It’s only a few seats, right? Of course it is, and if there’d been bums on them when the cameras were rolling, nobody would have been bothered. As it was, many were empty, and the sunshine had taken its toll - just like it has at Sid James Park, but as the seats there are dull grey anyway, they didn’t look any different when they succumbed to the weather.
However, our pin ones became yet another stick with which to beat SAFC and its supporters. They were visible, and they looked tired. I’d become used to seeing swathes of them opposite me in the East Stand, just as the folks in the East Stand had become used to seeing swathes of them opposite them in the West Stand, as folks gradually lost the will to attend. Those empty pink seats became a symbol of what the club had become – tired, worn out, knackered, not fit for purpose. Even though that purpose was just to be sat on, which purpose they were eminently capable of fulfilling, the wider football world, and most notably them up the road, mocked us for it. Pink seats. Pink bloody seats.
At a low-key meeting just before the takeover, Charlie asked a small but perfectly formed group of fans what we expected and wanted from the then prospective new regime. What could they do to re-engage the fans, to make them feel Sunderland again, to get the club moving. Winning games was an obvious answer, but it terms of a quick fix, the pink seats question wasn’t far behind. OK, said Charlie, we can have a look at that, I’m sure it’s achievable.
Like everything that was said in private, it’s been reiterated in public since the takeover. Stewy has stated the obvious by going on social media and saying that it’s “not the most important job, but one ticked off nonetheless” and that they’ve placed an order for 31,500 new ones. To be honest, I didn’t think we’d need that many, but there you go, the football hadn’t got so bad that I was reduced to counting seats. Actually, that's a lie…
Not only that, but he’s hinted that the fans would be welcome to pop along and help install them. Now, this might have the Health and Safety advocates amongst you (and on Tyneside) throwing up your hands in horror, but can you think of a better way to get the fans back on board? Some might claim that it’s just a cost-saving exercise, but in reality they’ll have to have paid professionals checking that the job is done correctly, and that those doing the job are not hurting themselves or each other in the process. Personally, I’d love to take a spanner and a new bit of plastic and make the ground look better, help to bring it back to life, and, most importantly, have my handiwork covered every other Saturday by happy Mackem backsides.
Like Stewy said, not the most important job, but one that, even though it’s yet to happen, has had the desired result in that it’s made people happy, it’s made people feel that they’re connected to the club again, that the club values their happiness and their contribution. It’s not just about the spanner in your hand, it’s about the fact that folks can point to a seat (or three) and tell the bairn “see that? I put that in.” I used to work with someone who put in the seats when the North Stand was extended, and, although he actually sat in a very small number of them, they were, and still are, “his seats” – the seats he helped to install. Think about that, and how many people will be able to claim “my seats” in the coming years.
In terms of a quick fix, and for a comparatively small amount of money in footballing terms, it’s a beaut. Where’s me spanner?