A review of our unbroadcast live podcast, by Rory Fallow. Well worth a read even if you did manage to attend. Tremendous recap of a great night.
In June 2013 Frankie & The Heartstrings wanted to promote their second album, “The Days Run Away” in a less conventional way. Their idea was to set up a record shop, Pop Recs Ltd, for two weeks on Fawcett Street in Sunderland. Originally only supposed to exist for two weeks, Pop Recs stood for two glorious years and turned into much more than a record store.
It hosted bands and artists such as The Vaccines, The Charlatans, James Bay, Franz Ferdinand and Edwyn Collins. It was a coffee shop and a community hub that opened its doors to toddler groups, poetry readings and it even hosted Sunderland’s Stitch & Bitch branch. Due to circumstances beyond FATHS control, Pop Recs was forced to close this past summer which immediately sent the lads on the hunt to find a premises for Pop Recs MK II. After looking at a few different options and a brief stint in “Pop Recs 1.5” on Vine Place, 27 Stockton Road was chosen to be the new home of Pop Recs Ltd. Nothing is straight forward though and the new home for Pop Recs needed some serious work doing to it and that work costs money, a canny bit of it as well.
A Kickstarter campaign, in the true spirit of Pop Recs community outlook, was set up to raise six thousand pounds for essential works in the new building and it reached it’s target in less than 24 hours. People kept donating though because they realised that with more help Pop Recs can become stronger and the generosity of people giving what they can was truly heart warming.
With everyone looking for various different ways to help out, Wise Men Say put on a live podcast this week, with the ticket money going directly to Pop Recs. What better way to help fund a community project in Sunderland than having a good moan about SAFC and a few pints? So, at Port of Call in Sunderland City Centre, Stephen and Gareth assumed their usual roles on the panel and were joined by ex SAFC striker Michael Proctor, ex Sunderland goalkeeper (and current Sunderland Echo columnist) David Preece and A Love Supreme Editor Martyn McFadden. Though he wa subbed off at half time for Chris Young of the Sunderland Echo.
The night lasted hours and noting it all would be a mind-numbingly drawn out exercise. Here’s how it generally went:
Proceedings began with a first half mainly discussing the current situation at Sunderland. The panel offered their opinions on Dick Advocaat’s departure from the club with a unanimous opinion that he “bottled it”, and all were disappointed with his comments after the leaving the club.
After everyone hoyed their two pennies worth in about that, David Preece spoke enthusiastically about the facilities at the Academy of Light, while bemoaning the fact that not enough quality young players are coming through. The panel then spoke of how we’ve never had the luxury of being able to blood in youngsters to the first team due to always having five or six “cup finals” come the end of the season. Proctor and Preece did both speak very highly of Jordan Pickford though and both agreed that he’ll either be Sunderland’s number one soon or he’ll be poached by an even bigger club.
Moving onto Sam Allardyce and the panel echoed the statements of most Sunderland fans that he was the right man for the job, and that his proven track record of stabilising Premier League clubs is exactly what we need right now. During Allardyce’s time as Director of Youth at Sunderland, Michael Proctor revealed how Big Sam signed him as a school boy and took his family out for steak and chips down the sea front for a signing on fee.
In contrast, David Preece said that his main memories of Allardyce at Sunderland was that when they were on the training ground Sam would often let Preece know what he thought of his ability in some fairly harsh words. (He called him shite).
The second half of the evening was mainly based around questions from the audience. One audience member asked David Preece what it was like to play in the final game at Roker Park and it provoked a very emotive response. David explained that while he was buzzing at finally getting that first team gig at Roker for his beloved red and whites, he was fully aware he was moving on. Add this to the fact it was the old ground’s last ever game, it’s barely surprising he was walking around the pitch at the end of the game in tears. There was barely a dry eye in the house at this point.
Chris Young was asked if he thought Sunderland and Newcastle’s long pre-season trips to the USA had impacted on both teams’ slow starts to the season. “I was knackered for two weeks after it and I didn’t even do any running around” was Chris’ response before mentioning how Sunderland were travelling massive distances to the training facilities, hotels, stadiums as well as making the huge trip across the Atlantic. Discussing the benefits of pre-seasons in far away countries, Chris pointed out how Leicester City mainly played local sides for their pre-season preparation and related it to the start they’ve had.
New Wise Men Say contributor Gary Spalding asked the ex-pros what was the worst initiation they’d experienced in football. This prompted Michael Proctor to talk about the culture shock he experienced when moving to Rotherham from Sunderland. Proctor described how he’d replaced the world class facilities at the Academy of Light for a wooden hut in the middle of a field with only three showers that worked, if they were lucky, and how sports science and in depth preparation had been replaced by a day on the lash at York races.
The final question of the night came rather fittingly from Sunderland season ticket holder and Frankie & The Heartstrings’ own, Michael McKnight. He asked Michael Proctor and David Preece “When you sign for a new club, is it weird when you’ve all got to get in the bath together?” This ended up getting one of the best stories of the night from David Preece who spoke about when he was a YTS and he and all the rest of the junior players would have to do jobs around Roker Park such as trimming the grass and cleaning the baths ready for the first team. After they were all finished with their tasks though they’d all get to relax in the bath themselves and just talk about football and take the mick out of each other.
David was hasten to add that there was nothing homoerotic about it, as if only talking about the situation out loud revealed the absurdity of a load of lads working together all day and then sharing a big communal bath. A side of the game that we’re sadly losing.
The evening wasn’t over yet though. On entering Port of Call everyone was given the chance to buy some raffle tickets for some prizes later in the evening. The club had kindly donated two pairs of Black Cats Bar tickets for the Southampton game and a ball signed by the first team. There was also the fantastic prize of every issue of The Blizzard magazine, something I was very jealous I didn’t get my hands on.
Michael Proctor also had a prize of a ball signed by the Soccer Saturday team (banter) but he forgot to bring it, much to Gareth’s derision. After the raffle was over there was then the auction of yet another signed ball! This one was particularly interesting though as it was dated to approximately 1983 and included signatures such as Gary Rowell, Nick Pickering and Barry Venison. This unique and much sought after prize raised £110 for Pop Recs Ltd after a hotly contested bidding war. All we needed was Jim White from Sky Sports News and it would have felt like transfer deadline day.
As already mentioned, the intention of this live show was to have some good craic, raise some money for a good cause, talk about our football club and have a few pints and that’s just what happened. Sunderland AFC can often frustrate but one thing it always does is bring people together as a community. Pop Recs Ltd was born out of the same spirit and long may they continue.
As a recent edition the Wise Men Say team, I feel like I should introduce myself a little bit. I attended my first Sunderland game in 1997 when I was four years old and my main memory was falling asleep on my Dad’s knee and asking to go home.
As I got older though I began to understand how it was actually quite fun to watch a team struggle for most of the time, while occasionally doing something great which gives you an incredible high and keeps you coming back for more. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 2002, I go to most away games and my favourite all time player is Steed Malbranque.
My biggest SAFC related claim to fame is being mascot against Bradford City on Boxing Day 2003 and burying a shot into the bottom the corner past Mart Poom at the North Stand. I must have inspired the team greatly that day as we ran out 3-0 winners. I grew up in Blackhall and Wingate in East Durham and I now live on the dark side in Heaton.