After the release of the ‘Sunderland Til I Die’ documentary on Netflix, @MattyCrichton met up with local taxi driver, Peter Farrer, who answered our questions regarding Sunderland and his involvement within the series.
‘Sunderland Til I Die’ has received highly positive reviews within the British media, how did your involvement within the series come about?
To be honest with you, it all began when I was in the Colliery Tavern, it was the night we drew 3-3 with Bolton when Grayson got the sack. A camera crew came in and for some reason they picked on me, they did not know I was a taxi driver. The took my name and number, then on the following day they rang me up saying they were really pleased by how I had come across and asked if I would like to do anymore. Straight away I said aye I’ll do it because I am Sunderland through and through. The more it went on I thought, what have I let myself in for? I was hoping I had not done anything daft. But once I forgot about that I enjoyed every minute of it. I have been interviewed in my taxi, at my house and at the match, if I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t have done it!
The series shows Sunderland AFC warts and all, after watching the series for the first time what were your thoughts on it?
When I first watched it, I could not believe how badly run the place was, totally from top to bottom. I’m talking about off the pitch as well on the pitch, it was an absolute joke. One thing I will say about the program, it did definitely show the passion of the people in Sunderland. The city looks great, people don’t realise what is up here until they get here. It is a beautiful place and the fans are fanatics.
You are a part of a group within the series who represent everyday working-class Sunderland fan who want the best for the club and the city - do you feel it was important to have everyday people like yourself involved?
I think you could have picked a hundred people out of Sunderland and they all probably would have had the same points of view in how much they love the club. I love football, I played football and I just honestly thought I know football and understand it. My main objective was to show the city in the best light, I wanted to portray Sunderland the way it is. Unless you’re from up here you don’t know what the place is like. The Netflix camera crew didn’t even know we had a beach!
Within the documentary, you speak very personally about the city and the hardship it has faced through the cutting of many industrial jobs such as the pits and the shipyards – what does Sunderland as a working-class football club mean to you?
For me, Sunderland AFC was a get-out clause on a weekend. You worked hard all week, got your payslip on a Friday and if you weren’t playing football Saturday you were at the match. That is just the way it was in the 60s, 70s, 80s, you didn’t have to get a ticket you could just pay at the door. In that period, it was mainly people from the North East at games, it was a proper working-class football club. I’d say if you took a survey out of 40,000 people at Roker Park, at least 36,000 would be working-class.
In episode one, you ironically said we needed to beat Celtic 4/5-0 to kickstart our season, do you feel that the 5-0 defeat placed a negative stamp on that group of players and Simon Grayson before the season even started?
I think it brought to light how bad it was, we were totally shown up from start to finish. It wasn’t just the goalkeeper it was everybody, we were tactically inept. Nobody stood out, there was players on the pitch who were completely out of their depth. But in truth, after our pre-season game away at Hartlepool, I told everyone we’d be relegated that season. We had players like Kone and Khazri, you could see they weren’t interested. The two lads we got from on loan Everton, where are they now? (They’re still at Everton) Exactly, that’s all I’ll say.
You mention throughout the series that we need a team of players who willing to work hard, do you feel last season we had too many players just carelessly picking up a wage and selfishly neglecting both the club and the fans?
Throughout last season, I’d say before the January transfer window there was only two or three who wanted to put a shift in. They must have known what was going on behind the scenes. You get people like Darron Gibson, if a player has done his bit on a Saturday he can go and have a drink, but once you’ve had one you’ve got to be careful what you do. You see him coming into training saying he’s feeling rough, where’s your manager? Where’s your other players? They’re professional sportsmen, how did nobody pick this up?
Simon Grayson had the shortest of any Sunderland manager in our history, you were openly critical of him saying he lacked man-management, motivational and tactical skills, do you think Grayson was a poor appointment from the club?
It was too long really. I think at the time it was like going shopping on Christmas Eve without any money. McInnes turned us down because he could see though it, Grayson had a half decent record at Preston, but he was just glad to get a better job. There’s a scene in the documentary where he’s doing a presentation and am thinking hold on, you’re talking to professional footballers here we’re not doing a lecture at Sunderland University. It was just amateur, worse than a Sunday morning team and he was supposed to motivate the players.
You scrutinised Chris Coleman’s decision to allow Lewis Grabban to leave, do you think Coleman’s failure to bring in an experienced goal scorer cost us our place in the Championship?
No club is going to sell you their top goal scorer, especially to a team in the same league you’re in. You might get somebody from the lower leagues or Scotland, but they’re not two a penny. Grabban had a better scoring record than Kevin Phillips, it was phenomenal, but you could see he wasn’t interested in playing for Sunderland. If you’re getting beat you leave your goal scorers on, but I don’t think his heart was ever in the place.
Where you sad to see Chris Coleman sacked before he was given a chance under the new ownership?
No, not one little bit. Look at Chris Coleman’s league record, forget Wales, it is shocking! When it comes to week in week out running a football team, he come across as a lovely bloke, but lovely blokes don’t win you nothing. I think he was pretty clueless, especially his substitutions. Look at the lad we got from Chelsea (Clarke-Salter) no matter what was happening on the pitch he would come on. I don’t know if that was part of his contract, but we’ll never know.
Both Paddy McNair and Joel Asoro are standout performers for Sunderland during the documentary, do you like they were wrong to leave Sunderland so soon as both have struggled for first-team minutes this season at their new clubs?
Asoro, I could not believe that he wanted to go, but money talks you know it has definitely got in his head. He has went to Swansea and barely played at all. The one who I think it has really kicked him in the teeth is McNair, the same bloke he was out injured for nearly a season. Sunderland looked after him to get him fit again, then straight away at the end of the season he’s off. Where has his and Asoro’s career went? The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
We never really looked like staying up once we fell into the relegation zone. Do you think in some respect we needed to go down for Donald and Co to have a clean slate and start a revolution at the football club?
I think in hindsight it was a great thing, if had stopped up there would have been no takeover. Bain would have still had a job, so would Coleman. Nobody wants to be in the Third Division, but we are in it and we have to start from scratch. Whatever Donald and Methven have said or promised they have done. They’re not billionaires we know that, they just like football and anyone with any intelligence can see Sunderland is a gold mine if you get it right.
After some fans became apathetic about Sunderland during the end of Ellis Short’s tenure, how did it make you feel seeing the stadium full again against Bradford on Boxing Day? It seems the likes of Donald, Methven and Ross have really united the fanbase once again.
Football is a fickle sport, if you’re winning people will watch you no matter what league you’re in. A lot of it is down to Charlie Methven with the PR campaigns, that has never happened before. Even when we were doing well in the Peter Reid era there was never any PR campaigns. Best of luck to Donald and Methven, they realise the potential of Sunderland as well as the fanatical intensity of Sunderland football club. Tell me a club in Britain who could get these sorts of attendances in the third tier?
You may not be able to disclose this information, but will we be seeing Peter Farrer in Series Two?
Definitely. I got filmed yesterday!