After back-to-back relegations from the premier league and championship in 2017 and 2018 with also a change of manager, there is no doubt that a fly on the wall documentary for Sunderland football club would be filled with everything you’d wanna see. From drama to excitement, this was due to have the lot.
So, when it was announced that Netflix had agreed plans to commission this I was thrilled. I was intrigued to see how a football club was really run, the process and negotiations of signing a player but also the atmosphere around the club when a team begins to lose games such as the black cats did.
This isn’t the first football documentary that has given us an insight to a football club, Amazon’s fly on the wall documentary’s ‘All or nothing’ have also been produced for clubs like Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds and Manchester City but this had a different feel to it because it featured cameos and interviews from fans and the people of Sunderland explaining what the club meant to them, it showed everyone in the hierarchy of the club from the owners to the bar staff who make refreshments at half time.
The idea of having two series to document two seasons was interesting and they both contrasted in different ways. The first series which shows Sunderland’s struggle in the championship, first time they had been there for over a decade and then the second season which showed them go on an exciting cup run and also get to the league one play offs.
Sunderland is known as a working man’s city, somewhere that’s known for hard work and graft, being a one club city, the documentary highlights the relationship between the city of Sunderland and the fans, at the start of their season in league one (2018-2019) you see midfielders George Honey man and Luke O’nein installing new seats with fans of the club and volunteers as they have a chat. No doubt this was a good PR stunt for the club as it shows players making an effort and puts a good name out for Sunderland. New owner (find out new owner 2018) makes it clear that he has a new direction for the club and he wants to change the way they operate.
An interesting quote that I liked was from a priest in a Sunderland church where he says” Dear Lord, help Sunderland because the success of our team leads to the success and prosperity of our city”. It is very true when people say the fans of Sunderland are passionate and football is their release and escape. Another fan said, “When I see Sunderland, I feel pride, passion and loyalty”. The documentary is an honest review of what the fans think about the club and what needs to be changed. I enjoyed the fact that they got extracts from the people of Sunderland and also showed scenes of from fan committee meetings. Not only that but since the new owners took over in season two it allowed the viewers to gain an insight into what was the owners ambition was a club. The comparison between fans and owners’ opinion was interesting.
Season one showed a lot of controversial moments for players on and off the pitch, Darren Gibson, and Jack Rodwell to name a few. Ex-premier league midfielder Darren Gibson was a regular star in the documentary and was one of the names that could help Sunderland get out of the rut they were in, that was until his contract was terminated as he was caught for drink driving offences and seen out partying by the fans after they had lost consecutive games. Much to the club’s disappointment.
Jack Rodwell was also seen under scrutiny for reportedly being on wages of as much as 70,000 a week and refusing to leave the club, giving context as to why the club was in such a poor financial situation. Previous owner Ellis Short offered out contract’s way out of their budget and as Sunderland eventually found themselves in league one the owners main aim was to make them sustainable again as they were in debt.
I think the documentary is the best example you can find in understanding how a proper English football club with real owners is run, owners that actually care about the club and what happens to it rather than it just being about money. It’s hard to find a sense of realism in these types of series but I think that this gives off a good insight.