Davenport and O'Brien. Those were the names on everyone's lips the last time I attended a Wear-Tyne derby. Both teams near the foot of the division but battling for North East bragging rights like two bald men fighting over a comb. Fast forward 24 years (eek) and not a lot has changed - granted the stadia are more modern, and both teams are fighting it out in the big league these days, but apart from that, and with both teams in the bottom 3 with barely 10 points between them, there was an air of familiarity to proceedings.
From the moment the fixtures were released in June, there was one game that my eyes were drawn to. With Season cards freshly purchased (ironically on the day of the 0-4 debacle against Villa) there was nothing stopping me from renewing acquaintances with the great ‘unwashed'.
There is something odd about playing Newcastle at home, maybe it stems from a barren period that took me from nursery to adulthood without seeing us victorious at home, together with countless (well 6) victories at their place, but I never feel as confident when we play them at the Stadium of Light, much preferring the (pressure free?) games at the Landfill.
Sunday was no different, my usual pessimism about this fixture, coupled with my strong belief that "this run can't go on forever" left me feeling that defeat was a certainty and I would again be explaining to my confused child why supporting Sunderland is a great thing to do, even though we never win. Keeping the social media to a minimum in the build-up, I managed to keep the nerves more or less in check, only starting to feel that familiar sickness in the pit of my stomach as I heard Dance of the Knights blasting out of my son's room at 7am on Sunday morning.
For 45 minutes the match itself was awful. That familiar tactic of "forgetting to start the game" was in evidence again (we do seem to love it) and it seemed as I sat, head in hands as though my pessimism was well founded and our period of dominance was over. I was forgetting of course that the single thing that makes football the best game in the world is that the whole momentum of a contest can turn on a single moment. That moment when Fletcher remembered what it was to be a predatory striker, and when Colocinni forgot what it is like to be a capable defender turned the game on its head. Of course it had to be Johnson - who else was there to score a goal to break Newcastle hearts again? History repeated itself, Sunderland lead and fans are left dancing in the aisles at half time again.
An hour later after a piece of brilliant technique from Yann the Man and a goal that Brazil would have been proud of all was right with the world again. Like the emotional turncoat I am, there I was standing amongst my fellow fans, dancing, singing, clapping, hugging complete strangers and embracing my elated son as I proclaimed that the result had "never been in doubt" before joining in the cringeworthy chants of "Easy....Easy" (Although my personal favourite was the "lock up your horses" song that got me into trouble with the wife when our 8 year old was singing it on Monday morning!)
An hour after the match, I was sitting with a beer, running over the events of the game (stopping every 5 mins to punch the air and review the outpouring of anger and injustice on Social Media from those wonderful people north of the Tyne) and my thoughts turned to my emotions before and during the match, and how foolish I had been to doubt the victory but safe in the knowledge I will be exactly the same come March when we go to Newcastle in an attempt to make it Lucky Number 7 - because there's no way that this run can go on forever. I feel sick.