Is it me or is going to watch the lads exciting again? I will be honest, I’ve never been to an away game since we were relegated from the premier league. The inevitable relegation of a team that simply didn’t want to give their all for the shirt was a hard one to take, it bruised my love of the club. Were these the same players that beat Chelsea and Everton to stop up the previous season. Kone wandering around like we all owed him a favour for staying. Moyes the only manager I’ve had real hatred for, blaming everyone and anything apart from himself. Borini looking nothing like the player we loved under Poyet. I was sick of it. Margaret Byrne, Adam Johnson, Ellis Short and Martin Bain all aided in the big mess that we found ourselves in. The Grayson appointment hardly got my pulse racing either, the season which followed was also horrendous. If somebody told me at Xmas last season that Luke Steele wouldn’t be the worst keeper to play for Sunderland all year I’d have carted them off to a mental hospital, but there’s rock bottom and then there’s having Lee Camp in goal.
I had seriously thought of not introducing my little boy to my love of Sunderland, did I really want him to suffer like me, the kids at school support Man City, Chelsea and Man United. How could I persuade my lad that watching Sunderland would be so amazing when I didn’t believe it myself. Stories my dad told me of 73’ and him crying every time he sees Monty’s saves reminded me that we weren’t always going to be awful. Just how long would I have to wait for him to watch his heroes and know all the players. Wear his shirt with pride and understand what we are as a club. It felt like it would be a million miles away.
Fast forward five months and our club is back, the concourses of the SOL buzz with excitement for kick off. The stadium looks fresh and clean with the new seats, we have a chairman who actually wants to succeed. A young manager who can change tactics and shape to suit the course of the game, and fans, thousands of fans who will travel to the end of the country to will the team on. Players who go absolutely mental when we score. Yes, it’s safe to say we are loving League 1. So, I took the plunge and signed up for Donny away.
Going to work until just after dinner I had the tingle, the sense of anticipation that only an away game can give. Quick dart home, shower and out the door to the train station, couple of cans on the train and I was back to where I was 12/13 years ago when following us under Keane. Living for the matches, living and breathing Sunderland. The Doncaster game was never going to make it into a list of all-time great games that I have witnessed but it is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve been to for a long time, crunching tackles, young lads grafting hard and Gooch and Maguire pulling their full back’s pants down.
While I am quick to remind myself of false dawns and that we haven’t achieved anything yet. The decisions that have been made so far have been excellent. The recruitment has been more or less a resounding success with only Wyke and Ozturk left to prove themselves, and Jack Ross, well what an appointment he has been. He adapts our tactics to the shape of the game and finds ways to grind points out. We look like a team desperate to win, a team playing for the fans and each other.
It’s safe to say my love for Sunderland is back. It’s early days but this could be the start of something fantastic.