When ALS was born almost ten years ago. I must admit I thought it would never work. ‘People won’t want to read stupid things my mates and I have to say about Sunderland,’ I thought to myself. Jez Robinson, now the Sunday Sun’s Sunderland reporter, was to blame. He was convinced that, instead of going to the pub for two hours before every game, we should stand in the rain, get hassle off coppers and sell a magazine that gave the fans a chance to have their say. I was into the philosophy, but thought that in practice, no one would be interested. I was wrong, he was right and the rest is history.
In reality we made a little snowball, rolled it down the hill and by the time it got to the bottom people were buying, contributing and slapping us on the back in their thousands. All this was great, because it was like a dream come true. When we began, we had to beg people to write stuff, then all of a sudden, we couldn’t fit it all in. When we started off, we hardly knew any fellow Sunderland fans, but by the time we got to issue 5, we knew loads. A couple of years later we won fanzine of the year and just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we won it again and again. Jez left ALS to become a full time journalist and Mick Buxton left SAFC to become a full time nobody.
In the seven years it took all these things to happen, football had become a different game. Hillsborough happened, I was unfortunate enough to be there and it changed the whole way that I, and just about everybody else involved in football, looked at the game. The police, for example, totally changed their attitude to fans. The ID cards that we fought against in early issues of ALS were shelved and the fences came down. Coppers outside the away grounds began to crack on with us, instead of moving us on for selling the fanzine.
In the ten years since ALS began, many fanzines have come and gone. Wise Men Say was the first ever Sunderland fanzine which hit the streets a year or so before ALS. WMS lasted around three years until Jim Fox and the boys decided to call it a day. This left ALS out on our own for a while, although brief appearances were made by titles such as You Wot, Roker Roar, Roker Raw & The Cat. Then up popped Wear All Going To Wembley, closely followed by It’s An Easy One For Norman.
WAGTW showed early promise, but lasted only a couple of seasons. IAEOFN began in ’93, but changed its name to The Sunderland Fanatic at the start of last season, because Tony Norman had left the club. However, they have now changed their minds and plan to revert back to their original title when they produce their first issue of this season. Since then, The Black Cat lasted one Premiership season, just like the team, and was replaced at the start of last season by a London-based fanzine, It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand. ITHICS have produced seven issues in that time. Therefore, Sunderland fans have four publications available to them, which call themselves fanzines: A Love Supreme, It’s An Easy One For Norman, It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand and now, Sex & Chocolate aren’t as good as football.
Anyway, I know I’m going on about this and that, but isn’t that what fanzines are for? I’ll get to the point. We’ve reached the stage where we are now getting so many contributions that we’ve got enough to fill three fanzines. In our end of season polls, readers have been asking us to make ALS more regular, with more pages and less ads. With all this in mind, the birth of S&C hopefully meets these demands and gives us a chance to publish more frequently, therefore producing more up to date material on all things Sunderland. That’s about it, except to say enjoy our new title, love your football, eat chocolate and when it comes to sex… well that’s another story.