Sunderland’s Support Remains Strong

Speaking with Josh Edwards, BBC Newcastle’s Nick Barnes has praised Sunderland supporters for their ‘incredible’ loyalty despite the club’s current predicament.

In a time where Sunderland AFC have been known and documented for their struggles both on and off the pitch, one thing that has remained consistent throughout is their magnificent support both home and away.

Sunderland supporters have demonstrated their unfounded loyalty and passion towards the club even through some of the club’s darkest moments in its history. A relegation from the Premier League, followed by another relegation immediately after to League One. An ownership that once described the fans as ‘parasites’ followed by years in the third division, underachieving massively when taking into account the size of the club.

Even during some of the darkest times in the club’s history, the support remained strong. Over 30,000 were in attendance for every single home game and the overwhelming majority of away trips resulted in a sell out. This whilst in the third division of English football.

Fast forward to now, where Sunderland are arguably still underachieving, sitting mid-table, under an ownership that many have accused of lacking ambition, the support is as strong as ever. With an average home attendance of over 41,000, Sunderland top the Championship attendances week in and week out and even outnumber some European giants across the world including the likes of Juventus and Sevilla.

Sunderland journalist and BBC Newcastle commentator Nick Barnes praised Sunderland supporters for their incredible loyalty demonstrated recently. He said: “I think it is incredible really. The very fact that they’ve got a very, very strong season-card base at the moment is testament to the support.

“A lot of people were starting to get disillusioned with the years they spent in League One. But strangely, what it did do was attract a younger support base. A lot of younger supporters started coming to games because it was affordable, they could get to them easily, there wasn’t a problem in getting tickets.

“And so that combined with the older generation who will come through thick and thin, I think it basically rejuvenated, reignited the support for the football club. Then last season finishing sixth and getting to the playoffs again, everybody felt, you know, the feel good factor was returning.”

That feel good factor mentioned by Nick Barnes, slowly started to drain away as the 23/24 season continued. The sacking of Tony Mowbray, appointment of Michael Beale as well as injuries to many, many key-players, started to derail the season for Sunderland and their lack of firepower continued to concern supporters who have been left dealing with empty promises by owners since the departure of Ross Stewart last summer. 

These empty promises have left a lot of bruises amongst the fanbase and the trust between many supporters and the board is running a very thin line however Sunderland fans have continued to show their support for their team amidst these disagreements. Even since their season was deemed to be over, over 40,000 have continued to turn up for every single home game and it has been an impossible task to pick up an away ticket with those who travel still remaining loyal to their club.

Michael Bowers, a Sunderland supporter and content creator said: “In terms of loyalty & passion, Sunderland fans are right up there. Obviously home attendances have dipped since dropping out of the Premier League in 2017 but when you look at the crowds we have continuously got despite having back-to-back relegations & four years in League One, we’ve done well I’d say.

“Bear in mind this 7-8 year stint is the worst period of our history. It’s also the longest spell Sunderland have had outside the top flight.

“Particularly in the area of Sunderland, there isn’t much going for us to begin with and as such the football is monumentally huge, especially in such a big catchment area. Sunderland Til I Die star Peter Farrer (taxi driver) said as much in the very first episode. ‘I also think it’s a social thing as well. Even when things have been at their lowest point this season, I’ve still gone because I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. Sunderland AFC makes up the vast majority of my social life.”

It is highly expected that Sunderland will retain their incredible support going into the new campaign come August, however a lot of that may come down to how the club operate between now and then in terms of transfer strategy and arguably more importantly, who comes in as the new Head Coach.

Nick Barnes continued: “The sacking of Tony Mowbray and everything that’s followed has, I Think, sown a lot of seeds of discontent. People are willing at the moment to go with the flow, they saw Michael Beale leave, I think they would have hoped that there was going to be a better end to the season than they are probably likely to get.

“So this summer is going to be a real test for a lot of people. I think it’s going to be a big test for the football club, whether they can convince fans that they have the ambitions that they say they have because it looks like they’re going to lose one or two more key players.

“They’ve been through thick and thin and they have stuck through the thin with them and and now that they’re being sort of prodded again to see how loyal they are going into the season card renewals and going into the summer now.

“So you’ve got to give them every credit for staying through what has been this season, a very difficult season.”