This is the first thing I've wrote in a while. Well, it is in a proper ‘writing’ sense. I've obviously wrote all sorts of informal guff at home and work and on messageboards (bloody SMB man, doesn't let you get owt done). But considering that only 3/4 years ago I wrote at least 2 fanzine articles a months, my sudden and rapid drought has been spectacular.
In truth I've stopped doing it for a number of reasons. The proper grown-up reasons of time and money (Christ man, moving out of your parent’s home is expensive; who knew you had to pay for bloody water).
However probably the biggest reason I've stopped the football writing (and I say writing in a very pompous-manner, as if I'm the next George Caulkin) is that, little-by-little, I've kind of lost interest in football.
There're a million different reasons for this. Firstly, other interests, in particular one other interest of the female persuasion who (due to reasons too complicated to go into ) was easier to see at times Sunderland played. So I began missing matches, and it wasn't much of a gripe because (and this is the second reason) our Martin O'Neill horror-ball made watching us about as much fun as sticking an umbrella up your man parts.
But a big, overwhelming factor is that frankly, football is shit nowadays.
It really is. It's an accountant's game and it's awful. Nobody wants success, they just want to drift aimlessly, happy to exist and wait for the next non-event of a season. Ask a manager to pick between finishing 12th or winning a cup, and 12th wins everytime.
What's worse is when supporters agree, trotting out toe-curling cliches like "the league is most important" and "it's worth so much money to stay up". Thing is, who cares? Who honestly cares how much money we make? As long as we don't "do a Portsmouth" (a feat so rare the only club to really "do a Portsmouth" and plummet down leagues into oblivion is…..Portsmouth) why is having an impressive balance-sheet or pre-tax profit that much fun?
Due to UEFA's double pronged assault of Champions League plus Financial Fair Play (a different article for a different day, probably another three years down the line) we will never having any chance of even moderate league success; best we can hope for is 6th at a massive push. Even then, we'd get into Europe and complain that our players are too tired, it's affecting our league form, we're only going to finish 12th (which I'm assuming should then be celebrated as we'd miss out on Europe). It's just rubbish. So that's why I fell out of love with football. I’m not a glory-hunting; I’ll accept us being shit, I just want to feel like we are trying to achieve something special.
So why am I writing this now? Well, after ditching my season ticket for the first time in 17 years last summer, we finally got our shit together in a cup and it was electric. The city was alive with excitement, everybody was giddy and it really was special. We may have lost but it'll never be forgotten - the feeling when Bardsley scored at Old Trafford or when Mannone saved the penalty. The red and white sea of Wembley Way, the emotion of Wise Men Say in the grown. The sheer, disbelieving ecstasy at Borini's goal. That's what football is made up of. The magical, soul-enriching moments which make all the shite worthwhile.
At risk of sounding fickle, it rekindled my fire. I believed in us again, believed that even if we go down (and I think we likely will) we want to achieve something more than just "existing". I signed up for my season ticket a few days before Hull away, and waited for the quarter-final. Can we get to Wembley again, make more of them memories?
Well, no, we couldn't. In fact, scratch that. We wouldn't. We quite clearly didn't want to in fact. We sent out a half a team in the provision that "this team can win the match". That’s nonsense. Having lost to Hull twice already this season, it is not comprehensible that we honestly thought sending out a team shorn of our five best players could beat them.
Dress it up as much as you want about international caps and top flight games. That team was not designed with winning as first priority; I'm not suggesting we threw it, just that Poyet didn't care about it that much, a feeling which washes down to the players and resonates on the pitch. It's always been a problem with us in the cups (look at some of the teams we've gone out to over the years); we played a half-arsed side and the players who play pick up on it and couldn’t give a toss. I really thought this had changed, but now I’m not so sure, which concerns me.
Next time everyone is belly-aching because we only got 16k in a cup game (in the middle of February, for a televised match, during an insane run of expensive cup matches) stop and think why should the fans bother with the cups if the club quite clearly can't?
Anyway, I've not wrote anything for a long time and it's all come tumbling out in this long, rambley, self-indlugent mess, so I apologise to any poor bugger still going. Don't worry lad, it's nearly finished now.
I've got my season ticket for next year, and I’m a big fan of Poyet; I think he’s ballsed up massively here, but he has done a fine job so far and is the man to take us forward (even if he’s harmed a lot of his good will with supporters last week) even if we go down. This is certainly not a ‘Poyet out’ diatribe.
However, I will be going hoping to God that he’ll want us (and by extension him) to become more than just another club who merely ‘exists’. I'd love to think we will, if only because I can't stand another 41 years of Championship Manager drones whining on about "it's financially great to be in 12th in the league". Aye, that's what football supporting is all about. Accountancy.....