Chris Young’s North American diary: Fairgrounds and Bud ... That’s entertainment

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Let’s face it, we’re in the entertainment business.

By definition, Sunderland have hardly lived up to that billing over recent seasons, but the Premier League is now a global product where clubs can no longer rely on blind loyalty to get fans through the turnstiles.

When competing with the temptation of arm-chair viewing, creative marketing is required to persuade the punters to part with significant hard-earned money for ticket prices.

The fanzone which Sunderland will launch around the Stadium of Light this season is an excellent initiative in that direction.

But Wednesday’s opponents Sacramento Republic have taken things to another level - this was all-singing, all-dancing American sport at its finest.

Admittedly, the spectacle on the pitch was pretty dire, particularly during the second half when Sunderland were alarmingly stretched by a side in the third tier of the US league structure.

Yet that was plenty for the eyes to wander over.

A ferris wheel from the California State Fair hovered over one corner of the ground, the marquee ride of a water park over another and then, to cap it all, a monorail circuited around the pitch.

In the words of Paul Weller, that’s entertainment.

Unsurprisingly, the fairground attractions, coupled with a Budweiser or 17 met with a favourable reaction from the Sunderland fans who have travelled to California.

There are upwards of 100 red and white faithful out here, albeit several have travelled from their homes in America after emigrating.

Two dollar happy hour beers in the local hostelries have gone down particularly well apparently...

For the neutrals in attendance at Sacramento though, there is only one real attraction in Sunderland’s ranks - star striker Jermain Defoe.

Defoe was mobbed after the Sacramento friendly; England, Spurs and US fans all greedily pleading with him for an autograph.

To his credit, Defoe was quite happy with the impromptu meet and greet, even taking photographs with some of Sacramento’s players afterwards, who were slightly wide-eyed at the prospect of swapping shirts with their counterparts.

If there is any hope of Sunderland’s promotional efforts making a mark on this side of the Atlantic, then Defoe is the figurehead.

He might not get such a favourable reaction at former club Toronto though when Sunderland head to Canada for their final friendly in North America.

There remains a section of Toronto fans who are sceptical of their return on Defoe after the club’s significant financial outlay on the striker.

Sunderland are flying north of the border immediately after the game against Mexican outfit Club de Futbol Pachuca, which will prove a logistical challenge for the club’s backroom team.

But after a six-hour round trip to get to Sacramento from their training base, Sunderland’s players will be relieved at the prospect of at least being centrally based in Toronto.