RR - Thanks for chatting to us Jonathan. Tell us a bit about yourself for starters...
JB: Hi all! I’m Jonathan Besford and I’m 32 years old. I currently reside in Bolton with my wife and two kids. I was born in Osnabruck, Germany, because my dad served 24 years in the British Army, and was based over there for a while.
We came back to England when I was 10 years old after my dad got stationed in Newcastle. I ended up living in both Newcastle and Sunderland because my parents got divorced.
I also became Muslim when I was 20 years old.
I’ve been a Lads fan all my life. I ended up living in the North-West due to my partner being from Oldham, and didn’t want to make the trek further north.
RR - So, how did you end up being a Sunderland fan?
JB: I moved to the north west eight years ago after meeting my partner. I became a Sunderland fan because my Dad is from Sunderland, and his whole family are lads fans, so naturally I just followed my Dad. Funny thing as well is that my mam and her family are from Newcastle, and so that side of my family (including my older brother!) are all scum fans.
Let’s just say derby days used to be very heated!
RR - Do you follow anyone other than Sunderland, do you maybe go to other more local live games at times with mates or family?
JB: I don’t support any team other than Sunderland, but I do have a soft spot for Napoli because I love watching Italian football.
I’m hoping I can make the trip over to Naples one day.
RR - I know from initial conversations you’ve been to numerous home games but I think this is your first away trip - what was the last SAFC away game you saw?
JB: Yes, this will be my first away trip this season, so hugely looking forward to it. This will also be my first away game since we beat Tranmere away 1-0, when Wyke scored from a corner with a great header. The game in general was terrible. We also got to the game late because we got stuck in traffic. Hopefully this week’s game will be better in terms of quality (Malc’s note - and traffic jams!). I did take my daughter to her first-ever Sunderland games this season, against Wycombe and Accrington Stanley. She’s 2 from 2, and the members from the branch want me to keep taking her!
RR - Have you managed to watch many SAFC matches across the pandemic period, and across the past few years as we have dropped down the leagues?
JB: I managed to watch a lot of the games across the pandemic thanks to the streaming service. The quality of the stream was not the best, in all honesty. The lack of atmosphere as well didn’t help, and that is the main thing that I’ve enjoyed the most since being allowed back in, the atmosphere from the fans.
RR - How do you stay in touch with all things Sunderland AFC living where you do? Is there a fans branch in the vicinity that you are familiar with?
JB: I stay in touch with all things Sunderland via the three fantastic podcasts (Roker Rapport, Wise Men Say & the Sunderland Echo pod). I also have a subscription for the Sunderland Echo. I’m a member of the Greater Manchester SAFC branch, and travel with them to home and away games. If anyone lives in the North-West, please give them a follow on twitter - @GtrMcSAFCSA. They are a fantastic group of lads and lasses.
RR - Have you ever been to Fleetwood before? What are your plans pre-match in the local area?
JB: I have never, ever been to Fleetwood, so this will be my first ever visit and I am looking forward to it immensely. I’ll be going down to the game with the Greater Manchester lot from Piccadilly. We do have a planned stop for the group to have a few beers at a pub called the Taps in Lytham. The owner is a massive Sunderland fan as well.
RR - How do you feel about the way we are performing in terms of football and regarding off-the-pitch dealings?
JB: I’m absolutely delighted by the start the lads have made, and I’m very confident this is the season we finally get out of League One. The football is better to watch now as well, so makes going to games more enjoyable.
I love the way we are approaching transfer targets now too, it’s so much better.
We aren’t rushing and just signing anyone, we have a plan and were taking our time in getting the right players that fit the system that the coach wants to play. I also love the fact the youth players have a pathway now into the first team, as this has been long overdue in my honest opinion. We have a grade 1 academy and haven’t utilised it in a way which we really should have been when we first came into this division.
RR - What are the logistics involved in seeing this game, and how does it compare to going to home games in the NE? What made you pick this game for your first away game of the season?
JB: I’ve picked this game as my first away game because it's in the North-West, and it’s only like an hour drive, so is very convenient. This was also the first away game the branch put on travel for its members. I attend most home games every season, just not the midweek home games, unfortunately, because I rely on public transport once back in Manchester. I do intend to go to more away games this season i.e. Crewe, Doncaster, Sheff Wed, Bolton and Wigan.
RR - Game result prediction - what score do you think will play out in front of you live this Saturday against Fleetwood Town?
JB: I see a score draw, maybe 1-1, but I could see us nicking it 2-1 too. My first scorer prediction is the Loch Ness Drogba. Key players for me are Dan Neil, Carl Winchester (who has been absolutely exceptional so far this season, and it will be a joy to watch him live in person) and Ross Stewart. What I most want to see in this game is us being more ruthless and more clinical in front of goal.