The third and final part of Sunderland ‘Til I Die is more optimistic than the previous series and ends with promotion back to the Championship, but there’s still plenty of grit.
Series one was released in December 2018, months after Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing: Manchester City documentary.
While the latter documented Pep Guardiola’s team on their way to a title-winning season in the Premier League, Fulwell 73’s warts-and-all series captured a club on the way to a second successive relegation to League One. Series two then documented Sunderland’s failure to progress from the third tier in the 2018/19 season.
The final series will last just three episodes and will focus on the 2021-2022 season, when the Black Cats completed four years in League One by securing promotion to the Championship with victory over Wycombe Wanderers in the play-off final.
In addition to the on-field events, there is still plenty of focus on the real life and mental health of the Sunderland community.
Here are three takeaways from the documentary.
Finally a win at Wembley, but sad losses off the pitch
Those who have watched series one and two will recognize some familiar returning faces – including ex-serviceman Andrew Cammiss, straight-talking taxi driver Peter Farrer and best friends Michelle Barraclough and Ian Wake.
Barraclough delivered the final line of series two when she asked: “Why don’t we ever celebrate?” following an injury-time defeat to Charlton Athletic in the 2019 League One play-off final.
In series three, she and ‘bestie’ Wake return to Wembley, bearing all the psychological scars of previous defeats.
Wake, who downsized from his home to find money to follow the team, was at Wembley to see Sunderland win the FA Cup in 1973, only to see them lose in the 1985 League Cup final and the play-off final of Division Two in 1990. , the 1992 FA Cup Final, the 1998 Division One play-off final, the 2014 League Cup Final and the 2019 League One play-off final.
He calls it “pretty magical” to see his team end a 48-year wait for another win at Wembley, saying: “This time it was really great that it all went well”.
Sadly, Wake died in March 2023 and the series ends at his funeral. Describing the superfan who talks about Sunderland even in his final moments, local priest Father Marc Lyden-Smith reflects on the enduring passion, saying: “Love does not end in death, and loving Sunderland Football Club is a love you forever remains with all eternity.”
There are also tributes in episode three to Louise Wanless, Sunderland’s former head of communications, who died in 2021. Kitman Stephen Aziz, who remembers Wanless as “a huge character”, has printed shirts with her name to take to Wembley.
Billionaire owner would like to show that his heart lies in football
Series one gave us a glimpse into the boardroom of then CEO Martin Bain, with famous scenes including a failed deadline day attempt to sign Aston Villa’s Ross McCormack.
In series two, co-owners Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven attempted to pull the club out of financial ruin with a number of interesting innovations. No one watching can forget when Methven put forward the idea of updating Sunderland’s walk-on music to a Tiësto song.
In series three, we meet a new club owner in the form of Swiss-French billionaire Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, who became the youngest chairman in English football when he took charge in February 2021 at the age of 23.
Despite his age and an Instagram profile that suggests a vibrant lifestyle, the 26-year-old is doing everything he can to show that his heart is in football.
“Most people in my position wouldn’t choose to move to the North East and get involved with a football club, especially a third-tier club,” he says.
Louis-Dreyfus’ late father Robert owned Marseille, and Sunderland’s owner draws comparisons between the two one-club cities where people “really live and breathe the football club”.
A team of misfits and underdogs
One of the infamous moments from series one saw midfielder Jack Rodwell telling a teammate that there was “no chance” of him playing in an upcoming match, and the fallout after Darron Gibson was filmed criticizing teammates while sitting in a pub .
When winger Jack Clarke joined Sunderland on loan in January 2022, the 23-year-old says he was confident it would be “nothing like” what he saw in the documentary.
However, when manager Lee Johnson was controversially sacked “two days later” with the team just two points off the top of League One, Clarke wondered: “What have I gotten myself into?” for fear of another “nothing loan” where he would “achieve nothing”.
Clarke has become a key figure at Sunderland; he is their top scorer in the Championship this season with 14 goals and four assists.
California-born academy product Lynden Gooch speaks in a hybrid transatlantic tone about being proud to call himself an “adopted Mackem.”
One-time wonderkid Patrick Roberts – who joined Manchester City at the age of 18 and was subsequently loaned out to six clubs over the next six and a half years – talks about finding a home at Sunderland
Former Manchester City hopeful Patrick Roberts signed for Sunderland in January 2022 after joining Manchester City at the age of 18 before being loaned out to several clubs.
Now 27, Roberts says he did not feel ‘valued or wanted’ as a loanee, saying instead that when Sunderland signed him for free he ‘wanted to be part’ of the project there.
Then there is the story of the rise of striker Ross Stewart.
After almost retiring from football, Stewart rediscovered his love for the game with Scottish team Kilwinning Rangers. In 2016, his father paid £500 of his own money for Rangers to release his son to join Scottish fifth team Albion Rovers.
After signing for Sunderland in 2021, he scored 40 times in 80 appearances for the club, including a goal in the 2022 League One play-off final victory. Stewart also received two Scotland call-ups that year; although he has been troubled by injuries over the past twelve months. He has made just two appearances for Southampton since joining them in September.