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Sunderland ‘Til I Die: How the Netflix documentary shaped how we view our club...

The documentary brought with it mixed emotions, but in the end the people of Sunderland shone through.

Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

The theme of ‘fly on the wall’ football club documentaries has seemingly, at the moment at least, been reserved for top flight teams who have actually won trophies this millennium.

An Arsenal documentary is on its way and the Spurs documentary came out in 2020. Yet before this time, there was a documentary that focused on the very few highs and countless lows of Sunderland AFC in the Championship.

It is almost three years to the day that the first series of ‘Sunderland ‘Till I Die’ was released on Netflix and became a way for the trials and tribulations of supporting this club to be thrown out to a global audience.

The show was incredibly well created by the guys at Fulwell73, but it certainly put us through the wringer in remembering one of the worst campaigns we’ve had in the modern era.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

In the lead-up to its release, I remember having a collaboration of emotional turmoil. I was excited to see how the club would be portrayed and how relegation to the third tier would impact events behind the scene.

As the release day got closer, I couldn’t help feeling that we would soon become the butt of jokes in the footballing world… not that this would have been anything new.

Nevertheless, just days before Christmas 2018, the series dropped.

One of the undisputed best parts of the entire series was the theme tune. Written and sung by local musician The Lake Poets, ‘Shipyards’, the song reflects on the hard-working people who helped to forge Sunderland into the city it now is. Those who worked in the shipyards would spend their hard-earned money and free time following the club, something which has never changed.

The song also reminds you that the club has rarely lived up to the expectations of a passionate and dedicated fan base…

Fulham v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

During the documentary, we were introduced to fans, players and backroom staff who lived and breathed the club on a daily basis.

Everyone who worked at the club was a fan, and when we won the mood in front of the camera was one of jubilation. Following the win down at Derby County on Good Friday, everyone on camera had a beaming smile and belief that we would avoid relegation.

Unfortunately, a home defeat on Easter Monday pushed us a step closer to the drop, and whilst we all felt miserable at the prospect the documentary reminded us that we are not alone and, perhaps most importantly, that there are people working at our club who are the moral fibre of Sunderland AFC who were hurting over the prospect just as much as us.

Derby County v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The first series ended with relegation but a thumping win at home to champions Wolves on the last day of the season and news that there would be new owners in place come the start of the following campaign.

It promised hope of a positive future at the time, but of course as we all know the next three years were not pretty.

‘Sunderland Till I Die’ was never going to be a celebration of success on the pitch, but more a tribute to the people who make our club tick on a daily basis.

They experience in full every emotion the club puts them through but like the fans, I’m sure they wouldn’t want it any other way.


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