie: "Certainly, in my life time, it would have to be Kevin Phillips. You know, as someone who saw him first hand banging them in left, right and centre from outside the box and inside the box. He was just so fast off the ball, and he was just an absolute hero to so many people, and he still is. When he gets a chance to play against us now at the Stadium of Light, he always gets a standing ovation, which he completely deserves, and it shows you how much respect he earned while he was here. Obviously the club has its heroes all down through the years, but I loke to judge people on what I've actually seen, and Kevin Phillips is right up there at the top.

Couldn't agree more, so if Phillips is the all-time great, who do you like best from the current batch?

Frankie: "Well... Looking at the squad, it's ever changing, but I have been very impressed with Wes Brown so far. I think that he'll be the best signing that we've made for a long time."

What do you make of the current squad, compared to recent years gone by? It wasn't long since we were relying on the Daryl Murphys of this world to bring us glory?

Frankie: "Do you know, I never really understood the whole thing with Murphy, okay, I can remember the one screamer that he scored, but can't see any other reason why people might have liked him. But anyway, the squad that they have now is, squadwise, the best that we have had for years. If you look at the kind of players that we have on the bench, there's quality everywhere, but it will just take time to gel. The likes of Wes Brown and John O'Shea will rub off on the players around them, especially the younger players who are just coming through. I'm a bit worried that we still haven't really replaced Benty (we were talking on transfer deadline day - before Bendtner came in - Dan), and losing him cost us a top seven finish last season, along with the injuries.

So, with all the 'hype' and reaction, following another beating from the Mags in the derby, and the Twittersphere kicking off after the Swansea game, are you in the Bruce in, or Bruce out camp?

Frankie: "I'm very, very positive about Bruce. I think he has a brilliant relationship with Quinny, and that Quinny has a brilliant relationship with Ellis Short. That's very integral really to any football club, you need those relationships to be good, and you can tell that we have that, as we've seen over the years. When Bruce asks for a player that he wants, Mr Short generally puts the money in to make it happen, which is good, and very important that we keep that up. You only have to look eight miles up the road, and what's going on with the Mags, just to see what things could be like if we didn't have that. It's outrageous what's going on there, but I'm totally pro-Bruce, and I'm happy to have him here for a long time to come. I think that supporters are a bit too fickle these days, and they don't give people enough of a chance, and with Bruce, there was always the Newcastle thing when he first came, and a few people might never swallow that, but I think that you have to get behind the manager, and you have to get behind the team. He wants to do well for the team just as much as we do, so get behind your team and support the lads. We're in a time where every single thing is exaggerated by the likes of Twitter, Facebook and everything, people can comment instantly during a match, and a quick retweet means that anything bad can build and build and build. I really don't think that it's healthy, social media, when it comes to that kind of thing."

Moving on, do you get much chance to get back and see Sunderland very often?

Frankie: "No I don't really, which is a shame really, as Michael is kind of wasting his season ticket for the second year in a row, as we're generally busy on the weekends now. If we do get the chance, then we jump at the opportunity, but no, and it's a real shame, as I haven't missed a season for as long as I can remember, but our jobs mean that the better gigs that bands get offered are all on the weekend, especially at this time of the year when all the festivals are going on. It generally means we might be home on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but then off and away for the rest of the week. We've played all over the world this year, for the first time, and that makes it even harder to see the football, but... I wouldn't give up my job for the world.

Right... Moving away from the proper questions, I've got one or two less serious ones to tease you with. Would you rather... Score the winner in the cup final, against the Mags, or have a number one single in the UK charts?

Frankie: "Eurgh. That's not a nice question. Er, okay then. Score the winner. Because, anyone can have a number one really, Bob the Builder had a number one, but if you score the winner in the cup final, you will be remembered forever, and being able to do it against the Mags would just be out of this world."

Next up... Headline a stage at Glastonbury, or play a headline show at the SoL?

Frankie: "God man. Come on... I dunno about this one, I think, because of growing up in Sunderland, the gigs that I always treasure the most are the first ones that I started going to, at places like Pure and Independent in the town,, so there is something very special about doing a gig indoors in Sunderland. You get the whole raw emotion of being a band that have come home, so for that reason, I'm going to go for Glastonbury on this one. And, there's only bands like the Kings of Leon that can fill the stadium anyway, and I definitely wouldn't want to be like them."

At the moment, the players walk out the Futureheads, Beginning of the Twist. How would it feel if Sunderland, your team, as it were, walked out to one of your tracks, Hunger maybe?

Frankie: "I'd absolutely love it! Infact, why don't they do it already? Come on Futureheads, move over, it's our turn. We should all get onto them on Twitter about it and see what we can do. Maybe that could get us noticed. I'll certainly be happy to fight the corner for that one, it would be amazing, wouldn't it? We just need a striker whose name fits nicely into the tune (Frankie starts to sing the tune - find out what it's like below...- Dan). It would be amazing though, I'd be delighted."

And with that, I'd like to thank Frankie for taking the time to talk to us, at a time when we were all glued to Sky Sports News, and Jim White's hysterics. 

You can all follow the band on Twitter at @frankiestrings, as well as being able to visit their website here. So, get yourself over there, check out what's going on at their site, and get yourself a copy of their fantastic article.

Also, if you are lucky enough to be in Sunderland, or specifically Ashbrooke, on September 18th, you can see the band performing at the Split Festival. All details can be found on the festival's website, here.

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