Football is played all over the world in every continent and nearly every city. Everyone plays it but nobody cares quite as much as we do in Sunderland. As a 15-year-old, football has been central to my life so far. At school, everyone plays football and everyone talks about it. We have all been born and bred in this amazing world of its own and it has become a home for us all. Every Saturday afternoon, since my first game at two year’s old, football, often not by my own choice, has taken over. The same way you love your parents and feel at home with them, I was also raised around SAFC and my home has always been the SOL.

Like many of us, I owe my love of the beautiful game to my not so beautiful dad. He has dragged me alone for as long as I can remember. I was lucky with football growing up and I remember many a privileged season in the Premier League, that now feels a world away. There were so many good moments that

I will never forget. One that always sticks in my head is the first time I cried. No matter how macho you pretend to be, I know many of you will also have cried at some point over this club. For me, it was 2014 and sat in the car after Wembley in floods of tears and I then realised this is what it feels like to be a Mackem! No amount of ‘its Ok’ and ‘we will get here again someday’ would make me feel better and this is one of my favourite memories because this is when I realised, I cared. Although I would have a thing or two to say to my younger self to let him know what he was getting himself into!

In recent years, football has come to mean a way of living my life and I have come to understand what it means to the people of this city. For generations, Sunderland AFC has been the rock this city has grown on and the haven from the tough lives we often lead. Through times of prosperity and in times of poverty, our club has stood strong. As the industry that this area relied on was ripped away from us, the Roker Roar endured. It has come to represent the passion, power and majesty of our past and support for when the present goes wrong as in those stands at 3 o’clock on a Saturday, as we all sing ‘Wise Men Say’ united as one community like we are all the richest men and women alive.

Today, I still go to every game with my Dad, my equally crazy cousin, Joe, and my lifetime football friends, The Pallas family. For a while I started to set up the RAWA flag displays before games in order to do my part with improving the atmosphere at the ground. After becoming more involved in helping the club, I started working at ALS on matchdays.

I love the opportunity to talk to so many fans on a matchday and share my love of the club. Working and contributing to the community that makes up our wonderful club has given me that sense of identity we all feel. There is no feeling on earth like it and it is an honour to sing my heart out for the lads every week and this is what those who don’t like football don’t understand. We are all in love with this club and its incredible fanbase, that, like me have been born and bred with the banks of the wear in our hearts.

For me, that is what it means to be a Mackem and to be born and bred on Wearside and I can’t wait for it all to return.