Today one of our team recounts his experience of growing up a Sunderland A.F.C. fan!   Still an avid supporter today, our resident Sunderland A.F.C. fan shares some top tips to help people stay in touch with their football club, even when they don’t live locally.

Growing up a Sunderland A.F.C. fan

Growing up in an era of football dominance from huge football clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal; it was always going to be easy to follow the crowd. But I have always liked to be a little different! At this time, I had a huge growing passion for football!  I didn’t feel right just following the crowd or doing as my friends had done by following the big teams.

With a family in the North East, I used to visit the area a lot growing up.  After going to other football games, my Dad and Uncle decided they would take me through to a football game. Up in the North East, people are football mad.  Sunderland, Newcastle, and Middlesbrough are fanatically followed.  The closest game to us was Sunderland.  So off we went.

My Uncle was a huge Sunderland fan at the time.  This made the decision easier, and ever since that one moment at the old Roker Park I was hooked.  I was drawn in by a classic ageing football ground, the lively crowd, the smell of the hot dogs and of course Bovril!

Upon returning to school after a few days in the North East, I started telling all of my primary school buddies that I was now a Sunderland fan.  I was mostly greeted by comments such as:

“Who are they?”

“What division are they in?”

But they knew little of the club that in my eyes were fantastic and had given me the best experience ever!

Keeping in touch with your Football Club can be tough

Now here brings me to the problem.  Obviously, when I was up and down the North East as a ‘young-un‘ it was easy to put some pressure on my Dad/Uncle and get them to take me to games.  But now I’m older, the fact that my team is based so far away makes following them closely tough.

Staying in touch with football, in general, is easier than ever, especially with football being on television nearly every day.  But when you support a team currently in league one, it can get difficult as they aren’t the prize pull for the big TV channels.

Modern technology advances have helped too.  Most football clubs now appear on official streams, podcasts, and social media.  You can use these to keep up to date with transfers, signings and all important matters at the club. Podcasts are something I have just got into and they allow me to feel a part of the club I love from afar.  Whether this is the official club podcast, or a supporters club podcast (which are hilarious and often prepared by season pass holders at each and every game.)

Making it to the Stadium for a Game

When I finally do get up the stadium (most of the time alone) it makes it extra special.  It is a full day out for me.  Excited and filled with adrenaline like a ‘big kid‘ I travel north.  The journey brings back the memories of that first game.  Sitting in the car, I anticipate what could happen.  Obviously listening to the fans podcasts all the way.  It’s time to pray to someone, somewhere, that the game doesn’t end in defeat or a nil-nil draw.

When I say alone, it really doesn’t bother me.  It adds to the whole experience and possibly the reason I started following them to start with, just to be a little different from other football fans I know.  When I get to the stadium I chat to anyone sat close and always receive a warm northeastern welcome.

Football is a funny game and the emotions you feel when supporting your own team are crazy.  But win, lose or draw there’s something that keeps you coming back.  I personally think that living far from my club improves the whole match-day experience and makes it all the more exciting when it’s something I can’t physically get up to see each week.

Top tips to keep in touch with your club

  • Follow the official club’s social media accounts – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. 
  • Subscribe to official club podcasts channels and fan group channels – Most clubs have more than one of these podcasts.
  • Register on the club website to receive emails and other notifications – This is very handy for ticket info.
  • Register with official club streams and audio channels on the club’s website – You can now stream most games as long as they do not clash with the TV companies. So those midweek classics against Gillingham and Accrington are not missed!!
  • Join a fans forum – Of course, some people aren’t too sensible on there so this is not always the best option.
  • Fanzines still exist! Get the latest publications sent to your home address – Find out the supporters’ clubs linked to the club and join their mailing list.
  • When you get to the stadium don’t be frightened to talk to people – I used to be scared they would discover I was from Yorkshire and may not like it.  But now I’ve come to realise the other fans are proud that you are willing to travel through to watch a game!

My football team nearly went a full calendar year without winning at home in the last two awful years.  But thirty plus thousand people still went to every home game with fingers crossed in anticipation.  Nothing will change, I will get up there more when my own football career stops, but for now, it will remain an occasional fantastic fun-filled trip up North on my own or with my five-year-old daughter!  Until then I will continue following from afar!

Ha’way the lads!