"I dreamt I banged once on my (Newcastle United-supporting) neighbour's wall last week. That means we'll win 1-0 today", announced my Sunderland obsessed and slightly eccentric mother in an early derby-day phone call. Okay mam.
For me, the day started with a 6am start, a churning stomach and an underlying fear/frenzy that only these occasions create.
Speaking to my mam is followed by messages to my sister (fanatic SAFC fan, lucky gambler, Paul Lemon fan) to compare stress levels and toilet visits so far today. Then messages to various other friends and SAFC fans to arrange pre-match and post-match meet ups and generally tell each other how excited/scared/confident/bricking it we are.
My kids aren't going to the match today but, after the obligatory Easter Egg hunt, they get in the mood in the house by wearing their SAFC strips and singing a random selection of terrace favourites. They have an impressive ability to recall songs and today's range includes ‘Wise Men Say' (the 8 year old's favourite), ‘If Jozy scores, we're on the pitch' (ahem), ‘cheesy chips on Wembley way', ‘Things Can Only Get Better' (11 year old's favourite) and, rather bizarrely, ‘When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie - Asamoah' (what?).
Not one to normally go out too early pre-match, today is different. Not only is it derby day, but we are going for an unprecedented five in a row, we are unlikely favourites, it is Easter Sunday AND it is sunny. A deadly combination.
First stop is Ttonic, rammed full of red and white strips, loud singing and selling "Derby bombs" at the rate of knots. I meet up with an old friend here, current Consett brancher, proud member of the infamous Stanley Pirates and he is overwhelmingly negative. We're going to get beat he insists. It doesn't faze me.
You see, ever since I met this person on a SAFC supporters coach when I was only 14, he always predicts we're going to get beat. It's a side-effect of supporting Sunderland, a defence mechanism to protect himself from the seemingly inevitable disappointment that often follows. Whether he really believes it or not, it doesn't matter, he's red and white through and through and I know a win today would make his year.
Next stop is Fitzgeralds, just as busy but with - how do I put it - a different clientele of SAFC fans. I meet an ex-colleague here, a member of SAFC's London branch and a loyal fan home and away. Not only has she travelled almost 300 miles for the match but she's an eternal optimist and knows we're going to win. I hope she's right.
I head over the Wear Bridge towards the Stadium of Light being swept along with a sea of red and white - families, pensioners, lads with cans, couples hand-in-hand and the accompanying song ‘Who put the ball in the Geordies net?'. The queues outside the turnstiles are long and the atmosphere feels different to a normal derby - it's not tension this time, it's...it's....excitement. I sense confidence in the Sunderland fans and it makes me nervous as hell.
I meet my dad (Sunderland born and bred, ex-winger with the Roker Saints and beer lover) inside the ground. After I've made him buy me a Guinness - well, he is my dad - we agree the team looks good, we're happy with the formation and, if we really go for it, today is ours.
Pre-match prep done, I head to my seat in the East Stand along with my mam, dad, sister, nephew, the regulars who have sat beside and behind us for the last 12 seasons and forty four odd thousand hopeful Sunderland fans.
We all now know what happened at the match. That on 45 minutes, Fletch got on the end of a long ball forward, headed down to Defoe who perfectly timed a sweet left footed volley into the top corner of the skunks', err I mean, Newcastle's, net to win the game for Sunderland.
The celebration scenes will not be forgotten easily, the whole team (bar Vergini who was quite typically in his own little world) in a triumphant pile-on on the half way line, Defoe wiping a tear away as he emerged and the final whistle cheer that rang around the Stadium is what Sunderland fans dreams are made of. They will stick in the memory without a doubt.
But you know what I'll remember most about that day? I'll remember the sheer joy in my dad's face and his subsequent bear hug as that ball hit the net. I'll remember the huge smile on my nephews and sisters faces as they sang with all their hearts "you say 5-1, we say 5 in a row."
I'll remember the mischievous delight in my mams face as she pointed at the departing and depressed Newcastle fans singing along to Manfred Mann's 5-4-3-2-1 playing over the tannoy. I'll remember the happy shrieks of my kids when I called them at the final whistle. I'll remember the text I received from the Stanley Pirate saying he knew we'd win all along and the one from the Londoner saying "see I was right!"
A win is a much desired and hoped for occurrence at any time of the season, a derby win even more so. But the true joy of the result isn't just in the three points or the spectacular goal, it's in the faces and hearts of the people with whom it's shared.
Sunderland has been a part of my family since I was born, my dad wooed my mam at old Roker Park as teenagers when she sold him a black cat pen and the rest is history.
Many people I know, colleagues and friends, just do not get it. I do sometimes see their point, particularly this season when there's been some real stinkers, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
Yes the derby took over my whole day, and my whole family, and this time the sun shone and we won but next time we might not be so lucky. The lows are terrible, but god the highs are immense. So to all of my SAFC family, both blood related or not, those people who weave in and out of my life simply because they share my passion and bleed red and white, let's just savour the moment and give each other a HIGH FIVE.
Incidentally, you can probably guess my mam's final words as she left the Stadium: "I told you my dream would come true!" And it did.
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