First let me say that I’m writing this under duress. While I’d like to forget everything about Sunderland over the last few years, if you’re only giving me one day to forget, let it be that one.
It felt wrong all the way through. I even had a weird ticketing problem that seemed to think I was in the wrong place… actually looking back, maybe I was.
It was yet another chance at redemption, to cleanse the evils of the past and, having put the first evil of the league to the sword in the semi-final, we could now crush our other big divisional rival with the same blow as destroying our Wembley nightmares and our one season League One visit.
But it just didn’t feel ‘meant to be’. It felt wrong. Like it was the awkward hangover from the Portsmouth final only weeks earlier. The fans were nervous, they knew what it meant, how important it could be for the club. The owners had brought suitors with them to see the fans in full voice and be there for the return to the Championship. And the players, well, the players all season had turned up and not turned up in equal measure. We waited to see if this would be yet another dreadful turgid 1-1 or one of those flashes of genius we knew they were capable of.
Charlton were a poor side in a poor division and we just wanted to leave both behind. And at first it seemed like Charlton wanted us to go up too. Or at least Dillon Phillips, their keeper, did. That first goal was bizarre. Beyond bizarre. If it wasn’t that I am trying to forget the whole thing I’d watch it back. Maybe it would be OK after all. We’re 1-0 up as a kind of gifted head start. But then Power took a heavy knock and had to be replaced. And we were still not quite at ten minutes played. Yet again, we sat back after taking the lead. Disorganised and disjointed. Our great hope was that our broken footed Messiah would come on and steal the game with an epic freekick or pin point cross on to Wyke’s head (oh wait, that wasn’t happening back then). But McGeady couldn’t save us that day or save us from the game which had become horribly tedious.
The whole thing became a season summary in 90 minutes. Grigg was thrown in to a game crying out for Maja. Lyle Taylor was watching us suffer without a goal scorer adding to the bitterness. Jack Ross seemed unable to think of what to do to turn it round, his back room staff offering slightly less to proceedings than the bench they sat on.
The only thing missing was our own defensive blunder gifting victory to an underserving team… wait… then it came. As the clock ticked down like the end of an episode of 24, a different Bauer, Patrick not Jack, appeared and scored a dreadful scrappy goal to end a dreadful scrappy season and relegating us not to 24 more hours but 24 months of League One. But this time it’ll be different… won’t it?
With every possibility this season will end in a play off, I find myself looking at the table first to see if we can get into those top two spots and then secondly, at Portsmouth and Charlton to see where they are because I really don’t want to play either of them there again.