Perhaps one of the smaller, lesser-known Sunderland supporter branches from within the UK are the fantastic lads and lasses from the Peterborough branch, who will turn 30 next year - a remarkable length of time, all things considered.
There are some really fantastic groups out there who provide an amazing service to the Sunderland fans in their area, and the Peterborough branch are no exception. Meeting once a month socially is a chance for members to talk about the footy over a pint - something you might take for granted if you’re up in the north east, where it’s far easier to do so when you’re surrounded by other mackems.
To find out more about who they are, I sat down for a chat with Dave Rodgerson - a massive lads fan who is involved behind the scenes with the branch - to learn all about the history of the group and where they’re at as they head into their 29th year.
RR: How did you come to start the branch, and how long has the branch been going?
DR: The Peterborough Branch was formed in 1990 when Mark Citrone and Sean McGee met when working at the same firm in Peterborough.
Originally from Consett, Sean had previously been on the committee of the London Branch for three years before relocating to Peterborough in 1998. Then he met Mark through a mutual friend in the London Branch, they got talking all things Sunderland and realised just how many ex-pat Wearsiders lived in the ever-expanding Pererborough area.
They put the word out locally and in match programs attracting, the attention of Tony Gavin, and so it began - Tony contacted Mark and went on to become the first branch chairman, steadily others came forward and the first committee was formed.
The Branch was officially recognised by the SAFCSA in 1991.
RR: How many members do you have?
DR: We have approximately 45 members, mostly from the Peterborough area and some from Lincolnshire, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and one in Canada.
RR: It’s never been more exciting to be a Sunderland supporter. With the club becoming far more inclusive, how important is it to you to feel a part of what is going on?
DR: It’s absolutely essential to have the supporters on side. Fair play to Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven for identifying the rich seam of feeling for Sunderland AFC. Supporters have been scattered all over the country since the demise of the shipyards and collieries closed.
The Branch is largely made up of these people who have had to move home but have not lost the love of their club. Innovative ideas from the new owners are generating positivity not seen for over ten years - the seat replacement springs to mind.
Lets not forget the awful position we were in financially. I know people don’t buy into a football club just for the sake of it, the owners will want to see a return on their investment, but they must be congratulated on transforming the financial drain that the previous occupants had saddled the club with.
As a branch there is renewed optimism, results have have obviously contributed highly but it is the general willingness to communicate with the fans that is making the difference.
RR: Do you manage to get to many games and run buses to many games?
DR: We have not run mini buses to games for some time now, although members still travel to home games by car most weeks. The cost of running mini buses became quite prohibitive in light of dwindling support, results weren’t helping either.
We do still have a good following from the Branch at away games. Every match this season has seen Branch members in attendance, including Plymouth and Morecambe.
In addition we vociferously supported the under 23 development squad at London Road during their convincing win in the recent U23 cup. The young lads on the pitch were pleased to join in the haway the lads chorus at full time!
RR: What are your hopes for your branch in the future?
DR: It is hoped the Branch can continue to thrive now things are more stable on and off the pitch. We very much doubt we will get back to running one full mini bus, some times two, but we feel sure we will continue to support the lads both home and away in growing numbers.
RR: How can fans in your area get involved with your branch?
DR: We are always trying to recruit more members and it’s encouraging to see more and more Red n White tops in the local junior training squads. We hold regular monthly meetings at the Three Horse shoes pub (where else), Church St. Werrington, on the first Monday of the month, not including bank holidays.