Poyet Has Brought The Buzz Back To The Stadium Of Light

Alex Livesey

The Stadium has got its mojo back.

I can still remember the first time I set foot in the Stadium of Light like it was yesterday.

I was 17 and all I really knew of football was Roker Park. I consider myself privileged in that, as I know plenty of younger fans who wished they had the opportunity to taste the atmosphere at the wonderful old place, but stepping out into the floodlit Stadium of Light for its first competitive game was genuinely breathtaking.

Since then, I have seen the arena at it's very worst more often than I'd have liked. I've experienced league gates of around 25,000 and flat cup crowds even smaller. I've experienced poisonous vitriol raining down onto the pitch and so much tension in the air it has probably literally shortened my life-expectancy.

They didn't matter, though, because I always knew I had seen the Stadium at its very best too - or at least I thought I had until the survival showdown with West Bromwich Albion.

It's easy to get carried away in the freshest memories and exaggerate the magic of the moment, essentially because you want to. That isn't what this is, though. I'm almost certain of that.

I've heard the ground louder - when Kevin Phillips equalised against Newcastle in the ground's first derby, I thought my head was going to pop off. I've heard the ground whilst in the midst of outright swagger - in fact that was its default setting for most of its first three years. I've heard it in relief and in hope and everything else too.

Against West Brom it was different somehow. It was both a unique blend of contrasting emotions and yet complimented with a dash of something I haven't felt at Sunderland for a long time - genuine excitement.

Back in the Stadium of Light's glorious early years, excitement was just constantly in the air. Sunderland fans were eagerly anticipating going to see a team they believed in play a quality of football they genuinely enjoyed watching. It created a buzz in the air that was palpable. Since the trust was destroyed by the '19 pointers', that element has largely been missing.

The buzz was back last night, though. That was a crowd who were looking forward to watching their team. The prize of guaranteed survival helped massively, of course, but the buzz was independent of that.

When Gus Poyet arrived at the club, he "promised" supporters that, if they stuck with it, he would provide a team they enjoyed watching. The results have been so stunning in the last three weeks that the manner of them has almost only registered on a subconscious level.

Tactically and philosophically, though, something has suddenly clicked together. At Old Trafford, Sunderland played with a comfort on the ball and composure I can't remember seeing before. In this one, Fabio Borini's goal contained a swagger and an outrageous panache I can't remember seeing in a Sunderland goal before.

Poyet managed to alienate a lot of supporters with some of his words to the media in the month after the cup final, and to try to rewrite that out of history would be an injustice to the story of this remarkable season.

His football has won for him the battle the really needed to win, however - the battle that all Sunderland manager's tend to live or die by. He has ignited the passions in the stands and got supporters actively excited about home games again.

Tension has turned to titillation, and suddenly what was the worst home record in the country has produced two dominant swagger-laden performances and massive results.

Whether or not Poyet can maintain it, I don't know. I know I am excited about finding out, though.

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