BLOG: I Can’t Help Falling Out Of Love With You – Richard James Purdon

Before I start I feel that I should probably say that, to anyone who doesn’t follow football, this might not make much sense. I recognise that. I completely get it. But I hope that those who do will understand how difficult this is for me to write.

 

I think I’ve fallen out of love with football. And I think I’ve fallen out of love with Sunderland A.F.C.

I first started to notice it at some point during Sam Alladyce’s reign at the club, when I realised that a defeat no longer ruined my weekend. Again, to an outsider of the sport, this may seem like an odd thing to lament, but at the time it hit me quite hard. It was the first sign that something wasn’t quite right.

 

Don’t get me wrong, at this stage I still “felt it”. A poor performance would still annoy me, a costly refereeing decision would still get me worked up, and I would still celebrate the very occasional victory, but these feelings would pass by much quicker than they used to. They would no longer encompass me, and a couple of hours after the final whistle I’d be free to get on with my weekend.

 

By the end of that season this feeling of apathy had grown worse, but I still had hope. We had a manager I believed in, players that seemed to want to play for the shirt, and we were actually winning a few games. Surely it was only a matter of time before my love for the game was restored!

 

Enter, David Moyes.

 

Over the course of one season he slapped any remaining enthusiasm out of me. His negativity and his dourness grabbed hold and infected me. I would have brief flashes of anger towards him, but these would soon subside. I stopped watching our games, opting instead for a cursory glance to the BBC Sports page to see how many we were losing by.

 

Over Christmas I went to my first Sunderland game in almost three years, the last one being Gus Poyets final match. I’ve said in the past that the reason for this absence is that I moved the Midlands at this point, and my trips back to the North East have never coincided with a home game, but recently I’ve come to realise that this wasn’t the whole truth.

 

If I’d wanted to I could have arranged my trips back in such a way that would have allowed me to go to a game. I could have made a trip especially if I’d been inclined to. Hell, I live in Leicester. I’ve lived within a half hour walk from the King Power for the last three years, and Sunderland have played here twice during that time. But I didn’t even try to get a ticket.

 

Simply, the reason that I did not go to a game for nearly three years was because I didn’t care enough to make the effort.

 

The game I went to over Christmas was the 1-1 draw with Birmingham. I had hoped that this was going to reignite something within me, however the things that struck me most were how empty the streets were as I walked towards the ground. How muted the reaction was when Sam Gallagher scored the opening goal. How little my first sight of the ground, and my first glimpse of the pitch upon entering it, meant to me.

 

And how it’s become obvious that I’m not the only one who has experienced this creeping realisation that there are better things that I could be doing with my weekends.

 

I think it would be harsh to blame my lack of interest purely on Sunderland, although it certainly has to take a large proportion of the blame. Football itself has started to irritate me also.

 

The petty squabbling between managers. The “my clubs bigger than your club” social media nonsense. Piers Morgan.

 

I’ve not watched “Match of the Day” for around two years. I’m not sure I could tell you who the 20 premier league managers are currently, and while I know that we’re bottom of the league at the minute I couldn’t tell you how many points we need to escape the relegation zone.

 

The kicker for me came a few minutes into the second half of the Cardiff defeat. In the moments after Didier Ndongs red card I sent a tweet which read “Okay, I think I’m done now”. At the time I just meant that I’d turned off the game. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that it was deeper than that. The fourth goal barely registered with me. I acknowledged it, but that was about it. I don’t know who was at fault and I don’t know who scored it. I didn’t feel particularly motivated to read on.

 

I hope that I don’t come across as a fair weather supporter here, or that I’ve merely given up. I think that the reason that people continue to watch football, is because of the emotional attachment we have to our team. But I don’t feel that anymore. Just numbness.

 

And I feel sad about that. Since I was a child football has been something that I’ve been able to share with my family. With my Dad, Grandad and Brother. With Aunties and Uncles.

 

Match day was an event. Meeting at my Grandparents for lunch (Macaroni Cheese usually). Watching the first half of the lunchtime kick off on TV. The double and triple checks that we all had our tickets. My Grans ever optimistic “hope they win!” as we left. The excitement building as team news started to drift through, and the football phone in on the drive back. Setting “Match of the Day” to record just in case we lost so we could fast forward through our highlights.

 

It’s different now. Match day is just “Saturday”. The excitement has been replaced simply by recognition.

 

I still try to keep up to date. I’ll watch the odd game if it’s on TV. If it’s not on TV I’ll try and follow it on twitter. But I’m not going out of my way anymore. But it feels like more a duty than a passion. Something I feel like I should do, rather than something I want to do.

 

I hope that this changes in the future. I hope that the opening notes of “Dance of the Knights” stirs something in me again, but right now I can’t see it.

 

“Wise men say, Only fools rush in, But I can’t help falling in love with you”

 

Maybe someday.

 

RICHARD JAMES PURDON

 

The Lads