RR: Firstly, thanks for this interview. How long have you followed Sunderland AFC, and how did you first come to support the Lads?
UM: I’ve supported Sunderland for more than 50 years. It’s my dad’s fault, really. He was half-English, his mother hailed from Sunderland and in the 1930s we played total football and were a high profile club.
So he decided that Sunderland was the right team to support, and unfortunately I was stupid enough to follow the route.
RR:Have you ever made the trip over to Wearside to watch Sunderland play?
UM: I’ve been very often - when we were in the Premier League I would come over 2 or 3 times per year for the home games, and quite regularly when we were playing away in London.
RR: Who have been your favourite Sunderland players down the years, and do you have a favourite amongst the current squad?
UM: There have been so many! Ian Porterfield was an early hero, and I loved Tony Towers, Gary Rowell, Paul Bracewell, Alex Rae, and Super Kev of course.
Then this century I liked Andy Reid, the dynamic young Lee Cattermole, and John Mensah, who was only on loan for a season at the Stadium of Light.
Of the current squad, I like Aiden McGeady because he is a real footballer, and Luke O’Nien for his attitude.
RR: Do you also support a German club, and what do you think the main differences are between football fan culture in Germany and England?
UM: Not really. It’s Sunderland till I die for me – I sympathize with the Berlin Bundesliga teams and like them to do well. When I am sitting on the terraces watching Hertha two thirds of my heart is focused on the Sunderland score – always expecting the worst. I am past optimism.
In terms of fan culture, I’d say there is not much difference. Old traditional clubs with a working class background like Schalke 04 or Borussia Dortmund have the same sort of die-hard, always giving their all, fiercely loyal sort of support.
And you’ve got the more mundane clubs, fur coats sitting down at 5 to 3 and politely clapping when the team is leading 5-0. Sunderland is very different.
I remember one away game at Chelsea, maybe 10 years ago, we were 5-0 down wth 5 minutes to go (the sort of rout you’d expect at Stamford Bridge) and the away end was singing “away victory”.
RR: Finally, looking into your crystal ball, do you see Sunderland going up through the playoffs this year?
UM: I wish I could find some optimism in my heart. We are in the middle of a crisis at the worst possible times; 1 point out of 12 for a promotion-seeking team is a disaster.
I can’t see it happening – promotion I mean – but would be overjoyed if it does!