In these exceptional times we are living, escapism and nostalgia play a key part of keeping us sane. While everyone smashes the living daylights out of Netflix, fires up Football Manager careers they hadn’t touched in years, and decide “yes, I will take up yoga”, the curious role of the football season review DVD has never been more prominent.
Clogging up the bookcases and spare rooms of men and women up and down the land, you simply can’t bring yourself to throw away those pieces of memorabilia detailing your club’s finest hours. As Sunderland’s memorable campaigns are few and far between, the DVDs and VHS’ detailing these fine achievements are some of the most cherished collectibles we keep hold of.
They are the things you reach for when you roll in at 2am and want to feel that same pang of emotion you did when you saw it for the very first time. In all of Sunderland’s most memorable seasons, the 2006/07 campaign featuring a swashbuckling side enlivened by the arrival of Roy Keane as manager, is certainly the most beloved for the millennial generation.
So if you love baggy shirts, tracksuit bottoms, gelled highlighted hair, and a whole lot of Simon Crabtree, then sit down and smash ‘Sunderland AFC: On the Up’ into your DVD player and bathe in the retelling of this incredible season through Tyne-Tees TV highlights packages and really, really bad segues.
Starting with all the slickness of a promotional video for a lighting firm, we’re treated to a montage of Niall Quinn looking sad and Garry Birtles booming “that is the worst defending I’ve seen in a long time”, over footage of the Lads conceding a goal at Coventry.
However, it quickly transitions into the most peak mid-00s house music, as shots of Roy Keane frowning are interspersed with Tobias Hysen equalising against Colchester United to signify “these are the good times”.
We rattle through manager Quinn’s tenure in breakneck speed with Crabtree chipping in with helpful notes such as “they thought it couldn’t get any worse… it did”, after various losses to Bury and Southend United. While it could be forgiven that you kind of want to get the opening of this campaign out the way, the arrival of Keane is barely heralded and is more just a matter of fact in the vein of ‘something that happened’.
That’s what is incredibly frustrating with ‘On the Up’, it is a completely charmless run-through of the season. This was one of the most beloved seasons in recent years, and all we’re left with is Crabtree’s bad one-liners and unnecessary information as to crowbar terrible puns into the script. Do you really need to know that Irish athlete Sonia O’Sullivan was present to see Grant Leadbitter’s first ever goal for the club, or that the Countess of Wessex witnessed a goalless draw at home to Crystal Palace? No, of course not.
What you are treated to is a lesson in how to pronounce Hysen’s name, so Crabtree can drop in that his goal against Leicester City “looked great in any language”, and a horribly awkward Never Mind the Buzzcocks reference over footage of an away win at QPR.
The lack of interviews breaking up the footage means there is no sense of narrative, or even just a dollop of nostalgia. There are no little segments of players visiting hospitals, fans in pubs or even just a bored club official saying something that this is a “good season”, there aren’t even any action replays.
You can only presume that this was put together on a £50 budget, much of which will have been spent on a 15-minute long highlights package of the defining Burnley match, which everyone will have watched regardless, which takes up a third of the full runtime.
Hey, but at least you feel like you’re Crabbers’ mate when he infers that it was “easier to get Gary Rowell to buy a round” than getting an invite-only ticket to an away match at Colchester. I do not know Gary Rowell personally, and I doubt many others watching do, so why, oh why is this bizarre gag allowed to pass through the final edit?
The overriding sense of ‘On the Up’ is that it’s a massive missed opportunity to create something worth treasuring. The season under Roy Keane was genuinely exhilarating with late goals, long unbeaten runs and a massive excitement around the club. Yet what you come away with is that we always lost to Preston and that Burnley game was the only noteworthy part of the entire campaign.
Still, there are always the awkward player interviews on disc two which feature no clips of games and, just, my god. Honestly, if you want to remember the very best of 06/07 season, just watch the grainy ‘07 cameraphone clips of fans running on the pitch at Barnsley.