On a sunny Saturday with no Sunderland match I find myself at a bit of a loose end. Yes, I need to tidy the house and probably shouldn’t let the washing fester in the washing machine but hey, procrastination is a by-product of the active mind.
So, my thoughts turn to Stoke. Relegated today with West Brom likely to follow and that gave me a little bit of joy on this sunny day. I felt a tad guilty about that joy, after all, it’s not that long since we were on the wrong end of the Premier League’s rubbish chute. Stoke though have a number of reasons for my disliking them. Yes, their football has been awful over the years. Yes, their fans can be a little unwelcoming. Yes, they are a city made up of five towns which doesn’t feel much like a city really. Stoke is also the centre for everyone to go to should there be an apocalyptic event by all accounts. This is not why I have a dislike for them however. The reason for my dislike of Stoke comes from two areas, indulge me as I talk you through them.
Firstly, Rory Delap. Rory Delap played for Sunderland for a bit. He was steady and there seemed nothing remarkable about him. Then he joined Stoke. For anyone who watched football at that time you will remember that Tony Pulis uncovered a secret weapon. The Delap throw. He was able to launch the ball like an Exocet. It flew into the box for Stoke attackers to take advantage of Ryan Shawcross’s elbowing destruction and head the ball in the net. Why didn’t he tell us that he had this mythical ability? Perhaps he did. Perhaps it didn’t register with managers at the time. The conversation that surrounded that throw was unlike any fervour for a throw-in that I have ever witnessed since Steve Watson did his roly poly throw at Middlesbrough. My chagrin is not about Delap’s throw, it’s about our inability to identify it and use it effectively the way that Stoke did.
That is not uncommon for Sunderland. We neglect players’ abilities on a regular basis. Look at Kevin Kilbane. Very well liked at West Brom, successful at Everton, something of a hero for his national team. At Sunderland? Meh. Kelvin Davis was very highly rated. Some would argue England standard at best. Not at Sunderland. Jason Steele the same. Rory Delap sums up our flagrant ability to ignore talent at best or ruin it at worst. So, I don’t like Stoke because I am jealous.
The second reason is because Stoke play in red and white. Sunderland play in red and white. We may have a ridiculous candy stripe shirt at the moment, but we play in proper red and white stripes. Exeter, Brentford, Sheffield United, Southampton... how dare they play in our colours? For as long as I can recall the identity of Sunderland has been in those stripes. I don’t like the fact that other teams wear them. If you read your history, you will know that was not always the case and in fact a team not too far away from us wore red and white halved shirts while we wore blue as we were elected to the league to replace... Stoke. Since then the red and white has become synonymous with the club.
The stripes are ours. The only club that I am happy to see wearing them are Bilbao because the reason they wear red and white stripes is because some bloke from Sunderland went over there and set the club up. This may all sound very petty and it probably is but there is logic here. That logic is in identity. As fans we belong. We are a solitary unit with pride and passion. We can be disappointed that we don’t get the best out of players, but the club is ours. No plain red shirt for us. We demand stripes. And not those silly stripes that may well have some basis in years passed but proper stripes. The Le Coq Sportif strip may look pretty stylish now, but it wasn’t Sunderland. The weird Avec shoulder smudge didn’t sit right. The second reason I don’t like Stoke is because they wear our stripes.
So, there you have it, I have some sympathy for Stoke fans who are going through misery right now, but ultimately I care about my team more. If that means I can raise a wry smile about the demise of a team who identified a secret weapon we never saw or who can use our stripes to create a negative footballing image, then so be it.
To celebrate being complete and utter shite once again, we’re bringing bring back this classic t-shirt from the 05/06 season. Looking back to those halcyon days under Mick McCarthy when we managed to amass an incredible 15 points to see us relegated from the Premier League.
Don’t worry we will reach those lofty heights again but until then we can take comfort in the fact that we’re all... still here when we are shit! Hardcore fans and Sunderland till we die, whichever league we are in and whoever owns the club. Players, manager and chairman come and go. Fans remain. We are the club… click here to view product