Ahead of the hastily rearranged visit of Hull City, we caught up with Bobbi Hadgraft from The Holderness Gazette to give us an opposition view...
I guess this hastily arranged game is probably a good thing for both sets of fans? Gives us something to do during this long, cold, Covid winter after having had other fixtures cancelled?
Absolutely spot on. I’m so grateful it was rearranged, firstly because its off the back of a fantastic win against Charlton at the weekend, and I want us to profit from that positive momentum. Before that win, we’d seen an uninspiring set of performances, earning just 1 point from 4 games against opponents we should walk past on paper. Of course, we’ve now learned in League One that complacency can’t be afforded. Secondly, the news of a second sequel to Lockdown was such a bummer. I’m glad elite sport can continue unlike during the very first because as much as I hate staying home all weekend, having City to anticipate on Saturday or midweek is a brilliant distraction, albeit for 90 minutes! I think it will do wonders for people’s mental health having that small piece of routine and normality.
How are the KC faithful coping with the drop to League One? I guess, ultimately, we are two clubs from North East cities not too happy to be so far down the Football League?
Exactly, only a few years ago Sunderland vs Hull City would’ve been a Premier League fixture! I think both sets of fans have faced rocky relationships with those at the very top of our clubs, and unfortunately, we’re still in that boat. Last season’s fall from grace – a single point from Play Offs on January 1st, to finishing very bottom of the league – was quite simply avoidable. We lost our greatest assets in the January transfer window, with Kamil Grosicki leaving for West Brom and Jarrod Bowen departing to join West Ham. The pair offered us hope of achieving the top six at a stretch, but after offloading those two and failing to bring in decent replacements we faced a dismal period with just one win in the second half of the season. Many supporters lost faith in Grant McCann, questioning why he wasn’t replaced after last season’s shambles. I understood we should give him time simply because of his CV in this League, he did a half decent job at Doncaster, but the relationship is very fragile. That poor run recently resulted in people calling for his head. Time will tell, but if we did get promoted it would only be rectifying his own mistakes and stubborn management.
What’s your take on our former captain, George Honeyman? It seems the bright cosmopolitan lights of Prinny Ave have led him to grow his locks long, but how’s his form been?
You’re the second Sunderland fan to mention the hair to me! He must’ve copied our Tom Eaves. George is a gem. Last season he was unfavoured, had far more game time late on in the season and even during out lowest lows his worth ethic was admirable. I have to say, he wasn’t quite cut out for the Championship. In League One, however, I don’t think it would be farfetched to title him the League’s best midfielder. You only have to look at each week’s WhoScored team of the week! We’ve got a very young squad on average ages, so at 26, he has experience to pass on to our boys who’ve come up through the academy. I understand he’s a ‘marmite’ figure at Sunderland, but here his leadership qualities have been recognised and during a time where recently our captaincy has lacked stability, he’s been a player I’m proud to see wear the armband.
Do you feel Hull have been able to get going this season, or has the whole no fans in the ground simply made it a bit weird?
I joked when the behind closed doors arrangement was introduced that we’d probably earn a home advantage! Truth be told, out home attendances have dwindled, and I had feared the state of the ground in normal circumstances. I’ve touched on the rocky relationship with our owners and a combination of factors in this regard has led to plummeting gate numbers I wouldn’t say the lack of fans has adversely affected us at all, I think there are odd times where I think we could have benefitted from support such as when we’re on the back foot or pushing for a winner, but we managed to hit the ground running on day one with the win away at Gillingham and have been impressive for the most part.
As a fan yourself how much have you missed the buzz of going to games. How do you find the streams?
It’s been tough. Last year I rarely missed a fixture home or away. At first, I found it hard to be wholly interested, but I think that was because I was naïve enough to believe the myth about the October return of fans and almost wrote the first few BCD games off. Since then, I’ve accepted the compromise. When Hull City play, I’ll do it properly. iFollow Saturdays. Beer, a good kebab, football shirt on. I don’t mind it at all now, and when we were allowed to the pub, I’d take my laptop and stream it there! It’s certainly different, but for home games I’m not massively fussed. The heart-breaking element is missing the aways. I’m massively into my ground-hopping and the only consolation of relegation was that there’d be new stadiums to visit! (Un)fortunately id already visited SOL in 2018, enjoying a 1-0 defeat. A cracking day out nonetheless.
Do you think the season will be concluded on time, extended, or simply sacked off like last year in League One?
I think it will be extended. The backlog of fixtures is becoming quite a concern, but I don’t think it will be completely sacked off again. I think a bigger challenge could be clubs facing inconsistency in their starting XIs when the fixtures come thick and fast over longer periods to fulfil the postponed games. It’ll certainly benefit clubs who have squad depth. I can see a big test of fitness incoming. Whatever does happen, I just hope it concludes with Hull City sitting in those sought-after automatic spots. I’ll sit on my couch with a beer and cheers to that behind closed doors.