x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The club for your life should be a family affair

My team: You do not, or should not, choose a club to support in the way you select from a menu or rack of clothes. Clubs choose you.

Mike Horswill, left, and Ian Porterfield, celebrate Sunderland's FA Cup win over Leeds united in 1973.
Mike Horswill, left, and Ian Porterfield, celebrate Sunderland's FA Cup win over Leeds united in 1973.

You do not, or should not, choose a club to support in the way you select from a menu or rack of clothes. Clubs choose you. Well, that is how it used to be. You followed the team in the town in or near where you lived as a child, or which had been your father's team even if the family had moved away. One fellow supporter of Sunderland AFC characterised his allegiance as an "act of malignant fate".

But his commitment, like mine, was never in doubt. We both grew up in County Durham, in north east England, at a time when Sunderland was part of the county. My father first took me to see them play at Middlesbrough when even standing on tiptoes failed to produce a clear sight of the pitch. Somehow I glimpsed Brian Clough's winning goal and knew in an instant that Sunderland would be the passion of my life. And how I have suffered for that passion.

The "Bank of England Club" of the 1950s descended, following the first relegation in their history, into a sad yo-yo existence; each time they rose to the top flight, they fell back again. Short-lived flashes of excellence (winning the FA Cup in 1973, finishing seventh in two successive Premier League seasons) seemed little more than tantalising overachievement. Decades later, I am just as dedicated, to the extent of keeping my season ticket despite moves to France and then the Unied Arab Emirates.

But why shouldn't I be? I may have endured eight relegations; I have also seen nine promotions. - Colin Randall