Not being Irish, I don’t really understand the whole “second team” malarky. When Robbie Keane signed for Liverpool, claiming they were his boyhood team, before signing for Celtic, and claiming the same about them, he was ridiculed on this blog. I, like many, didn’t and don’t understand how you can support two teams. I won’t get in to this supporting your local team debate, given that I’m lucky enough to have Manchester United as my local team. If I lived in the middle of nowhere and my local side were some uninspiring outfit from Division 3, would I love them like I love United? I’d like to think yes but I’m not going to start preaching to others about something I can’t prove I’d do myself. Regardless, the issue of taking on a second team has never been relevant to me. However, now, for the first time ever, can red Mancunians claim to have a second team?
When Roy Keane took charge of Sunderland, less than a year after leaving United, it was natural for us to look out for their results. He had been such a massive figure in shaping our greatest moments over the past decade so of course we would wish him the best wherever he got in to management. If the United connection had ended there, we probably wouldn’t have thought much else of it, but as the years have gone by, this connection has grown.
In the past five years alone, Sunderland have been represented by Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Phil Bardsley, Kieran Richardson, Frazier Campbell, Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck, Danny Simpson, Danny Higginbotham, Liam Miller, David Healey and Paul McShane. Our former keeper, Raimond Van der Gouw has worked at the club as a coach and our former Reserve team coach, Ricky Sbragia, was on their staff and was caretaker manager when Keano left. Mick Brown, our former assistant manager, was their head scout, Neil Bailey, our former youth team coach is on their staff, as well as our former player, Michael Clegg. Not only was one former captain, Keane, their manager, but our captain when we brought back our first title in twenty six years, Steve Bruce, is their current manager.
With John O’Shea and Wes Brown joining those numbers yesterday, it’s pretty hard to deny the link between the two clubs. Whilst some of those players mentioned above weren’t fans’ favourites or hadn’t played at United for a while, these two are well loved by our fans.
In the 2003 run in, United fans took a “We’ve got Wesley Brown, we’ve got John O’Shea, Manchester is dreaming of silverware in May” banner to the away games. Both their songs, particularly Wes’, regularly get sung at Old Trafford and will do for years to come. Seeing these lads we’ve watched grow up at the club wearing the shirt of another won’t feel nice, but it will also make it more difficult to avoid that soft spot for Sunderland.
Clearly though, I’m not actually adopting Sunderland as my second team, but I will probably feel a stronger attachment to them than I have any club that isn’t United before. Just looking at their squad, their back four next season will probably consist entirely consist of our youth team products!
I will be cheering them on though, looking out for their score, and hoping they do as well as possible next season.
Come on Brucey and the lads!