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ITHICS Fanzine: Sunderland fans are going down in style - singing, chanting and holding a beer

We’ll all have a shot soon at writing the obituary for Sunderland’s demise this season but Saturday’s game against Leeds United certainly won’t feature.

PA Images via Getty Images

Dorty Leeds. Filthy, dorty Leeds. Come out of the station, colours off, turn right, head down.

Except... hang on, what’s happened here? It’s 20 years since I went to Leeds and the town centre has poshed up. There’s a micro-brewery, and endless numbers of eateries and bars called things like “Chop!” and “Haunch and Hops”. However, walk for five minutes and the true nature of the city reasserts itself.

Football was always marginal in Leeds, a rugby league place, and Elland Road is hard to find, miles from the centre. To get there you must trudge through a post-industrial wasteland of car parks, light industry and motorway junctions. At one point, between an underpass and a bridge over a motorway, I came across a man in a Sunderland scarf reporting an assault to a dozen police officers, as a crowd of Leeds fans - no colours - watched from a distance, clearly intent on a second bite of the cherry.

There were blokes in black puffer jackets everywhere, creating the unpleasant atmosphere I remembered from my last visit (however, in a further sign of gentrification the biggest crowd after the game was for the taxi rank to take the Leeds lads back into the centre for a craft ale and a deconstructed pie).

It took 20 minutes to get into the ground as we were herded, searched (even home fans are all searched - nice), videoed, had our conversations recorded and were sniffed at by police dogs.

That gave me plenty of time to study the mural depicting the club’s history, which essentially began and ended with Don Revie. The facilities inside Elland Road are rank. Half time was spent in a queue for a pie and a beer which never moved because we had drunk them dry of bitter and lager.

What a feeble excuse for a club.

We’ll all have a shot soon at writing the obituary for Sunderland’s demise this season but this game won’t feature.

We actually played quite well and it was an entertaining affair which could have gone either way going into the last five minutes.

There were two standouts for Sunderland. One was the contribution of the young lads - McNair (especially), Gooch, Honeyman and Love - who were full of energy and industry. McNair and Gooch (plus McGeady) caused Leeds problems all day. These four plus the likes of Watmore, Asoro and Robson could be the core of a League One promotion team.

Elsewhere in the team there were no flops. Camp looked iffy in the first half but made some good stops; Fletcher showed some more confident touches; Kone looks overweight but seemed more committed than usual; Wilson was poor at times but probably lacks match fitness; Cattermole has lost the intensity from his game but supported McNair well.

There has been some criticism of Coleman’s decision not to make some changes earlier in the game but I could see why he didn’t - the team was playing well second half and looked like it might score and I assume he didn’t want to disrupt things. A fair enough decision in my book.

The second standout was the crowd, which was in a vibrant, “we’ve accepted relegation, let’s party” sort of mood. Rumours that the club’s spirit had been killed off by years of under-achievement were dispelled. We’re going down singing, with our heads held high, a beer in each hand, and plans to get to Accrington next year.

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