In the aftermath of Sunderland’s latest defeat I’ve been feeling very despondent about all things SAFC. Not necessarily because of frustrating reactive substitutions or nail after nail being hammered into our coffin as it is prepared to be lowered into the Championship. I’ve been feeling discouraged because of our divided fan base, and the implications it has for the club as a whole.
Emotions are currently running high with people trying to establish exactly who is to blame for our recent plight and just where it has all gone so horribly wrong. Suddenly, supporters are being labelled as “happy clappers” in one corner and “bed wetters” in the other. Arguments have become personal as one type of fandom becomes “the reason we fail” and “unambitious” while those who want to display their dissatisfaction in a more public forum are labelled “plastic” and are accused of not “getting behind the lads”.
The tragedy of this divide, however, is that once again it is us, the fans, who suffer. We all want the exact same thing for the football club: we all want the Lads to be as successful as possible. We are not happy clappers or bed-wetters, we are all Sunderland fans.
At times like this it is worth remembering that there are still many reasons to be proud about being a Sunderland fan.
Regardless of our current situation, it will not last forever. One day David Moyes will not be our manager and Ellis Short will not be our chairman. But guess what? We will all still be there. As much as we like to pretend otherwise - this club is part of us, it is woven into the very fabric of our lives. We are not manufactured supporters of a successful club we are born Sunderland supporters due to our geographical location or family heritage. Every other week 40,000 people flock to the Stadium of Light while thousands travel the length and breadth of the country in order to watch them on the road.
A great many of us come from areas where being resilient and demonstrating strength in adversity are a part of our everyday lives. We don’t necessarily have a lot, but we fight for what we have and are proud of it. This is a special football club to be associated with for a number of reasons, and the club’s current predicament, the players on the pitch, the manager and the owner should not overshadow this.
In the wider media people may mock Sunderland AFC and its fans, but most wouldn’t have a clue what it’s like to support a club with a recent past like ours. We’re an amazing group of people, so don’t let anybody tell you any different.
Being a one club city provides such a great opportunity for shared experience. As already mentioned this club is part of our identity, it is the catalyst for lifelong friendships and creates memories to last a lifetime. Every match day is unique and special in its own right; people who would otherwise have lost touch years ago meet up for a pint, families spanning generations can all participate in a conversation on an equal footing and spend quality time together. Sunderland AFC is a unifying adhesive.
Even this week, despite the result, I managed to have a brilliant day at Leicester. In the car going down there were two lads I had never met before in my life yet within an hour you would think we had known each other for years as we exchanged fond memories about following the lads over the years (Ooooh, football fwends!).
I’m not going to tell anyone to Keep The Faith or advise anyone on how to support their own football club. But I want you to remember that we are a club that is steeped in tradition, history and showing strength and solidarity through even the most challenging of times. We all ultimately want the same thing, and in spite of everything going on at the moment we must remember that the pride we all feel for our club is greater than the moment in which we find ourselves. We will persevere and things will get better.