The word has been used more than any other when describing the atmosphere around Sunderland AFC in the recent past.
I wrote an article for ALS whilst SAFC were a Premier League club, eloquently titled “I couldn’t give a shit”
In this I described in length not only my matchday experience, but my apathetic feelings towards the club I have supported for the last 32 years. It gained a large number of replies on the ALS social media sites, the vast majority being in agreement. I read through them, hearing how many supporters don’t bother going to the games any more or certainly don’t enjoy them when they do. They were completely disillusioned with the club from top to bottom.
Obviously there were also some that said “get behind your club”, “stop whinging” etc, but most had also had enough and spent their Saturday afternoons doing as they wished.
That was less than a couple of years ago. Now look at us.
We’re in the third tier of English football for only the second time in our history, and have just appointed a Manager from St Mirren who most of us had barely heard of until recently.
We have a squad that largely consist of overpaid dreadful players that don’t want to be here, and we’ve just been taken over by someone who previously owned non-League Eastleigh FC.
So does that mean I still “couldn’t give a shit?”
Or has my apathy now turned into anger or despair?
The reality is somewhat different.
I haven’t felt as positive about our club for a long, long time. I’m getting a Season Ticket again for the first time in four years and I cannot wait for the new campaign to begin.
Am I fickle? I suppose I am, but you know what...I couldn’t give a shit.
It could all go tits up of course. Messrs Donald, Methven & Ross could all turn out to be disastrous for SAFC, however even at this ridiculously early stage, I genuinely don’t believe for one second that will be the case.
The open, honest dialogue from the owners is not only refreshing, it’s completely compelling and almost addictive. The unconventional communication with the fans via Twitter or Fansite podcasts seems to have got under the skin of some mainstream journalists, so I’m certain that negative press reports will appear in the near future. So be it. Let’s not rise to it. Let’s get behind those at the top.
I genuinely don’t care what League we play in. All I want is to support a club I feel part of. One that cares about their fans, and one with a team that really want to be here, playing with passion, pride and commitment. That’s it.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of this is with the benefit of hindsight. When I was younger I’d be at Roker Park watching some of the absolute dross in their Red & White shirts and I’d crave top flight football and foreign ‘stars’ on Wearside. But that was because the although a lot of the talent was severely lacking, the passion, pride and commitment was a given. We’d get that nearly every game and sadly it was taken for granted. And that’s one of many reasons supporters of clubs across the country crave ‘the good old days’.
Now as yet we couldn’t hazard a guess as to what our side will resemble on the opening day of the 2018/19 Season, but I’m prepared to back the new owner, manager and their judgement and will be fully behind them.
For all the vast number of Managerial changes and revolving door of players over the years, only now does it feel a genuine fresh start. I’m certain there are going to be many mistakes made under the new regime, but I’m willing to give them more than a fair crack of the whip now they’ve rescued me from my complete apathy.
If you are not like me, and you have been to every game over the last few years, you renewed before the takeover and you travelled across the country watching the lads under any circumstances, then give yourself a big pat on the back. Your loyalty should be applauded and commended.
But don’t criticise those that now want to return. What will that achieve apart from massaging your own ego? Surely you also want as many in attendance as possible?
Remember this isn’t a case of fans returning because Sunderland are now playing great and gaining promotion. We are in League One. A ball hasn’t been kicked yet and for all intents and purposes, we’ve never been more shit than we are now.
This hasn’t just been a case of supporters turning their backs after a bad run of results. This is about a fanbase who no longer felt that part of their club. A fanbase disillusioned and disengaged to the point of complete apathy. They desperately wanted a new owner, but couldn’t even be arsed to protest. They had completely given up.
People talk about a ‘rotten core’ at Sunderland AFC and refer to the likes of O’Shea and Cattermole. That’s wide of the mark in my opinion. To me, the rotten core has been the likes of Short, Byrne and Bain who have destroyed much of what this club stood for, and driven fans away from the Stadium of Light.
So when previously absent supporters talk of enthusiasm and optimism, getting a Season Ticket again or mentioning coming back for the first time in years, encourage them and be glad they are doing so. Let’s be grateful to Stewart Donald that the enthusiasm and vision he has already shared with us, has made that happen in such a short space of time. Let’s come together to wholeheartedly support him. Positivity tends to breed positivity, let’s trust his judgement and see where it takes us.
It would be hypercritical for me to use the term ‘Keep the Faith’, when I had lost so much interest. But fickle or not, it’s great to ‘give a shit’ again.
Ha’way the Lads