RR: First of all – please tell us a bit about yourself. What is your name, how old are you, and where do you come from?
Thanks for having me! It’s an honour. My name is Tim Michell, I’m 31 years old and from Victoria, Australia. I’m a sports nut who is lucky enough to work in digital sport.
RR: So... why Sunderland then? Of all the clubs out there, why would you choose to support us?!
I’ve asked myself the same question a bit during the past decade as I’m sure many Black Cats fans have. Football was really just gaining momentum in Australia after the first season of the A-League when I decided to choose a team from England to follow.
It seemed like everyone was jumping on Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea in Australia so I decided to be very different. It was 2006 and Roy Keane was leading Sunderland on the ultimate run from the bottom of the Championship to the top. I fell in love with the club and haven’t looked back since.
The only other club I follow with such passion is my Aussie football team Carlton.
RR: Do people ever give you funny looks when they see you in a Sunderland shirt?
I have a few tucked away in the cupboard, but now I don’t play they don’t come out all that often. I used to love wearing them to training and having teammates ask ‘why Sunderland?’
RR: How popular is football is Australia, then? I catch the odd A-League game on TV early in the morning, and there are a fair few recognisable names kicking around in the top squads over there...
The current season has been one of the best for some time in the A-League. Football is one of our most popular participating sports but has never truly gained the same foothold Aussie rules or rugby league has.
Our biggest drawing clubs are Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC that get about 15,000-20,000 now. That was closer to 50,000 at the league’s absolute peak around 7-8 years ago when Emile Heskey, Alessandro Del Piero and Shinji Ono brought star power.
RR: Who is your favourite A-League team? Do they relate in any way to Sunderland?!
Melbourne City. They were Melbourne Heart and wore red and white before Manchester City bought the club and rebranded to sky blue. Callum McMananan currently plays for our rivals Melbourne Victory.
RR: Were you proud to tell family and friends about the Netflix series?
The Netflix series was amazing for more people appreciating why I love the club. Yes, it was mostly a chaotic look behind the curtain but the reason you ride the highs and lows with a club like ours is the passion it endears to its community. Even non-football people would chat Sunderland with me and ask why Josh Maja was allowed to leave.
I still don’t have a good answer.
RR: Have you ever visited the Stadium of Light for a game?
Not for a game unfortunately. I travelled to the UK to visit my brother a few years ago and we found ourselves in Newcastle. So we jumped on a train and visited the Stadium of Light where I proceeded to blow serious coin at the club shop. Even from the outside - it was the off-season - I was in awe of being at the Stadium of Light.
RR: Is it difficult trying to feel part of what’s going on from so far away?
Definitely. But when the club is struggling too, it’s probably that bit easier to be a bit detached. Not that I want that. You sign up for the good and bad when supporting any club.
RR: Are you a member of any branches out there?
Nope. There’s a Melbourne Mackems, but family and work life keeps me too busy. Maybe that’ll change if we’re allowed to gather for a potential playoff final.
RR: Do you own any interesting memorabilia?
I somehow bought what I believe is the 2001 away strip in an opportunity shop in Melbourne. Lord knows how it ended up there and I couldn’t believe my luck when I stumbled across it.
RR: If you could wish for one thing for the club, realistic of course, what would it be?
Is stability too much to ask for? Honestly, the feeling of positivity during our recent run under Lee Johnson was one I couldn’t remember having in recent years. Being able to have pride in the club rather than frustration. And Jermain Defoe returning.