Dear Roker Report,
I thought it might be interesting to tell you all about the somewhat different experience of an SAFC supporter during the U.S. tour from those that have been reported to Roker Report so far. Cary, North Carolina, is close enough to our home in North Florida that I thought traveling to see the Black Cats in person was doable.
Our oldest son Andy and I left Tallahassee around 5 A.M. on Friday the 21st. After he had driven the 600+ miles to Cary, N.C., we checked into our hotel at 5 P.M. (Though U.K. distances are shorter, this trip gave me an idea of what Black Cats fans go through to follow the team to most away games.) We used GPS to locate WakeMed Soccer Park. The $20 parking fee gave us an idea of how overpriced everything else (food, etc.) would be. This is not a complaint, since it was worth every penny we spent to see SAFC play live.
Andy and I sat in Section 501, which unfortunately faces west. With the 7 P.M. start, the sun was in our eyes throughout the first half, only falling below the eastern stand during intermission. Though hot, it was less so than in San Antonio or Albuquerque: about 33 C at game time and down to 30 C at the end of the match. I am what you might call a solo Sunderland supporter, with no friends who follow the Lads but for a Facebook “friend” in Colorado who has family on Wearside. At the Park, I saw many people wearing SAFC strips, as I was. Mine, found by my middle son Reed on eBay, has BoyleSports on the front. None of the other SAFC supporters said anything to me; but to be fair, I did not initiate any conversations. With our late arrival, and my not being a member of any U.S. supporters group, I was not aware of the events where SAFC faithful met with players and staff.
There was a local couple sitting next to me who were quite friendly. The young man was explaining the intricacies of “soccer” to his attractive friend. They were interested in when (ten years ago) and why I began supporting Sunderland. I explained that when the Premier League appeared on U.S. TV, I needed to choose a favorite side. Since I enjoyed the All Creatures Great and Small books by James Herriot (aka Alf Wight), and he was a Sunderland supporter, it seemed right to follow the fortunes of the Black Cats, such as they were.
From the Roker Report article, I had a good idea of who would be in the SAFC side. Players such as Clarke, Roberts, Batth, and Gooch were easy to spot; but with unfamiliar numbers and no program, I was not able to identify every player. My friendly neighbour had trouble believing that Chris Rigg is only 16. The Black Cats dominated the first half to the extent that I felt embarrassed for the home team. With fresh legs added, however, N.C. got two quick goals early in the second half and made the score respectable. Refereeing was far from the best. My neighbour and I agreed that Jack Clarke’s 4th goal was way offside. We also agreed that the N.C. player who kicked number 14 (Zak Johnson?) in the head late in the game should have had a red card, rather than the yellow he received. An example of very poor sportsmanship was the N.C. player who slapped hands with the perpetrator of the dangerous foul. The first N.C. keeper was poor, but we thought his 60th minute replacement was much better.
As we returned to the hotel, I was very pleased to have been able to actually see SAFC play in person. I would love to visit the Stadium of light, but at my age another visit to the U.K. is unlikely. The day after the game, Andy and I drove a couple hundred miles into the West Carolina mountains and visited friends in Dillsboro on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Then on Sunday we returned to Tallahassee, completing a weekend I will always remember.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I’m glad you got to make the trip Mac and see the Lads in person - if you ever do come across to the UK, be sure to give us a shout and we’ll meet up for a pint!
Dear Roker Report,
Just listened to the latest pod. I’ve been a supporter since 2010 and this was my first chance to see the Lads in person. I drove down from Dallas - 5 hours - and it was a wonderful experience. I went to the open training and the San Antonio game. The team’s interaction with the supporters was fantastic.
I hope the club does return to the US in the near future.
Thank you for understanding, and discussing on the pod, how special it was for a supporter like me to watch the lads in person!
Ed’s Note [Gav]: Thanks Tom - I’ve been taken aback by how many of our US-based Podcast listeners have actually reached out since I said that. It seems there are more of you out there than I realised!
Dear Roker Report,
I wish our club a very successful upcoming season, and hope we can get promotion!
Good luck to our team.