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Fan Letters: A moving tribute from a Sunderland fan to his father

“Thinking about Dad and the way the club helped me to bond with my father reminds me that a football club like Sunderland is more than a business - we’re family” writes RR reader Andrew. Got something to say? RokerReport@Yahoo.co.uk is where you send your emails!

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I usually write to comment on some issue regarding the team or the club as a whole, but today I’m writing about my Dad, Jack White, because he passed away on Sunday and part of the impact he had on my life, is my love of Sunderland AFC and the North East in general.

Dad was born in 1937 in Stanley and had a difficult childhood, as his father died in a pit disaster when he was still a very young boy. He often used to tell me how various male relatives would take him to the games at Roker Park and exactly where he watched the match from was directly related to how much money that particular relative had that month. Their kindness gave my Dad a lifelong love of the club and that enthusiasm was passed on to me. He was always proud of the fact that someone from our family had supported the club since it was first founded in 1879 and I am just as proud to continue that tradition.

Even in his last few years, when he was suffering from cancer and dementia, he would be able to tell me about players like Johnny Mapson and Len Shackleton. He struggled to remember what had happened five minutes previously, but he could reel off the teams from the 1950’s and thinking back on those days gave him a great deal of joy.

Although I was born in Chester-Le-Street, we moved away from the area when I was only two years old as Dad’s work took him to Canada and when we returned to England, it was to the Liverpool area. Being a Sunderland fan in Liverpool in the seventies and early eighties wasn’t easy, but my support for the team never wavered. Dad gave me that, and I will always be grateful to him. Like him, I love the area, I love the people, and I love my football club. Regardless of where I’ve been in the world or how many years I’ve been away; the North East is still the place I consider home.

Years later, we were living close to each other in Lincolnshire and I started to take him to games at the Stadium of Light. I wish we’d done that years earlier, but having the chance to share those experiences, even when we lost, has meant the world to me. Although he would never live in the North East again, he always thought of it as home. When we scatter his ashes, he will finally be going home as he has asked for some of his ashes to be scattered on his parents’ grave and some on the moors overlooking Stanley where he grew up. This seems entirely appropriate to me.

I have been working abroad for some years now and currently live in Kuala Lumpur, but I will be returning to the UK in July. When I return, I will finally fulfil a lifelong dream as I too will be returning home, to the North East. I will be pleased to be close to my Dad, and I’m sure I will often visit his final resting places to seek his wise advice and talk to him. I will also be getting a season ticket to watch my team far more regularly. When I do, I will be shouting and singing for both of us, and I will think of my Dad at every match.

I realise this probably isn’t relevant to anyone but me, but thinking about Dad and the way the club helped me to bond with my father reminds me that a football club like Sunderland is more than a business. We’re a family, we’re a people, and it’s the fans that make Sunderland the great club it undoubtedly is, even in League One. We’re not defined by our league position; we’re defined by the good people of the North East who make our club great. I’m proud to follow that tradition and I look forward to being in that incredible crowd next season.

Ha’way the Lads

Andrew White

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thank you so much for your letter Andrew, and I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Your love for your Dad and your love for the club shines through your words and I’m sure they’ll resonate with many thousands of other supporters who’ve lived their lives through and with Sunderland AFC. I wish you all the best for your future back in the North East when you finally settle here.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Sunderland v Fulham - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

We have lost 4 points and conceded 6 goals in two games. Games which we could have called off. We only have league matches to play, so why the urgency to play these two games. A cancellation of these games would have given some of our injured players time to recover.

Our centre-backs look physically weak, and therefore do not command. Against Wycombe there were long balls being left to bounce and the corner that led to their third goal was won by Akinfenwa not getting off the ground to flick the ball on. Flanagan jumping, missed it completely.

Last night, the absolute non-professional approach of three Sunderland players letting a quick free-kick take place, and leading to the first goal last night, was astonishing. Two were looking the other way, while the third should have been stood on the ball stopping it. It beggars belief.

Then the penalty which Flanagan completely missed the ball in a simple action, which was compounded by Winchester’s silly challenge. We were never going to get back after that.

I cannot remember Doyle ever heading a corner clear.

Maguire should have had more game time last season. He was always a threat when on the pitch, but needed motivation to get a consistent effort from him.

I feel that Rotherham and Wigan have the experience and physicality to take automatic promotion places, so it will be anxious play offs for us.

If Stewart doesn’t score, who else will? We need another goal threat now that Broadhead is out.

We need a Hurley-like figure at the back, to command the backline.

Finally, our pitch was in shocking condition, which meant the ball was not being moved about quickly.

Adrian Donnelly

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thanks for writing in. You’re right, we’re down to the bare bones now and new recruits are needed in a number of departments. But going ahead was, I believe, still the right thing to do even if the results have not gone our way. We’re still well placed, and there’s still everything to play for.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Just seen Defoe is looking for a new club.

Bring him home!

Tom in Sherburn Village

Ed’s Note [Rich]: I saw that too, Tom. As a coach or a mentor, and a possible back-up player I’d take him. But I somehow can’t see it happening, it doesn’t really fit the plan.

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