Football's about entertainment, the Mailbox says. Which means Manchester United supporters are happy with never winning the league if the football is good...
Those who wish to cheapen Chelsea's Premier League title will have their evidence, but it's a moot argument. They have the best player, best manager and best team...
What do the papers, the TV, and fans of other clubs think about your team? In this series, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at the stereotypes, coverage and media agendas for each team in the Premier League. And hey kids, just because they're pointing them out, it doesn't mean they're endorsing them. This week, it's the turn of the forever-unconvincingly nicknamed Black Cats...
Ex-player pundit presence
Niall Quinn: he smiles beatifically but is he talking sense or waffling aimlessly? We expect a solid TV career from his erstwhile partner, Kevin Phillips, hopefully as a big pundit-little pundit partnership with Niall. Mickey Gray, a name positively designed to be said in a Sunderland accent. The hollow-legged iconoclast Peter Reid, who now sports the groomed arty look of a man who was big in pop art in 1963. Officially the oldest-looking 57-year-old on earth. Sunderland does that to a man. And of course, the fire-breathing weird beard that is Roy Keane. And: what's become of Barry Venison?
Wide-eyed and legless ex-Beatle, Heather Mills, Steve Cram, Kate Adie, one-hit wonder Tasmin Archer and the man who inflicted the bloody Eurythmics on us, Dave Stewart (not the excellent Dave Stewart who was in Canterbury proggers, Hatfield And The North, half of this column would like to point out.) [And the other half of this column now feels obliged to point out that it really liked the Eurythmics, just while we're here, and does the first half of this column want to take this outside or is it too busy listening to 47-minute-long noodling tracks about astral projection and the military-industrial complex or whatever the hell it is that Canterbury proggers Hatfield And The North sing about?]. Erm, anyway. Neil Tennant is claimed as a fan, which is a delightful if preposterous idea. Sunderland also count among their faithful the magnificent, alabaster-skinned former Kenickie guitarist and general telly lass Lauren Laverne, about whom we get funny feelings in our normally withered parts.
Back page leaders?
Football is a religion on the north east, in that it divides, causes wars and distracts people from their own mortality. It dominates the local press but nationally Sunderland is a long way up the coast from anywhere down south, and is supported by nobody in London, and some papers would rather ignore them if at all possible. This has not been at all possible of late, with the club doing a splendid impression of being a complete basket case. In MON, Roy and of course Di Canio they have had a recent trio of managers who are fascinating, for wildly differing reasons. The departure of Paolo is something of a tragedy for the media.
Gaffer's media skills
New man Gus Poyet comes with a largely positive backing of the media but then so do most of Sunderland's managers shortly before everyone gets sick of them. Febrile local media, fuelled (in our personal experience) by industrial levels of booze, is constantly giving it out to the gaffer. This ensures that, sooner or later, said manager falls out with them. Poyet can at least pull the "me no understand what you say" routine for a while, as indeed do most English people on arrival in Sunderland.
Vox pop cliché fan
Weighty working class chap with huge beer-fed body, wife similarly endowed in a shirt a bit too tight, not that she gives a flying feck. Noisy and passionate and slightly incomprehensible. Seems amiable enough on the surface, hiding depths of inner rage. Loves chips. Mistaken by anyone south of Washington as a Geordie. Hugely proud of the club in abstract but hates the actual reality and misses Roker Park with the deep, bitter passion of a man whose only love in life was Miss Bolden Colliery 1981.
Keyboard warrior ferocity
With Di Canio doing such a great job of making the club a punchline from within, internet Mackems have been obliged to keep their own counsel of late. With a manger like that, what else can you do? Early signs are that Poyet has not been a popular appointment but, with relegation a real possibility - only Palace are a shorter price to go down at present - expect a circling the wagons mentality from online Sunderland fans.
Massive, august working class institution with serious historical credentials including six League titles and two FA Cups. A people's club in tune with working class aspirations. Retailer of quality carbohydrate comestibles. Definitely bigger than Newcastle United. Big crowds, big heart.
The less Cockney north-eastern club. Bloody hell it's cold up here. Who is the Sunderland manager now? Why do so many keep going when they always play terrible football? Having established themselves in the Premier League, what is the actual point of Sunderland, other than North East derbies? They're never going to win anything. Sooner or later, flirting with relegation will lead to actual getting shagged by relegation, won't it? Oh no, not that Jim Montgomery save again.
Archetypal news stories
'Paolo Di Canio Ate My Hamster.'
'27 players in, 35 Out For Black Cats in Summer Transfer Madness.'
'Someone no-one even knew was at the club has left.'
'Ellis Short: 'What the heck is a Sunder Land?'
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
See Alan's new book 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects' here
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Alan on The Ashes and more here.