With the football season now suspended seemingly indefinitely, and everyone either self-isolating or social distancing due to coronavirus, our football fix will have to come from films and documentaries.
And Netflix has blessed us with the second series of Sunderland ‘Til I Die, released today. Giving another insightful behind-the-scenes view of how a topsy-turvy professional football club works, this promises to be a very good watch.
Let’s be fair, the show’s first season wasn’t a particularly great viewing for Sunderland fans, as it documented the club plummeting down the Championship table and relegation to the third-tier during the 2017/18 season.
But the new series makes for slightly more positive viewing, as the club targeted promotion and also enjoyed remarkable cup runs during the 2018/19 season.
Here are five things we are looking forward to in the show’s second series:
Double Wembley heartbreak
On the one hand, this should be a spoiler alert. On the other hand, these events actually happened so it’s not really a spoiler. But the club’s two Wembley defeats over the course of the season will show some very raw emotion among Sunderland players, staff and fans.
The Black Cats suffered their first defeat underneath the Wembley arch in a penalty shoot-out loss to Portsmouth in the EFL Trophy Final, with club legend Lee Cattermole missing the all-important spot-kick to hand the opposition victory.
Yet their second defeat at the ‘Home of Football’ was even more agonising, as it came during the League One Play-Off Final in May against Charlton Athletic. A scrappy Patrick Bauer goal in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time allowed the Addicks to take the third and final promotion spot to the Championship, which left Sunderland and manager Jack Ross empty-handed after a long and hard season.
The play-offs are always a good watch, but Sunderland fans may want to cover their eyes for that bit.
Looking at how a club manages its transfer dealings is always fascinating viewing. Chief executives panicking, player medicals proving pivotal and agents being difficult, documentaries like these add an extra layer to the deadline day drama we crave.
It’s fair to say that a lot happened on the transfer front during the 2018/19 Sunderland season. The club signed 16 new players, including the likes of Will Grigg and Grant Leadbitter, while there were also a fair few high-profile departures too.
How will the documentary show Papy Djilobodji’s sacking by the club after he was repeatedly late for training? Dider Ndong also left Sunderland in acrimonious circumstances after his UK residence permit expired. And then there’s Josh Maja’s departure to Bordeaux in January, which arguably cost Sunderland promotion to the Championship.
It’s not just matters on the pitch that the Netflix documentary will cover, but the off-field dramas will get their fair share of screen time too. This series will show how new Sunderland owner Stewart Donald settles into the club, and how executive director and co-owner Charlie Methven exerts his authority and vision onto the club.
In charge of a club who have fallen so dramatically down the English football pyramid and whose financial struggles are well-known, the pair have a tough job on their hands to restore the club back to where it belongs.
“The football club being sustainable is integral to the happiness of this entire city. This is what stops people crying in church,” says Methven when talking about the importance of Sunderland to its supporters.
The club is the life and soul of the city and the impact of results - both positive and negative - on the community will be great to watch. Season one of 'Sunderland Till I Die' was filled with emotional stories about the devotion of certain Black Cats fans and we expect season two to be no different.
Being a Sunderland fan must be miserable at times, especially when you see the results from the 2018/19 season. The tense on-pitch drama goes way further than the nail-biting two cup final defeats.
Matches such as the 5-4 home defeat to Coventry City are likely to feature, as well as 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle’s Under-21 side in the EFL trophy. And there’s even a mid-match abandonment to look forward to, as well, when an away fixture at Accrington Stanley was called off due to adverse weather conditions.
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