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Why I Love Sunderland: Aussie expat Marc on life down under and loving the lads as a boy

Marc Hall - a mackem exiled in Australia - remembers watching Sunderland’s ‘73 winners bus rolling by as we talk about Ian Porterfield, Top Trumps and what it means to be home.

Danny Roberts

Thanks to a brief hiatus, Why I Love Sunderland is back! Since the last feature we’ve had draws (1-1’s eat your heart out) and actual flipping wins, so much so that we can all pretend its coming up roses on Wearside, even just for a little bit longer. So, without further hesitation, lets go through the manic reasons why somebody else just can’t help but love (and loathe) the Lads.

TA: So Marc, an adopted Mackem in Australia (it’s Ashes season so feel free to boo), how on earth has that come about?

I was born in Hertfordshire, but I actually moved to Sunderland a month after I was born, so I consider myself very much a Mackem. We moved up to Sunderland as that’s where my father is from, with my mother being from Hertford, not exactly a hotbed of football. Anyway, my dad moved to Hertfordshire as the police were up in Sunderland doing a recruitment drive and he decided to give it a go. Eventually he left the police but stayed there to be with my mum (that’s mam to the northerners reading), then it wasn’t long after I arrived hat the move back “home” happened.

I ended up in Australia similar to how my Dad ended up in Sunderland. I followed in his footsteps and joined the police after a few years in the armed forces. In 2006 WA Police were struggling to get a decent standard of recruit, so they took upon an international recruitment drive, mainly targeting the British police. I saw the advert, thought to myself “why not?”, and a year later I was in Perth! Obviously there was a little more to it than just applying on a whim, but that’s how I ended up moving to Australia with my family at the tender age of 41!

TA: It seems to be a family trait to not let the grass grow under your feet, so, how do Sunderland fit into all of this?

Weirdly, my dad was never into football, he was always a swimmer, so the usual case of supporting who your dad supports never happened with me. It was actually my grandad who got me into football. Essentially, I was like any other kid back in the 70’s: I loved kicking a ball about with my mates in the back alleys, gardens and fields, pretending to be your favourite player as you do, and then settling down religiously on a Saturday evening to watch Match Of The Day. I found football quite naturally, I was never forced, but my grandad certainly encouraged my love of the game, however, living in Sunderland around that era, it was impossible not to support a team that created such a buzz around the city and its suburbs.

TA: The 70’s then - I wasn’t even a glint in my fathers eye then, what was it like supporting Sunderland back in the day; what memory stands out for you?

Luckily for me, my first memory that really sticks was the ’73 Cup Final. I remember being huddled in front of the black and white telly at my grandparents house, at that point I wasn’t really aware it was Sunderland who were playing, I was only 6 at the time. I vividly remember watching as my dad and grandad screamed at the T.V. almost constantly. Ultimately, the game was a blur, but the following bus parade really became a lasting memory of it all. It came about because my parents owned a shop across the road from the Board Inn in Herrington, so we were all on the top floor as the bus crawled past, I remember being in an Arsenal kit for that, lord knows why. I remember Ian Porterfield coming into my school to talk about that famous day too, since he lived practically next door. Another random memory that sticks came about since Porterfield regularly visited my parents shop, so after some time, Dad plucked the courage to ask Porterfield for autographs of the winning side. They were my prized possession for 3 or 4 years, before I eventually (and shrewdly) swapped them for a packet of Top Trumps. I do wonder if Michael still has them.

TA: Supporting Sunderland is a thankless task when you live 10 minutes from the ground, never mind on the other side of the globe. What’s the hardest part of following the lads from so far away? Has that distanced yourself from the club or has absence made the heart grow that little more fonder?

I’m definitely of the generation that’s been kicked in the proverbial’s more often than I’d care to remember, from going down to the old Division 3, the aftermath of the Reid era, the whole of the Short era and the sacking of managers with gay abandon and so forth. Add that to the distance, I did get a little disillusioned, maybe with Sunderland, maybe with football in general, although I was going down that road a bit anyway, the mess just served to speed the process up a bit more. I did play a bit too, for the veterans team of my sons club, but between subbing myself off after 20 minutes and the dog eating my shin pads, its a venture I haven’t returned to for some time. Since then I’ve taken up triathlons so footballs fell a bit to the side, although my son and I still bond over it - it’s still the greatest game in the world, so the underlying love for it is still there, despite how frivolous it may prove to be with Sunderland as my team.

TA: Sunderland obviously form part of your identity, the same way they form part of the identity of everyone who has the joy/misfortune to support us. Have they been as prominent in your identity in Australia as they were at home?

Sunderland will always be part of me, it IS my identity. Last year I actually bought a replica for the first time, although I have to say seeing grown men in football tops doing their day to day annoys the hell out of me, so I just wear it for around the house! As for the city itself, that’s always been where I’m from so will always be ‘home’, despite the fact I wasn’t born there of lived there since the ’80’s. If someone asks me where I’m from, Sunderland is always the answer. Whenever we’re back in the UK we always make a point of coming back, especially timing it around a Sunderland game.

Last year when we visited, my son speculatively tweeted Stewart Donald and we were invited for a chat after the game with him. He came across tremendously well and he really does have the best interests of the club at heart. he let us have a kick about on the pitch after, so to share that with my son was incredibly special.

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