Sunderland ‘Til I Die: Where are they now? (Season One)
Michael Johnson | 13 March 2020
We look at what the key figures are up to
Season Two of Netflix’s Sunderland ‘Til I Die football documentary lands on 1st April, following the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the north-east side following back-to-back relegations.
In the first season after being relegated from the Premier League, Sunderland were attempting to return at the first time of asking, but those ambitions quickly disintegrated thanks to a combination of an absentee owner, overpaid players, poor goalkeeping, and under-pressure backroom staff.
What was supposed to be an uplifting documentary ended up closer to a disaster movie as the Black Cats slid into League One, while their long-suffering fans laid bare just how much it all means to them. Many Newcastle United fans consider Season One to be a comedy masterpiece.
So, what about the so-called ‘stars’ of the show? Where are they now and have their careers recovered from their association with Sunderland AFC? With the club currently 33/1 to win League One, we take a look at some of the key players and characters to find out what they’re up to now.
Lee Cattermole’s most memorable moment came in the first episode, where he earnestly lays out the club’s plan for the season – to work hard, pull together, get the fans behind the team and get Sunderland back to where they belong in the Premier League. The literal opposite of all those things then happens in the seven episodes that follow.
Cattermole stayed with the club following their relegation to League One, but an unsuccessful campaign in the third tier saw the former captain and longest-serving player leave for pastures new. The tough-tackling Cattermole now plies his trade in the Dutch Eredivisie, for VVV-Venlo, where he’s made 11 appearances so far this season. Amazingly, he’s yet to receive a red card.
For many, Jack Rodwell was the villain of the piece. His smirking “No chance” response when asked if he’d be playing on Saturday suggested a player who was happy to take his pay-check while contributing nothing to the club’s plight. When chief executive Martin Bain begs Rodwell to terminate his contract by mutual consent to help the club out, his refusal – while understandable – helps damn them to relegation.
Rodwell eventually did terminate his contract. He joined Blackburn Rovers, where he made 21 appearances last season, before being released in the summer. Since then, he’s had a trial at Roma, before Premier League side Sheffield United swooped for the free agent. Predictably, Rodwell got injured in his Utd debut against AFC Fylde in the FA Cup. He is yet to make another appearance for the club.
Another player painted as a bit of the villain by the show. Grabban was the club’s top-scorer in the Championship with 12 goals in 19 appearances before deciding he’d rather play elsewhere. He claimed that he was sick of being substituted early – and although the facts didn’t really back that up, new manager Chris Coleman allowed him to return to parent club Bournemouth in January.
He then moved to Aston Villa, where he scored another eight goals. He’s since switched permanently to Nottingham Forest where he continues to be a potent goal-scorer in the Championship, netting 17 times for his team this term.
Youngster Josh Maja and fellow youth player Joel Asoro were both featured as players to look out for in the future. While Asoro left the club after their second relegation, Maja quickly established himself as the club’s first-choice striker in League One, grabbing 15 goals in 24 appearances.
Unfortunately for Sunderland fans, the new owners were unable to get Maja to commit to the club, and with just six months left on his contract he was sold for £3.5 million in January 2019 to Ligue 1 side Bordeaux. 21-year-old Maja has made 14 appearances for Bordeaux this season, scoring six times – including a hat-trick away to Nimes in December.
Poor Jason Steele. It’s true, his performances for Sunderland in the Championship were poor. However, watching the likeable goalkeeper’s early optimism collapse into abject misery was one of the hardest parts of Season One to watch.
He’s now at Premier League side Brighton, where he keeps the bench warm. Still, we hope he’s happier!
Perhaps harshly done by the documentary-makers, manager Grayson looked out of his depth – far from inspirational in the dressing room and frustrated by the lack of support from above. His best moment in Season One saw him delivering a hilariously dull seminar to bored-looking players about how working-class fans demands hard-working players.
Grayson has since managed Bradford on a short-term basis, before joining Blackpool in July 2019. Following a run of one win in 12 games, Grayson was sacked in February and finds himself unemployed once more.
The popular Welsh manager took a risk in moving from the Welsh national team to Sunderland. With a burgeoning reputation following Wales’ Euro 2016 exploits, he probably could have waited for something better to come along.
Coleman’s passionate enthusiasm came across well, but a scene where he’s abused by a Sunderland fan before responding “You calling me a p***k? I’m a married man with six kids!” was unintentionally hilarious.
Coleman was let go after failing to save Sunderland from relegation and took a job at Hebei China Fortune, before being sacked back in May 2019 – after winning just one league game in their first nine. He’s remained unemployed since.
The David Brent-esque figure who essentially fronted the documentary, Bain’s descent from buzz-wording businessman to frazzled, unshaven exec was another difficult watch. Bain was charged by former owner Ellis Short with stripping costs, keeping them in the Championship and then helping to sell the club for the disinterested owner.
The latter did eventually happen, with Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven purchasing the club in May 2018.
Bain is now the CEO of Football Sports Development Ltd, who are the organising body behind the ISL – India’s top tier football league.
From promising Man Utd youth player, to being sacked by Sunderland for drunk driving, Darron Gibson epitomised the car-crash nature of Sunderland ‘Til I Die Season One in quite literal terms.
He now plays for League Two’s Salford City – famously part-owned by former Manchester United players David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.
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