Sunderland ‘Til I Die: Where are they now?

Sunderland ‘Til I Die

Martin Bain

The Black Cats’ beleaguered former CEO always faced an uphill struggle to turn Sunderland back into Championship promotion contenders, and Fulwell73’s Leo Pearlman later conceded the “impossible task” that the Scot faced.

“I know he gets a bad rap for being Ellis Short’s stooge or whatever you want to call it, but honestly that guy was working every minute of every day that he could to try to turn it around,” said Pearlman.

STID at least appeared to get more Sunderland fans empathising with the Scot – a poll on fan site Roker Report revealed that 79% had changed their minds about him after watching – but his exit under new ownership in May 2018 was inevitable. It doesn’t appear as though he has taken up another position since (funnily enough, he's not tweeting about his every move).

Chris Coleman

The Welshman somehow came out of a desperate situation relatively well, despite his reservations about the film crew following a desperate team’s every move. Coleman was not being filmed, for instance, when beloved club chef Joyce Rome read out the heartwarming text message he sent her upon his departure.

His worst moment was probably getting called a “prick” by a fan after Sunderland’s relegation was confirmed – to which he replied with a curious riposte about having six kids – but ultimately his own departure turned out well for all concerned.

Coleman is currently managing Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune after signing a two-and-a-half year deal worth a reported £2.5m per year in June. The team – featuring ex-Argentina internationals Javier Mascherano and Ezequiel Lavezzi – are currently sixth in the 16-team league.

Simon Grayson

Grayson was unhappy with his portrayal in the documentary, pointing to the favourable coverage of his successor Coleman. He may well have had a point.

“What I was disappointing with was that they didn’t portray myself and my staff how we are,” he told talkSPORT recently. “There were only a couple of clips here are there of us in a classroom, which was done five hours before a pre-season match – we didn’t really get the air time to show our personality.

“When it went onto Chris, you saw a different side to him to be fair. We certainly did some good work at Sunderland behind the scenes to get people going to work with a smile on their face.”

The 49-year-old spent a brief period managing Bradford at the end of last season but turned down a two-and-a-half-year deal after unwanted influence from former CEO Edin Rahic.

Robbie Stockdale

Stockdale took caretaker charge of Sunderland three times in 2017/18, losing his first match 1-0 at former club Middlesbrough, overseeing a 2-2 draw with Millwall and then the bizarre final-day thrashing of Wolves. He left in June 2018 as part of new manager Jack Ross’s managerial reshuffle, having been with the Black Cats since 2012.

George Honeyman

Honeyman’s emergence was one of the few bright points of an otherwise-dismal season captured by STID – the puppy-like local boy, heart on sleeve-type who you’d happily take home to meet your mum.

It’s no surprise that the 24-year-old is still around and now captain under Ross, although injury means he hasn’t played since December 22. “He divides opinion with some but certainly not with me or my staff,” chimed his boss earlier this month.

Lewis Grabban

The remorseless villain of Wearside was surprisingly candid on camera, popping up twice to infuriate Sunderland fans by admitting why he wanted to cut his loan spell short mid-season – and, worse, grin his way through revenge after scoring against the Black Cats for next club Aston Villa.

"If you haven't really spoken to the new manager when he comes in, if you get taken off... I was starting to get whipped off at 65, 70 minutes,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘I'm not sure that's for me’. Maybe it's a bit selfish but I just thought, ‘Nah’." Not ideal. 

Grabban scored eight goals in 15 Championship games for Villa, and was a £6m signing for Nottingham Forest last summer. It’s so far, so good at the City Ground: 10 goals in 17 games and counting.

Jonny Williams

The well-spoken cherub of STID came out with the sympathy of all who watched on as injury struck the talented midfielder yet again. Williams was an unexpected star of the show, talking openly about his struggles and even allowing the cameras in for a portion of his one-to-one with a sports psychologist.

There was widespread support, then, when the Welshman wrapped up a permanent move to League One Charlton in January – ending a 17-year association with boyhood club Crystal Palace and hellish era of itinerant injuries.

Jack Rodwell

If Grabban was the mischievous Muttley of STID’s cast, then Rodwell was presented as its Dick Dastardly – minus the wiry moustache and trenchcoat, naturally.

