Sunderland 'Til I Die

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Sunderland 'Til I Die
Sunderland Till I Die Title.png
Genrefly on the wall documentary
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes16
Executive producer(s)
Running time37-42 mins
Production company(s)Fulwell 73
Original networkNetflix
Original release14 December 2018 - 01 April 2020
External links
[Sunderland Till I Die Website]

Sunderland 'Til I Die is a sports documentary series, released on Netflix on 14 December 2018.[1] The series is produced by Fulwell 73, and documents the events around English football club Sunderland A.F.C. during their 2017–18 season which saw them relegated from the EFL Championship.[2]

In a press release, Fulwell 73 (named as a homage to Sunderland A.F.C. by its founders)[3] explained the series would: "...take its audience through the highs and lows of SAFC’s first season in the Championship following its painful relegation the previous year."[2]

As a result of the success of the first series a second series was confirmed, despite opposition from many club members.[4][5] The opposition was mostly to do with players fearing the series will cause their failures being associated with them for the rest of their careers.[6]


Sunderland chairman Ellis Short originally agreed to extensive, behind-the-scenes filming in the summer of 2017 on the basis it would attract potential investors.[7] Sunderland had already been the focus of previous fly on the wall documentaries, including the 1998 Premier Passions (which also documented a relegation season) and its 1999 follow-up Premier Pressures.

Production company Fulwell 73 (who had previously produced the acclaimed football documentary The Class of '92) had allegedly expressed interest in buying Sunderland in June 2017 shortly before the commencement of filming,[8] but withdrew, citing the demands of their production business.[9] Promoting Sunderland 'til I Die on The Totally Football League Show in December 2018, Pearlman and Turner cast doubt on the veracity of these reports, suggesting there had been: "a lot of two plus two equals five going on".[10] Speaking on the Roker Report podcast prior to the release of the series, Pearlman and Turner, both Sunderland fans, revealed that they had been trying to produce material for the club for a while and had even offered to produce an end-of-season DVD for free.[11]

Filming commenced in June 2017 with the expectation that Sunderland would be challenging for promotion back to the Premier League. Manager Chris Coleman admitted to being uncomfortable with the filming arrangements, which were already in place when he replaced Simon Grayson as manager part way through the season.[12] Coleman described the constant attention as being 'unnatural'. The series does not include a repeat of the memorable, expletive-laden dressing room scenes from Premier Passions, as Coleman explained: "The only thing I really dug my heels in about was that I didn't want any filming in my dressing room. That’s been kept separate."[13]

The series culminates with the takeover of the club by Stewart Donald following relegation.[7]

A premiere of the first episode took place at the Sunderland Empire Theatre on 5 December 2018.[14] The production company were joined by local media, Sunderland players and staff, and a group of 200 season ticket holders who had been selected from a draw. After the premiere, attendees were shown a trailer for a second series.

The opening titles were created by Alchemy Studio, and feature icons from Sunderland's industrial past, with the song "Shipyards" from the Sunderland-based band The Lake Poets.[15][16]

Filming has been undertaken during the 2018–19 season, with a view to producing a second series.[17] Speaking to BBC Sport in February 2019, Turner said that they had received greater access since the change of ownership.[17]


No. in
TitleFeatured matchesOriginal air date
11"Blinded by the Light"Sunderland 0–5 Celtic14 December 2018 (2018-12-14)
Sunderland begin a new season in the second tier of English football following a disappointing relegation.
22"We Can't Walk Away"Sunderland 1–1 Derby County / Norwich City 1–3 Sunderland / Bury 0–1 Sunderland / Carlisle United 1–2 Sunderland / Sheffield Wednesday 1–1 Sunderland / Sunderland 0–2 Leeds United / Barnsley 3–0 Sunderland14 December 2018 (2018-12-14)
After a promising start to the season, the lack of squad depth is exposed. With money short, the team scrambles for help in the transfer market.
33"Plastic Shoes"Sunderland 1–2 Sheffield United / Sunderland 0–1 Nottingham Forest / Ipswich Town 5–2 Sunderland / Brentford 3–3 Sunderland / Sunderland 3–3 Bolton14 December 2018 (2018-12-14)
Frustration mounts among the players and fans as the team falls into the relegation zone, leaving manager Simon Grayson in a precarious position.
44"Rocking and Rolling"Middlesbrough 1–0 Sunderland / Sunderland 2–2 Millwall / Burton Albion 0–2 Sunderland / Sunderland 1–0 Fulham14 December 2018 (2018-12-14)
A major shakeup brings renewed hope to the Stadium of Light, but as Christmas approaches, the team still seeks its first home win of the year.
55"Sticking Plasters"Sunderland 0–1 Barnsley / Birmingham City 3–1 Sunderland14 December 2018 (2018-12-14)
The Winter Transfer Window proves difficult when ownership refuses to put money in the club and a rarely used player collects on a massive contract.
66"No Guarantees"Bristol City 3–3 Sunderland / Sunderland 0–2 Brentford / Bolton 1–0 Sunderland / Sunderland 3–3 Middlesbrough14 December 2018 (2018-12-14)
Injuries mount as the team struggles to move clear of the relegation zone, but a key player's return to the lineup could provide a spark.
77"Changing the Landscape"Millwall 1–1 Sunderland / Sunderland 0–3 Aston Villa / Derby County 1–4 Sunderland / Sunderland 1–2 Burton Albion14 December 2018 (2018-12-14)
Desperation kicks in as the season winds down. A familiar face returns in opposing colours, while a current player makes an unfortunate mistake.
88"A Fresh Start"Sunderland 3–0 Wolves14 December 2018 (2018-12-14)
With organisational upheaval on the horizon, coaches, players and staff consider their futures as fans pledge to stand behind "the lads" forever.

