Any time someone finds out I like ‘soccer’ they ask who I support, to which I proudly respond “Sunderland!” - which is always, usually, followed by blank stares.
It’s a miracle if you’re able to find an American football fan that doesn’t ‘support’ one of the big five English clubs or one of the other handful of European giants/perpetual Champions League semi-finalists. Very few truly follow football, let alone Sunderland.
But, Sunderland captured my heart as a teenager. As a child, I fell in love with the game itself by playing, but growing up in the U.S. where no one knows a thing about the sport in rural communities, my love never really grew from a simple love of sport and competition.
Until, by happenstance, at my university’s dining hall in 2010, ESPN were televising a match between Sunderland and the mighty Chelsea. I had watched several games on TV but never really followed it properly. The pre-match commentators were really hyping up the quality difference between the sides and how the game was sure to be a lopsided affair - and that it was. The underdog lover in me abandoned my brunch and I found myself watching the Cats dismantle the giants.
I was hooked. I learned, in that day, everything I could about these Black Cats from the North East of England; at the time I couldn’t have even pointed to Sunderland on a map, but I had caught fever for their team.
Because of this new passion for Sunderland I found that my fandom grew from that of just a Sunderland fan, to that of a fan of football as a whole. I began watching football year round, every weekend. Premier League, Champions League, International Friendlies, European and International Cups... my love had blossomed. Every season from then to now I have watched as many Sunderland games as have come on TV here in the States and followed every piece of transfer news to know the goings on with the Black Cats and football in England as a whole.
In following football so closely these years I have noticed one main, overarching theme which is the reason I wanted to write this in the first place.
On behalf of the United States of America, I am so desperately sorry. I’m sorry to English football, the amazing fans and most importantly, I AM SORRY TO EVERY LIFELONG SUNDERLAND SUPPORTER.
Arrogance has always been our nations biggest character flaw, but to see it hurt something so beautiful is just too far. In the area of players we have contributed, at best there has been a handful of genuinely quality ones that have played in England, which has come in large part in the form of our somehow endless supply of goalkeepers in the last 15 years or so.
But for every American’s English Football success story their are 5 fails or flops - Sunderland being the victim of probably the worst flop of all in the form of Jozy Altidore (I’m genuinely sorry I even mentioned his name). Luckily, managers have for the most part accepted their incompetence and have stayed out, save for the incredibly long Swansea tenure for Bob Bradley. But the biggest apology of all is deserved by the fans who share my love for Sunderland for the carnage that has been left in the wake of Ellis Short’s tenure as owner.
I’m sorry that a Missourian businessman shared my love for English Football. I’m sorry that he had enough money in his bank account to make an initial purchase of the club. I’m sorry that he has recently been relentlessly unwilling to open that account enough to bring in quality to make the club better. I’m sorry for his lack of commitment to any one manager’s plans to save the club. And, I’m sorry for the emotional roller coaster that has brought a great, historic club to the stark reality of possible third tier football.
What Sunderland deserve is ownership worthy of the Red and White Army’s spirit.
Sunderland deserve better than what Short has given. As a fellow American, it would be wonderful to know that a fellow countryman was owning and helping my favorite team succeed. But he isn’t. It would be awesome to see U.S. internationals bring quality to English sides or any European team for that matter. But they aren’t. Until we get our football issues straightened out here at home, we should stay out of Europe, the EPL, and especially Sunderland.
Having said all that, Sunderland will always have my support and fandom. The club has inspired so much in my life through a love for the game and I would follow them irregardless of what division we play our football in. I can’t wait to cross watching a match live at the Stadium of Light with my family and all of you wonderfully faithful fans off my bucket list.
Thank you to the whole of the Red and White Army for continuing to inspire me all the way across the pond and, as always, Ha’way The Lads!