Interested in telling YOUR story?
Roker Report are looking for reader submission as part of our ‘Why I love Sunderland AFC’ feature. If you would like to pass on your tale of why you love this club, please email us a piece of no less than 500 words to RokerReport@Yahoo.co.uk - we’ll feature the well-written ones here on the site!
According to the Oxford English dictionary, love is simply defined as a “strong feeling of affection.” Other words synonymous with love include fondness and warmth; and whilst we do occasionally feel these emotions towards our club, love is also irrational - it is blind. It is about devotion, strength in adversity, passion and commitment. In my eyes, this is the type of love we all have for our football club.
It's the irrationality of fandom that cannot be explained to somebody who doesn’t follow football. When it comes to Sunderland we all too often become that mate who won’t hear a bad word said about their missus. Internally we admit we are at best mediocre and at worst downright awful, but if an outsider dares to point this out it instantly feels like a personal attack; an attack on your parents, your city, your granny and your very being. Who are those middle class know-it-alls on the football weekly podcast to sneer at us and condemn us to relegation? Do they not know who we are?!
Like most other Sunderland supporters, the reason that I ended up following our club wasn't really a choice so to speak. Growing up in the north east with two generations of Sunderland fans on either side of my family, it was something I was simply born to do. The football club plays a big part in all of our lives and is a tremendous leveler and ice breaker at family events - it’s a collective understanding that almost anyone can partake in. There’s nothing better than three generations of the same family sat around the table ranting and reminiscing about the lads. It is living proof that no matter how matter how much we may try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are stuck with SAFC for better or for worse.
Another beautifully irrational thing about our love for Sunderland is the connection we all have with the past, present and future. As a club we have existed for over one hundred years before my birth and will hopefully be around hundreds of years after my death. I may have only physically been a part of this club for the last twenty years or so, but through stories passed down from grandparents and parents, DVDs, videos and books that I've scrutinised, I feel as though I’ve been to just about every game in the club’s history.
Events years before my birth irritate me - I dislike Coventry City over the Jimmy Hill carry on, and I curse the fact that we never appointed Brian Clough as manager. Only football could force someone to be so irked by seemingly innocuous events years before their birth, eh?
Another unique thing about football is the ability it gives us to enjoy shared experience. In the modern world people are less likely to live in one place their whole lives; kids don’t go on holiday to the same place year after year, and identity is becoming less concrete all the time. Yet on a Saturday this all changes, we aren’t students or Nissan workers or business people - we are Sunderland supporters. Every match day is special for a number of reasons; for someone it’s their first match and for others it’s the only time they have to spend the day with their mates and enjoy a few pints. Supporting Sunderland is bizarre because you forge friendships with an array of people from different backgrounds - many of whom you wouldn’t necessarily know under any other circumstances. Sunderland is this ubiquitous adhesive that binds people together regardless of their outside life.
For some, Sunderland AFC can provide great comfort during times of hardships. I sadly lost a close friend of mine last month, he had been a season ticket holder for over ten years before his life was tragically cut short aged 24. At his wake a moment of true magic occurred; at the request of his family, everyone in attendance wore Sunderland tops and there was a genuinely amazing moment whereby everyone in attendance sang Wise Men Say as well as other Sunderland chants.
In one sense it reminds us all of the insignificance of football, but in another it reminds of steadfast friendships forged through the game, and that even in our darkest hours this club can provide hope and comfort.
A number of people from outside the area have fallen in love with the club and the region. Niall Quinn famously described Sunderland as ‘getting under his skin’, Jermain Defoe cried tears of joy when he scored against Newcastle, and Dick Advocaat, a man who has managed his country and won a Europa League title, was completely overcome with emotion after helping the club avoid relegation.
Despite our struggles this is a special football club to be a part of. Some of you may have noticed that I have not really mentioned specific games, or the football itself. This is because I don’t think what happens on the pitch is that relevant as to why I love Sunderland. The football is merely the glue that binds us and it is the collective experience that truly embodies what it means to be a Sunderland fan.
Ha’way The Lads!