Forty years of love

Last updated : 16 December 2007 By Rob Gilchrist

My name is Rob Gilchrist, and my love for Sunderland AFC was born on April 19th 1967 - a cool Wednesday evening when our visitors were Nottingham Forest. They were sent duly packing back to the Midlands on the back of a 1-0 defeat, the scorer ironically being John O-Hare who a decade later would be a hero around the City Ground as they won the League Championship, two League Cups, and two European Cups.

Fast forward forty years, like many others of my generation I have seen everything - promotions, relegations, hope, frustration, agony, missed opportunities, the mother of all FA Cup wins, play-off defeats ,tame surrender at Wembley on more than one occasion. Like many others, I have seen the lot, even rolling down the Wigan mudslide back in February 1988.

For all the trials and tribulations, the hope, the agony, the countless missed opportunity, Sunderland AFC is, has been, and will continue to be one fabulous football institution.

Whatever the circumstances the football club have found themselves in, one body has always stood out like a beacon. That body is the Sunderland fans. There are none more loyal anywhere. Of that there is no doubt.

The blind faith shown by the Sunderland masses, despite countless broken promises over the years make us stand out on our own at the pinnacle of supporter loyalty.

Over the years, my love for the club has turned into an obsession, the football club always being the most important thing in my life after my family and my work. Luckily for me, my wife is no SAFC widow, as she is also as big a fan as I am.

Over the last few years, I have become involved with the Supporters Association where I now serve on the management committee with my role being publicity. I am also involved with our Liaison Committee who meet with the officials of the football club every month, and even in the darkest of times, the directors of the club have never shirked a meeting. Today, our meetings are almost all attended by the Chairman or Chief Executive. I am also a member of the Supporters Liaison Group who meet every month, with bi-monthly meetings with the club. These avenues keep access to the club open and are available to each and every supporter of Sunderland AFC.

So the soap opera otherwise known as Sunderland AFC is at present back where it should be in the top-flight of the English game, but as ever we are in the thick of things. If we are not fighting to get up, then we are fighting to stay up.

I am not blind enough to state that everything in the garden is rosy... of course it is not. Perhaps the magic carpet ride is a little turbulent as I write, but it is my firm belief that the club is on a sound footing, with a chairman who is idolised, a vice chairman who has supported the club all his life, the most charismatic young manager the game has seen in the past decade and an off-field organisation that is the envy of many of our rivals.

All my life, I have seen five-year plans at this club, the first expiring as long ago as 1975. Followed by 1978, then 1980 right throughout the next two decades, but although once again we are involved in a relegation scrap, and according to some we are relegated already, I firmly believe that Sunderland are in good hands, and on a firm footing.

I hope to be given the opportunity of writing about the club on a regular basis, and I promise I will always tell it how it is, whether it be about games, transfers or any other aspect of SAFC, good or not so good.

After everything this club has put us through, I often wonder how fans of other clubs would react if the same set of circumstances happened to them, especially those who follow... well you know who I mean!

Having said all of that, there is no way I would swap my club, or our fans for any other football club in the world, regardless of the success their clubs have achieved.

I firmly believe that if we all stick together, this football club can achieve greatness, and break the stranglehold of the clubs at the top. It won't be easy, and it will take time, and like you - I want it tomorrow, but for once, I think those promises given by Niall Quinn, Drumaville, and more importantly Roy Keane will eventually be delivered.


Thanks for reading,