Critical reception[edit]

Critical response to the series has been positive.

Reviewing the series for Sports Illustrated, Luis Miguel Echegaray compared it to All or Nothing: Manchester City and wrote: "The project perfectly encapsulates the cultural significance of the city’s relationship with its proud, working-class supporters. As a result, Sunderland 'Til I Die, despite the club's plight, is a cut above the rest."[18] Writing for The Independent, Alex Hess again drew comparisons to All or Nothing, suggesting that, unlike the "weirdly bland affair" which followed Manchester City's unrelenting success, the dismal failure of Sunderland's season made for "triumphant TV".[19]

The Newcastle-based Evening Chronicle gave the series a positive five-star review describing it as "so much more than just a tale of woe" and praising the show's focus on the fans.[20] Writing for The Guardian, Barry Glendenning described it as a "wonderful series" which: "simultaneously showcases everything that is right and wrong with English football."[21] Jack Fox in the Metro states "at times it’s more gory than Game of Thrones but it is a series well worth binging on."[22] The Daily Telegraph gave it four out of five stars, and described it as an "uplifting story",[23] while The Wall Street Journal described it as "superb".[24]

Writing a review for the Sunderland Echo (the local newspaper for the Sunderland area), Phil Smith expressed disappointment at the lack of anything revelatory or explosive in the series, and considered the setup of Sunderland as an area of post-industrial poverty a little forced in the opening episodes. Nevertheless he described it as "a beautiful and fundamentally true piece of work".[25]


  1. ^ Allen, Ben (23 August 2018). "Netflix is making a new series about Sunderland Football Club". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b Johns, Craig (26 November 2018). "Sunderland AFC Netflix documentary gets a release date and a title too". Evening Chronicle. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Sunderland documentary series to be released in December". BBC Sport. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  4. ^ Donnelly, Mark (19 September 2019). "Sunderland 'Til I Die: Everything we know so far about Season Two of the popular Netflix series". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  5. ^ Pantoja, Stacy (25 August 2019). "'Sunderland 'Til I Die' Season 2 Will Happen Despite Club Members' Disapproval To Documentary Series". Business Times. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  6. ^ Mullen, Scott (9 August 2019). "Sunderland: Jack Ross on Netflix, promotion & his legacy". BBC Sport Scotland. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  7. ^ a b Smith, Phil (5 September 2018). "Sunderland's Netflix documentary will give different view to Man City's Pep-talks". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  8. ^ Smith, Phil (19 June 2017). "Consortium led by Sunderland fans reportedly interested in buying the club". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Sunderland takeover bid: Fulwell 73 out of running to buy Championship club". BBC Sport. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  10. ^ The Totally Football League Show. "Wally Downes To Wimbledon, Sunderland Til I Die, And Tracker Bars The Totally Football League Show podcast". PlayerFM. Retrieved 29 January 2019.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Roker Rapport Podcast: Talking about the 'Sunderland Til I Die' Netflix series with Fulwell73!". Roker Report. 13 December 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  12. ^ Wilson, Scott (21 April 2018). "Sunderland braced for summer release of their Netflix 'video nasty'". The Northern Echo. Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  13. ^ Smith, Phil (5 September 2018). "Sunderland's Netflix documentary will give different view to Man City's Pep-talks". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  14. ^ Mennear, Richard (6 December 2018). "Sunderland 'Til I Die: Club's passionate fanbase at heart of Netflix series as first episode goes down a storm". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Sunderland 'Til I Die". Alchemy.Studio. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  16. ^ Wheleer, Katy (9 December 2018). "Sunderland 'Til I Die on Netflix: Producers' tears of joy at fulfilling dreams of filming SAFC". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  17. ^ a b Cole, Sean (9 February 2019). "Sunderland 'Til I Die - story behind Netflix documentary about a dysfunctional club". BBC Sport. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  18. ^ Echegaray, Luis Miguel (10 December 2018). "The supporters star in superb Netflix Sunderland series". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  19. ^ Hess, Alex (14 December 2018). "Netflix's Sunderland 'Til I Die reveals community and misplaced faith". The Independent. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  20. ^ Johns, Craig (11 December 2018). "Sunderland's Netflix documentary is so much more than just a tale of woe and relegation". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  21. ^ Glendenning, Barry (12 December 2018). "Sunderland 'Til I Die shows all that is right and wrong in English football | Barry Glendenning". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  22. ^ Fox, Jack (12 December 2018). "Fox on the Box: Sunderland's real game of groans has a sorry ending". Metro. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  23. ^ Hogan, Michael (14 December 2018). "Sunderland 'Til I Die, Netflix review: an uplifting story found in one of the football team's grimmest seasons". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  24. ^ Anderson, John (13 December 2018). "'Sunderland 'Til I Die' Review: Kicking and Screaming". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  25. ^ Smith, Phil (12 December 2018). "Phil Smith's Sunderland 'Til I Die review: A beautiful and fundamentally true piece of work". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 1 February 2019.

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