Chris Coleman slammed by Aiden McGeady in new Sunderland documentary as cameras also capture explosive confrontation with angry supporter
THEY pitched a fairytale then filmed a horror show – but the end product is TV gold.
Executive producers Ben Turner and Leo Pearlman planned a “phoenix from the flames” story when they started shooting a season-long series on their boyhood club Sunderland.
Instead, they ended up documenting a further fall from grace, as their beloved Black Cats suffered a second straight relegation.
Turner admits that, as fans, the events that unfolded were “beyond our wildest nightmares”.
Yet with two managers sacked, a change of ownership and demotion to League One, the unexpected script was a documentary-maker’s dream.
SunSport has been granted exclusive access to all eight episodes of Sunderland ‘Til I Die before it comes out on Netflix on Friday week.
And compared to Manchester City’s airbrushed Amazon series All or Nothing, this is warts and all, as the full shock and gore of Sunderland’s season is laid bare behind the scenes.
Pearlman told SunSport: “The Man City piece is a very polished PR exercise. It looks great and it certainly has some great moments.
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“But I think it’s quite hard to sit down and watch eight hours of that. A lot of it just feels like you are watching what they want you to see. I hope that the Sunderland documentary is quite different from that.
“I hope people see it as a genuine heart-on-the-sleeve look at more than just a football club, but also a city, a fanbase and a part of the world. We pitched it as the idea of a massive club being relegated and following them on this phoenix from the flames season – but obviously it didn’t quite turn out like that!”
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Turner added: “With documentaries, stuff usually beyond your wildest dreams happens. In this one, it was beyond our wildest nightmares.
“What was going on was just so unbelievable, the issue ended up being about how we were going to fit it all in.”
One of the most memorable moments comes at the end of episode seven, after Sunderland’s relegation is confirmed following a humiliating home defeat to Burton.
Chris Coleman is signing the back of a toddler’s shirt when a fan calls him over to tell him, “You haven’t got a f****** clue mate”.
As the Black Cats boss walks off, the supporter shouts, “F****** p****”, prompting the Welshman to turn back and say, “You calling me a p****? I’m a married man with six kids”.
The abusive fan squares up to Coleman and is angling for a fight, but a colleague and club legend Kevin Ball step in to keep the pair apart.
Pearlman told SunSport: “It was just a moment of pure honesty. It’s genuine. It’s great.
“It was a fan who probably spends an enormous percentage of his wage going to follow this club. And it was an outpouring of emotion at one of the lowest points in the club’s history.”
Honesty and emotion are themes throughout – whether that be from fans, players, managers or staff, including the club’s chef Joyce, who is one of the stars of the show.
The series opens with a scene from a local church because, as Turner explains, “football is a religion in the North East”.
Episode three starts with a supporter screaming towards his team: “Paid a lot of money to watch that shower of s**** – no effort, no class, no f****** idea.”
Aiden McGeady slams manager Chris Coleman on Episode 7 of Sunderland ‘Til I Die. Here is what the Black Cats winger says…
On Coleman’s tactics after a draw at Millwall:
“The instructions that he gave the wingers were to stay high and wide. I’d never played in a 4-3-3 before so I was a bit unsure of what to do when I didn’t have the ball. We have no chance of winning a game with that system – almost impossible to win it.”
On Coleman’s managerial methods:
“If a player keeps making the same mistake, show them the mistake they are making. I’ve had managers before who come in and go crazy. He just kind of comes in and it’s, ‘We could have done this better, right, sound, move on’. It’s just kind of an acceptance of, ‘That’s OK’. You come into training a couple of days later and everyone is laughing and joking and we’ve just been beaten 3-0 at home.”
On Coleman’s handling of Lewis Grabban, who cut shot his season-long loan at Sunderland in January:
“Even if you don’t like Grabbs as a person, but you know he’s valuable to the team because he’s scored 12 goals – manage the player. I think the manager thought that Grabbs was disposable and we’d get someone else in who could do the same job, but that never happened.”
Simon Grayson, who was sacked in October, admits Sunderland are “like the Titanic”, while his replacement Coleman says it is “a tornado of pain and suffering and anxiety and stress”.
Aiden McGeady is filmed slaughtering Coleman’s 4-3-3 formation after a 1-1 draw at Millwall, saying they have “no chance of winning a game with that system”.
The winger then blasts the Welshman’s managerial methods – including his handling of top scorer Lewis Grabban, who quit the club in January.
Martin Bain describes his chief executive role as “the toughest job in British football” and grants incredible access, particularly on the two transfer deadline days.
Pearlman said: “I know the fans’ perception of Martin was that he was Ellis Short’s stooge.
“But that guy was doing 22-hour days every day of the week to try and turn an impossible situation around.
“We wanted to show that yes, the club was in absolute disarray both on and off the pitch, but the people within the club were working their absolute b******* off.”
Throughout the season, a camera is fixed in the physio room of Sunderland’s training ground.
From that is some fascinating footage, including a team-mate asking £70,000-a-week outcast Jack Rodwell if he might play at the weekend, to which he replies, “No chance mate”.
Pearlman admits players forgot the camera was there but explained: “We weren’t looking to stitch them up. There were lots of things said that some people would think were fairly controversial. But none of that made it in because it wasn’t relevant to the story we were telling.”
The final episode shows popular new owner Stewart Donald completing his takeover of the club from Ellis Short.
And Fulwell73 – the production company named after an end of Sunderland’s old Roker Park stadium and the year they won the FA Cup – are filming a second series to show Jack Ross’ side’s promotion push out of League One.
Pearlman said: “We ended the first series with the new owners taking over so it felt impossible not to continue telling this story.”
Turner added: “The owners trying to turn the club around is incredibly interesting so series two is going to be really amazing.”
*Sunderland ‘Til I Die launches on Netflix on December 14*