We were all met with the sarcastic “wheeey, enjoy League One” remarks, and for all the terrible officiating and irritating time-wasting, the majority of Sunderland fans have thoroughly enjoyed this season… well up until around February anyway! Of course, it’s been a less than ideal end but for what it’s worth, there have been some pretty memorable moments.
GOOCH’S BULLET HEADER
The first league game for starters. What better way to kick off our League One campaign? Jack Ross surprised us all with his chosen starting 11. Bali Mumba featured for the first ever time and to the majority of fans, he was unheard of. But the 16-year-old certainly held his own. In terms of entertainment value, it wasn’t the best game to watch but a 96th-minute winner from Lynden Gooch sent us all into rapture. That goal had me thinking we could really take the league by storm, and while we didn’t quite do that, there was no better way to start the season. I also got quite well acquainted with Mexico 70 and their mad margaritas (just the four shots of tequila)
Luton away followed Charlton…I think; after 61-games, it feels like an absolute lifetime ago. While Luton are now playing in a higher division than us, going to their ground was certainly somewhat of a culture shock. The Premier League to the Championship wasn’t too bad of a shock. You’ve still got the likes of Hillsborough, Elland Road, and the Riverside in there but entering a football ground through someone’s actual back garden, within touching distance of their airing laundry, is an experience and a half.
THE OWNERS BONDING WITH FANS
Is anyone yet to see Charlie Methven without a picture of a pint in his hand? After Ellis Short shied away from the club for the majority of his tenure here, and rarely spoke out, it was refreshing to see Methven, Stewart Donald and Juan Satori all bond with fans. Donald has been regularly vocal on Twitter and both him and Methven have visited and stood with fans before, during and after games. Donald has rescued numerous fans (myself included) who’s coaches have broken down on the way to games, and as well as posing with pints, Methven has bought a fair few. Satori, the Uruguayan billionaire has also sat with fans and was loving life in the South Stand at home to Scunthorpe.
BRISTOL ROVERS AWAY
Bristol Rovers away in the league was unreal. As was it in the Checkatrade Trophy, even if I did arrive home at 4 am, only to have to be up an hour and a half later for work. Before the game, Methven got the pints in and his Mrs and I happily scoffed all of the ALS chief’s bonbons. And although the weather wasn’t quite as bad as it was at Accrington Stanley, standing in the open stand in the rain was less than ideal. But it was great to see the lads secure another Wembley trip.
Before Trafalgar, I was worried that the night would fail to live up the hype of Covent Garden in 2014 and felt like it would just be full of fans trying to force an atmosphere, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Rather than securing a trip to the Checkatrade Final, the scenes were more like we’d just won the treble. The flares, red smoke bombs and thousands upon thousands of lads fans taking over the capital was truly a sight to behold and the atmosphere was surreal. Everyone was having the time of their lives, dipping in and out of the fountain, playing football, having a good chant or two, and having a pint or ten. And for all of the people there, and all of the alcohol consumed, there wasn’t a single bit of bother!
Rochdale was another great game. Admittedly, we played pretty rubbish for the most part and went 1-0 down when Ian Henderson was able to lose his man and put the hosts in front, despite him and his impressive scoring record being made obvious prior to the game. Thankfully, after the break, Charlie Wyke managed to strike level, with the travelling supporters chanting his name so loud that the stand actually began to vibrate. A point would’ve been an ok result at that point, but we weren’t done yet and Honeyman poked home the winner in the last minute sparking some memorable celebrations for the away fans, even more so for those who managed to get onto the pitch. A side note for the announcer who turned Rocking All Over the World off before kick-off after Sunderland fans started chanting along with the Luke O’Nien song. Boooooo.
THE GIFT OF FOOTBALL
I am absolutely against having a winter break in football. For me, the non-stop fixture list is one of the best things about the festive period. And Bradford at home can certainly be the case in point here. Not only did we smash the League One record attendance with over 46,000 fans there, but we also picked up another win. And a close affair it was, with Jon McLaughlin pulling back the ball that was definitely over the line, only for the linesmen to be none the wiser; though, it’s about time an officiating decision went our way! Methven, Donald and Satori each donated a bunch of tickets to the Foundation of Light, and thousands of fans also paid for tickets to donate to the foundation for fans that would have otherwise not been able to go.
CELEBRATIONS AT WALSALL AWAY
One of my favourite games this season has definitely got to be Walsall away, if not for the way the game panned out and the celebrations afterwards. Going 2-0 down away from is always going to be tricky, and even more so when you play the majority of the game with ten men. It was never ever a red card for Power (as seen with the card being rescinded), and from the moment the referee made that decision, we had a mountain to climb. And if that wasn’t enough, their players made it clear that this was their big day out and their cup final - bless them - and continued to celebrate their goals in front of the travelling support. So, when Gooch rescued a point with seconds on the clock, it was refreshing to see Honeyman and O’Nien celebrate in front of their players before the latter clotheslined a lads fan who had made his way onto the pitch. After the likes of Rodwell, Kone, Borini and Djilobodji had taken the piss out the club and fans, it was good to see a bunch that genuinely care and won’t let the fans have the piss taken out of them. This was also the case for the melee Wycombe away, when Honeyman decided he’d try and fight every single person on the Wycombe bench, and when Cattermole when straight for Akinfenwa. It was also the same for Portsmouth at home when Flanagan offered his man out, and then the playoffs when Power and Cattermole offered half of the home support out.
CATTERMOLE THE GOAL MACHINE
Speaking of Cattermole, one of the best things about this season for me, is watching that little Smoggie chunk turn into a goal machine. As a defensive midfielder, goals are few and far between for Catts but that’s certainly not been the case this season. He scored both goals in a 2-1 win away to Wimbledon, secured a draw away to Coventry, put the lads in front at home to Gillingham, Walsall and Plymouth. He also put us ahead away to Fleetwood, but the less said about that, the better.
Bradford away was another one of the top ten moments of the season for me. Again, thanks to Max Power, we were down to ten men. And this time there was no excusing the midfielder who decided to kick out, and not only did he decide to kick out, but he decided to it would be wise to do so inside the box, to concede a penalty. I imagine he was a very unpopular man in the dressing room after that, however, it was Jon McLaughlin to the rescue (how many times this season?) as he saved the spot kick to ensure the lads retained the lead. How nice to have a competent goalkeeper after last season? Is anyone else still having nightmares about Lee Camp and Jason Steele?
Of course, it wasn’t the ending we were hoping for and we fell incredibly short. However, we can only hope we rebuild this season, sign a decent centre-back, two new full-backs and add something upfront and hopefully, we’ll be well on our way.