Soccer Magazine

First It Bent, Then It Broke – the Love That is Sunderland AFC

By Colin Randall @salutsunderland

View From3I leaned my back against an oak,
Thinking it was the strongest tree,
But first it bent, and then it broke,
And that’s the way, love treated me.

(The Water is Wide – Traditional)

Malcolm Dawson writes…..many years ago I met a girl and fell in love. It was that gut wrenching, head over heels, lose all sense of reality type of love that blinds one to what’s really going on. It was that anguished, one sided kind of relationship in which not only was the love not reciprocated, but the frailties of total emotional commitment deafened one to the counsel of others. She was a beauty. She was the one that all the men wanted to be seen with and she chose me. She picked me out, took me home and I was smitten.

I ignored the words of warning that came from friends who had known her for some time and for a while I walked on cloud 9 enjoying the warmth that came from the absolute belief that she was the one. I ignored the fact that there would often be the same car parked outside her flat as I made my way home, deciding the owner must be visiting someone else despite being told by her flat mate that it belonged to one of her many men friends.

Even as the proof built up that I was being used and emotionally abused, I found it hard to reconcile truth and reality. I don’t know what it was that brought me to my senses but being young and resilient I soon got my life back on track, though if truth be told, I never quite got over her and even now I sometimes wonder just what might have been. What a mug!

Fast forward 40 years and I have run the same gamut of emotional turmoil this summer.

The scenes at the Stadium of Light when relegation was avoided convinced me that my love affair with SAFC was finally on track after years of disappointment. I had remained true and here was proof that it had all been worthwhile.

We had a manager who was there for the long term, who would take the club onwards and upwards and finally bring us stability and ultimately success. We had a group of players who were committed to the cause, had developed a rapport with the fans and were as much in love with the club as we are. It began to feel like we were one big happy family heading in the right direction and that Ellis Short was like a protective father, who initially worried about his only daughter’s choice of suitor, would now embrace the situation and be prepared to splash the cash to ensure her future happiness.

What a mug!

OK I accept that England situation was nothing to do with Sunderland AFC. I accept that Sam Allardyce had always coveted the job of national team boss. But I saw a man who seemed the perfect fit, had been in the job less than twelve months and would want to take the club onto bigger and better things. I hoped he would honor his commitment to us the fans and to the football club he had dragged up by its bootlaces. But those perceived commitments were illusory and Sam went. Kick in the teeth number one.

But all was not lost. We still had the backbone of the squad that performed so well. M’Vila surely was on his way back and a raft of under performing and potentially disruptive players had left. The squad performed well at Hartlepool. It was obvious that pre-season had gone well, the players were raring to go and the club acted swiftly in appointing David Moyes even if they were not showing the same urgency in the transfer market. Surely there would be signings which would strengthen the squad as Martin Bain settled into his plush leather seat.



Kone made all the right noises saying how he wanted to score more and take the club on. Then came the Everton interest and the statement and transfer request he denied making. Only six months into his contract and only three months after those outpourings of emotion at the Stadium of Light he (or his agent) appears to be holding the club to ransom and he has put himself in a position where even if he really does have a bad back, no-one believes him. Should he be forced to stay now (and I can’t believe the club would be in a position to make him to see out the remainder of his contract, though I wish they could) he has lost the affection of the fans. Stab in the back number two.

Kaboul made all the right noises and his tears on that lap of honor seemed genuine. His departure only a day or two after he was the cover boy on the official website, saying how he loved to win derbies, may have been brought about by family pressure and appears less treacherous than Kone’s behavior but it is still disappointing. Body blow number three.

Jakes new graphic already redundant

Jakes new graphic already redundant

And still no M’Vila or Yedlin. Of big Sam’s preferred starting XI in the final months of last season (the XI I was convinced would start this season and provide the consistency and the stability we crave) more than half will not be in contention for a place against Middlesbrough tomorrow.

That team I thought was going to be the side that would give us the impetus to march up the table and provide the launchpad to success. More fool me. I’ll have to wait and see how the new boys bed in and if in fact they and David Moyes can keep the club going in an upward direction, but it doesn’t feel that way. The platform that Allardyce constructed is slowly being dismantled and Moyes is having to start from scratch with all the incoming players deemed surplus to requirements at their former clubs and unable to command regular starting places. On the face of it our transfer business to date has been underwhelming. I cling to the hope that Khazri, Kirchoff and Kone were unknown quantities in January and that Kaboul had a less than convincing start to his career in red and white. I can but hope the latest group of incomers will be just as effective. But the fact is one of the best center back pairings I have seen at Sunderland for years is no more. We have replaced tried and tested players with inexperience and the squad is paper thin. Knock down number four.

I’ll be at the match tomorrow. I have my season card and will keep going but the positivity I felt in May is not there. I feel let down. My fault. I thought that things were moving forwards. I thought we had a group of players who would do anything for the club and its fans and weren’t all money grabbing mercenaries. Naive I know. To get to the top in any sport you need to have ambition and determination and I suppose it’s that drive that led Allardyce into leaving and to Kone (or his agent) pushing for a move despite both manager and player being contracted to the club.

Make my day Jermain

Make my day Jermain

Do I cling to the belief that players like Cattermole, Defoe and Rodwell may actually be committed to the cause? Do I ignore the fact that despite his 100% effort whenever he takes the field Borini opted to spend a further year at Liverpool before returning to the North East?

They say love is blind but this morning I find myself going back forty years and thinking there’s no fool like an old fool. Give us a lift tomorrow boys by showing that you really do care.

Ha’way the Lads.

The Water is Wide – sung by Niamh Parsons

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