After a whirlwind of a summer, things have settled down nicely and despite the fact that no one wants to be in League One, many of us are starting to really enjoy it! We’re unbeaten in the league, in a promotion place (stop the season now) and the squad is looking very tidy, which matches Jack Ross’ style of play…
So, we thought we’d better catch up with Charlie Methven, ahead of the Oxford match and as ever he had plenty to say and also had a few messages for the fans…
ALS: So, Charlie. Happy with the first month of the season? Four wins out of five, second top…
CM: The experience of the first month as a whole, August, was amazing. The best of times. We took over the club in May. May, June and July were extremely hard work trying to get stuff turned around behind the scenes and getting stuff ready to actually to compete on the pitch in this division. But come August 4th it was real. Like that moment when you’ve wound up your clockwork clock and you really hope it’s going to work!
But it’s been great, absolutely great. The team has fought on the pitch and from the first day the fans have turned up to support them and from the moment we went 1-0 down against Charlton after only nine minutes and the fans gave them a huge roar of support, there just seems to have been this bond building between the fans and the team, between the fans and themselves and hopefully between the fans and us (the owners).
So just gradually, it feels that over the last month that some of the scar tissue has started to heal, but we’re not kidding ourselves that it’s more than just a start, because we haven’t achieved anything yet. But it’s great to have 30,000 fans turn up, but that’s not where we want to finish, we want to fill the Stadium of Light.
We’re not kidding ourselves though, there’s an awful long way to go, but if you’d asked me, Stewart, Jack Ross, George Honeyman, the fans, if we’d be happy winning four of your first five league games, getting 30,000 in for the first game. Then starting September with key players returning from injury to make a strong squad, well we’d have taken it! I’d have given my right arm for it!
ALS: So, you set us a target of 30k for the Charlton game and we beat it. Are you setting a target for Oxford on Saturday, now that the players are showing what they can do and there’s a buzz about the city?
CM: Well, this is going to be the second game I’m going to set a target for! You can’t set a target every week, I realise. But this is our first 3pm Saturday home game, after two away games on the bounce, where we didn’t get enough tickets for the support we have. So, I’m going to set a target of 32,000 for Oxford at home.
Do I think we’ll do it? Yes, I do, but building an audience that befits this football club and getting people back and connected, isn’t a click of the fingers, it’s a slow process. It’s amazing that there’s already as many people as there are, after the disasters of the last few years, who still weren’t alienated from the club.
But there were some people who needed to see a change of ownership before they came back, others have needed to see real signs of recovery on the pitch, certain players needed to leave the club for them to return. Others needed to see some wins and proof that we were going to be a competitive force in League One. For others the bar will be higher. But we are looking to tick these things off the list on by one, so these fans, who have suffered, can be welcomed back into the fold. Back into the family. Back into your club and this time it will be your club, the fans club, but it will be a gradual process. All I ask of the fans is to turn up when you are ready and support this club like only Sunderland fans can.
ALS: I understand that some of the players wanted to stay out on the pitch and celebrate and applaud the fans post Scunthorpe, as they have done at away games, but some fans had left early and there was surprise at that from the new lads.
CM: I think if you asked me and others, are Sunderland fans the best fans around, I’d say yes! But if you asked would the best fans leave ten minutes early when they are 3-0 up, you have to say no! I think bad habits have happened during the bad years and obviously a small percentage of people have genuine reasons to leave early. There was a bloke in the pub after the Scunthorpe game saying it was great leaving early knowing we won, to grab an early beer, but I wasn’t happy. I thought why’s he leaving early when the players want to applaud him at the end! He came back over ten minutes later and agreed with me!
Players did come over to me afterwards and say they wanted to celebrate with the fans. Of course, sometimes people need to leave early for family and work reasons, but if you are just rushing to the pub, please hang fire and clap the team off. Some fans do go down to the concourses and watch the TVs towards the end of the game, but from Saturday we are turning the TVs off after half time. We need to be in this together, I know some people will say that’s not fan friendly, but we need the fans in the ground for the full match giving the players 100% backing, just like the fans expect the players to be giving 100% on the pitch for ninety plus minutes, we are in this together, then we can celebrate together at the end.