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OPINION: This isn’t the 1970s - Sunderland fans must unite and take a stand against racism

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Anyone old enough to remember the 1970’s and 1980’s - when black footballers and black people were abused systematically in football grounds, and indeed anywhere - surely wouldn’t want to see a return to those days of hate and division on the terraces.

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Anyone old enough to remember the 1970’s and 1980’s - when black footballers and black people were abused systematically in football grounds, and indeed anywhere - surely wouldn’t want to see a return to those days of hate and division on the terraces.

Organised groups who targeted football supporters, distributing racist literature, were seen outside of many football grounds up and down the country - this movement wasn’t necessarily caused by football supporters but football supporters were the target, and unfortunately many were willing participants.

Sunderland never seemed to be breeding ground for these organised and bigoted groups. They tended to go for the bigger cities and maybe areas who had experienced more immigration, playing on the people’s fear and ignorance.

Having traveled the country over the years watching football I have never seen a widescale problem at Sunderland - certainly not at the scale of certain London clubs in the 1980s, and certainly I have never seen racism as bad as at Newcastle in the 1985 derby at St James’ Park.

That’s not to say we as a fan base were or are innocent - clearly and inevitably we have our share of idiots who spout nonsense, and we have those whose attempts at humour spill over the line, but to my knowledge there has never been organised racial targeting in or outside of the football ground element.

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We all know the progress that has been made in this area over the years and we all know that whilst the attitudes of the 1970s and 1980s haven’t been completely eradicated - that is sadly just not possible - those attitudes are much less prevalent.

It’s well documented that there has been an apparent shift from what has become the accepted societal norms over the last few years, fueled by domestic and worldwide political events and narrative.

That is just the way it seems to be - that’s the danger of the world that we now live in.

Over the last couple of weeks and before that there have been marches in Sunderland that are, in all honesty, frankly uncomfortable. On the way into one of the home games earlier this season, leaflets were handed out along Sheepfolds as fans walked to the ground urging people to attend.

This brings back memories of times that we all thought were long gone.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Now we as football fans could take the attitude that none of this has anything to do with us.

Everyone that I saw just walked on by taking little notice. But it seems that Sunderland, and other large towns or small cities, are targets for these groups. They have been for a while now - we know the politics we know the groups, but that is not for comment here.

If they gain confidence will they continue to target the young on the way to the ground like they did at certain clubs all those years ago? Will they make attempts to bring their messaging back into football stadiums, taking advantage of large crowds at a large venue with fewer TV cameras, less media attention in and outside of the stadium?

We need to maintain our reputation for humour, for passion, for our city, our team and we need to walk on by but should this lot try to infiltrate we need to challenge those ideas, they are not mainstream, they are not us and no good will come of them.

Sunderland have long been a great force for good in the community - the caring club, the one club philosophy, the foodbank initiative and the Foundation. Let us be vigilant, let us beware, let us protect our good name, just in case others have any other ideas of stealing it.