From the moment I set off to the match yesterday it felt different to recent times. Smiling faces on the Metro with many Red and White shirts on display. There were people discussing all things Sunderland AFC instead of staring blankly at their phones. The walk from St Peters Station saw fans laughing and joking, there were even a few that were singing… this was, well, like what going to the match should feel like!
The FanZone was a hive of activity, kids playing football alongside our owners, past and present players mingling with fans, beer flowing, every other supporter with a programme or fanzine in their hand, large queues for refreshments and real feel good, family-friendly atmosphere.
The aforementioned queues were a bit off putting for me, so I went elsewhere for a couple of pre-match pints. I caught up with mates I’d not seen in ages, chatted to other fans I’d not met previously, and there was just a great feeling about the place.
I walked over to the Stadium about 20mins before Kick Off, to encounter another surprise – long queues outside the turnstiles. Madness.
Taking our seats in the South Stand, there were fans stood singing already, getting behind the team before they entered the pitch. New music playing in the build up to the players emerging from the tunnel, and a huge roar as one of our Academy protégés led out the side most of us were seeing for the first time.
The atmosphere was good throughout the game, even during the most challenging spells, and the noise that met the last-minute winner hadn’t been heard at the Stadium of Light in years.
Leaving the ground, there were beaming smiles all around, and a real sense of a new beginning.
It was absolutely wonderful.
There are of course many things that were not perfect (The 1st Half display, turnstile issues, problems with speakers in the ground, the concourse queues at Half Time etc), but as I reflect on yesterday it’s not through rose-tinted spectacles, it was just superb. I have sore throat and slight hangover, but I have strong coffee and match highlights on the TV for the 4th time. I couldn’t really care less about any negatives.
This felt like a proper matchday. Something I have not felt for years. No apathy, just an eager anticipation of what may come.
Thank you to Stewart Donald. Without him, none of this would have happened.
There will be many bumps in the road ahead, but for now I am going to embrace and enjoy every moment of what it’s like to enjoy watching Sunderland again.
Ha’way the Lads