Educate, Agitate, Organise

Freedom of Speech does not mean that a person can say whatever they want to say. Freedom of Speech means that someone's right to say something is protected within certain limits. A person may have to suffer consequences for saying some things, but they still have the right to say them.

Charlie Methven spoke to ALS a few weeks ago to set another “Attendance Challenge”, and whilst discussing the number of SAFC fans heading to The Stadium of Light, he also gave his views on those who decide to leave before the end of the match.

“If you asked would the best fans leave ten minutes early when they are 3-0 up, you have to say no”

Although this didn’t offend me, it certainly irritated me. It almost questioned the loyalty of those that decide to get away before the end. A 'genuine reason' will differ hugely from one fan to another. Quite simply, who is Charlie Methven to question why someone sees 85mins as their time to shuffle along their row saying "Cheers, Thank You, Ta, Thanks mate..."?

It’s a topic that has been covered on many an occasion, especially after a victory or last-minute goal. Last Saturday against Rochdale there were thousands who had left their seat before the Full-Time whistle. Those that always remain in their seats until the players leave the pitch, simply cannot understand why others would risk missing the chance to celebrate. After all, isn’t that why we go in the first place?

Personally, I am firmly of the belief that fans should do exactly as they please, however I also think it looks pretty shit when hoards are leaving for the exits when the game still has 10 minutes to go.

Methven also said “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, we are in this together.”

OK, I get the sentiment in the message, but it seemed to suggest we were not doing all we can. So far, we’ve bought season cards in huge numbers, sold out all our away allocations, had 30,000 average attendance at home games, backed the lads fully in games, especially after going behind, bought plenty merchandise and even spent time replacing seats FOC. We are certainly doing our bit.

“Players did come over to me afterwards and say they wanted to celebrate with the fans."

Sorry Charlie, and call me sceptical, but the players were bemoaning the fact everyone didn’t remain in their seats at the end? Really? Going to just have to take your word for it, I suppose.

Now onto this week and the interview he gave with Radio Newcastle. In this he outlined his belief that it is cheaper to buy a ticket to go to the match than it is to go to the pub, drink beer and watch an illegal stream. Methven revealed that Sunderland will work with authorities to stop games being shown without licences and the main issue with the interview, was that he labelled fans who would rather watch a stream than attend the match as ‘parasites’.

He said: “If you’re a fanatic of your football club and you decide, actually what you’re going to do is you’re going to spend your money on a few pints of lager and watch an illegal stream of the match rather than contributing that money to trying to help your club to be the best it probably can, you’re not a fan, you’re a parasite. When you average them out, it can be about £12 per ticket. I don’t buy that there are people who are poor enough to not be able to afford that but are rich enough to be able to afford to go to pubs and drink in there.”

Parasites? Affordability? Rich & Poor? Who the fuck is he to…

OK, deep breath. Time to sit back and take stock a bit.

Is this a posh Southerner coming up here and trying to piss us all off, or is this someone who genuinely wants to help turn our club around?

We all loved the “piss-taking party stops here” message. We all loved this approach when it came to overpaid and underperforming players, we rejoiced at the crackdown on agents holding SAFC at ransom, and we all love the “One Club” message coming from his lips.

But this can’t be one-sided. We are either in this together or not.

I know our support is not taken for granted by Messrs Methven and Donald, and I could not be happier with everything that has happened in such a short period of time. When you take a moment to reflect, it's actually staggering the progress that has been made. I also realise the new owners have lavished a lot of praise on our fanbase from Day One.

My own view is that as everything has got off to such a great start, both on and off the pitch, that there must be a temptation from Charlie Methven to 'strike while the iron's hot'.

I believe the message he is trying to deliver is a positive one. One that galvanises the fanbase, gets more ‘bums on seats’ and keeps them there until the final whistle. Is that a bad thing? Of course not.

I don’t believe he has enough knowledge of our fanbase, or a high enough stock like Niall Quinn for example, that he should be using such strong words or shock-tactics like “not the best fans” or worse still “parasites”, but I think the fact he realises he will piss people off, and is willing to accept that in order to provoke debate and gamble on this energising us even further should be applauded.

In short, I don’t agree with the words used, but I agree with the strategy behind it.

Let’s all focus on the message and not the delivery and carry on enjoying the season.

First stop, Coventry City and more than 5,000 loud and proud fans in the away end. And many more in the pub.

Ha'way the Lads