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Why I'm a fan of Sunderland AFC

Roker Report looks slightly different, have you noticed? As part of SBNation's community-wide site refresh launch we're sharing our stories of why we follow our respective football clubs and today Gav tells his tale of why, ultimately, as a youngster he had no say whatsoever on which team he supported.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed-looking Roker Report! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

Why am I a Sunderland fan? Well, because I had no choice, really.

People outside of the North East, or the UK in general, may not quite fully understand this but when you are born and raised up here and your dad is a Sunderland supporter you literally have no say in the matter of which football team you follow.

I grew up around Newcastle fans - most of my best friends, for their sins, are mags - and where I come from it's very much split in terms of who supporters who. Though our neighbourhood, an ex-mining Colliery, still fosters a relatively close-knit community spirit there is still very much a divide in terms of footballing support. Bordering on Wearside whilst remaining part of Tyneside means that my village is a Sunderland heartland that was headily influenced by the Keegan era at Newcastle, the remnants of which are still there to this day.

So when you think about it, I could have quite easily ended up one of them. But I didn't.

If I had have done I'd have been properly disowned. That's not me exaggerating either; I wouldn't have been welcome in my house if my dad knew I was a toon fan. My friends used to come over to our place and if my dad ever caught sight of them wearing a Newcastle shirt they were frog-marched back out of the front door for having the gall to try and enter his home wearing black and white. One of the lads would wear a jumper to hide it so that my dad wouldn't notice it - though he seemed to have a sixth sense for these things and inevitably would catch them out anyways.

So to say that I really didn't have any choice in which team I supported would be understating it somewhat. I was dressed head to toe in red and white from being a baby and my bedroom was decorated much the same. I had Sunderland curtains, Sunderland wallpaper, Sunderland bed covers, Sunderland posters, Sunderland memorabilia and even a Sunderland lampshade.

I've had a season ticket since I was barely out of nappies and we travelled home and away watching us play at some of the most fantastic, lively and beautiful football grounds in the country. I've got a Tupperware container in the house with around 500 ticket stubs in, things I've collected from a very young age. Fond memories of visiting places like Old Trafford, Gigg Lane, Oakwell, Gresty Road, the old and new Wembley, Highbury, Anfield, Roker Park - all thanks to my dad.

And its the recollection of trekking up and down the country and living through those experiences which makes me the Sunderland supporter that I am today. It's the greatest education that my dad could have ever me. Supporting this club is such a massive part of my life and for that I will always be eternally grateful. I couldn't imagine following any other team because to me there is only one team worth supporting; I spend every waking moment obsessing over the finest of details regarding Sunderland and, in truth, I wouldn't wish to have it any other way.

I'm now a home-owning adult looking to start a family of my own in the coming years and you can bet that my kids will be made to go through the same torture that I have done because, in all honesty, it's a way of life that shapes all of us beyond the confines of a football stadium.

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