Netflix’s Sunderland til I die series, following the fall and fall of the Sunderland Football Club, is with doubt the most incredible sports documentary I have seen in some time.
After their relegation from the Premier League, we follow Sunderland AFC trying to adjust to life in the Championship. What should have been a feel good documentary after their their dismal performances and off the field drama the year before, quickly turned sour. The club aiming for promotion or the very least mid-table stability quickly slumped to bottom of the league and faced the humiliation of back to back relegations. A unbelievable journey that makes he reminisce about Sky One’s Dream Team as a team fumbles from one calamity to the next.
Without doubt the interviews with the fans are the most revealing as their hopes were destroyed every week. The supporters are the only people who come off with any decency and true passion for the game in the entire eight episodes. Everyone else from the players losing match after match to the incompetent board just looked clueless.
The decision making at the highest level of the club was truly staggering. Chief Executive Martin Bain looked completely out of his depth but the list of loan targets which was displayed on screen that their recruitment team masterminded really took the biscuit.
The names included Ainsley Maitland-Niles who made over 20 appearances for Arsenal that season, Scott McTominay who played 21 times for Manchester United including their vital knockout tie with Sevilla away from home, Will Hughes who appeared 15 times for Watford and Dan Gosling and Beram Kayal both regulars at Bournemouth and Brighton respectively. A unrealistic set of targets if ever there was one. Even if they managed to Jedi mind trick these clubs into letting them borrow one of their players, they haven’t factored in the wages which Sunderland couldn’t get anywhere near. If this is the list of signings your recruitment team are coming up with, it’s little wonder the squad was full of mercenaries and p*sstakers.
Not long after the series dropped on Netflix, it was revealed that on Boxing Day, Sunderland drew a home crowd of 46,000. This was a greater audience than Spurs, playing some of the best football you will see this season at one of the largest stadiums in Europe with tickets on general sale. Then on New Year’s Day, 7,500 away fans travelled to Blackpool – the biggest away support in the country this season. Incredible, that after such disappointment and heartache for so long, they still come back for more. How can they help it, they’re in love with the club and won’t give it up. Not like the absent owner, the feckless board members and the players who will jump ship first chance they get.
The fans are a credit to the club and to the city and deserve a lot better than they are getting. Hopefully Netflix get a much needed second season with a lot of the incapable cast members getting recast and a happier ending for the real heroes of the story.