The news that we were to spend another season in League One has triggered a range of emotions and angry responses from Sunderland fans.
I am writing today out of deep concern. Concern for my fellow fans and our reputation as some of the most loyal, knowledgeable, vocal, and humorous supporters in the country.
I will take this moment just to thank my Newcastle supporting “friends” for all their communiqués on this matter, your “concern” for my well-being & that of my team is noted. I know where you live and will hunt you down if you do not desist.
It took a mere 5 minutes after the EFL announcement yesterday to spot the first post in my thread referring to “happy clappers”. Onto the boards flew the insults, anger, threats, accusations and personal remarks. Toxic was a label often levelled at Sunderland AFC in the last few years.
I believe that “toxic” includes us (all of us), the fans, of this great phenomenon that is Sunderland AFC.
I am concerned that toxicity has become our currency. Wit, imagination, humour, accurate critique and connectivity are being stifled, even buried in the face of the volleys and volume of toxic anger filling the social networks and communication channels.
Just to clarify, I am not happy at where my team, my club find themselves today. I do think SD and the Management team have made mistakes. I am concerned about the “parachute money” and troubled by the FPP loan. I am also not wholly convinced about Phil Parkinson (but quite happy at the improvement in fitness of the squad). I have doubts about the commitment of some of our squad to the cause and know that some of our players are not good enough. I believe better recruitment is required as well as an overarching commitment and strategy to develop young talent.
Despite all of this, it is the onset of the toxicity again that most concerns me. We the fans are I believe the most valuable commodity this club has. Viciously tearing each other and management, players, and owners apart on social networks and other communication channels will not help our cause.
My old man was full of quiet wisdom when he was alive. He used to say “when you are faced with what seems like impossible difficulties don’t forget to wash your dishes and make your bed”. Some of us... most of us, probably do feel a huge sense of anger and sadness at our plight, we probably feel like we just need a bit of luck to come our way. My old man used to say “it’s funny how lucky people are invariably hard working, the two go together”.
We have in the past been some of the most vocal, loyal, knowledgeable, imaginative and humorous supporters in the country. Let’s put the toxicity to one side and be the best we can be in this tough situation.
I know we have amongst us imaginative, clear-thinking, skilled folk who can bring something specific to this situation. I know too that we have huge numbers of loyal, vocal and downright humorous supporters, too, and we need you all right now.
If someone is not renewing their season ticket, let’s not criticise. If someone is renewing let’s just acknowledge without judgement. If SD and team make a balls up of something, like the season ticket debacle, let’s just clearly point out our concern and any suggested remedy without name calling and threats. If some of us are interested in exploring Supporters’ Trust as a positive way forward but it is not for you, let’s just acknowledge without feeling the need to criticise in a negative manner.
If one of us strays and slips into a “toxic clamour” let’s not react in the same manner, we can ignore this (a surprisingly effective and satisfying response) or calmly and clearly state our position without insult or bullying.
If we can be the best we can be, if we can in all sincerity look ourselves in the mirror and say “I have done the very best I can”, then I believe the collective will of Sunderland fans can help answers emerge and the way forward to become clear.
Stay the course my fellow Sunderland fans, better times are ahead.
I am off to make my bed and wash the dishes.