Wednesday marked the release of the second season of the much-acclaimed Netflix documentary, Sunderland ‘Til I Die.
The documentary was split into six episodes and included the major talking points from last season from the two Wembley visits to the loss of Josh Maja. Again, it features plenty of views from the supporters, including taxi driver Peter Farrer, and club chef Joyce from season one, as well as new additions.
Both season one and two were brilliantly intertwined, with the second series beginning just after the first ended, with the takeover of the club being completed by Stewart Donald.
Episode 1 - A Role in the Renaissance...
A Role in the Renaissance was the title of the first episode, and it began in explosive style.
Charlie Methven - who is the major player in the documentary - reveals that the club was planning on losing “£30-£40 million a year” and brutally says that the club was “still in a fire-fight”. After this, we are brought closer to the start of the League One season, as new manager, Jack Ross, is introduced into the programme. The club addresses the lack of players, by bringing in thirteen new players, including the likes of Jon McLaughlin, Chris Maguire and Luke O’Nien. One of the main players who stars prominently in the second series is O’Nien, and his passion for the club shines through clearly for the viewers to see.
One of the funniest moments of this episode came when the Sunderland player was changing the pink seats to red, and a fan says, “You should sign it on the back, just in case one day you make it.” Before the end of the first episode, viewers are taken through the enthralling first match of the season, when Gooch netted a late winner to win the match 2-1.
With the cameras having eyes on the owners during the full game, the documentary guides us through their thoughts on the match - something that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. The fact that it was the final action of the first episode is quite ironic, as the final episode is surrounding around the play-offs, something which ended with a late Charlton winner.
Episode 2 - The Old-Fashioned Way...
The Old-Fashioned Way surrounded around the wages of players at Sunderland. At the start of the episode, we are given the information that the average wage of a League One club is £2,000, compared to £14,000 in the Championship and £62,000 from the Premier League.
The Netflix cameras guide us around the major saga of the loss of Josh Maja - something which the Sunderland fans blamed for the Black Cats’ decline. Maja is addressed about the rumours surrounding him, but he simply replies that, “He doesn’t read newspapers”.
Also, we are given two different perspectives from both the owner and the player, as the recruitment officer says that Maja’s agent didn’t get back to them, whilst Maja says that “it’s getting sorted” and he leaves his agent to sort out his contract negotiations.
This will probably have left many fans extremely frustrated with Maja and feel like he has betrayed their support, after backing him on to scoring 16 goals between August and when he left in January. Also, in the second episode, we are given the information of the costs that Sunderland were losing when in the hands of Ellis Short and Martin Bain, with the club losing £100,000 a year on a Cryo-chamber, something which only Martin Bain used - leaving the fans even more frustrated.
Episode 3 - Pride, Passion and Loyalty...
The title of the third episode of the Netflix documentary is given three adjectives most used to call Sunderland supporters - pride, passion and loyalty.
This is due to the fact that the marketing team, including Charlie Methven, were looking to break the record and draw in the largest crowd in third division history for the Boxing Day match against Bradford. This episode contains the most important match of November when the Black Cats beat Barnsley 4-2, and focuses on O’Nien’s improvement after being left out of the starting eleven.
At the end of the third episode, the Netflix camera manoeuvre the way through the big Boxing Day match against Bradford, when the Black Cats win 1-0, before we are shown an employee at the club who has been made redundant, enforcing the viewers to fell empathy towards the staff members who were made to leave the club due to the rebuilding job that the club were going through.
Episode 4 - Playing Poker...
Playing Poker is arguably the most intense episode of them all for the neutrals and the outsiders who don’t follow Sunderland.
Josh Maja’s departure to Bordeaux covers the opening scenes, before Stewart Donald reacts to this move. He says that the manager, Jack Ross, called him and said, “Thanks very much, Josh has come in and picked up all of his stuff and gone. You could have told me that you have accepted an offer.”
As previously mentioned from episode two, the two different perspectives are shown as Maja leaves without the club making a deal with the French club, so Donald has to force a deal with Bordeaux. Before the documentary, the deal was classed as an undisclosed fee, but Donald announced that the club got 1.5 million Euros - something which simply just wasn’t enough.
Then, the tense moment arrives. As the clock ticks down into the final days of the transfer window, the club can’t find a deal for any striker. The way the documentary had filmed the footage was brilliant - going back and forth between Charlie Methven and Tony Coton at the Academy of Light and Stewart Donald and Richard Hill in Oxfordshire.
It is revealed that the club put in a £1.25 million bid for former Doncaster striker, John Marquis. Then, as the clock ticks down into the final hours of the window, Jack Ross tells Donald not to spend “silly money” on Will Grigg as he is “not worth it”.
As the story is told, Donald goes against both Ross and Richard Hill as he ups his offer, something which wins over Wigan and secures the dramatic signing of Grigg, someone who it took a while to score his first goal. Looking back now, would it have been better to give Maja a contract extension rather than spending £3 million on Will Grigg?
Episode 5 - The Time for Men...
The penultimate episode of the magnificent second series guides us through the remarkable Checkatrade Trophy run.
It shows us a couple of Sunderland’s matches as we made our way through to the final at Wembley. In my opinion, Sunderland couldn’t have been portrayed in a more positive light by the Netflix documentary in the pre-final party in Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. Fulwell 73 symbolised to the whole world, who can watch the documentary, how passionate and loyal the Sunderland fans are.
At Wembley Stadium, the Netflix cameras were given access to lots of behind-the-scenes action, which included extended highlights from the match.
Both Charlie Methven and Stewart Donald give in-depth interviews about their thoughts and feelings about the match on the pitch. Methven says, “Both Stewart and I are frustrated; it’s the same every single week; it’s the same slow play after half time and the same go one-nil up and then defend our penalty box.”
Due to this reaction, it brings a shock to how the board didn’t dismiss Jack Ross until October, if they weren’t happy with his playing style.
In his last words, the executive director lays the foundations for the continuation onto the final episode, by saying, “We all have to lift ourselves up off the canvas, we have nine league games left, and they determine whether we gain promotion or not.”
Episode 6 - Football is Life...
Episode six is the longest episode of the second series of Sunderland ‘Til I Die, and is arguably the toughest for the Sunderland fans to watch.
As if the Checkatrade Trophy final devastation in episode five wasn’t enough, the last episode is even more gutting for the Black Cats’ fans, as it takes us through the last few weeks of the League One season.
The beginning of the last episode gives detailed interviews with both Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan, with both of them feeling sadness after losing 5-4 to Coventry at home. Flanagan speaks out and says that he was in Tesco and a Sunderland fan “started slagging him about the game”, and then, this is contrasted to moments after in the episode, when Flanagan gives Sunderland the lead against Portsmouth in a crucial match.
After missing out on automatic promotion, the final 30 minutes guides us through the League One play-offs. Despite Methven not being happy with the amount of tickets sold for the first leg, the Black Cats win 1-0, and with Donald in the crowd at Fratton Park, they drew 0-0 to go through to the final - which provides the most gutting moment of the entire documentary.
After the play-off final defeat, the documentary looks ahead to the future, with all of the leading stars all thinking that the Black Cats will win the league in the 2019-20 season, but as you watch it now, their comments are proving to be very ironic at the moment.