As Sunderland fans we haven’t had much to shout about in the past 18 months or so, things have got so bad that many are scared of losing the next generations of fans. But the next generation of massive lads are still very much coming through as evidenced from this poignant story of Saturday’s game by John Ridley. Take it away John…
On Saturday I took my family to Bristol City away as it’s one of the closest games from our southern home. For me it was always going to be an emotional one as It was the first game I’ve been to since my dad passed away. We always went to games together. My wife, Lindsey and eldest son James have been before, but it was my 5 year old Henry’s first ever game. He was really excited and didn’t shut up about it all week. I thought he’d be the kid who has no interest whatsoever and I’d be taking him for a wee every 5 minutes. But he surprised me so much. He’s bad enough at home, forever singing Lee Cattermole songs and accurately observing, ‘Sunderland are rubbish dad.’
We got to the ground fairly early as we wanted to watch the warm ups. To my surprise Henry picked out Aiden McGeady straight away. ‘There’s Mcgeady’. He recognises him from FIFA 18 believe it or not. He clapped the players off and we took our seats ready for the game. Henry was stood on his chair singing his heart out all the first half. He even said if Bristol score a 3rd we definitely won’t win. There was a lot of booing, but he kept singing all the Sunderland songs (we have adapted some of the songs that contain naughty words). Although Shearer is a wally doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!
Even as the second half kicked off he was still glued to the action whilst my eldest son was too busy reading the programme. Then the first own goal goes in which mustered only ironic celebrations, but he loved it. Soon after his favourite played, Mcgeady scores the second and as the video shows he goes mental. His reaction is better than mine. Thumbs upping random fans he’s never met before.
However, the best was still to come, as the game entered stoppage time we forced home the equaliser and we hugged so tight it brought tears to my eyes. I felt a real connection with my son which I did with my dad when I was a young fan at Roker Park. His face when McGeady scored will live with me forever. A real teary moment where a dad is proud of his son.
After the game we went to see the players. I thought I was Henry’s hero but when he saw McGeady his face just lit up. We got his photo and Henry shook his hand like a gentleman. He was even booing the Bristol city players as they came out. It’s nice to see innocent supporting without them knowing the politics behind the club.
I always thought I would have gone to watch Sunderland with ‘the lads’ but taking the family was one of the best things I’ve ever done. They all embraced it in every way. We all know Sunderland can be difficult to support but that second half at Bristol you would have thought we’d won the league. It’s nice to see young fans coming through especially with the current plight.
Henry has been buzzing ever since. He hasn’t stopped saying thank you to me. It’s going to cost me a bomb now as he will have to come to all the games I go to. I hope he is another in the long list of fans who say, ‘I get it through my dad’ which so many of us can relate to. Even my wife enjoyed it and it’s definitely something we can now do as a family.
*The video John refers to in the article can be seen here...https://twitter.com/Ridderz86/status/962436145815654401