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The Old-Fashioned Way
Pride, Passion & Loyalty
The Time For Men
Football is Life
Portsmouth, Sunderland, Coventry and Bolton are not names of football clubs you’d expect to find in the English Third Division. The game has changed a lot in recent years and while a lot can be said for the injection of money and what that’s done to the Premier League elite, the English Championship and League 1 have only grown more competitive and unpredictable over the years. 7 different clubs are currently in a relegation scrap in the Championship, including Middlesbrough, Stoke, Wigan and Hull City. A league down, things are even more unpredictable as 3 points currently separate 2nd from 8th.
It truly is a savage and relentless game and unless you’re a hardened Football Manager fan and see the virtual inner-workings of different football clubs, you never truly know what goes on behind closed doors. Why is it that teams like Leicester or Sheffield United can surpass expectations and hit the top 4 while teams like Arsenal struggle to get going and come up short time and again? The answer lies in what we don’t see and thankfully, Netflix’s camera crews capture these answers perfectly in this series.
When it released back in 2018, Sunderland Til I Die felt like Netflix’s answer to the excellent, glitzy All Or Nothing: Manchester City on Amazon Prime. Seeing the optimism and enthusiasm from the early days of the championship season peter out and replaced by bitter resentment and anger toward the end was difficult to witness, with Sunderland’s relegation that season the ugly cherry on an already sour cake.
Back for a second season and hoping for a new renaissance of life at the Stadium Of Light, Season 2 takes a somewhat different approach to life in League 1, with far more emphasis on the finances, deals and everything off the pitch rather than the dressing room drama that encapsulated last season. New Owner Stewart Donald and Director Charlie Methven ultimately take centre stage here and with a fly-on-the-wall perspective, we see just how bad things have gotten at Sunderland over the years. And in their own words, it’s “pretty dire” to say the least.
From the club being bled dry through extortionate wages to the pressure mounting over the growing form and skill of star youngster Josh Maja (and the headache of dealing with player agents), there’s a lot of boardroom drama here that’s equal to the intensity felt on the pitch. With a late, late transfer fee agreed on deadline day for a Wigan striker and all hopes on the club gaining automatic promotion resting on some nervy play-off dreams, the pressure is on for everyone involved to turn Sunderland Football Club around and bring the club back to where it belongs – the top division.
Season 2 sees a whole slew of new players brought into the fold as well to join the familiar faces of both supporters and staff around the stadium. Expect to see a lot of these interspersed throughout the season but for the first half of this 6-part series, the focus is primarily on the owners and their vision to turn the club around.
Having said all that though Sunderland Til I Die is another very good football documentary series and a worthy follow-up to the first. The familiar text pop-ups add some surprising drama into the fold while the various league table updates after games helps to get a feel for how Sunderland are performing, much like in 2018. The same commentators are here to narrate the action and those supporter forums return – this time with a surprisingly positive atmosphere rather than the tense and bitter feel last year.
The final two episodes here ultimately follow Sunderland’s dramatic end to the 2018-2019 season and if you’re unfamiliar with how this one ends, I won’t spoil that here. Suffice to say though, it’s incredibly emotional. This documentary series perfectly encapsulates the raw emotion, heart and drive that makes football such a unique sport and once again Netflix deliver the goods with this excellent follow-up.
Unless you fancy watching some Belarus Football (the only league still running right now, believe it or not), football fans should absolutely lap this up making Sunderland Til I Die well worth watching.
Verdict - 8.5/10