A football match is of course all about what happens on the pitch. The record of that game will show how many shots your team had on target, how many yellow or red card there were and of course the score. There is, however, a disconnect in many ways between the cold hard facts of a game and what your experience is. Human experience is not defined by facts; it’s defined by experience. Just as one season ends with tears and heartbreak as Charlton bang in a last minute winner a close season opens up opportunity for a takeover and fresh blood. The thing with football is that it doesn’t stop. The unrelenting quest for satisfaction will always continue. If you’re a Man City fan that means you might win the Champions League, if you’re a Liverpool fan it means you might topple Man City and win the league. For Sunderland fans the aims are myriad. There are some of us who yearn for the community created by the fervent support regardless of results; for others, well it’s all about getting rid of the nonsensical league position we find ourselves in.
League One again, but what has really changed? When you make your journey to the Stadium of Light what will be different? You will walk towards that stadium and smell familiar smells, hear familiar sounds, see familiar sights. You will sit and talk to familiar people about familiar problems and stand when the team take to that familiar plush green rectangle. The close season is like an Elastoplast for a season as disappointing as we experienced last season. It provides time to heal and recover albeit with the scars of disappointment providing a sobering realisation of our position. The manager wasn’t good enough, the owners don’t have enough money, the fans weren’t loud enough. Most of this is beyond our control.
“We go again” is an awful expression. It means you’ve lost. It means you haven’t been good enough. All we can do is hope we are better and we try again. This close season we have seen departures and arrivals which perhaps indicate there is more of a plan. I’m not going to sit here and say Jack Ross is the answer but what I will say is this his opportunity. With the excesses of the past stripped away he now has the chance to reveal what he actually wanted in a team. Last season we had more central players than a Blair government. We could possibly have made an XI out of midfielders and yet the most creative part of our team didn’t bring us enough to turn those draws into wins. This season Jack Ross has stripped out some of that and bought or brought in players who might fit his system better.
Regardless of all the formation diagrams floating around on social media one thing will remain. You. We will walk towards those turnstiles with a little bit of pride that we are still going to make those gates click. I remember the familiar smells of Roker Park, cigarillo smoke filling the Fulwell End, Bovril and cold pies. I remember the sight of those steel arches over the Stadium of Light and the swell in my heart as I took pride in seeing our stadium. I remember countless roars filling my ears as collectively we cheered a goal that saved us from relegation, took us up or got us to Wembley. Levels are unimportant, experiences are everything. Have a good season everyone