When it boils down to it, Sunderland haven’t really had a great time of it in the last few decades. From about 1973 onwards, it's been up and down, with plenty more of the latter. So what better way to reflect on a quarter of a century period which was up and down more than most in the club's history? Write a book on it, of course.
‘On a Hiding to Nothing’ has been a great challenge for me to complete. Starting it before my final year of University and completing it deep into the coronavirus lockdown, it has led me on a rollercoaster of Sunderland AFC. Ranging from 1984, all the way down to the Third Division and back, into the Stadium of Light and then through some mediocre Premier League campaigns up to 2009, there was rarely a quiet season.
I set out to talk to former SAFC players who haven’t spoken about their time at the club in as much detail as others. There are a total of 23 players who were kind enough to share their experiences and their lives before, during and after their time on Wearside with me.
If you want to know what Thomas Butler did after retiring, or where Chris Makin lives now, or who Mick McCarthy used to live next to, the answers are all here.
As well as the one to one interviews, I have pieced together the background or before, during and after the timeline of the book. Looking back to the ‘73 FA Cup final was lovely, but it showed me how things have gone wrong in many of the seasons which followed.
This book doesn’t necessarily lay the blame of Sunderland’s failings at anyone’s feet, but more I try to acknowledge who were the main influences at the club through the words of the players.
Writing this book has given me the opportunity to look behind the scenes at what happened at our football club during this period. It opened up on how some of the players who we don’t necessarily think of when looking back over the years enjoyed their time at Sunderland, and those who struggled to settle.
I tried to aim the book not just at Sunderland fans, but fans of the game in general. Most of these players will be unfamiliar with certain football supporters, but I hope that the stories which they have to share will enable anyone to grow fondness with the person on the pages.
Sunderland AFC is a football club which makes us laugh and cry. Watching us play, it's often hard not to do one or the other. The players in this book were, mostly, blown away by the supporters at Roker Park and/or the Stadium of Light.
For many of the players, Sunderland was by far the biggest club they played for; a point which most mentioned. Wherever their careers took them after Sunderland, the majority still keep an eye out for the fortunes of their old club.
Playing for Sunderland was seen as a privilege by a lot of these players. The stories and anecdotes which I was regaled with made it an absolute pleasure for me to see how much the club meant to them.
‘On a Hiding to Nothing’ is available online through A Love Supreme HERE
It’s been a long time in the making, but I am finally able to share this book with you and I couldn’t be happier; I hope it is as enjoyable for you to read as it was for me to write.