Here is news of a talking point at ESPN resulting from today’s reports that Sunderland have tabled a bid for Swansea’s Danny Graham.
There is a sort of Piers Morgan effect out there – light-hearted chatter about petitions to stop him, Graham that is, coming back to the North East because he’s a Mag and has made disaparaging comments about Sunderland. But also a spot of white-hot hatred.
I have not had time to dig out the quotes but seem to remember them as mild-to-moderate. But truth is, I do not give a damn who he supports or supported. I care only whether Mr Graham is good enough for Sunderland and, if so and if bought, plays to his full ability.
Here is an extract from my ESPN piece:
I am all for banter and engage in it myself. Sunderland and Newcastle supporters will always mock one another, pray for their own team to be the North East’s top dog at the other’s expense and generally act like children, applauding the other club’s failures, lamenting the successes. But when it goes beyond playground levels of bickering, it can get nasty.
Leave aside the oafs who would settle their scores with violence. Even on a non-violent level, certain intelligent people of my acquaintance get so worked up by the Wear-Tyne rivalry that they lose touch with reality – one part of that reality being that people from each camp have far more in common than divides them.
… Think back. Lee Clark was an out-and-out Newcastle lad, a supporter from boyhood. Peter Reid once joked – I used the verb advisedly – that it took the fifth bottle of champagne to persuade him to enter enemy territory and sign. And when he did? He played his heart out in a highly successful, promotion-winning team before, it must be added, leaving the club after being photographed when attending Newcastle’s 1998 FA Cup final wearing a T-shirt mocking Sunderland.
Don Hutchison was also a Magpie. I remember him with admiration in red and white stripes. Didn’t he kiss the badge on his shirt after scoring for Sunderland at St James’ Park. In the present squad, Jack Colback is a North Tyneside lad and therefore a natural United supporter by birth but can anyone seriously claim that he ever gives less than 100 per cent for the rival club?
Other examples abound of players who have been professional enough to overcome tribal loyalty and play to the best of their abilities despite it being for a team they would, as a boyhood fan, have despised or purported to despise. There is a relatively recent example of a player whose actions in a derby game suggested he had failed to show such professionalism: the exception, I would argue, to prove the rule.
Go to ESP FC at this link – http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/997?cc=5739 – to read the full piece and get a debate started if you feel like it, there and here. Whether you agree or disagree with me.