The docks have been left deserted. The wealth has dried up. Wearside has become an impoverished place to live leaving just one beacon of hope for the loyal Mackems. Sunderland Association Football Club. However, the red and white hope beaming from the Stadium of Light has faded in recent years but with the club now at its lowest ebb, this is a time for hope, ambition and reconciliation.
New owners, new players and a new manager, Sunderland ‘Til I Die is back.
Never has a four word title been so fitting for those who live and breathe football in the north-east as series two of Netflix’s hit docu-series returns. Executive producer Ben Turner, who also worked on the hit Manchester United film ‘Class of 92’, sticks to his winning formula, and the fans once again are the stars of the six-part series. Lovable club chef Joyce returns along with taxi driver Peter and these two (along with several others) provide the passion, ecstasy and tears that perfectly encapsulate what football means to those living in the struggling town.
With the inner workings of a football club usually kept as secret as the Big Mac Sauce, we are given complete access at boardroom level which reveals some staggering conversations between owner Stuart Donald and manager Jack Ross. On transfer deadline day, Donald is a bundle of boisterous excitement as he chases the signing of Will Grigg (yep, the one who was on fire) and ignores all calls for him to stop bidding, even from the manager himself!
If owner Stuart Donald is as impulsive as Woody from Toy Story, then Evil Emperor Zurg is played by Executive Director and right-hand man Charlie Methven, one of the most instantly dislikeable men on television. A mixture of snobbery and downright rudeness certainly gives the show bite, but the real-life effects of his behaviour for certain members of staff makes for difficult viewing.
Ditch your tracksuit and get on your three-piece suit because this series takes you from the dressing room to the boardroom, but there is a noticeable lack of player interaction in comparison to the first series. Netflix could not have asked for more drama on the pitch, yet this lack of relationship with the players or coaching staff is slightly unfulfilling. Combined with the fact that we have lost two entire episodes moving from series one to two, you cannot help but feel slightly short-changed, rather like a Sunderland season ticket holder.
As we reach day eleven in this apocalyptic world where live football is a distant memory, and I’ve spent several hours watching a FIFA tournament, anything resembling the sport provides welcome relief. Get your shoes shined because this second series takes fans into the boardroom with some dislikeable suits, lifting the lid on what it is like to own a football club. This will certainly fill the growing football-shaped hole in your life for a couple of days, but prepare to be frustrated rather than elated with the outcome.
For series three, forget the bloody owners. Let’s get back to the people that really make a football club work. Less invoices, more chef Joyces.