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Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Can Sunderland fans still feel empathy for Sheffield Wednesday?

“The Owls are in a state of turmoil that’s not too dissimilar to how we once were, but one particular incident on Friday night went too far,” writes Mark Wood.

Photo by Ben Roberts Photo/Getty Images

Despite their team being bottom of the Championship, a healthy crowd turned up to see the team in red and white but following an appalling start, the home fans were leaving in droves after half an hour, with the atmosphere absolutely toxic.

Poor management and decision-making from the very top had left the supporters with no confidence in their chairman, and this once proud club was nosediving towards League One.

Sound familiar?

It could easily be a description of Sunderland six years ago, but this was the scene at Hillsborough on Friday night.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Hillsborough Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

As Sunderland fans, we were simply revelling in the performance of our own team.

Delighted to be 2-0 up inside ten minutes, when the third goal went in after barely half an hour, the points were only going one way. Another victory on the road for the red and whites, and certain defeat for the hosts.

The boos rang out and a large proportion of their supporters showed exactly what they think of their club and the shambolic way it’s currently being run.

Watching it brought back memories of similar scenes at the Stadium of Light during 2017/2018, as we crashed straight through the floor of the Championship following our relegation from the Premier League.

At the time, and in the days following the game, it was hard not to feel a great deal of empathy with the Wednesday fans whose once proud club is being mismanaged straight into League One as a result of their chairman’s rampant ego.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ben Roberts Photo/Getty Images

They’re a similar-sized club to ourselves in so many ways, from the stadium and supporter base, and the two clubs have followed similar paths over recent decades.

There were plenty of Sunderland fans thinking exactly the same, and they talked about it on this site among others, as well as on social media. It was worthy of being written about, and so here we are.

However, instead of expressing hopes that they could turn it around and that the good times would eventually return, disturbing reports emerged afterwards about what two Wednesday fans did during the game in an attempt to bait the away support.

It would be a waste of time and space to describe what these two morons did, but if you’ve followed the reports in the past few days, you’ll be fully aware of what happened.

After that, it felt like it would be difficult to look at the Wednesday fanbase as a whole and maintain the same level of sympathy that we had at the time of the game.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Hillsborough Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

How do you express solidarity with a fanbase that includes individuals who would resort to that? Would you honestly want to say to them, ‘We know what you’re going through, we’ve been there and we feel it’?

However, trying to view it rationally, you realise that every large fanbase has a contingent that are no angels, although I struggle to recall our own supporters doing anything like that.

Every club, whether it’s Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday or Newcastle, is supported by a minority of idiots who at some point bring the name of the club down.

One of my most vivid memories of watching Sunderland on the road is on the Leppings Lane terracing at Hillsborough.

This was a few years before the disaster in 1989, and I remember the sight of Sunderland fans fighting each other, much to the dismay of the home fans elsewhere in the stadium.

St Johnstone v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

When we were sliding out of the Premier League and down through the Championship, it was our own players (not all of them, but more than just a couple) who tarnished the name of the club.

Whether it was going on strike, not being bothered to play or crashing their car when drunk on the morning of a game, they managed to get Sunderland’s name into the press for all the wrong reasons.

On top of everything else that we were enduring at the time, we had these ignorant, selfish and sometimes despicable individuals in our colours who made us feel nothing but shame. Based on their overall response, this is pretty much how the Sheffield Wednesday fans feel about the two individuals in question.

After the outright shock, dismay, disappointment and disgust they’ve expressed in public and on social media, they’ve organised a crowdfunding appeal for the Bradley Lowery Foundation with the aim of raising £5,000 and at the time of writing have well and truly smashed the target.

It’s easy to tar a whole fanbase with the same brush because of the actions of a couple of individuals, but that doesn't make it right. However, Sheffield Wednesday have apologised and thankfully, their fans are trying to make amends.


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