Well, what a whirlwind of a day yesterday was. That last minute bullet header from Lynden Gooch will live long in the memory for years to come, the Stadium of Light was bouncing for the first time in so long, too long in fact. But what was more special about yesterday’s game was that this was my girlfriend’s first experience of the SOL.
Not long ago I wrote an article about how I became a Sunderland fan myself, a question that is asked of me all of the time due to the fact that I was born and bred in Blackpool. So, my goal has always been to convert those around me, who are without a club to support into members of the red and white army, which is a difficult task at the best of times.
On Friday night I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, so excited that I secretly set my other half’s alarm for 5:30am. Personally I believe that this is a perfectly reasonable hour to wake up and get excited for the lads! Needless to say, she was far from impressed with me when she got herself ready, to then only just notice that it was 6:15am.
So, we set off from a dull, cloudy Blackpool in the early hours and arrived in sunny Sunderland at around 10am and immediately headed for the Fanzone. I got myself a nice cold(ish) beer whilst she tucked into an incredibly overpriced cup of wine in the sun. The red and white army slowly started to assemble around us as the atmosphere began to build.
She was absolutely loving it, even making friends with other Mackems. Mainly quizzing them on the North East vocabulary, which is always an amusing conversation to watch. But nevertheless, she was making friends. We got into the ground and she was in awe. She was already impressed by the SOL from the outside, but it was a different beast when she got inside.
As the game progressed she was in and out of her seat more than I was, she was joining in with the fans chanting and screaming from the bottom of her lungs, I could see the transformation starting to take place right in front of my eyes. It was beautiful. Then, when that 96th minute winner hit the back of the net, the euphoria in her eyes was simply breath-taking. I squeezed her in celebration until she went blue in the face, she was frantically jumping up and down and throwing her arms all over the place. That’s when I knew, the conversion was complete... she is a Mackem.
I asked her after the game what was her favourite part of the day. And very similar to my story of how I became a Sunderland fan, she answered “the fans”. She said that she was taken back by how friendly and kind the fans were. She arrived at the Stadium of Light feeling like a somewhat outsider, but left feeling like part of a family.
This goes to show how truly amazing our fans are. So, all I can say to the red and white army is, never change. Keep being amazing.