Diary of a Season: February to May 2014

Paul Thomas

A date with Wembley is in our diaries and we're going to be safe by March. Except this is Sunderland, and nothing's ever that simple...

February 1: The now annual 'Three-nil Derby Demolition at the WongaDome' arrives on the back of a tempestuous Tyneside transfer window. The Mags have sold Cabaye, Yohan Cabaye, and I just don't think we understand. Fabio hoofs a penalty high and beyond the reaches of Mr Krul, before Adam Johnson lays bare Davide Santon's inherent Frenchness by showing greater fight en route to doubling the advantage. A Jozy Altidore backheel in the build-up to the latter has plenty wondering just how much alcohol they actually imbibed prior to the noon kick-off. Jack Colback finishes it off emphatically, numerous Geordie Nation inhabitants invade the hallowed turf of St James' and, by full-time, Alan Pardew is forced to employ Neo-like evasion techniques in order to elude the shower of dispensed season tickets raining down upon him. Meanwhile, in the away end, located somewhere in the Earth's upper stratosphere, buoyant Wearsiders sing the merits of an edam-encrusted starchy meal soon to be consumed in the nation's capital.

February 2: Wearside is hungover. There will be no visitors today.

February 3: Tickets go on sale for Sunderland's trip to Wembley. I turn up to the ticket office without a coat and end up being there for five hours. Nipples. Glass. Cut.

February 7: Adam Johnson, after a fantastic 'Dry January,' falls with a thud from the wagon, declaring team-mate and goal-shy Jozy Altidore to be "awesome."

February 8: Roy Hodgson invokes the spirit of Christopher Columbus and discovers the Stadium of Light. Wes Brown discovers his brain has relocated to his own arse and gets sent off within four minutes. For the second time this season, Mr Potato Head benefits from Sunderland's penchant for shooting themselves in the foot, departing with a 2-0 victory and all three points.

February 10: Steve Bruce declares his Hull City team's win at the weekend on Wearside to be "typical Sunderland." Impressively, all of Sunderland manages an unorchestrated but entirely in unison "fuck off Steve" in reply.

February 12: Manchester is battered by the wrath of Thor and Sunderland's visit to the Etihad Stadium is over before it begins. The weather makes a complete mockery of this game being a "dry run" for Wembley.

February 15: Craig Gardner scores a thonker and Sunderland beat Southampton 1-0 in the FA Cup fifth round. They are now just one game from a second trip to Wembley within a month. Ellis Short lights up a massive doobie in the boardroom. The club declares that the one guaranteed Wembley trip thus far has sold out. "BUT WHAT ABOUT PHASE THREE?!", cry anxious pub-goers, who would otherwise need a map to locate the Stadium of Light.

February 17: Craig Gardner is said to be "being looked at" by a number of Championship clubs. Sunderland invoke the old 'Are you gonna buy that? If not then stop looking at it.' rule. A number of Championship clubs walk out of the shop.

February 22: Sunderland face Arsenal away and are walloped 4-1. But Wembley.

February 24: Wembley in six days.

February 25: Wembley in five days.

February 26: Wembley in four days.

February 27: Wembley in three days.

February 28: Wembley in two days.

March 1: Wembley in just ONE DAY. Petty burglars abscond to Wearside en masse, passing several billion screamin' Geordies thousand ardent red and whites who are headed southwards for lots of beer, lots of singing and, somewhere in the midst of it all, a relatively important game of football. Covent Garden ne'er do wells do the United Kingdom a great service in ruining the evening meal of Tory MP Robert Halfon, whose inability to discern jovially drunken football supporters from thuggish hooligans was in no way a surprise from the man whose political party previously saw fit to cage fans like animals in the 70s and 80s. London is bathed in red and white rapture.

March 2: This. Is. It. Twenty-two years on from the last Sunderland cup final, looking to end four decades of hurt, hangovers are cured by final fever and Wembley Way is awash with cheesy chips. Fabio Borini breaks the deadlock and sends over 30,000 into ecstasy, Lee Lee Lee Cattermole is positively outstanding, and only two world class finishes from Yaya Toure - who later admits he didn't mean it - and Samir Nasri turn the tie around. Jesus Navas' late goal seals proceedings, but Sunderland are proud and unbowed. I meet Ricky Hatton in a bar afterwards and get royally abused by a man who has done more lines of cocaine than I've had hot dinners.

March 3: God declares weekends over forever, because nothing will ever beat that one.

March 4: Robert Halfon u-turns so quickly that David Cameron immediately considers him his new protégé. Regardless, all of Wearside - and indeed, much of the country - still think he is a narrow-minded, ill-informed, utter twat.

March 8: Gus Poyet challenges Jozy Altidore to react to his cup final dropping in the correct manner. Altidore responds by defecating on the dressing room floor. Poyet is unsure whether to be impressed or dismayed.

March 9: Hull City complete a third victory over Sunderland this season, launching themselves into their own Wembley weekend. Lee Cattermole's brain malfunctions again, and Oscar Ustari's penalty save does little but stem the tide as a godawful performance sees Sunderland lose 0-3 and Poyet pilloried for fielding a weakened side.

March 10: Everyone remembers we actually have a Premier League campaign to finish.

March 12: Chief Scout Valentino Angeloni leaves Sunderland. Still craving a real - and successful - revolution, Ellis Short puts out feelers for Soviet-leaning football types.

March 14: Gus Poyet sets Sunderland an end of season target of 39 points, meaning an extra fifteen are needed in order to avoid relegation...

