Never walking quite alone

Jake experiments with colour

Jake experiments with colour

There has always been a place in my heart for Liverpool. Even when Gary McAllister stole that penalty, by launching himself into a dive from what seemed closer to the halfway line than to our penalty box, my affection for his then club survived.

Do not misunderstand me. There is no room for a second club in my life. Despite living in France, where such things are supposed to happen, I would never take a mistress; supporting anyone other than Sunderland, however slightly, would seem similarly disloyal.

So it’s a liking, not proper support.

I could say it was a reflection of my failure as a father – my younger daughter, Nathalie, herself a highly useful player, has been a Liverpool fan since she fell in love with John Barnes – but that wouldn’t be true; I have felt as I do since boyhood.

In any game that does not involve or affect us, I am happy to see Liverpool win. I like the city, I enjoy the company of the fans, I love their song.

Last night, I had French TV on my side. TF1’s commentary from Anfield was fair enough, but you had no doubt which team they wanted to win. L’Equipe this morning headlined one of its match reports “Red Magic” and enthused about the “exceptional atmosphere” in which Liverpool battled against Chelsea and won.

And there’s the other reason I was so pleased when José-Manuel Reina made his penalty shoot-out saves. The Reds were playing Chelsea.

Lots of people despise Man Utd. I don’t. I was in tears as a boy when my mother called me home, from playing football in what we called the hay field, with news of the Munich air disaster.

But I harbour irrational feelings of antipathy towards Chelsea. Too many of their fans are nasty and too much about the club smacks of arrogance. Yes, I know people say the same about other clubs, and I accept that many perfectly decent fans follow the Blues and did so even when they were rubbish. I have already admitted that my dislike owes nothing to rational thought.

The happiest 45 minutes I have ever watched at Sunderland were those in which we raced into a 4-0 lead against Chelsea in the first of of our seventh top Premiership seasons. Again, the happiness was elevated by the knowledge that we were hammering not just anyone, but Chelsea.

I wish I could add that my joy was made perfect by memories of their fans’ sneers when they trounced us on the opening game of the same season at Stamford Bridge. But I was in Sierra Leone at the time and could only imagine the sneers.

Having said all that, there is one sense in which I regard Liverpool and Chelsea as equals.

I want six points from each of them next season.

Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

2 Responses to “Never walking quite alone” Subscribe

  1. Pete Sixsmith May 2, 2007 at 4:07 pm #

    I like the city and always enjoy drinking there (The Globe and The Caernarvon Castle are my faves) but there is just something about Liverpool F.C.that I can’t get away with. Maybe it’s all those pseudo Scousers who pour into the city from all parts of the country to support them having jumped on to a bandwagon as a kid. My younger brother was a Liverpool “supporter” until a combination of friends (Paul Dobson and Derek Poskett) and me started taking him to Roker Park in the early 70’s. Nowadays the Sky experience creates Chelsea and Liverpool fans at the expense of real clubs like ours. I also find Liverpool fans a little self regarding – look how well we sing etc. In fact I prefer Everton. Their fans are like ours in that they are tired of being in the shadows of a more acquisitive and arrogant neighbour and they have history on their side. In fact, I dislike all this idea of supporting a team from outside of your area. I prefer Mags to those Durham born people who swear allegiance to Manchester United, Arsenal etc. Coming back from Colchester we passed a coach carrying Manchester United fans back to the North East. Poor deluded creatures travelling all that way when they could be watching Sunderland.

  2. John Penman May 3, 2007 at 9:13 pm #

    It is very interesting to read your comments on your feelings for other clubs in England.The ‘glory hunting’ mentality is spreading in England as Pete says mainly due to Sky focussing on the bigger teams in the Premiership and making the whole football experience look very fashionable.
    The main thing that I have noticed about the football supporters in the North East is their passion and loyalty to their local club whether that be Sunderland,Ne****tle or that other lot in that Riverside place.I would think it would be unusual to see a Man Utd, Arsenal or Chelski shirt anywhere in Tyne and Wear.
    Sadly in Scotland glory hunting is virtually a national pastime with Old firm shirts seen from the Highlands and Islands to the lowlands usually worn by individuals who never get closer to seeing their beloved ‘Sellik’ or Rangers play than a trip to a local pub with Setanta Sports.It is the custom in Scotland to support an English team along with your Scottish team and generally Rangers associate with Chelsea and Celtic with Man U.I will leave you to draw your own conclusions from these partnerships.
    I have supported Ayr United and Sunderland for over 30 years.My love affair with Sunderland was born out of the 73 cup final and the realisation that an ex-Ayr player was playing , Dick Malone.I was still at primary school at the time but I had a kind of hatred for that Leeds team.I don’t think I was alone there.With 2 sides like that to follow I can never be accused of glory hunting.
    When I meet Rangers or Celtic fans in a pub and I inform them who I support I am usually met with the reply ‘Who is your big team then ?’.This can also lead to another question along the lines of ‘ who do you prefer out of the Old Firm ?’.My reply is that I hate both of them equally.I enoy so much their pathetic attempts to be a force in Europe and chuckle endlessly at their Europeon defeats.I lived in the Highlands for 9 years and couldn’t believe the amount of Old Firm fans up there.They looked on me as some kind of simpleton for daring to support such an insignificant team.The reality is that if these people supported their local team then Scottish Football would be in a much healthier position.
    I have no regrets about trecking to East Stirling on a Wet Tuesday night or the 120 mile round trip I now have to see the Ayr home games. There was also a perverse satisfaction about the 4 hour drive from Ayrshire to Roker Park usually with a dreadful hangover to watch an at times struggling Sunderland during the 80’s and 90’s.I have some great memories from the many miles travelled and pennies spent.

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