Dear Roker Report,
Let me start by saying I am not a Sunderland fan, my loyalties lie with Watford and have done since the Graham Taylor glory days.
I’ve seen quite a few games v SAFC (I won’t mention the 8-0 result if you don’t mention your 1-0 League Cup win at ours in ‘85... ) and I even made it up to Roker Park in the early 90s for a League Cup game v Coventry.
Obviously I’m writing after watching the Netflix documentary which, watching as a neutral, was a rollercoaster ride. In turns funny, warm, heartbreaking, bleak, you really couldn’t have made it up, because no-one would believe it.
But in amongst the money grabbers and fickle figures pervading the club (how much did I want to smack Rodwell and Grabban’s heads together), the one thing that always came through was the genuine, raw passion of the supporters. I appreciate that the editing was done in a deliberately dramatic way, but the queasy swell of anticipation, joy, disappointment and fury at every game was truly something else.
All I can say is that given the fanatical belief and love that you lot have for a club that’s let you down so badly, you all deserved a lot, lot more than you got. Hopefully with the current set-up it looks like that’s not too far away.
All the best for the rest of the season (and make sure you pip Luton to promotion, for obvious reasons!).
Ed’s Note [JN]: Thanks for the kind words, Martin. I think the heart of the documentary and what really comes to the fore is the genuine passion of the fans and a clear identity that the club is essentially a working-class, blue-collar club.
The City documentary pulls back the curtain to reveal a corporate mega club inhabited by billionaires and propagates a cold, disconnected image of an undeniably uber-successful club. However, All or Nothing could quite literally be about any club and the behemoth Etihad campus could literally be anywhere in the world. The inherent disconnect is almost a microcosm of Manchester City and the Premier League brand as a whole.
Fulwell 73 (the Sunderland-supporting producers) really hit the nail on the head by perfectly encapsulating the death, doleful-devotion and, ultimately, despair that every fan experiences the world over.
Despite the calamitous season and almost achingly embarrassing football on show, the identity and true community feel is just emboldened by the lack of a narrator. Instead, the story is told by Mackem accents of incredible thickness acting as a constant among the club’s day-to-day staff - be it caterers, coaches, physios, players or ticket officers - and, most importantly, fanbase. Sergio Aguero and Pep Guardiola may have starred in the City documentary, but in Sunderland ‘Til I Die it was Joyce the doting chef and Peter the lads-loving, Tory-hating taxi driver.
It is so Brentian you almost couldn’t write it, but that is football. Love for one’s club is hardly rational, and we are certainly somewhat irrational in our irrevocable love for the club. As Father Marc Lyden-Smith states in a (admittedly somewhat on the nose but hard hitting) speech right at the start: “The success of our team leads to the success and prosperity of our city”.
All the best to you too, and do us a favour, beat that lot up the road next time you play them.
Dear Roker Report,
This is brief. Why doesn’t Josh come out and tell the fans what is going on?
The horses mouth is the best view in my opinion!
Again a plays contract could ruin our season. If he wants to go or there are offers then let him go. Let’s not wait till the last day or the window and panic.
Could he not sign a years extension with a view to a summer move? Or has he been promised more money by a team to see out his contract to save them money?
I don’t know what this world is coming to with young players, greedy agents and wages.
Hope he signs and stays for years to come.
Ed’s Note [JN]: Unfortunately, as Stewart Donald outlined on the recent podcast, this is merely part and parcel of much of modern football - no matter how committed a player is. He said Maja has stated to both himself and Jack Ross how he’d like to stay at the club, but is respecting the advice of his agent and has thus has taken some time away to discuss it with his family.
While for us it would be an easy decision, I don’t blame him at all for being stuck between two minds. He can grab an opportunity to truly provide for him and his family for life and make it to the top of the game. He needs to take advantage of whatever he can in a short career - there is a hell of a lot riding on the decision of a man who technically wouldn’t even be legally allowed to drink in 60% of countries in the world.
When I was 20 I didn’t have a clue what the hell I wanted to do after University. Though I do genuinely believe - while not ready yet - any player who possesses such clinical finishing, impeccable first touch, poaching instincts and smart reading of the game at just 20 will make it right to the top if nurtured in the correct way.
That is surely with Sunderland, as we look to rise through the ranks. Both in the public sphere and behind the scenes, Stewart Donald is leading a push to truly change the culture of the club and will one day like to proudly claim it is not just a club ingrained with a true identity and community spirit, but a successful one at that.
I just hope he makes a decision in our favour - he really could prosper here in the years to come and grow with the club re-born as we hopefully rise back through the leagues.