In life, it’s almost impossible to predict how our destiny will be fulfilled. With so many potential pathways and countless opportunities to re-route our lives as a consequence of a chance encounter or a change in circumstance, or something as simple as missing a bus or saying hello to a stranger - it’s often difficult to plot our own fate.
Some argue that history does not define our destiny, but rather what we do today.
Today, you could choose a destiny with immeasurable possibilities. Today, you could change your future. Today, could just be the day when your career, character and eternal sporting epitaph could spiritually entwine itself with an iconic football institution whose genesis was forged in the fiery brimstone of football’s first innovators. The original giants of the game.
Today you could sign for Sunderland.
Don’t be fooled by our current league predicament. Don’t be conned by our recent humiliating history. Don’t be blindsided by historical tales of financial mismanagement. This is a new dawn... a different Sunderland.
One such man you will have to convince that you are worthy to wear the shirt is Charlie Methven - one of our sharp and erudite new owners. If simplicity is your bag, then his words are spoken frankly and leave little to interpretation:
Sunderland are the biggest club in League One’s history. No doubt.
More tellingly, please note this upcoming sentence from Mr Methven. If you feel you can’t heed its message and cannot relate to its principles then the outcome is clear: DO NOT COME. Sunderland are not the club for you, because we are not the club we were. Describing himself and majority shareholder Stewart Donald, he states:
We’re going to be ferocious, brutal, and tough for Sunderland, because we believe that Sunderland is worth fighting for. And you’ve got to fight!
If you can buy into that, if you are made from the same mettle, if your heart fires with the same molten lava that can burn a path into Sunderland folklore - then sign. You will be welcomed, accepted and always remembered.
Right now, in this moment, it’s an enthralling time to sign for Sunderland. Don’t look at it as another contract. Look at it as destiny.
After the depressing roller-coaster of the last few humiliating seasons, many Sunderland fans have strangely reached a point of tranquil enlightenment that can surprisingly seep into our footballing spirits and bring peace when we least expected it.
It may well be the result of a subconscious feeling of fresh beginning, of a footballing flat-line and a robust resurrection. Maybe it’s because we’ve stripped away all the imitation tinsel attached to the glittery fraudulence of that unstable footballing utopia - the Premier League.
Now that we’re so detached from the corporate champagne guzzlers, the exotic players who arrive as global marketing brands and annual wage bills that could bankroll a small independent country, perhaps it’s easier to see what football really means to us. As a community. As families. As friends.
Perhaps we have found our zen-like state because we now have communicative, brutally honest and thus far, extremely approachable new owners, who themselves have climbed the ladder of league football from the limited pantheons of Eastleigh FC and Oxford United.
Their rawness is light years away from the bland diplomacy of Premier League PR machines, unable to tell a truth for fear of a plunge in their share values or a drop in market position. You’ll no doubt meet them in contract negotiations if you’re lucky enough to reach that stage. Don’t be prepared to wholly rely on your skill with the ball, your Opta analytics or your on-pitch performances to guarantee a new pay day here.
This restitution is going to be built on character as much as ability, and when you meet Mr. Donald and Mr. Methven, you’d better bring your a-game. Your character should be palpable, glaring and practically tangible. If it is, then you are a worthy candidate.
So, despite our public humbling and our fall from grace, Sunderland supporters are more optimistic than we have been in years. Perhaps the current blitz of Mediterranean sunshine that blazes through my window has unhinged my brain. Perhaps I’m delusional. Perhaps I’m a mug. All options are distinctly possible. But what excites me most, is perhaps I’m right. Maybe this optimism is here to stay.
This is not a revolution. It’s a re-birth.
Right now, Sunderland are raw. We are a blank canvas. We are self-builders with little but a solid foundation and exciting architect’s plans stuffed in our hands, dreaming of the immense possibilities.
To me that’s exhilarating. It should be to you too and if isn’t, then choose a different destination. If it’s just another contract to extend a limited career, don’t bother.
My intention is not to sell the city to you, or the people or even the club. I’m not going to list what we’ve won, or go into graphic detail about the benefits of living in the North East. This is not about painting a delightful portrait that may entice or manipulate you to come and play your football here as opposed to somewhere else.
This is a new chapter in Sunderland’s history. The time for begging is over. If you are the egotistical type who prefers to be beguiled, seduced and flattered, don’t expect a call back. Your agent will have to slither to the next sucker who may be tempted to fall on bended knee for your services.
As a pre-warning, we have been used, abused and exploited by so many players it’s almost impossible to list them. Agents have routinely used us an easy pay day, a fat cash cow - overflowing with money, foolishly managed by careless, often faceless ghouls. From managers who have wasted valuable cash flow on investments that have flopped to players who have choked every last penny they could from our coffers - we have seen it all.
We’ve had enough and we simply cannot go back. We must not go back. So, if Sunderland tempts you merely for financial reward alone, this will not work. Destiny will not be kind.
However, if you can look at Sunderland as a fortune changing, beautifully rare opportunity of a life-time, that is worth every last drop of your sweat, worth every extra gut busting run in the final seconds of a game and worth every potential injury from last ditch, bone crunching tackles that could swing a match in our favour - then you can prepare for greatness.
You can prepare for legendary status. You can prepare to be remembered by future generations as a destiny changing hero. A man of legacy. A man to be talked about for decades in every local saloon and a man who can walk through the doors of the Stadium of Light for the next several decades years and not just be remembered as a player of worth, a great or even a legend. More importantly, you will be welcomed as family.
Today is that day. Whether you decide if you want to be vaguely recalled as just another player who plied his trade, reasonably well, in the bottom half of our professional footballing pyramid, or whether you want your legacy to stand as a memorial of your power to satisfy the loyal and passionate fans of a massive club - well, it’s up to you.
Should you choose Sunderland and a legacy, you will be adored. But such devotion comes at a price. That price comprises of heart, character, bravery, loyalty and full commitment, even in the darkest of moments. If you want the value of our adoration you must be willing to earn it.
Charlie Hurley, Bobby Kerr, Gary Bennett, Dave Watson, John Kay, Julio Arca, Marco Gabbiadini, Super Kevin Phillips, Jordan Pickford and Jordan Henderson - you could be next. Many of those lads are from humble beginnings. They weren’t names when they arrived here, but they were when they left. Forever remembered. Forever welcome.
So, if you are interested in joining Sunderland, do not limit your potential by focusing on salary or contract alone. That’s narrow and foolish.
If you are willing to look beyond the boardroom to see the endless possibilities and fight with every muscle and sinew to explore them - this is definitely the club for you and you are definitely the player for us.
As Charlie Hurley once said:
Every time I am lucky enough to return (to Sunderland) it feels like coming home, the reception I get and the friendly welcome is amazing considering it has been fifty years or so. The fans make the place so special to play football. I have been very lucky in my life, my beautiful wife, my children and some great memories, this was all started from signing for my beloved Sunderland AFC.
That is why you should sign for Sunderland. Only that. So, come and be that man and feel the tender embrace of our love for the next 50 years of your life. Learn something new. Do something different. Convince yourself you have no limits. Welcome to Sunderland.