Rightly or wrongly, the former Manchester City man was painted as a greedy outcast who refused to budge on his handsome contract amid the Wearsiders’ woes. He was never interviewed as part of the show – although would doubtlessly have been given the opportunity to – meaning his situation was instead viewed through the lens of a furious Bain, filmed swearing and door-slamming after learning that Rodwell would see out his deal rather than leave in January.

Sunderland cancelled his £43,000-a-week contract after relegation, and Blackburn picked up the free agent in late-August on a year-long deal. In recent weeks it’s been going rather well for the 27-year-old too, currently playing astutely as a centre-back for Rovers after sporadic appearances throughout the campaign.

Darron Gibson

Gibson was rumbled before this dreadful season even began after being caught on camera drunkenly criticising his team-mates and claiming, “We’re shit… there are too many people at the club who don’t give a f***.”

In March 2018 he smashed his car into a taxi, five other parked vehicles and a garden wall under the influence – his second such offence, having hit three cyclists in 2015 when over the limit. Sunderland terminated his contract two weeks later, and he signed for Wigan on a free transfer last summer.

Robbin Ruiter

The affable Dutchman suffered a nightmare 2017/18 between the sticks for Sunderland, but was heavily profiled in the documentary and admirably opened up to his family life – and gruesome injury – to the cameras.

The former Utrecht shot-stopper is still at the Stadium of Light having initially penned a two-year deal, but has only played once in the third tier behind summer arrival Jon McLaughlin.

Jason Steele

The Durham native featured heavily at the beginning of STID, ferrying his kids to nursery and radiating optimism about the season ahead after signing from Blackburn.

In reality, however, Steele suffered more than most in Sunderland’s torrid year. Poor performances meant the now-28-year-old was in and out of the side – he didn’t play in the league from October 31 to March 3 – and suffered the disappointment of a January move to Derby falling through.

Steele was always likely to leave last summer, so it was no surprise when he did – albeit to Premier League Brighton, where he is currently third choice behind Mat Ryan and David Button.  

Joel Asoro

Sunderland’s young player of the year for 2017/18 made 29 appearances in all, showing much of the promise that had earned him a Premier League appearance the previous campaign under David Moyes.

Given his club’s precarious financial position, however, the teenager was always likely to be seen as a salable commodity rather than a genuine player for the club’s future. As it was, Swansea and their Sweden-affiliated new manager Graham Potter coughed up £2m for Asoro in the summer.

But the move hasn’t panned out as expected. The teenager has only played eight times in the Championship all season – and not since October 6 – and hasn’t even been in their squad for the last six matches.

Josh Maja

Asoro and Maja were thick as thieves last season, but while the former left, his former youth team-mate stuck around to continue making a name for himself in the north-east.

It proved a good decision too: Maja has been Sunderland’s first-choice striker this season and scored 15 goals in 24 appearances – making him the second-highest scorer in League One.

But rumblings of discontent have never been far away. Manager Ross gave him a deadline to make a call on his future earlier this month, and chairman Stewart Donald claimed that Maja wanted to stay – only to be dissuaded by his agent. That has now come to a head, and Ligue 1 side Bordeaux now look set to sign the 20-year-old for a fee that could rise to £3.5m.

Ashley Fletcher

STID offered an intriguing insight into the mental struggles of a striker out of form: Fletcher didn’t score in his first eight games for Sunderland on loan, until finally enjoying his big moment in their shock 4-1 win at Derby.

The former Manchester United striker returned to parent club Boro for the current season, but has largely been restricted to cup appearances and sporadic cameos off the bench under Tony Pulis. League rivals Hull wanted him on loan this month, but Boro’s cap-wielding head honcho refused to sanction the move.  

Joyce Rome

Still cheffing at Sunderland. G’won Joyce.

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Joe Brewin

Joe was the Deputy Editor at FourFourTwo until 2022, having risen through the FFT academy and been on the brand since 2013 in various capacities. 

By weekend and frustrating midweek night he is a Leicester City fan, and in 2020 co-wrote the autobiography of former Foxes winger Matt Piper – subsequently listed for both the Telegraph and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards.