TEESSIDERS know how to nurse a grudge, to feed and water it regularly and to nurture it until it sinks deep roots in a dense jungle of historic animosities.
Barely a day goes by without something rustling in the undergrowth, some seemingly remote movement tugging away at trailing tendrils that quickly connect to still smarting scars of grievance. A brief mention of Rick Parry on Sky Sports Premier League Years can make the hackles rise for instance. The dog hides if it hears a passing reference to Christian Ziege. Or, for some, Peter Beagrie in the studio for a televised Boro game can send them racing through the emotional gears. And that was 30 years ago.
So the news that Sunderland had growled at the FA over the approach to Sam Allardyce had some Teessiders swiftly simmering with retro-anger.
A Sunderland statement said: “The on-going speculation over Sam’s position is extremely damaging to Sunderland AFC, particularly at this crucial time of the season and we urge the FA to respect the disruption that this process is causing and bring about a swift resolution to the matter.”
Extremely damaging? A crucial time? The disruption this process is causing?
That’s nothing compared to the FA revealing your manager will be the next England boss six days before a major European cup final. Which is what England did when it was confirmed Steve McClaren would leave Boro to take over the poisoned chalice.
That was unforgivable. And unnecessary. They could have easily held off announcing it for a week. They should have. They have a duty to protect their member clubs, especially at such an important moment.
Yes, they were under intense media pressure having bungled their bid to recruit Big Phil Scolari. And yes, the England job is of massive public interest. But for them to make it public when they did to deflect that pressure was symptomatic of their institutional weakness and showed a total disregard for our club at an historic moment.
It rolled a hand-grenade into the Boro camp as they built up to the UEFA Cup silverware showdown with Sevilla. We can’t say it led to defeat because we will never know and the Spanish were great on the night. But it was a massive distraction and hugely disruptive.
The players – the entire club – should have been focussed on the game but instead thoughts were on the exit of the manager and what changes the new man may usher in.
Boro were preparing for a famous first footing in a European final and that fairytale should have dominated the back pages and news headlines.
Instead the England succession was the story and, for the media, Boro were a sideshow.
Was the manager’s mind elsewhere? How could in not be? Were the players spooked by the situation? How could it be otherwise.
Was it necessary? No it bloody wasn’t. Am I still angry? Yes I bloody am. Will I forget? No chance. I’ll be nursing that one for a long time to come.