Sunderland AFC 2-1 Charlton Athletic FC
August 4th 2018
Stadium of Light
Now that the dust has settled on a very long, and ultimately very disappointing campaign, a look back at my favourite game of the 2018/19 Season feels like a deep delve into the archives.
From the moment I set off to the match on that opening day, it felt completely different to the recent years of despair.
Yes, this was the Third tier of English Football but the faces on the Metro were happy ones, and there were many Red & White shirts on display. (Thankfully not so many of the previous year’s pinstripe effort)
The fans were proudly discussing all things SAFC instead of staring blankly at their phones. The new ownership, a new Manager and new players we had barely heard of, helped provide many a conversation piece.
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 the aforementioned new owners. There were players past and present mingling with fans, beer flowing, every other supporter with a programme or fanzine in their hand, large queues for refreshments and a real feel-good atmosphere.
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 buzz about the place. There were fans like myself who had drifted to occasional attendees, now with Season Card in hand ready to start afresh.
I walked over to the Stadium of Light about 20mins before Kick Off, to encounter another surprise – long queues outside the turnstiles. What was this madness?
Taking our seats in the South Stand (remember when it was called that!), there were fans already stood singing, all getting behind the team before they entered onto the pitch.
New music was playing in the build up to the players emerging from the tunnel, followed by a huge roar as one of our Academy protégés led out an unrecognisable side.
SUBS: Ruiter, Oviedo, Baldwin, Sinclair, Embleton, Hume, Molyneux
The atmosphere was good throughout the game, even during the most challenging spells. None more so than when Lyle Taylor (having turned down the opportunity to sign for us in the Summer) opened the scoring from the spot. The roar of encouragement from the home fans was a delight to hear. Again, this was completely different to the previous few years.
Getting in at Half Time only one behind was as good as we could have expected and we grew into the game a lot more in the second period.
Another lad who had graduated from the Academy, Josh Maja, scored a fine equaliser and yet another in Lynden Gooch headed home a dramatic last-gap winner to generate noise that hadn’t been heard at the Stadium of Light in a couple of years.
Leaving the ground, there were beaming smiles all around, and a real sense of a new beginning.
It was absolutely wonderful.
There were 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 that day it’s not through rose-tinted spectacles, it was just superb. All those minor issues spoilt nothing back in August, nor matter now.
I went home and watched match highlights on Digital TV Channel UK Conquest, and I couldn’t really care less about any negatives, the remainder of the Transfer Window, being in League One or any of that. It just felt like a proper matchday again. Something I had not felt for years. No apathy, just an eager anticipation of what was to come.
Sunderland V Charlton
A 2-1 result.
A last-minute winner.
What’s not to love?
Ha’way the Lads