Talking Sunderland with… Frankie & The Heartstrings

Frankie & The Heartstrings
Frankie & The Heartstrings… String some nice passes together

Frankie & The Heartstrings haven’t just recorded a new album titled The Days Run Away, to be released on May 27th. No, they have also deigned to impart their Sunday League football wisdom upon us, as you shall see over the series of videos interlaced with the following natter we enjoyed with front man Frankie Francis on the subject of his beloved Sunderland. (The Black Cats’ Premier League status had been preserved by Wigan Athletic’s 4-1 defeat at Arsenal the night before, so said natter was doubly timely.)

First up, get a simultaneous earful of and butcher’s at the five-a-side-themed video for the single “Nothing Our Way”, out on Monday…

Congratulations on Sunderland’s survival.

Thank you very much! It got a bit hairy when Wigan pulled it back to 1-1 but thankfully Arsenal finished them off in the second half. We survived, Paolo did it.

Were you in favour of his appointment?

Yes and no. The whole Martin O’Neill thing came out of the blue – it was Saturday night when it all unfolded and I was DJ’ing in Sunderland town centre that night. I’ve never seen so many guys wandering around looking at their phones with a face on them saying, “What’s going on?” (Laughs) It was like zombies were walking around, it was surreal.

The appointment of Paolo Di Canio was even more bizarre but I think he’s been brought in as a motivator more than anything. He’s certainly got passion. I’ve got a season ticket along with Michael from the band and when you’re at the stadium you can see him kicking every ball with his team.

Would you break the bank for Danny Rose?

I think we should show some ambition by bringing in players like Danny Rose. He’s been a great loan acquisition for us this season and if he hadn’t been there we’d have struggled even further. I’d love to see him stay at the club because he’s had a great season for us. We’ll have to see if Spurs let him go.

Would you be able to name your player and goal of the season? Football Burp can imagine what your favourite goal might be.

It could be one of three goals! Player of the season has to be Simon Mignolet – I’m very surprised he wasn’t named in the team of the year ahead of David de Gea. Mignolet pulled off a match-changing save at least once a game and he’s well-loved here. He looked shaky a couple of years ago but managers have seen something in him, stuck with him and I don’t think he has anything to prove now. He’s a world class goalkeeper who will eventually play for a top club, I think.

What were the first, best and worst matches you’ve ever been to?

The first was in 1992-93 against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Roker Park. I was in the Fulwell End and we lost 2-0 (laughs). Not a very good introduction to football. Best game I’ve been to…well, there’s been a lot more bad than good so I can’t think off the top of my head. Maybe the day we stayed up and Newcastle went down the other season, that was a good game. (Ums and ahs)

It’s usually more relief than joy when we win! Quite often we’re reliant on other people to help us out. I guess getting beat at home to Newcastle is always a bad one, and I’ve seen a few relegations too. We don’t just have bad games, we have bad seasons. This has been a poor season – we couldn’t have finished any lower without going down, you know?

I just don’t know what happened under O’Neill. It seemed to be a match made in heaven, a top, top manager at his childhood club. Somehow it just didn’t work out. We brought in players as well, spent money on players like Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson – for some reason Johnson just hasn’t done it, apart from the occasional moment of brilliance, and Fletcher’s out injured. It’s been a hard season.

In retrospect, do you think Steve Bruce may have been harshly treated?

In some respects yes but it was very frustrating watching him put square pegs in round holes. Like O’Neill, he was very stubborn and did the same things week in, week out. There were obvious things that everyone could see weren’t getting done under O’Neill and Bruce, although Bruce did help us to our second highest league finish ever.

There was always this thing about Bruce being a Newcastle fan but I don’t think Sunderland fans were particularly bothered about that – we just wanted someone who looked like they were ambitious and wanted to do a job. At times under Bruce, it didn’t look like that at all, but we haven’t kicked on under O’Neill so in that respect he was treated unfairly. That’s football now – look at Mancini.

If you had to name a five-a-side team out of all the Sunderland players you’ve seen in your time as a fan, who would you pick?

Simon Mignolet, Kevin Ball, Craig Russell, Kevin Phillips…it’s hard to think of great Sunderland players off the top of my head…

You can put yourself in it if you like.

Alright then. I was quite a handy winger in my time! (Laughs)

Did you ever encounter a particularly troublesome dog poo?

No but I remember my first game for my school – I ran on with fifteen minutes to go, my mum was watching and a lot of friends came down to watch it. Straight away I jumped up for a corner and someone kicked us straight in the knackers (laughs). I remember rolling around on the floor, and the referee coming over and saying “I can’t do anything there, son”. In subsequent years I’ve broken my tibia and fibia playing football, dislocated my knee a couple of years after that, got knocked unconscious and woke up in A&E another time.


Just a bit. I’ve had to take up other sports!

Frankie & The Hamstrings?

I haven’t done my hamstring yet. Surely that’s next on the list.

Frankie Francis, thank you.

Sunderland’s sharpest and best-connected band, Frankie & The Heartstrings, are to release their second album The Days Run Away via their own Pop Sex Ltd label on 27th May.

For more information, please visit the official Frankie & The Heartstrings website.

Frankie & The Heartstrings - The Days Run Away