Jul 9, 2013, 5:20 PM EDT
I’ve been to Sunderland. The people were warm – but the weather wasn’t.
The Stadium of Light is a lovely place – but it’s across the river from a town that is fairly, well, un-lovely, truth be known. A seaside resort town, it is not.
I was dispatched by American Way Magazine a few years ago to generate a feature-length story on the “relegation battle,” a concept most Americans know nothing about. So I went to Sunderland and spent a couple of days there around a match against Wigan, another side that never could quite move beyond swinging distance of the relegation dagger.
(Due to a hotel mix-up and a lack of rooms, I also had the unique experience of spending my last night at a $28 room on Sunderland’s gritty seaside. But that’s another story.)
What I wrote about the city (with a population roughly equal to Anchorage, Alaska, or Lexington, Kentucky) in the article:
Sunderland (population 290,000) sits along England’s right flank in the industrial northeast. Here, and in many of this area’s midsize cities, the decline of heavy industry has struck like an economic hammer. Reductions in shipbuilding and coal mining have cost the Sunderland region about 30,000 jobs over the last couple decades or so, rendering the economy as grim as a crime scene.
… The weather can be equally bleak. The average high temperature in December, January, and February is 42 degrees Fahrenheit. The frequent thick fog ensures a wet, cold draping and near-constant heavy-sweater weather.”
So I sat in places like the Roker Avenue pub or the Fort and shared beers with the locals. I learned about why they call Sunderland’s team the Mackems. (Well, they are only theories, really.) I heard the jokes about the hated team from neighboring Newcastle. I watched the grimaces as proud supporters told tales of “devastation” felt with Sunderland’s tumble down into the lower tiers, some from men who showed me the club’s badge tattooed over their heart.
I came to better understand how, in places like this, so much of the town’s collective self-image is tethered to soccer.
What I also wrote about the place Altidore will soon land:
So Sunderlanders live for their team. What else is there? Sunderland is to English football what Green Bay is to American football: a scrappy little bruiser of a city that manages through sports to keep fast company with the wealthy boys of the neighborhood.”
So, this is all about soccer for the U.S. striker. Altidore’s first professional stop was in the United States’ largest media market.
He moved to Spain, attempting to catch playing time in Villarreal along Spain’s sunny coast.
Even at Alkmaar, Altidore was spending his time off the field in a charming little Dutch town (pictured at right), just outside of Amsterdam and lined with picturesque canals.
I’m not saying any of those moves were about the scene … just saying that they weren’t notoriously lacking in glamour, either. Call it a “bonus.”
In moving to Sunderland, the man can scarcely be accused of looking for anything close to glamour or pretty things. It’s about the opportunity for playing time in one of the world’s best leagues – and the aesthetics away from training ground clearly don’t matter.
Far more fashionable London may be calling one day. But for this day Altidore’s mind is clearly wrapped around his professional soccer career.
Aug 3, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT
A massive blow to Juventus puts them on alert for midfield cover.
Aug 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Liverpool has spent big for the second straight summer, but it appears the Reds may have learned a valuable lesson.
Aug 3, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT
Rafael’s rocky seven-year tenure with Manchester United is over as he heads to France.
Aug 3, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Not a great deal has changed in the world of Premier League goalkeepers this offseason, but among the differences is a huge one: Petr Cech has moved from Chelsea to Arsenal.
Aug 3, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT
PST selects the strongest XI’s for each PL team ahead of the 2015-16 season. Let us know what you think.
Aug 3, 2015, 1:43 PM EDT
Ronaldo is not happy. Not at all.
Aug 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Forwards both left off Real’s Audi Cup squad after training ground injuries.
Aug 3, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT
All of the latest gossip from around the PL, right here.
Aug 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Wenger and Mourinho’s feud continues, but should both manager’s bite the bullet and make up?
Aug 3, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT
PSG’s skipper Silva is risking the wrath of United’s fans around the globe.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
Real Madrid superstar is a baller on and off the pitch.
Aug 3, 2015, 8:55 AM EDT
Eagles sign young English striker from Black Cats.
Aug 3, 2015, 8:02 AM EDT
Costa remains a huge injury worry for Chelsea heading into the new season.
Aug 2, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT
David Accam helped lead Chicago Fire over FC Dallas to end the visitors five-game winning streak.
Aug 2, 2015, 8:06 PM EDT
Xavi gets up for preseason friendlies, and in his first match for his new club, the 35-year-old rips a classic free kick.
Aug 2, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT
Diego Valeri missed a penalty as neither side could take advantage of its few big chances.
Aug 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT
It was a tough day for a number of Premier League teams who suffered losses and setbacks, most notably Mark Hughes and Stoke City.
Aug 2, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT
The 23-year-old midfielder has struggled with ankle problems in the past, and another has cropped up.
Aug 2, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Some big signings this summer and a new manager has fans excited for what could be this coming year.
Aug 2, 2015, 3:14 PM EDT
Tony Pulis is a hard-nosed leader, but unless Saido Berahino can repeat his goal-scoring year from last season, it will be a tough go for the Baggies.
- Premier League Goalkeeper preview: Who’s in our Top Five, and who switched clubs? 1
- Best starting lineups for all 20 Premier League teams – Do you agree? 4
- VIDEO: Cristiano Ronaldo storms out of interview: “Doesn’t give a ****” about FIFA 5
- VIDEO: Watch Arsene Wenger snub Jose Mourinho handshake. Who is in the wrong? 2
- Cristiano Ronaldo buys his agent a Greek island… as a wedding gift 1
- Premier League friendly roundup: Southampton draws, Stoke swallowed 0