Dear Roker Report,
I was inspired to write this letter after reading a previous piece from a Spurs fan.
Just like Roker Report reader Richard Thomas, I have no connections to the North East other than my best mate is a Mag (I’ll come onto that later on).
My football supporting journey has been an interesting one, hailing from Southend-on-Sea in Essex. Like the majority of people in the area, I grew up supporting West Ham United and in my teenage years loved seeing the likes of Di Canio, Joe Cole, Defoe et al. on a Saturday afternoon.
However, things changed. I always was against the move to the Olympic Stadium, but thought I’d keep an open mind and see what this new era would be all about. I went to two games during the 16/17 season and hated everything about the move - soulless, over priced and full of plastics, and a family member being attacked by a steward was the final nail in the coffin for me as a Hammer.
I decided to go to a smaller club and decided to go with our neighbours, Leyton Orient. This was during the Francesco Becchetti era - the Italian owner who was responsible for making irrational decisions on and off the field.
Despite going from one circus to another in the East End, fans were not fighting each other but were coming together and fighting the Italian’s abysmal reign.
Although the O’s were losing week in week out, it didn’t stop me returning to games, the small club with a big heart and the fan’s spirit and resilience made me love my new team even more.
This year I adopted Sunderland as my second team, which actually started out being a joke, to now definitely having red and white flowing through my veins!
After organising my mate’s stag to Newcastle (which is in August) all the lads agreed to go up in our club’s shirts, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Black Cats and thought it would be rude not to go up to the North East in a Sunderland shirt!
My best mate who is getting married is a huge Toon fan, he now looks at me with disgust, but we have good banter about it.
From that random event, I followed the club’s recent results and was glued to watching the Football League show and seeing Sunderland’s highlights. Although the results were hard to watch, I must have been a minority that thought the mighty Black Cats will eventually bounce back (fingers crossed!)
The Stadium of Light has always been one of my favourite stadiums - the hardworking people of the city from its coal mining days to automative industries spending their hard-earned money on their true passion was another reason for following this great club, true football supporters.
Let’s hope next season is a better one - I’m looking forward to the team coming to Southend. See you lot in the away end!
Keep the red flag flying high and viva la revolution.
Ed’s Note [Alex]: Once again, and much like the letter from Richard, my heart is warmed as I read about how profound an effect SAFC can have on a relative outsider - and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve fallen out of love with your boyhood club.
I’m also astounded that you managed to foster a love for Sunderland in what is arguably the most miserable, catastrophic season we’ve ever had. But hey, if you can passionately follow the lads at their very worst, then I’d like to see what your support is like when we’re back to winning ways!
Dear Roker Report,
As a Nottingham born exile introduced to the Lads at Roker Park in 1990, the new regime gives me hope for the next generation. Whilst that magical first match is a good way off for my 18 month old twin boys it made me think about my first match and the day my love for SAFC was born!
1990. My Dad, a lifelong Sunderland fan contacted the club to say he was bringing his two sons for their first match. The club responded warmly and sorted tickets for a match against Luton Town at Roker Park.
We were met on arrival, given a goody bag each (containing a Sunderland red plastic soap holder and toothbrush box, both emblazoned with the iconic Ship badge) and a match programme signed by the first team.
The sun was shining and I remember the feel of the ground, the wood and metal seats and the noise of the crowd. Gabbiadini scored a brace in a two nil win. A photo with Denis Smith and the buzz of a perfect home win sealed the day and Sunderland’s place forever in my heart.
I’ve often wondered how the club would have responded to a similar call from me about bringing my own boys. Under Short a brusque “that’ll be £100+” would probably have been it! Under the new guys who knows!
Ha’way the Lads! Here’s hoping they catch the bug and they don’t have to suffer the equal heart ache of being Forest fans!
Ed’s Note [Alex]: I think your estimate of what kind of hospitality you’d expect under the Short regime is probably spot on - there wasn’t a lot of love toward the business end of his tenure and with Martin Bain the de facto leader of all the club’s affairs you wouldn’t have expected any complementary freebies.
But have times have changed rather rapidly, and I dare say that SAFC now has an owner and manager more than willing to treat you with the same warmth and inclusivism as that which you experienced back in 1990. If I’m not mistaken, Jack Ross once organised a day out with the club so that a father and son could be shown around the stadium by the aforementioned manager - and I’m pretty sure that story isn’t completely unique!