After reading the impeccably written 'Faith No More' article a few days back, it made me realise how much I’m looking forward to getting back into the SOL and watching the lads…
IT'S BEING THERE
Football is all about moments. Whilst a goal is still a goal, the ecstatic emotion of seeing the ball fly into the back of the net isn't met with the same jubilation as it once was. Holding your breath for a split second before celebrating like caged animals in amongst thousands of other fans is a feeling unable to be replicated by watching goals go in via a stream in your living room. Goals become moments and moments become memories, and it's the memories that make us crave being back into the Stadium of Light. As we get closer to the end of the season with each passing game, my heart is still always in my mouth in the closing moments of all our affairs as I pray we make this season our last in the third tier, but there are no real memories to look back on! After sprinting the length of the pitch and netting our third to confirm victory against Oxford United last Friday, Max Power would have likely been at the front and centre of celebrating with the crowd, as we clapped and roared the lads off, with an iconic song blasting through the speakers. This would have been followed by filtering out of the Stadium of Light and to wherever is next for fans after that. For many, it would be through the Sheepfolds and into the town to continue the celebrations. Instead, thousands of fans likely turned off their stream and carried out mundane tasks for the rest of the day to keep ourselves occupied (myself included). As much as matchdays are still just as much of a highlight in my week as usual, they just aren't the same this season.
I could probably make endless points about how special away days are, but another feature missing of this season is the novelty of discovery. Especially in recent seasons with away fixtures taking us to places such as Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and AFC Wimbledon, part of the fun of being a travelling supporter is turning up to a ground you never thought you'd visit, finding pubs or places to go in the lead up to kick-off and walking through streets you never would if it wasn't for the shared love we have of this football club. I remember, in particular, visiting Bramall Lane to play Sheffield United in the cup on a Wednesday (there's a joke about their city rivals in there somewhere) evening last season. A lengthy walk to the first pub that allowed away fans was followed by a pleasant hour-or-so in a beer garden as the sun went down. As much as getting turned away by several pubs was tedious, it's all part of the novelty of an away day! Even just writing about this game now brings back the memory of turning over a Premier League outfit days after that 1-1 draw away to Bolton that made us want to tear our hair out.
I think the reason I love this football club can be summed up in one word: community. Whilst we can disagree all day on players, managers and even expectations, we all want the best for this club, and thoroughly enjoy the pain it puts us through at times, and that is what unites us. Sunderland AFC isn't just a football club made up of athletes competing in organised tournaments, it's a community of people who all share the same love and being part of that is (I think) what really makes following this club different to any other. Bumping into old friends, meeting up with family and forming new friendships with fellow fans all coincide with supporting this club. It's quite crazy the ability this football club has to bring people together. This club can be painful, at the best of times, to follow but it can often be in times of despair that the community spirit shines through. Following Sunderland, to me, is about the communal love we share as much as anything else and is why I can't wait to be back.