Like many people, it was Sunderland ‘Til I Die that prompted me to take the plunge and get a Netflix account, and I’ve kept up the subscription partly in order to make sure I can watch Season 2 the day it’s released. So in that sense, I can’t wait for it.
I watched the original with tears in my eyes, both in pride at the way the emotional connection our fans and the community have with the club was sensitively portrayed and in sadness at the way it documented the parlous state of the club off the field in the dying days of the Short-Bain regime.
Having interviewed fans living around the world over the last few months, there has clearly been a spike in interest in the club generally that is linked to the exposure to over 160 million subscribers.
When Baron Trump is using the plight of Sunderland AFC as a way of putting his fathers’ travails into perspective, you know that it’s had some cut-through into popular culture in an important market like the USA. Big English clubs, and we do still think of ourselves in this bracket, need to build global brands in order to increase their revenues, so viewed purely as beautifully produced extended advertisement (of course it is much more than that), its continuation cannot be a bad thing.
This year, I think it will be very interesting to see how much we learn about the current owners, Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven, and their approach to running the club.
In his interview with BBC Newcastle on 21st January, Methven stated that “when you are perceived positively by the outside world, good things can happen”, and cited Sunderland ‘Til I Die as part of the reason why FPP Partners were interested in Sunderland in the first place and that the documentary is driving interest in the club as Donald looks to sell up.
Methven also commented that he and Donald expect to come in for “far worse” flack than he already has when season 2 lands in a few weeks, due to the candid nature of the content of the show. What we discover about the way in which they handled the January 2019 transfer window, and the widely perceived drop-off in their interest towards the end of the season as they looked to offload the club, will be intriguing.
The negotiations around Josh Maja’s contract and his sale to Bordeaux, and the subsequent Will Grigg transfer saga, will surely feature heavily and be top of many people’s list of things to watch out for.
In this respect, the impact timing of the release could work in two ways - it could solidify the interest of any potential new owner, demonstrating that Donald and Methven are indeed good custodians with the best interests of the fans and the club as a business at heart, or it could cause such a furore amongst fans around the way in which Madrox Partners have gone about things since their takeover in 2018 that the club becomes perceived as too hot to handle.
On the field, I don’t expect it to have a big impact. There has been a lot of churn in the squad over the last 12 months; many of those in our settled starting eleven now were either not regulars under Ross or were not yet at the club. I can see how players who generally performed well last term, such as Luke O’Nien and Jon McLaughlin, could take a confidence boost from having their own profile raised through the documentary, and it could also serve as motivation not to mess up our promotion push this time round.
Last season was the year that my youngest son really started supporting Sunderland, so on a personal level as a way of keeping those treasured memories of his first games and our trips to Wembley alive, it will be invaluable.
The flip side is that we know this season will be another anatomy of our collective heartbreak. In the past, I would watch DVDs of glorious victories and successful campaigns to cheer myself up after our disappointments.
That both seasons of Sunderland ‘Til I Die will essentially show the club at its lowest ebbs means the whole thing is guaranteed to be a masochistic experience. But, I will still watch every minute.
To quote Mrs Doyle, “maybe I like the misery”.