It’s not until you move away from the North East that you learn that Wearside has something about it, something different. And I don’t mean the place necessarily, the bricks and mortar, the beaches and hills are no more or less beautiful than those elsewhere. We’ve a history to be proud of, sure, but so have other places. So what makes Wearside different?
It’s the emotion. Raw, unapologetic emotion. And the most obvious of those emotions is pride. Pride in our home, our region, our people.
Whatever we do, whatever we have done and, I suspect whatever we will do, that pride is evident.
Look at the North East and you’ll see pride over the silliest things - allotment sheds are made to look like palaces, aunties and grannies have collections of tat that are presented in cabinets like the British museum, the very idea that our front step wouldn’t be cleaner and whiter than every other step in the street…
Once we were proud that the coal that powered the British Empire was dug in Durham. That it powered ships built on the Wear that circumnavigated the globe. But they were taken away from us. Hell, we even dealt with the death of those industries with pride. Not looking back sadly but rather acknowledging our past and looking to remember it in the future. Go to the Miners’ Gala in Durham in July. You’ll see band after band, banner after banner of pride for the people who went before. People who got us this far.
But now it’s our turn. Our turn to show the world that we are Wearside. There are rumours again that jobs might be going. Rumours that the region has difficult times ahead and, of course, we find our football team in the third tier.
But so what? We are not ashamed of where we find ourselves, not embarrassed or hiding. We’ve come through worse before and we’ll come back stronger than ever. We’re Sunderland ‘til we die.
Sunderland AFC haven’t really helped the fans feel proud over the last few years, we’ve just had to be proud of ourselves and our commitment to the cause – holding our heads up and singing our hearts out for the lads.
We played Leicester away two years ago, they’d won the title the season before and even then, they didn’t fill the ground. We filled the away end despite knowing where the season would almost certainly end, proud to represent our region whatever the result.
‘Champions of England, you’ll never sing that’ was the chant from the home end.
‘You’re nothing special, we’ve won it six times’ came the answer. Proud of our history and united in that pride.
I keep being asked why we care about the ‘reserves cup’, the ‘mickey mouse trophy’. Care? I’m not sure we do. A win this afternoon is unlikely to get Jack Ross a statue. Win, lose or draw, it won’t decide whether we’ve had a successful season. So do we care? Not especially. Are we proud to represent our region? Our club on the ground where England won the World Cup, where Raich and Bobby lifted the FA Cup? Unquestionably. Look around you at Wembley and feel at home. At home with likeminded people, proud of where they and their families are from and what that means. 40,000 strong we will stand together and remind the footballing world that we haven’t gone away. We’re still here and, in fact, we’re on our way back.
Our club and our region stands on the shoulders of the giants that got us here. And to misquote the Lake Poets, they can see us now.
And I’m sure we’ll be making them proud.