Sunderland. Middlesbrough. Newcastle. The three clubs used to represent an established triskelion of Premier League football in the North East of England. They represented the region proudly and offered a real pathway and opportunity to the rich talent pool located in England’s far northern reaches. Each has a proud legacy of producing some of England’s finest, while the derby clashes between the clubs were notable throughout the country.
Those were the modern day glory days. In itself there is a sadness to that as none of the three achieved much of note during this period of Premier League co-existence but just the fact there were three clubs present representing the region was a good start to providing a pipeline for North East footballing talent.
Sadly, those times are far from recognisable now with Newcastle only just attempting to re-establish themselves in the top flight after multiple yo-yo attempts into the Championship in the past decade – though with a potential mega-money takeover on the horizon there could still be exciting times on the horizon. Middlesbrough have meanwhile become perennial Championship challengers, always seeming just a position or two off the playoff places come the season’s end.
Most tragic of all three however is Sunderland who achieved the ignominy of back-to-back relegation out of the Premier League and then the Championship, landing them square in League One. Yet, at first, there was little concern as they were not the first team to suffer the same fate. In recent seasons, recognisable English names have also ended up in League One including Wolves, Leeds and recently Premier League winners Blackburn. All bounced back with promotion after a single season in the third tier.
Unfortunately for the Black Cats, the same has not been true. Sunderland has struggled and faltered, drifting into a similar position of always being just outside the playoffs as Middlesbrough have in the league above. As each season passes, it becomes tougher for the club to bounce back and by extension the North East loses even more opportunity at restoring its past Premier League cohort. For the talented pool of young players in the North East, lower tiers means lower spending on youth recruitment.