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Great read from George Caulkin,

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Great read from George Caulkin,

Post  cyprussyd on 2018-08-20, 4:53 pm

Sunderland beginning to win back fans
Sunderland 3 Scunthorpe 0

George Caulkin, Northern Sports Correspondent
August 20 2018, 12:01am, The Times


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Maja scored the second of Sunderland’s three first-half goalsIAN HORROCKS/GETTY IMAGES
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On Friday evening, Jane Moran was ruminating on family and football, on the ties that bind. Sunderland is the beautiful curse passed down by her father and, as usual, the pair had bought season tickets in spite of the club’s spiralling decline, in spite of their own pain. Jane’s dad is unwell and is unlikely to visit the Stadium of Light again, but he renewed anyway, to encourage her. “He wants me to keep going,” she said.
Jane has struggled with it but, as she explained on Twitter that night, she was “going to bite the bullet” and watch Sunderland’s game at home to Scunthorpe United yesterday. This she duly did, feeling “genuinely gobsmacked” because a few hours before kick-off, her family were visited by Stewart Donald, the club’s new chairman who had seen her tweet and, in a spot of role-reversal, offered his support to them.
It is wrong to say that Sunderland are back because when it comes to matters of the heart, to the Northeast tradition of turning up and bearing witness, they have never been away but, bit by bit, game by game, they are remembering who they are, what they should be. “It was pretty surreal,” Jane said. “But while we’d all love trophies and winning the league, this is real football.” Donald had told her: “Any little thing we can do, we will.”
This is only the second season that Sunderland have spent outside the top two divisions, yet existence in 
Sky Bet League One has brought a sense of renewal, of positivity, more engagement. A taste for churn has stayed with them — new directors, a new manager and 12 new players have arrived since their second successive relegation — but 22,000 supporters, including Jane, have renewed.

That startling number requires some context. Last season, fans saw their team win three games at home, matching the total from the season before. Within that, there was a run of 12 months without a victory on Wearside and without it there were those increasingly weary great escapes, when, under the misguidance of Ellis Short, being Sunderland meant not much more than a corrosive cycle of clinging on and starting again.

Short’s departing gift was to pay off Sunderland’s debt, but some of the madness in which costs snowballed is still being unpicked. Charlie Methven, the executive director, revealed last week that at one stage the club were paying “£1,000 a month to rotate plastic plants around the various rooms”, that nobody was employed to sell sponsorship. “They had forgotten what Sunderland is,” he said.
On the pitch, memories are flickering. Three league games down and Sunderland have won twice on their turf and remain unbeaten. Not quite a revolution, but given that context, vaguely miraculous. By half-time against Scunthorpe they were three goals to the good, playing with freedom and pace and scoring through Max Power, Josh Maja and Chris Maguire. It sounds obvious, but winning is fun, whatever the level.
Nobody is getting too excited and certainly not Jack Ross, the manager Donald tempted away from St Mirren and whose diligence is already prompting enthusiasm within a club who had proved a graveyard for coaches. “It’s still very early, but with the transition the club has gone through, it’s a good start,” Ross said. “Hopefully it’s a platform to build confidence, because that’s been missing.”
Ross understands the importance of giving supporters reason to invest their faith. “We want this to be a place that opposition teams dread coming to,” he said, while Donald and Methven, who have experience at Oxford United and Eastleigh, know that at this level everything must be worked for. There have been regular updates on everything from signings to strategy, to fanzines, websites and podcasts.
And then there are gestures like yesterday. Jane, 54, has being going to Sunderland since 1974; her first game without her dad was “tough”. She left her seat at half-time and waited outside the ground, but even so, “the football in the first-half was brilliant,” she said and her meeting with Donald meant something. “Because of the way things were going, it hadn’t felt like our club,” she said. “It does now.”

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Re: Great read from George Caulkin,

Post  Hieronymus on 2018-08-20, 6:48 pm

Brilliant read, thanks for posting. George Caulkin is a good writer and understands, because he is a North Easterner. Really great stories that indicate something special is happening here. Looking forward to each and every match Very Happy
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