The week just passed in the life of Sunderland AFC has seen Roker Report return to the familiar old rhythms of supporting the club, with much analysis of the performances, positive and negative, of team and manager, as well as our usual mix of usual nostalgia and fan culture.
Our editorial team have picked a smorgasbord of delights from this week’s offerings, including a podcast with a club legend, a very long read about flags, and a look back at fan activism in the ‘90s.
Gav chooses... “Roker Rapport Podcast with ‘The Son Of Pelè’ MARTIN SMITH!” interview by Chris Wynn
NEW @ROKERRAPPORTPOD!— Roker Report (@RokerReport) September 17, 2020
“ ” !
"FEARED BY THE MAGS
... LOVED BY THE LADS!"
I’m biased, of course, but I’m so proud of what we do here at Roker Report. We provide daily SAFC coverage and content, free of charge, bringing our readers and listeners the thoughts, feelings and hard-hitting opinions of match-going, dyed in the wool Sunderland supporters who live and breathe this godforsaken football club every single minute of the day.
That said... it’s a nice departure from the reality of the club’s current situation when you’re able to stick in your airpods, head off for a walk and listen to a former player talk about simpler times - and, this week, we were able to publish a fantastic 1hr18min conversation with fan favourite, former Sunderland forward Martin Smith.
Hearing Smithy talk about walking out as a Lads fan at Roker Park, scoring his first Sunderland goal, and pulling on an England shirt as a chorus of boos rained down upon him at St James’ Park didn’t just fill me with insane jealousy, but immense happiness - he’s truly one of our own, so to hear his story told with pride was a real treat, and if you haven’t heard it yet then you’re missing out.
Props to my fellow RR editor Chris Wynn in the host’s chair - regular listeners to the pod, particularly with players who wore red and white during the 90s, will be familiar with his laid back yet superbly prepared style. Not to blow too much smoke up his arse, but yeah... we enjoy it when Chris is allowed to nerd it out a bit in front of some of his favourite players.
Tune in - it’s timeless content, available for free from all the usual podcast platforms.
Rich chooses... “On this Day (1995)” by Martin Wanless
ON THIS DAY (1995): In a situation with remarkable parallels to today, the Supporters Action For Change Group demanded the club chairman outlined his long-term vision for Sunderland Association Football Club.— Roker Report (@RokerReport) September 14, 2020
®️®️ #SAFC ⚪️ https://t.co/7HC5IniAhI
Martin has taken the lead on compiling the fantastic “On this Day” feature together for a good while now, drawing on his memory banks as well as the vast archive of press cuttings and photos at his disposal.
It’s comforting to know that, despite the passage of 25 years, some things never change at Sunderland AFC. There’s always been a healthy tension between the expectation of the fans and what the various owners of the club have been able to deliver for us.
I had almost forgotten about the Supporters Action For Change group from the mid-1990s, and what this article shows is that there's a long history of fan activism and demands for sufficient investment in the club, as well as clarity from the club’s owners regarding their future plans.
I love this feature because it reminds us all of our history and of the players and managers we’ve loved and lost over the years.
Chris chooses... “It’s time to get the flags back into the Stadium of Light” by Rich Speight
TIME TO GET THE FLAGS IN THE SOL?— Roker Report (@RokerReport) September 16, 2020
Sunderland's supporters might be watching games remotely, but the relationship with the club is at an all-time low. Could our flags help to build bridges?
®️®️ #SAFC ⚪ https://t.co/MhduxZDhmO
It was obvious watching the first three streams of Sunderland’s games at the Stadium of Light that not only the fans were missing but there was perhaps an opportunity being missed at the same time.
An opportunity to begin building bridges between club and fans, and provide a link to the usual matchday experience as we sit in front of our laptops on a Saturday afternoon.
It would be great to see a gesture or even a nod from the club in the direction of the fans, to acknowledge the times we’re in and Rich’s piece brilliantly lays out the possibilities and obstacles in doing so.
Martin chooses... “Is Parky the man to get us up? The stats say...” by Tom Albrighton
Stat padders & number nudgers rejoice for @BeautifulArgie is here, armed to the teeth with numbers to tell you all why Phil Parkinson is absolutely the wrong man to take Sunderland forward...— Roker Report (@RokerReport) September 18, 2020
®️®️ #SAFC ⚪ https://t.co/GhgxeyGzps
Too often in football we get carried away with emotion. For Sunderland supporters the world over, the frustration of how far we’ve fallen and the fact we’re are at our all-time low, provides the backdrop to every game.
Sometimes this emotion can spill over into reactionary opinions – particularly following a predictably disappointing start to the season.
So it’s good to get a logical, factual, unemotional viewpoint about the man who’s currently leading our charge out of the division – Mr Philip Parkinson.
For a club with the ambitions we - surely - have, we need a top manager who can not only get us out of this division but build something longer term too. Of course, the former is vital – the latter preferable.
While we were all told about Parky’s references – and the incredible job he did in the championship for Colchester – Tom’s article shows that, in the cold light of day, Parkinson’s track record, which spans a good 17 years, is simply not going to get us up.
While accepting there are many, many variables in football – and Parkinson’s had some difficult jobs – he’s never achieved close to anything like the PPG we need to win the championship.
In fact, Sunderland’s points per game dropped dramatically when he took over from Jack Ross, and given he was brought in to get us that extra 5 or 10%, it simply doesn’t stack up.
When you look at whether a manager should be given time you look at the evidence of what he’s achieved previously and, as Tom’s article demonstrates, we’re persevering with Parkinson in hope, rather than any expectation.