As we wake up and rub the sleep out of our eyes on a sunny Sunday morning that unfamiliar feeling of positivity slowly works its way into your consciousness again. Sitting in the Fanzone before the match was a completely different experience to previous seasons. People were smiling. I know that’s a small thing in a way and probably should be a given, but the smiles reflected a buoyant atmosphere and a sense of togetherness. Players mingling with fans, owners playing 5 a side; everything just seemed more open, more friendly.
As Dance of the Knights started up I thought they had jumped the gun a bit as it seemed slightly premature. There was mild panic in the corridors of the SOL as the theme tune which triggers people to finish their pints and pop for a quick slash before the teams come out echoed round bars. There was, however, no need to panic. Personally speaking I loved the Prokofiev intro to the match but in recent years I just see Alan Sugar’s smug face whenever I hear it and do feel that it’s been tainted a little. When it gave way to a pumping dance beat before Adaggio for strings pierced the air I had to choke something back. That seemed to sum us up a little, the suffering we had been through enunciated by those strings. For two seasons we had been Willem Dafoe on his knees peppered by machine gunfire on rice fields arms stretched, helpless. And then the beat kicked in. Some fans may not warm immediately to Invaders Must Die as a walk out tune but for me it marked a rebirth of swagger. We are Sunderland was no longer a meaningless chant. To be Sunderland meant strength, determination and intimidation for visitors. You’re on our turf now. Our manor. Show us respect.
So, to the match itself which you will all have read about, watched, tweeted and retweeted and so no detail required on that front. For me though the signs are there for this to be an amazing season. Bearing in mind we had some players who may well prove to be key absent from the game (McGeouch, Wyke, McGeady) and others who have jumped from small teams to playing in front of 31,000 gloriously vocal fans next to teammates they didn’t know a month ago I thought our second half was full of promise. As Charlton sang about our city being a shithole something rose in the north stand. Pride. Pride for the city, the identity, the club. Those on the lower tear turned and looked upwards. They smiled and jeered. How dare you come to our manor and slag off our city. Get a bit of Gooch up you.
The roar for that goal was a release for everyone at the stadium. A moment to be savoured. Yes it’s only league one and yes it’s only one game and yes we were only playing Charlton; but there was so much more at stake than three points yesterday. In the space of a summer the new owners have lifted our heads, dusted us off and sent us into that stadium with our war faces on. And it feels bloody fantastic.