What are my expectations for Sunderland AFC in the division we now find ourselves in?
I was always a bit of a champion of the idea of patience throughout the mad rush to escape League One. Don't misunderstand, I was no huge fan of where we were, but the problem I had was that my desire to leave was always tempered to some extent by my desire for the club to arrive back in the Championship well prepared, fully rebuilt, and ready to go.
You see, contrary to popular belief, the life of a fanzine writer/podcast producer is not one filled with hope for sensational stories, or a hunger for clicks, views and listens via the breaking of often terrible news. Quite the opposite is the case; our personal successes in the world of fan media - as opposed to those in professional and traditional journalism - are reliant on the good news even more so than the bad. In the wider media, and in areas where you have no emotional investment, you can always break the story and delight in the increase in interactions without a sense of ultimate defeat or even guilt.
Your role in that world is to break stories, to break news and basically keep providing the beast with clicks to justify your wage, so any news in that sense is good news.
There are of course journalists who are fans of clubs like our own, who also cover the club as part of their jobs, but the fundamental principle remains the same. No news is bad news for the team, and it leads to all kinds of turgid shite to justify subscription fees and the fact the public actually pays for the content they’re consuming - creating a sort of vicious cycle and conflict whereby a desire in certain organisations from those on the front line to the write with individual opinion and passion as fans in mind are crushed by their snakelike, relentlessly hungry, click-harvesting overlords. Those people I do actually sympathise with to some extent, and I enjoy when a few break free of these shackles to actually give an opinion I can relate to as a fan of our great club.
As a fan writing or podcasting or really doing anything at all in the world of fan media, the ultimate aim is happiness. Not just for selfish reasons, as of course we all want our club to be successful, but happiness for the collective; that wonderful feeling of unity you feel as part of a whole - an elated and ecstatic crowd of fellow supporters, those feelings of collective joy as strangers embrace and tears stream down the faces of those around you - years of frustration and turmoil released in one pure moment of ecstasy.
Aye, I know what that sounds like, but I don’t even need to describe such a feeling really, as most people reading have experienced exactly this only recently, and that lads and lasses is really what drives us all - the hope that doesn’t actually kill you, the great reward for your faith and loyalty to your club.
I think I speak for everyone in this strange corner of the internet when I say that the good news, the feeling of success and relief, the joyful outbursts, the celebrations and all that goes with it just makes everything we do worth it. It allows us to celebrate as we write, as we record, and with every opinion given; every thought put forward, our hopes and our dreams pour forth, and every second of joy is wrung from our reliving of these great events.
It is, to quote great philosopher of the North, Bobby Saxton, absolutely f*cking wonderful.
BREAKING NEWS: Everything is better/easier when everything is mint.
I know, I started this piece talking about expectations and you may be wondering where that went, but it is relevant to this.
The problem when half the larger group has expectations beyond those of the other half is that their happiness, and therefore the group unity mentioned above, is reliant on success as they interpret it. The expectations people have can vary quite wildly, but they’re generally similar in theme when it comes to football.
We aren’t breaking any significant philosophical ground here unlike dear Sacko, as we all want to see the side play good football, win more games than we lose, and we want to have a good time while we’re at it.
So what expectations worry me?
Well, those that risk collapsing into a rage that widens any already present division, or creates any further fissures, something as a fanbase we’re more than familiar with. I feel rage at things that happened thirty years ago, let alone the many crazy and bizarre situations we may find ourselves in as a club, on and off the pitch.
In a conversation earlier following the release of our latest pod - which admittedly is filled more with an air of anxiety and a residual contempt for those who treat our beloved Sunlun like a toy and play on the fears and emotions of its fans so gleefully - I set out what I believe (and I can’t speak for others here but I may as well) are our ultimate realistic goals and expectations as SAFC fans worldwide.
So get a notepad handy, Kyril, and jot this down...
- We just want the club to be normal.
- We don’t want any chancers anywhere near it.
- We want the people who run it, to run it well.
- We want the manager to get his way in almost all matters.
- We want a decent squad capable of matching anyone in the League we reside in.
- We want the players to, you know, play well.
- Aye, that’s about it.
As I said recently, I would love nothing more than to have nothing to complain about. Nothing to look into or think about too deeply, no reason to worry about the signings made or not made, no reason to worry about the formations and tactics used, no reason to worry about things I referred to in an article last week.
I and everyone in this field would like nothing more than to follow the successes of the club and react to the genius work done by all involved. It would make our lives so utterly wonderful, some of us may well get the rare opportunity as a Sunlun fan to live/die happily.
I look forward to seasons like this under whoever is leading us on, but my hopes for this season under Alex Neil - long me he reign - are still just as tempered as they were in League One.
If we can achieve anything at all this coming season, including of course avoiding any chance of relegation from the Championship - in fact I’d love to never have to experience this again, cheers - it will be, to me anyway, an incredible success.
I have hopes and dreams of the perfect run, the perfect squad, the perfect set of circumstances culminating in our triumphant return to the Premier League, but I can wait as long as I can still see progress. As long as we can build on what we have and really arrive back where we think we belong, with style no less, there to stay forevermore.
But I can wait. I hope a few of you are happy to wait with me. Haway the f*cking lads.