I think enough has been said of Steve Bruce's claims that North East football fans have unrealistic expectations. The man is deluded and a little bit stupid; if I had a face like his I'd do my very best to stay out of the news. His attack was slightly miscalculated as I feel that the expectations of Sunderland fans do in fact tend to be quite low, despite the club having all the tools to push to the next level. But why don't we have huge expectations?
They say a man does not miss something which he never had, and I feel this principle applies to Sunderland fans. Our last major success was in 1973 and even then we secured the FA Cup as underdogs. You would have to go back to the 1930s to find a Sunderland side which was actually expected to win something, our last first division title coming in 1936, and then of course our first FA Cup in 1937. If you remember this, then you reserve the right to expect a modern Sunderland to be competing for honours, although you have probably mellowed out in the 77 years which you have seen us win nothing in way of league competition (apart from fizzy pop trophies and the likes).
My point is that some clubs are burdened, riddled in fact by expectation. Imagine being a Leeds supporter, tasting league success in 1992 but then seeing your club deteriorate from reaching the Champions League semi final in 2001 to being relegated to League One in 2007. Throughout that League One season, every single defeat or even a draw would be absolutely crippling, meanwhile other clubs around them would be over the moon to get an away draw at Yeovil. Achievements are all relative you know.
Newcastle fans are a funny bunch. They do have quite high expectations, but this is for the same reason as previously discussed. They embellish the glory years under Keegan where they could have, should have won the league, but didn't. Also reaching two FA Cup finals in successive seasons, losing them both of course. I don't point these out merely to ridicule them, the fact is that these were their glory years and they will hold the modern Newcastle side to this standard until it is a distant memory, some 20 years from now.
Reaching Wembley last season was a dream, and losing the final didn't diminish that dream at all. March 2nd 2014 won't be remembered by Sunderland fans as a lost football match but rather a grand spectacle, seeing the club at centre stage was enough for some people, myself included. That's what made the day what it was. Does that mean we lack winning mentality? Of course not, the two things are entirely separate; winning mentality can be coached, expectation comes through the imposition of history, history which in our case is so distant in the past that it has no bearing on us anymore.
Sunderland are a rare breed, we are a top flight club without top flight expectations. We don't feel the same burden other clubs do and we don't have that expectation weighing us down, we don't have that constant pressure of needing to win something to prove our worth, and the amount of positivity coming off the back of that cup final 'defeat' is demonstrative of that point. We don't demand trophies. We don't even demand victories. All we demand is 100% effort, 100% of the time, the same effort that we all make to support this club in sickness and in health.
It's why we are considered one of the loyalest fan bases in the country and why every victory, even one as innocuous as a home win over Stoke, can feel like a cup final. Whether you were born into the Sunderland family, or were adopted somewhere along the way, you can be thankful that you belong to a group of fans so uniquely brilliant.
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