March 15: ...and they immediately chalk off one. Unfortunately, it comes in a sapping 0-0 draw at home to the anaesthetic football displayed by Tony Pulis' Crystal Palace side.

March 16: Lee Cattermole is confirmed as Sunderland's new Director of Footba...hang on, eh? Oh. Congerton. Lee Congerton is confirmed as Sunderland's new Director of Football. No one knows a lot about him, but the fact he is unlikely to two-foot Margaret Byrne when she messes up her turn on the coffee rota makes him a more agreeable choice than Cattermole.

March 18: Gus Poyet admits new striker Nacho Scocco is struggling to adapt. Whether he means to English football, or simply the concept of knowing what a footballer is, is left unanswered.

March 22: Norwich City defeat Sunderland 2-0 in East Anglia and doom envelops us once more. Ki Sung-Yeung and Jack Colback are hauled off before half-time, after somehow managing to plumb new depths of shitness.

March 24: Connor Wickham has his own personalised revolving door installed at the Stadium of Light, this time to accommodate him being recalled from a loan spell at Leeds United.

March 26: Sunderland are the first side in seven games to stop Liverpool scoring three times in one match, and are unlucky to lose 1-2 at Anfield. Gus Poyet introduces his 'five at the back' experiment. Santiago Vergini's translation difficulties are laid bare as he accidentally takes opium at half-time instead of oranges.

March 31: Andy Carroll scores and West Ham win 2-1 on Wearside. Lee Cattermole has two shots and scores with neither. This all went sour pretty quickly.

April 2: Gus Poyet says the best is yet to come from Nacho Scocco. No shit, Gus.

April 3: It is revealed that Ji Dong-Won was ineligible in four games he played for Sunderland earlier in the season. Not without reason, the club requests a points increase, claiming their deployment of the South Korean was a service of charity to fellow Premier League sides.

April 7: Phil Bardsley bemoans the mental softness of the modern footballer. He and his Sunderland team-mates then lose 1-5 at Tottenham Hotspur. Smooth. Lee Cattermole scores though, so perhaps the world really has gone batshit mental. Gus Poyet says Sunderland need "a miracle."

April 11: Jack Colback and Phil Bardsley are rumoured to be the first to leap off the plank of HMS Sunderland AFC.

April 12: Everton arrive on Wearside and win 1-0 courtesy of a Wes Brown own goal. Somewhere in Pennywell, a fat lass is flexing her vocal chords.

April 14: Sunderland's players are said to still back their manager. From six weeks ago, things for Gus Poyet have somehow gone south quicker than Paris Hilton in a hotel room with the cameras rolling.

April 16: Manchester City lead 1-0 after less than two minutes and the end is nigh. But then Sunderland find some resolve, Connor Wickham finds his shooting boots, and the Black Cats lead with just minutes remaining. And then Vito Mannone commits an uncharacteristic howler, City equalise, and normalcy resumes.

April 19: Samuel Eto'o puts Chelsea one up within quarter of an hour and the hosts are en route to an easy win. Connor Wickham, however, had two doses of whey protein this morning, and calmly clips home an equaliser soon after. Later on, Jozy Altidore somehow has a positive effect on proceedings, winning a penalty which Fabio Borini duly strokes home. Rui Faria loses all semblance of dignity on the touchline, Jose Mourinho is humbled at Stamford Bridge in the league for the first time EVER, and Steve McQueen glances down from Heaven wondering if maybe, just maybe, The Great Escape has a sequel.

April 23: Vito Mannone and Fabio Borini and voted Supporters' Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year respectively.

April 27: Sunderland face Cardiff City and everyone knows what is going to happen next. Except, miraculously, it doesn't. Connor Wickham nods us in front, Fabio Borini scores another penalty and even Emanuele Giaccherini gets in on the act. Wickham adds a second late on and, somehow, some...how, we're out of the bottom three.

May 1: Ki Sung-Yeung, absent through injury from Sunderland's recent revival, requests an early end to his loan spell on Wearside in order to get himself fit for the World Cup. Our Korean love affair is at an end.

May 2: Connor Wickham is named the Barclays Premier League (blurgh) Player of the Month for April. He dedicates the honour to the cast of Geordie Shore.

May 3: Ryan Giggs buys some chips from an Old Trafford food vendor and Seb Larsson pisses all over them.

May 5: Jody Craddock holds his testimonial at Molineux and Wolves defeat Sunderland 4-1, with Craddock's three children notching a goal apiece. #PoyetOut

May 7: Sunderland defeat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 - the second goal being positively orgasmic - and our miracle is complete. Survival is assured with a game to go, the Stadium of Light is a nice place to be and, for once, we don't have anything to complain about. What the hell were you all worrying about?

May 8: Traffic stops in central Sunderland as a figure matching the description of Gustavo Poyet is spotted wandering across the surface of the River Wear.

May 9: Fabio Borini refuses to rule out returning to Sunderland next season, while Marcos Alonso states he is more than likely to become a permanent incumbent of the red and white shirt. Local climatologists are dumbfounded by high levels of ejaculate found in the air in and around SR5.

May 11: Sunderland lose 1-3 to Swansea City in the final game of the season and precisely no one gives a flying...

Right, I need a lie down. See you in August.

If you missed them, make sure to check out the first two parts of this diary. On Thursday, we looked at the rocky July to October period, then yesterday saw a reflection on the down-then-up November to January segment.

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