Norwich and Sunderland fans – it’s like Emmerdale versus The Wire.
- Credit: PA
I didn’t think my lockdown football fix would come in the form of following Sunderland’s 2017-18 season, I have to say.
The Netflix documentary about the north-east club was recommended to me by a work colleague and it was officially worth watching from the moment in episode one that fights broke out on the streets between Sunderland and Celtic fans after a pre-season friendly.
The Scottish champions had won the game 5-0, which was funny in itself, but to see violence in the aftermath of a meaningless July kickabout was so absurd I couldn’t help but laugh.
Despite being unintentionally hilarious, it’s actually a fascinating programme that goes very much behind the scenes. It shows not only the players but the people working in the kitchens. Instead of the dull soundbite-filled interviews we’re all so used to, it shows a human side to those involved. To Sunderland’s credit, a lot was left in the programme that they could understandably have preferred to be cut out – even the bit when the Sunderland fans kicked the living daylights out of the camera on going 3-0 down at Bristol City.
Naturally, I thought to myself how much I’d love to see an in-depth documentary like this about Norwich City. We are living in a golden age of fan access, with cameras in tunnels and Timm Klose’s Instagram, but to see what goes on at Colney in the Netflix level of detail would be great.
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The trouble is, there just isn’t enough drama at Norwich City these days. Last season was a joyful march to the Championship title with very few bumps along the way. Even this season, bottom of the table when everything suddenly stopped, was relatively serene.
The Manchester City game, the run to the FA Cup quarter-finals, and an understanding amongst everyone involved with the club that the future was bright even in the event of relegation. If a documentary about Sunderland is The Wire, one about Norwich City could be more Emmerdale.
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So what causes there to be such a contrast between the two clubs? The first thing that comes to my mind is delusion. The Sunderland supporters featured in the documentary really seem to think that there is something that sets their team apart from everyone else’s. In the very first episode, taxi driver Peter says “this isn’t Watford or Cambridge, this is Sunderland”. Yet, I fail to see what makes Sunderland more special or more important than the aforementioned Watford or Cambridge. The whole thing is littered with references to what a ‘big club’ they are. Yes, Sunderland supporters are incredibly passionate about their team, but then so is every fan of every club in the country. You could say this inflated opinion of their own importance is down to Sunderland being a one club city, but the same is true for Norwich and our fans seem rather more grounded in reality.
The first step in becoming a successful football club is for everyone to understand and appreciate the state they are in. It’s no good the Sunderland fans savagely criticising the board for not bringing in top players in the January transfer window, as they did in the documentary – because the facts are that at the time they were a side in the Championship relegation zone and that is always going to be a hard sell. If the fans could just realise the situation they are in, they’d be more understanding and sympathetic towards the club and it might be in a better place to start moving upwards again.
Bar the odd one or two, the Norwich fans have always been fairly good at understanding exactly what Norwich City is and I feel that has been hugely beneficial in all the good times we’ve enjoyed in recent years. And even if things do go wrong – at least we don’t support Sunderland.