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Sunderland 4 v 1 Rochdale
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 22nd September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Interview with a Sunderland fan
Thursday, 20th Sep 2018 17:46 by Col

After years of heading up that way for games against Darlo and Hartlepool, we follow the same route up only this time it's Sunderland. Given we've never been there before, we've spoke to a Sunderland fan about his team, what to expect and where it's all gone wrong.

1) Who are you and how long have you been supporting Sunderland for?
Rory Fallow (@RoryFallow) , part of the Sunderland podcast Wise Men Say and a contributor to fansite Roker Report. I went to my first game in 1997, a 1-0 home defeat to Norwich City which was the second competitive game at the Stadium of Light. It was clearly a match for ages, evidenced by the fact that my only memory of it is the fact that I fell asleep.

A few years later though, as the Peter Reid era really kicked in and Quinn & Phillips were banging in goals for fun, I got bitten by the bug and was lucky enough to get a season ticket just in time for our relegation from the Premier League with a record low of 19 points.

2) Sunderland have been something of a car crash over the past couple of years, literally in one case. What’s been the worst thing you’ve been through during this spell?

That's so hard to narrow down, which tells you everything you need to know I suppose.

From a moral stand point, the club not immediately sacking Adam Johnson when our Chief Executive knew he would plead guilty and our handling of that whole situation was appalling. Said executive then getting a hefty pay off was the icing on the cake for that as well.

On the pitch, last season was as dark as it comes. We only won three games at home, one of which was after we had already been relegated. There was no fight in the team, no cohesion and the fans were desperate for someone to just come in breathe some life back into the place. Conceding a last minute goal at home to Burton Albion to confirm our relegation was perfectly fitting given how much of a disaster the season had been but it was one of those moments where you had to just stand there and wonder what the hell had happened.

3) What’s been the root cause behind the slump over the past two seasons?

Terrible ownership, to put it bluntly. Ellis Short invested millions into the club but trusted all of the wrong people with that money. Be it managers, directors of football or executives, barely a penny actually improved the club and it mainly just contributed to our demise.

The fact that Short wasn't very hands on and wasn't actually looking at where his money was going is how that carried on for so long. It got to the point where he was just giving the club the basic funds to survive and not a penny more. So there was never a real leader at the club and managers were coming in not knowing how bad the situation was, then immediatly becoming disillusioned.

This means the only players you can bring in (for the most part) are ones with terrible attitudes. We had Jack Rodwell who played terribly, then would be injured and then basically refused to play, all while picking up tens of thousands of pounds. He's far from the only example of such an act either, so it's no surprise that the club were saddled with a ridiculous amount of debt.

Describing Ellis Short as the root is perfect as the way he ran the club just allowed all of these other terrible features to grow. Thankfully he's gone now and in fairness, made a great gesture by writing off all of the clubs debts on his way out. We just have to hope that the new owners will deliver on their promises as the club looks to turn things around.

4) Thoughts on new manager Jack Ross. Is he the man for the long term based on what you’ve seen so far?

The signs are mostly positive so far. Ross is clearly an attack minded manager, so any set of fans are going to respond well to that and he has the hunger of a young manager who his desperate to prove himself. One big positive is you can tell he doesn't feel like he's above the club, which was a big problem with a lot of our recent managers. Jack Ross sees Sunderland as an opportunity to rebuild a massive club and take it back to where it should be.

It's hard to know just yet if he's the manager for the long term, as he has to get us out of League One first. If we're promoted this season, he'll be given time in the Championship as we can afford a year or two of consolidation in the second tier and that's when we'll be able to tell if he's the man. He'll get time to develop our young players, impose an identity and make sure that we're ready to make push for the Premier League.

For now though, it all depends on us getting out of League One.

5) What were the expectations of the Sunderland fans this season?

We have to get promoted this season, quite simply. We obviously deserve to be in League One right now, as we have been a mess of a football club and results have put us where we are. When you look at the infrastructure the club has, the potential of it and looking at where it's been in the past, League One isn't where Sunderland should be. So if we want to get back to previous heights, we can't afford to hang around in the third tier.

No one expects it to be easy and there's still a lot of work for Jack Ross, the players and the new owners to do but looking at our squad, we should be going up automatically. Anything other than that will be a failure.

6) What’s been your experiences of League One so far?

It's been fun! Granted, that's mainly down to the fact that we've only lost one game but after years of misery following Sunderland, it's been nice to just enjoy going to the match.

The quality of football might not be great but it's pleasing to see us have a squad of players who look like they care about the club and if we were in the Premier League, we wouldn't have the chance to play as many academy players. Look at Josh Maja, we've developed him and he's got five goals already this season. If we were still in the top flight, we would have probably spent about £10 million on a striker who doesn't even know where Sunderland is and couldn't care less how many goals he scores.

It'll be great to visit some new grounds, hopefully continue our decent form and just be reminded that supporting a football club is supposed to be fun. As I said before, anything other than promotion will be considered a failure but I'm enjoying League One at the minute and if we get promoted from it, I'll enjoy it even more!

7) Any thoughts on Rochdale?

You do seem a lot more stable than us. During Keith Hill's current stint as manager, Sunderland have had nine permanent managers! I think it's important that clubs are managed by people who connect with the supporters and have a strong identity with the club, so I really like how Rochdale have stood by Keith Hill even during more difficult periods.

8) It’ll be our first trip to the Stadium of Light. What are we in for and any inside tips for our visit?

The away fans at the SoL are housed in the upper tier of the North Stand, which gives a decent view of the pitch. You'll be lonely up there though and the club (quite rightly) took the decision to close off the rest of the upper tier for this season, to make sure fans aren't so spread out and it has improved the atmosphere. So apart from a few directors and those in the press box, you'll be the only people up there!

Sunderland is a great city for pubs and I don't think a single establishment doesn't allow away fans in. If you head to the city centre (a 15 minute walk from the stadium) you can't go wrong with places like Fitzgeralds, The Dun Cow, The Ship Isis and The Peacock. There's a few Wetherspoons if you're after a bite to eat, with the Cooper Rose & The Lampton Worm being decent. Slightly just out of the centre, the Ivy House is a canny boozer as well. Deptford has some great bars too, with the King Arms being the stand out for me.

I obviously hope you don't enjoy the game too much but apart from that, any travelling fans should have a good day out.

9) Name your all time Sunderland XI

I'm using the rules that I have to have seen them play for Sunderland but I'm going for more personal favourites over anything else:

GK: Jordan Pickford
LB: Julio Arca
CB: John Mensah
CB: Younes Kaboul
RB: Nyron Nosworthy
LW: Stephane Sessegnon
CM: Yann M'Vila
CM: Jordan Henderson
RW: Steed Malbranque
ST: Kevin Phillips
ST: Niall Quinn

10) Predictions for the game

Looking at how both sides have no problem scoring goals but aren't exactly tight at the back, I'm expecting goals. Hopefully we return to form with a 2-1 win.

Photo: Action Images

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