May 21st 2018 is a day that will stick long in the memory of Sunderland supporters - the day that Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven were officially announced to the world as the new owners of our football club.
That morning, I received a text from Stewart to say that he’d like to record a podcast with us at some point, but he wasn’t sure when in the day it would be. I immediately drove down to Sunderland and spent the rest of the day waiting for a call to confirm a time when we’d be recording.
By half past three I’d heard nothing. I was sat planning the interview nervously in the library at Sunderland University, preparing for the biggest Podcast I would probably ever record, when finally I received the call from the new owner to say he was finished, and to see if I’d give him a lift over to the studios. Me, in my little red Seat Ibiza picking up the new owner of Sunderland... I, of course, agreed and set about tidying my car in the quickest time ever.
When he hopped in he hurriedly told me to drive off before Charlie could get in and follow him - I obliged, of course, and set upon the most nervous five minute car journey of my life.
And there we were, with Netflix pointing cameras and Roker Report getting the first proper interview with the custodians of our football club.
The pink seats were addressed, the ‘Dortmund model’ was mentioned and, for the first time since Niall Quinn was at the club, we felt like we were finally in safe and secure hands.
At the time, that podcast and its significance probably didn’t hit me. This was the first time an owner of a north-east club had spoken directly to the fans through a platform that was not through the traditional media - quite mind-blowing, when you think about it.
Since then we’ve had Stewart Donald on the podcast five times, Charlie Methven has been in twice, and we’ve had Paul Reid and Kevin Ball on the show to talk about the academy. Just consider where we were as a club one year ago - it’s quite hard to imagine then that we would have this much transparency now.
Thankfully, as a podcast we’ve been blessed by having so many other magnificent guests this year, including: Danny Collins, Chris Brown, Kieran Richardson, Phil Bardsley, Carlos Edwards, Andy Holt, David Preece, Matt Piper, George Caulkin, James Hunter, Lee Clark, Rob Mason, Paul Hetherington, Ian Murtagh, Keith Downie, Julio Arca, Sir Bob Murray, Alan Durban, Nick Barnes, Phil Smith, Simon O’Rourke, Jeff Brown, David Jones, Graeme Anderson, Gordon Armstrong, Netflix, Durham CCC and so many more that I have forgotten!
All of this though is not possible without you, our listeners.
The amount of you tuning in has jumped massively since the summer and our reach has grown to the point where our brilliant guests are happy to do the podcast because they are aware of it, and know that they will be given the chance to tell their story.
When I first contacted Lee Clark about coming on the podcast he was happy to do it, and that was because he knew he would get the chance to tell his story, which led to some people asking us“why are you giving him the air time?”.
Well, the reason is simple - I want the players to tell their story about Sunderland, and that means interviewing controversial figures like Clark.
If our listeners don’t agree with what they say, then that is fine - but what I try to do as podcast host is give them the chance to tell their story. And as time goes on, we will continue to interview former players, owners, chairmen, coaches, managers and more, no matter how controversial they are, because despite our own personal feelings on that particular person, it’s interesting to hear their side of the story.
So - thank you for listening. Thank you for your kind messages about the podcast, thank you for constantly offering us feedback and telling us where we can improve, and thank you for continuing to support what we’re trying to do.
We’ll strive to keep a steady flow of interesting guests coming your way in 2019 - and I promise we already have plenty of them lined up!