It ain't over 'til it's over, goes the saying, but us Sunderland fans know it was over for definite a fortnight ago and all but statistically way before that. Actually, it's a blessing that the whole wretched thing really IS over at last.
Nevertheless, we set off for the traditional last away game weekend of frolics on Saturday, unsurprised that virtually a full team had cried off with injuries, and still wondering if we could manage Julio's Wembley dream as well as, or instead of, Chelsea's champions party.
Also under discussion, naturally, was the fact that Moyes seems to have actually lightened up since relegation was confirmed. Pressure off, perhaps?
Quick pint in Hartlepool's wonderful Rat Race bar, 1242 train south with assorted Mackems and Sanddancers, bags hoyed into hotel, bit scran as we willed Bradford to beat Milwall - look, I don't care if everything south of the river is two for a pahnd, Bradford is a lot closer- then off to see Dr Feelgood via the Euston Tap. Don't say we ignore the culture of the capital! Whether Sunderland boy Robert Kane heard our Haway the Lads chant as we appealed for the encore we'll never know.
Everyone in and around the Bloomsbury hotel area seemed to be from Shields (mostly) or Sunderland and showed no signs of slowing down when I hoyed the towel in.
Somehow, our Ian decided that watching the highlights of the 1998 playoff final was a good way to spend the morning. There were some good moments, admittedly, then it was time to head for the West end.
Daft bets were placed at 597/1 for Boro Sunderland double, surprisingly few Sunderland folks turned up at the Sloany Pony, and we found the Shields game on a couple of phones. Their goals rained in, our team was announced, we laughed a nervous laugh and went to the match.
A free programme (already on its way to cousin Ollie in New York) later and we were into the John Terry love-in, spotting Fabio's missus at the bar.
Bright and sunny, we lined up:
Jones O'Shea Lescott
Manquillo Seb Catts Rodwell Oviedo
Aye, no Defoe, and it seems reports if the removal men being at his house during the week are true.
We actually went a bit mad and tried to play, kicking away from the visiting fans, and won a free I'm what used to be Seb territory. His effort took a deflection and fell perfectly for Manquillo to smash into the roof of the net to register his first and last Sunderland goal before he heads back to Spanish sunshine with memories of Roker beach.
It only lasted five minutes. Chelsea pinged it about like they've done all season and Willian hit an unstoppable low shot in off Pickford's hand. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
As the half hour arrived, so did the Shields stragglers who were doing both games. Unfortunately, so did a few alleged Chelsea fans who'd paid a fortune just to be there. Look, if you're that loyal you'd have been able to get a ticket. Apparently, we'd agreed to concede a throw in on 26 minutes so Terry go leave and go shoplifting with his mam, or ticket touting with his dad. On came Cahill.
We got to half time plus one added minute level thanks to a couple Pickford saves and some decent work in midfield - even Rodwell made some purposeful runs and Januzaj got in two defensive headers - but the second half didn't go our way.
They spent most of it with at least two subs warming up on the field - look, I know I'm being picky, but it's against the rules. We could see their second, on the hour, coming a mile off, then 15 later. O'Shea and Pickford got their positions all wrong to gift a third. Costa waved bye bye and took a plane to the bank of China and his replacement Batuchayu (?) bagged a brace in added time, of which there were two minutes.
Gibson and Gooch had got a run out, we'd win a few corners and shown a lot if commitment and effort, but it was never going to be. We bowed out of the Prem with a rotten score line, but Chelsea will have our songs ringing in their ears.
At least their party meant no queue at Fulham Broadway so we were able to meet Ian’s mate Dan at Euston then head to the Lamb for a pint with (or near to) the tiny James MacAvoy. The season was dissected in the snug with Rob, Kev, and Stu White of the Dubai branch, and we wondered where we'd be in a year's time.
Man of the Match? Probably Manquillo. He worked hard and he scored, which hasn't been said of many this season
Keep the faith
ALS T Shirts click here