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Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light

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Roker Ramble: The new season is upon us!

Finally the big kick off has arrived - and it brings with it new EFL rules, an NFL megastar investor and that lot up the road are boring the life out of us with their new, very dull, documentary...

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

EFL to add more time on and keep the clock running in injury time

For many, many years I have wondered why they stop the damn clock when we enter into injury time. Why is that? Can fans not be trusted to keep it together? Was there really such a thing as Fergie time, and it was all just a huge conspiracy between Manchester United and the league’s bigwigs and no one thought we’d notice?

The good news is the EFL have announced this season, the clock will continue running, so we know just how much injury time is left. I’m a very nervous injury timer; I find the prospect of conceding in the dying embers of a match almost too painful a cross to bear. Therefore I need to know just how long is left in a match, and as such I’ve always got the stopwatch out on my phone during added on time. How else would I have known when Hull equalised in the 98th minute last season?

This is part of a wider EFL initiative to clamp down on time-wasting scoundrels, of which we have seen many at the Stadium of Light since we were relegated to League One. Time after time we have seen quite incredible amounts of messing on. We’ve become accustomed to watching an entire team go for an Indians, after drinks, then off to a nightclub, late night kebab, crashing on the sofa and devouring a fry up the next morning before they decide to take a corner. Pathetic behaviour. Well not anymore; well done EFL - let’s see if the referees have the backbone to enforce 23 minutes of added-on time when Huddersfield come to town.

Timewaster-in-chief Gareth Ainsworth is rather unsurprisingly one of the most vocal critics of the plans: “People who have probably never played the game have made some of these rules, I’ve really challenged some of them.” He whined; “We were the kings of time management at Wycombe. God knows what they will put on, but let’s suck it and see.”

“I think that there will be some in-season reviews on some of these rules. I really do, because I can’t see them working.”

Watford v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images

Boo hoo. Crack out the smallest electric guitar and play the saddest tune in the world, Gareth. While I’ll admit, the 13 minutes added on against Ipswich was a tad excessive and it might fall a little as time goes on but if it cancels all these anti-football lame brains, then I’m all for it.

The big Newcastle United documentary comes to the small screen

What better way to demonstrate your status as the leviathan of the English game than opening up your doors to a film crew, who can make you the subject of yet another dull and ultra-sanitised fly-on-the-wall documentary.

Next week we’re being treated to the release of Amazon’s We are Newcastle United - as if you didn’t need another reason to give money to a multi-billion pound conglomerate. Clearly, it will carry all the appeal of a trip to the Bigg Market, with a cast list that’s about as attractive (yes, Newcastle United fans appear in it - that’s the joke).

Here’s the best bit: It’s being narrated by Alan Shearer. By the end of the series, there are going to be coma patients who are experiencing a lighter sleep than those who’ve sat through four hours of the faymus numba niyne’s monologuing. Rumour has it wor ‘Al broke two sound desks in the recording studio with his monotone delivery. He’s got a voice for a Soviet-era lift but aside from that about bugger all else.

In my intrepid quest to inform you all, I’ve done something no one else should have to: watch all 113 seconds of the trailer. Here are some highlights:

“We need to win games. We need to score goals.”

“Last year the measure of success was to not be relegated. This year, it’s slightly different.”

Here ends the highlights. There was a Thunderbird in it at some point but I forget which one. No wait, that was Eddie Howe.

The last quote is from the heroine of Tyneside, Amanda Staveley. I’ve got a quote about how she’s perceived by the men of the Geordie Nation, but I don’t think it’ll get past the editors. So let’s just say I’m surprised she has time to do interviews, what with that bankruptcy hearing she’s involved with at the moment.

Chelsea FC v Newcastle United - Premier League
A prime reason to avoid Lightwater Valley
Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

I’m just bitter I suppose as sadly, we won’t be treated to a clip of Steve Bruce glumly admitting “wa got wa backsides kicked.”

The trailer was of course utterly club-facing. Full of spiel spouted by the owners, nigh on two minutes of claptrap which screamed sportswashing, and quietly whispered carpet bombing, to those listening closely enough. Because as we all know without the blood money of the Saudi state, Newcastle United would not have done what they did last season, hence rendering the achievement utterly meaningless.

The only sight we got of the fans was a bunch of charvas chanting “we’ve got our club back.” Lads, lads, lads, it’s never belonged to you less. They might as well have spliced in images of beheaded homosexuals. Genuinely, I have to Google that to make sure it’s correct every time - and bloody hell it is. Sadly, that’s the truth of this, and I hope this latest piece of propaganda makes for uncomfortable viewing for any Geordie with a conscience.

That’ll be four of them then.

Now whenever I talk about Newcastle I like to talk about us. Just to remind everyone how great we are and how ghastly they have become. We’re different sides of one coin, are we? Do me a favour pal, we’re not even the same currency.

Anyway, I don’t think I’m blowing our collective trumpet by saying that we, Sunderland, have completed the fly-on-the-wall docs. Back in 1998 Premier Passions showed us for what we are - a club which feels. You could almost see its beating heart pumping through the screen. Allow me one bit of hyperbole won’t you?

And yes, Sunderland ‘til I Die was an absolute shit show. But people loved us. Dammit, we bore our soul on that series, we invited the public (by that I mean anyone with a video-on-demand subscription) to witness our public execution. Frankly, I would have liked to have put Vaughan, Gibson, Bain et al in the dock for what happened that year but you know what, it did us no harm really. People laughed at us, but they secretly wished they supported us, and in a strange way we got their validation and respect. And that’s what the Geordies really want from this.

Now compare the trailer for that to the anodyne offering from Amazon:

“Another manager gone. Another relegation. The. Problems. Run. Deep.”

Ours had folk crying, priests praying, the word “anger”. A missed penalty, Chris Coleman fighting with a fan, blood, a woman screaming “we’re sick of it.” And a fella at the end making the perfectly valid point “we can’t walk away from our football club. We were born here, we were bred here. This football club is in our blood.”

Essentially, people love an underdog story, wild success or glorious failure. We were the latter - and that’s why Sunderland as a club will punch through every time. No matter how big you think you are.

Tom Brady invests in Birmingham

They call it the Wrexham effect. Americans seeing what Rob McIlheney and Ryan Reynolds have done with Wrexham and want a piece of that pie. Really, they should be calling it the Sunderland effect because those boys only really got the idea after watching us.

Well, the impact it had on Tom Brady was clearly profound as the NFL legend has announced he’s to become a minority shareholder in Birmingham City.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion (does that make him the - in American terms - the winningest champion?) has partnered with the parent company of BCFC, Knighthead Capital Management LLC. That’s right, I initially read that as Knobhead Capital Management LLC too.

He will “apply his extensive leadership experience and expertise across several components of the club, including working alongside the sports science department to advise on health, nutrition, wellness, and recovery systems and programs”, and also help advise the playing staff on how to throw the ball a very, very long way.

I wonder which other A-listers from over the pond will be investing in English football? Perhaps we’ll see Barack Obama ploughing some capital into Portsmouth, or Meryl Streep buying a season ticket at Crawley Town. My money is on Will Ferrell getting involved somewhere at some point, given his very public appearances last season, at our match versus QPR in particular.

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Tom Brady. Not watching his beloved Birmingham
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

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