It’s been a while since did any writing but I’m hoping that this return to the keyboard can act as some sort of therapy. Social media has made avoiding Wembley a virtual impossibility – not that I want to avoid it of course. The problem is that I, like many others out there, am a passionate, long suffering fan of SAFC without a ticket. It hurts. But I accept and understand that not everyone can attend.
Over the past few months, with each successful step towards the hallowed turf of Wembley the excitement and the anticipation has been cranked up a notch. The confirmation that we’d actually reached our goal started a stampede for tickets that saw season ticket holders queuing all day to get their hands on their tickets (despite being guaranteed them). It was like a hybrid of the Great Gold Rush and the search for Willy Wonka’s final golden ticket, and the prize was no less valuable than either to our fanatical supporters.
For someone that lives outside the region, with family, work and financial restrictions, the chance to own a season ticket is only likely to happen following a win on the Lotto. Does that make me a lesser fan than someone that’s been to every game for the last 20 years? In truth, it probably does. Does it make me any less passionate about my team? Does the agony of defeat hurt any less or the ecstasy of victory feel less euphoric? No, I doubt it; you see football and supporting Sunderland is as important to me as it is to any true fan. It’s in your blood, in your psyche and there is nothing you can do to dampen the spirit it stirs inside you.
Do I have an issue with the way that tickets have been allocated? No, I think the club has been as fair as possible with the resources they had. If more tickets were made available to fans than being wasted on corporate hospitality it would be nice and it would be right. Unfortunately in today’s world it is a sacrifice we simply have to begrudgingly accept.
I doubt the clamour for tickets, the relief of a successful queue, the disappointment of a fruitless favour has been any different since time began. There will always be winners and losers, both on the pitch and off it. The rise of social media has made this campaign particularly tough to stomach however. The unpleasant and unnecessary attacks from ‘real fans’ on those without a season ticket, the greed of fellow fans selling their soul alongside their ticket for many times the face value, and the constant uploads of photos showing happy smiling faces proudly holding their cherished Wembley ticket. It’s tough to watch and to read. It’s tough to get the balance right – of happiness when one of your fellow comrades comes up trumps and announces they’re sorted, but deep down a bitterness that it wasn’t you.
With each passing day the anguish rises, the false smile slips and the optimism fades. It’s tough. It’s like a loveless marriage. You go to bed full of hope and expectation but deep down you know you’re not going to get lucky and with each passing day resentment sets in.
So am I at the end of my tether? Am I going to refuse to watch the game out of some petty, self-pitying depression? Am I hell. I booked flights and accommodation when we made the final, I’m still hanging onto the last thread of hope that I’ll find tickets before kick-off and if I don’t? Well, at least I’ll be there to savour the atmosphere, to see our fans prove their worth, to walk down Wembley Way, shoulder to shoulder with my tribe, to enjoy the banter, drink away the pre-match nerves and above all glow in the sheer pride that we have once again made it to the iconic home of world football.
For all of those with tickets, with hand on heart, I salute you and wish you the greatest of days out. For those left at home watching with family and friends, fear not, there will be other occasions (there always are, no matter how rare they may be) and next time might be your team. And for those travelling down to Wembley without tickets, let’s hope we all get lucky but if not, let’s enjoy the journey together and make sure whichever bar we end up in, that we sing loud and proud and leave that place with happy memories and smiles on everyone’s faces. For as ‘true’ Sunderland fans we are unique; we are passionate, we are friendly, we are loyal and we are equal and we will enjoy our day in the Capitol.
Haway the lads.