See the US teenager so inspired by Netflix series Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ that he's visiting city and applying for a place at university
A teenager from North Carolina in the USA has been visiting Sunderland this week and has decided to apply for a place at the city’s university after being inspired by the Netfilx documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die’.
Despite the series documenting SAFC’s relegation from the Championship and failure to bounce back from League One at the first attempt, the behind the scenes drama which unfolded as the club fell to the lowest point its history captured the heart of 17-year-old Samuel Lack who was dressed in an SAFC tracksuit as he enjoyed a tour of the University of Sunderland.
Samuel, who also displays a range of SAFC tops and scarves in his bedroom on the other side of the Atlantic and has converted several friends to become Black Cats fans, said: “Watching Sunderland ‘Til I die’ just made me want to come and visit the city and the North East.
"It was the sense of community and depth of feeling for the football club which really came through in the documentary and the fact that fans will continue to support their team – even when they were not doing well.
"It’s not like that back in the USA. My local American football team is the Carolina Panthers. They are not doing well this season and lots of my friends at high school are now supporting other teams.
"You see the size of the crowds the team were getting in League One and it’s just this love for the club and dedication that I really admire.”
Samuel arrived in the UK on Thursday, November 17, and is due to fly home on Sunday, November 27, meaning the suspension of the Championship for the World Cup will prevent him from fulfilling his dream of seeing Sunderland play live.
However, he did get to experience the city’s passion for football and also a private tour of the Stadium of Light.
Samuel said: “I do get to see some of the team’s games on TV back home. I watched the Reading and Sheffield United games and it would have been great to see the team live. We went down to the Stadium of Light to have a look around. We were told there were no official tours taking place that day but when I said we were visiting from North Carolina one of the guys offered to show us around.
"We got to see the dressing rooms and the trophy cabinet – places I’d seen on TV in the documentary. It was a magical experience. Yesterday (November 21) we went to a pub in Sunderland to watch the England versus Iran game. It was a great experience and everyone was really friendly.”
Samuel’s current favourite player is Alex Pritchard and he sports his name and number on the back of his own replica shirt. However it was Luke O’Nien who really caught his eye during the filming of the documentary.
He added: “He just seems like a really down to earth guy and was always willing to give up his time and speak with supporters. I remember in the series when the fans were helping to fit the new seats and he was at the stadium with them and joining in.”
After deciding he wants to study in the UK, during his visit, Samuel has been looking at a number of universities to apply to, but has been impressed with what he has seen at the University of Sunderland.
Samuel, who wants to study Mechanical or Automotive Engineering, said: “You can apply for five universities and Sunderland is definitely going to be one of my top two choices. I’ve enjoyed my tour and visiting the city and if I do get a place here then I can also hopefully get a season ticket and watch the team.”
Samuel was visiting the UK with his father John Lack, who was born in London but moved to North Carolina in 2002.
Retired Microsoft worker John, 62, who had never previously visited Sunderland, said: “I think it was the depth of the coverage in Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ and the drama at that time at the club which really got Samuel’s attention. If we hadn’t seen the Netflix documentary then we probably wouldn’t have considered the University of Sunderland as an option, but everyone has been so friendly and if Samuel decides to come to Sunderland then I will support him 100 per cent.”
University of Sunderland Events Team worker Hannah Fernandez added: “It’s good to hear Samuel enjoyed his tour and it’s great that the Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ series can raise the profile of the city and university. Hopefully we can welcome Samuel back to the university next year.”
Fulwell 73, who produced the popular documentary, are currently back at the Stadium of Light filming a third series of Sunderland ‘Til I Die’.