SUNDERLAND TIL DIE SEASON TWO REVIEW


As the opening scenes of Sunderland 'til I die 2 unfurl before me it is with huge trepidation that I embark on my Netflix marathon. Despite the ending of last season there was something about the series that kind of made the inevitable tragic finale immaterial as I swelled with pride at the people of Sunderland. I was hoping that those same people, or similar, helped exorcise the ghosts of last season. I was hoping that I wouldn't take the two Wembley trips so hard second time around. More than anything I was hoping that there wasn't any footage of me being rather inebriated at Bristol Rovers away. There are spoilers in here just in case you haven't watched it yet. This review is specifically from a Sunderland fan's perspective. I acknowledge that the producers have to produce a programme that has appeal wider than Wearside, and so any criticism of the documentary needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but from my perspective what is stark about the second series is not so much what is in the programme it is what is missing. However, let's start with some absolute positives. This series was more explicit about the impact of football on the people who play the game. I thought they covered the difference between the top two tiers and the ill-fitting club in League One very well. Luke O'Nien emerges very well from the documentary, almost becoming the George Honeyman from Season 1. He talks about the pressure of being a player from League Two suddenly joining Sunderland. He talks about keeping things hidden from his parents but recognising that talking to people around him is so important. He talks about the pressure Maja was under come contract renewal time and how it was important that he spoke to people about that.

We see Jack Baldwin moving into his new house and talking about the dark times and his wife recognising that the career of a League One WAG is far removed from the glamour of a Premier League WAG. His wife later goes on to describe the emotional strain of simply being left out of the starting XI. This is played out with the backdrop of an emotional and passionate fan base. We are constantly reminded about how this fan base is different; more intense. All of this mirrors the connection that was aimed at when Donald and Methven first came in to the club but it also mirrors the reality of a club falling from the Premier League to League One in two seasons. It's very difficult to compare season 1 with season 2 because they are very different. Not just in context but in plot and subtext. The first season introduced the world to Sunderland. The primary focus was the people of Sunderland and the fans. Secondary focus was probably Martin Bain's watch collection and everyone's favourite chief executive makes an indirect appearance by being the only beneficiary of a Chryochamber which helped his bad back out, but not the fitness of the players it was bought for. This latest season is very different though. The focus shifts from being about the city and the fans to a fly on the wall documentary largely centred around two men. It almost seems ironic that we keep hearing about the club being given to the fans, however, the documentary seems to be largely about the experiences of Donald and Methven. From an entertainment perspective that works due to the fact that the programme is edited to bring out two very stark personalities. Over the coming weeks many will have their views on the Maja saga or the Grigg situation; but at the heart of this documentary are Donald and Methven. Take for instance two games. We played Bradford City on Boxing Day. The focus for the documentary was on the marketing drive to beat the Leeds record for League One; we see Charlie at half time telling an employee to just get him the fucking numbers so he could announce the attendance on the pitch. There is no mention of the fact that despite the huge attendance the atmosphere was a bit flat that day. Fast forward to the play off semi final against Portsmouth at home and we see Charlie fretting about low ticket sales. Everything is talking about the lowest attendance of the season. No mention of the fact that the atmosphere for that game was the best atmosphere of the season and left a few Roker enders bruised from ending up three rows in front of where they were stood when Chris Maguire scored. Speaking of Chris Maguire. Undoubtedly our most intriguing character at the club his laughing in the face of a Bradford player was overlooked; the fact we called him the King overlooked. Chris Maguire was a surprising omission from the documentary. Now whether he chose to be followed around by cameras for 12 months is up to him; but the fact the documentary ignored his impact was strange at times. It was also strange how they ignored the fact that we took 9,000 down to Blackpool on New Year’s Day or the fact that the footage they had helped massively to rescind a lot of the red cards we received last season. One of the biggest things missing though was attention to what was probably the highlight of the season to most fans. Trafalgar Square before the Checkatrade was overlooked. We saw fans in Covent Garden singing of course; but the big gathering was not even shown. That pride that we had about overtaking one of the key tourist attractions in the country was omitted. The decision to omit these things is, I think, deliberate. They wanted to show something different in this series and as producers they have that right to make those decisions. In my view the pull factor for a lot of Sunderland fans was in sharing that togetherness in the first series. When you see the fan putting his medals on for Armistice day and comparing the solidarity of the army to being a Sunderland fan you can see that it was there; but they don't show the evidence to back it up. The fans are ditched to a certain extent for the Donald and Methven show. Not that the Donald and Methven show isn't entertaining, of course it is. I just feel they missed the point of Sunderland a little. Speaking of missing stories, Cattermole's journey from pariah in pre-season to hero at Wimbledon to heartbreak at Wembley penalty shootout is a massively missed opportunity, but then I don't produce Netflix documentaries. In all of that though, in the dying scenes of the final episode they absolutely nail it with a fan. "Why is it never us?" If you don't need to reach for the tissues when you see that then you should probably abandon any ambition of emotion. At that moment the fan in particular sums it up for every one of us. There is more to discuss, and in the coming weeks we will. There is detail in there that needs to be digested so please watch it. We will be discussing this for yonks. Have you changed your opinion of Donald and Methven? Have you spotted any inaccuracies? What really happened with Maja? How the fuck did Wyke miss that chance? Enjoy the series, it's worth a watch…


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