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Reader’s Corner: Staying ‘til the end - what can Sunderland fans do to keep a full ground?

In today’s edition of Reader’s Corner, Steven Cook discusses what he sees as a big problem at home games - people who leave the ground early, no matter the result. Fancy writing something? Email us:

Photo by Richard Sellers - PA Images via Getty Images

“I’m Sunderland ‘til I die.

I know I am, I’m sure I am...

Or at least until the 83rd minute anyway”

Before I make my case I’m very aware that this is quite a prickly subject and it has been discussed and argued many times before. And I know I’ll probably get a fair bit of flak from some people, but it’s something that drives me, and many others I know up the wall – so yes, I’m going to go there.

People leaving home games 10 minutes before the end absolutely baffles me – why do so many people do it? There, I’ve said it! Can of worms opened, let battle commence.

I know, obviously, that there will be several genuine reasons why people have to leave the game early – having to leave to start a shift at work, collect kids from childcare, avoiding the rush due to disability issues etc. and that is fair enough, completely understood, and there will be a fair number of people who fall into these categories.

But 5, 6, 7 thousand plus – I very much doubt.

I feel confident enough to say that it is upwards of six or seven thousand – maybe even more, who never stay to see the end of the game, and I find it utterly perplexing. Why on earth would you not want to see what the final outcome of the match is?

It’s been bad for years, but definitely seems to be getting worse. A horrible habit that seems to be becoming the norm. At the Fulham game it felt like a lot of people were relieved when Fulham’s 3rd went in as it meant they could justify leaving and not have to stay for the possibility of extra time!

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

It’s reached the stage now where it almost doesn’t matter what the score is, whether we are winning or losing, once the clock goes past the 80th minute, at the next stoppage in play people get up and stream out. I just don’t get it; you miss seeing the conclusion of the event you’ve specifically chosen to attend and paid for! Would you leave 10 minutes before the end of a film at the cinema, or leave a gig before the band do their encore?

Is it simply a transport issue? We’ve all seen the park and ride queues after a match and they are horrendous – could the club be pushed to vastly improve the service so that people don’t feel like they have to leave early or face been stuck in an enormous bus queue in order to get home?

For me a matchday is totally centred around, well – the match! So whatever traffic I have to endure afterwards and however long it takes to get home I accept as I have based my day almost entirely on being at the game, hoping that my team can secure a victory, and if they do, being there to celebrate achieving that aim that the whole day is focussed on.

I just can’t comprehend going all the way to the ground, sitting for 80 odd minutes desperate for my team to win but then walking out before I find out if they actually do or not! And passing up the chance of possibly seeing a last-minute equaliser, or even better, an injury time winner, I couldn’t bear it – for me, there is no better feeling in football.

Sunderland v Blackpool - EFL Sky Bet League 1 Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For years while we endured the misery under Moyes, the gruesome football of Grayson and Coleman and the travesty of the Donald and Methven era in League One, most of us said all we want as Sunderland fans is a team that gives everything they have on the pitch and that fights for the shirt and the badge.

Well, we’ve most certainly got that now in spades, and added to that they are playing some absolutely magnificent football, the best the SOL has seen in years.

They’ve earned the right to be applauded off the pitch – win lose or draw, as they give everything they have for 90 minutes plus every time they cross the white line. I feel it’s time that we give them all the support we have for 90 minutes plus too.

Probably against anyone’s expectations this group of players have got us to a position where a play-off place at the end of the season is a real possibility. We the fans can be a real difference maker in helping make that possibility a reality, and having nearly 40,000 of us staying until the bitter end of each game to give those lads our full support could really spur them on to achieve great things this season.

Help get them over the finishing line if they’re holding on to a one goal lead and it’s backs against the wall, or roar them on to throw the kitchen sink at it if we’re desperately pushing for a last gasp leveller or winner. And celebrate with them and give them the ovation they deserve if we do keep picking up the wins – and who knows where it may take us?

Like I said, I’m sure there are many valid reasons why some people have to leave early, and for others who simply choose to that is of course their prerogative – it’s your money, your time, you are free to do as you see fit.

But in my opinion for what it’s worth, I really feel like a full, noisy stadium pushing the players right to the very last whistle could make a massive difference as to whether or not our season finishes with another play-off push to the promised land.


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