Long Reads

Sunderland ‘Til I Die Cast: Where are they now?

Sunderland AFC

Sunderland Football Club. A fallen giant in the world of football, and one that has suffered from countless problems both on and off the pitch in recent years.

In December 2018, we were fortunate enough to be introduced to some of those issues thanks to production company Fulwell 73, who recorded behind-the-scenes footage of what life was like at the Stadium of Light after ten consecutive seasons in the Premier League.Season one captured those powerful moments in the hugely competitive 2017/18 Championship campaign, with the camera crew returning for a second spell in 2018/19 upon the club’s second relegation in as many years.

Here we take a look at those who played a central role in the highly emotional documentary, and where they are now in their respective careers.

Managers

Simon Grayson

In the eyes of the Sunderland faithful, former Leeds and Preston manager Simon Grayson certainly wasn’t the club’s first choice to replace David Moyes after their relegation from the top-flight, but he was the man tasked with the job.

A win and two draws was a more than respectable start to life in the Championship, but things took a dramatic turn for the worse, with Grayson failing to win any of the following 12 league games. A 3-3 home draw to Bolton – the only team below them – signalled the end for the manager, and he was sacked as the shortest-serving boss in the club’s 139-year history.

After several months out of a job, Grayson got back into management at League One Bradford City in February 2018, leaving in May as his side finished 11th in the table. A year later he returned to former club Blackpool on a two-year contract, but was relieved of his duties just seven months in, with the manager now without a club.

Chris Coleman

The former Wales boss immediately raised spirits upon his arrival in the north-east, briefly lifting Sunderland out of the relegation zone in his first few months in charge and bringing an end to 364 days without a home victory.

But like Grayson, it wasn’t long before issues arose on and off the field, with owner Ellis Short refusing to invest further money into the club. With a depleted squad, the points dried up. A ten-game winless run epitomised the situation, and the unthinkable happened on 21st April as the club were demoted to League One following a 2-1 home defeat to Burton.

Relegation plus a change of ownership saw Coleman sacked, with the manager moving to the Chinese Super League to take over from Manuel Pellegrini at Hebei China Fortune. He secured sixth place in his first campaign, but is now also without a job after being sacked following a dismal second season in the Far East.

Jack Ross

The first manager under the new ownership of Stewart Donald, the Scot arrived from St Mirren, having guided them to the Scottish Championship title. Ross suffered an agonizing play-off final defeat to Charlton in his first season in charge, but that was soon forgotten about as he was sacked just three months into the new season with Sunderland in sixth.

Not long after, the manager was snapped up by Scottish Premiership side Hibernian. A mid-table finish was secured, while his first full season in charge has seen a huge overhaul in the squad, with the club now unbeaten in their first five games and sitting joint top of the table.

Players

Lee Cattermole

A regular in the middle of the park for the Black Cats, the tough-tackling midfielder ended his ten year stay at the club last summer, heading off for a new challenge in the Eredivisie with VVV Venlo shortly after.

His time in the Netherlands was, however, cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the former Sunderland captain announcing his retirement from the game earlier this month.

George Honeyman

A product of the club’s youth academy, Honeyman was also a permanent fixture in midfield over both seasons of the documentary. It was Grayson who really pushed the youngster into the starting XI, with Ross then appointing him captain of the side at just 23.

After over a decade spent progressing through the ranks on Wearside, he enjoyed life in the Championship once again after securing a move to Hull City last summer, but he now finds himself back in League One after the club were relegated in July.

Josh Maja

The young striker netted just five minutes into his Championship debut with the only goal in a win against Fulham, but couldn’t help matters any further as the club dropped into League One.

But he certainly hit the ground running in the lower division, with his 15 league goals linking him with a move to Ligue 1 outfit Bordeaux in the 2019 January transfer window. Maja rejected a new deal at Sunderland and made the switch to France, where he has since scored nine goals in 32 appearances.

Will Grigg

A deadline day signing in January 2019 and a direct replacement for the outgoing Maja, Grigg was a star at Wigan for several seasons, but failed to replicate that form on Wearside. Despite the drop in level from Championship to League One, he managed just four league goals.

The Northern Ireland international is still at the club, but his form in front of goal remains an issue, with the striker finishing the last campaign on just one league goal from 20 appearances.

Jack Rodwell

The villain of the piece, and one which countless supporters and indeed some of the more senior staff continuously wanted as far away from Sunderland as possible. After much frustration, they finally got their wish as Rodwell’s contract was terminated in June 2018.

The former Manchester City man signed a one-year deal with Blackburn Rovers soon after, before returning to Premier League football with Sheffield United in January. Despite playing just 15 minutes in the last campaign, the midfielder signed a one-year extension earlier this month.

Executives

Martin Bain

Another to have come off somewhat poorly in the documentary, the former Rangers and Maccabi Tel-Aviv chief executive was another who, in the eyes of many Sunderland fans, deserved much of the criticism for how the club was being run.

The change of ownership saw Bain’s contract terminated, and he has since moved on to pastures new, taking up a role as CEO of Football Sports Development Ltd., the group behind the organisation of the Indian Super League, India’s top-flight football league.

Charlie Methven

The star of season two, Methven’s innovative ideas for Sunderland certainly took people by surprise, with his honest assessment of the club and his plans to introduce Ibiza-style walk-out music perhaps the most memorable.

The former Eton College pupil announced his decision to leave his role at the club in December 2019 due to personal reasons, returning to his public relations company while retaining his six percent share at Sunderland.

About the author

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Peter Lynch

Sports Journalism graduate from the University of Stirling, huge Liverpool and Northern Ireland fan, currently working as a freelancer.

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