Dear Roker Report,
This is a strange one, but bear with me because I think it might work for you.
I was born in Nowhere, in the West Country, in 1962. I grew quickly to love football and my Dad, who didn’t like it but would shout “Up City!” (Cardiff) to annoy me, took me to my first game at Stamford Bridge in 1970. Spurs won 2-0 and I was a Spurs fan for life.
We were struggling by later in the Seventies after the loss of the great Billy Nick. I came up from Somerset for a 1-1 draw with Sunderland in 1977, which saved neither of us from relegation. I first followed Spurs alone across the country in our only Division 2 season in 77/78. I remember seeing us win at Roker in the away game on Match of the Day (two goals to John Duncan) and how dark it was. Then, as we were inexorably approaching promotion, we somehow contrived to lose 2-3 at home to lower mid-table Sunderland, but we still got up by a draw at Southampton.
I moved to London for Uni and was a White Hart Lane season ticket-holder through the Eighties – FA & UEFA Cups, Argentinians, Hoddle & Waddle, Gascoigne at the end. Then we emigrated to Western Australia, where we have built a great life. Two daughters, two grand-daughters, semi-retired at 55 in the sun by the pool in our own house. I am a member of four football clubs in the world: Spurs, Union Berlin (fascinated by the fans building their own stadium and the East German roots), West Coast Eagles (national Australian Rules – the AFL), and West Perth (State AFL).
Still with family commitments in the UK, the more so since my Dad was killed ten years ago, we get back to the UK & Europe once a year with a live Spurs game just about every year, and a Union games maybe once every two years. I drove my aunt-in-law’s car to the Stadium of Light to see Spurs lose 3-1 to Darren Bent in the first minute with two missed penalties and Bolo Zenden with the volleyed goal of the season. And I got a coach from my sister’s house in Cheltenham to see Harry Kane’s first Premier League goal for Spurs on a Monday night as we won 5-1 (Lee Cattermole got the first goal) at The Lane and the Sunderland fans sang all night, as they always do, even in defeat.
Through all these years I held a growing affection for Sunderland. Why? I don’t know. The underdog as Eric Gates scored at St James’ Park? The class of young Marco? Kevin Phillips with the impossible goal from the edge of the box? My Mum was born in Seaham? Big Ted the admirable Sunderland fan in the Black Horse in London? Never any trouble but the fans were always singing? Working class made good? By the cold sea – it’s no Indian Ocean, but…? Not Newcastle or Middlesbrough, but in “the hotbed of football”? Three second half goals away to Bristol City to snatch a draw?
I can’t change my allegiance or ever barrack against Spurs, but I would pay good money to be a member of Sunderland. I find myself reading the Roker Report, willing the wind of change in ownership & management to turn into a hurricane of young players and supportive fans driving Sunderland back to former glories. 20,000+ season cards in League One – well done!
Beyond my Mum’s accidental birthplace, I have no connection to the North East region, but somehow, for reasons unknown, there is something there. We don’t have endless funds, but help me to help you: I’d love to be a member on the ground floor of your revolution.
Get behind the Lads!
Ed’s Note [Alex]: A fascinating story with some very kind words, thank you, Richard! I completely understand where you’re coming from too, there is just something there in the football club, and it’s wonderful knowing that even people without an organic connection to Sunderland can see that. Thanks for a brilliant letter!