Sunderland legend on the key role played by the visually stunning and staggering fanbase

Statistics and numbers have always been important in sport and football is no different with goals scored, assists and clean sheets all used to judge footballers’ ability and for comparisons against each other.

Sunday, 27th January 2019, 12:23 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th January 2019, 12:33 pm
Sunderland AFC supporters at the Stadium of Light.

Another statistic that is analysed closely is how many go through the turnstiles at every club – and in that regard Sunderland never come up short.

A barely believable 46,000 were present on Boxing Day against Bradford City, 8,000 travelled to Blackpool, 5,000 made the journey to Coventry for a game live on television, I could go on and on.

These are the sort of numbers, especially for games in the third tier, that make people sit up and take notice and if they don’t, they should.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I’m sure when Sunderland’s new owners took over, they knew they were buying into a big club but the level of passion and loyalty has probably even surpassed what they originally anticipated.

To their credit, they realised very early on that Sunderland’s greatest strength and best asset was that core support and they have cleverly challenged the fans to beat all the League One records and the fans have responded in droves.

Stewart Donald and his team are on record as wanting to beat Manchester City’s average home gate of 28,261 in 1998, which if Sunderland are in or around the top two, should be a walk in the park.

They also wanted to beat Leeds’ 38,256 single game attendance – which is already mission accomplished, having been absolutely smashed on Boxing Day.

The away support this season has been nothing short of staggering.

I have experienced that support both on the pitch and watching from the stands and it is visually stunning to see an away end completely packed in red and white.

What a boost for our players, it really is a 12th man, and can be intimidating for opponents.

Big numbers turning up regularly for home games, with huge followings at away grounds, is all any owners can ask of the fans.

It is up to Jack Ross and the players now to follow the fans’ lead and win their challenges by delivering on the field to bring the success those fans crave.