On a river where they used to build a boat…

Sunderland ‘til I Die season 2 continues a story of the once great Sunderland AFC and its continuing troubles after 2 two consecutive relegations since 2017. This season is focusing on the changes and difficulties which Sunderland faced in the third tier of English football (League 1)

Ben Turner and the production company Fulwell 73 did a relatively good job in fulfilling an observer role. This series feels very sensible, as what was happening to Sunderland is an unfortunate story of lousy management and luck, which will touch every football fan (even, dare it be said, fans of their rival club Newcastle United). However, even though a guilty party is quite obvious, and fans’ feelings are strong, the series remains impartial and allows the viewers themselves to decide what they feel about what they see.

The second season is largely based on the feelings and actions taken by the new management team – owner Stewart Donald and director Charlie Methven. This approach to storytelling about a football club is relatively legitimate. It allows for an understanding of how a football club as an organisation is running, and which obstacles the owners face on a day to day basis to keep the club operating; it reminds people of the fact that people, not machines, run football clubs. They have their feelings, concerns and aspirations. Stewart Donald is a perfect example of that – you can see how passionate he is, how hard he is trying to make this club successful again, and how he suffers when things go wrong.

However, there is a big ‘’but’’. It lies in the fact that football is much more about the fans, their feelings and emotions. The first season was great because it highlighted how vital Sunderland AFC is for the city, how much it influences the lives of city residents, and how strong the connection is between the fans and the club. As much as the second season is focusing on the club and its structure, as little of it is focusing on the fans and their stories. It feels that there are not enough human emotions at points. Moreover, the interviewed fans are those who were shown in the first season, so it does not feel that exciting and new.

This season also does not look into football as much as hoped; it’s not trying to explain the reasons for why promotion was not reached; what the problems were with the tactics; why certain players were signed while others were released for nothing. Footballers are not really engaging with cameras, their feelings and emotions remain in the shadows, while this element is essential for a general understanding of the situation.

The story of Sunderland is being told at a quite fast pace, with relatively short episodes which makes it an excellent title for binge-watching. The story in itself is quite engrossing, so if you are into football, you will not be able to tear yourself away from it. However, the legacy of the first season is not really matched, and the necessity of this season is hardly justifiable. 

3 stars

Image: Movie DB

Yaroslav Matveev is a screen contributor at Forge Press.

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