When I read this morning that there were expected to be one thousand and five hundred Sunderland supporters at tonight's game against Southampton, I was truly stunned.
Some supporters coaches are charging around £50 per person to cover the cost of travel, and on top of that the tickets for the game are £12. Most people left from the Stadium of Light before 11am, and they'll not arrive back from the 650-mile round trip until around 5 or 6 tomorrow morning depending on whether the game goes to extra time or not. That's two days off work.
Nobody is forcing people to go to the game tonight, of course, but you have to stand back and admire anyone that can be bothered to do all of that, knowing that we're bottom of the Premier League having not won any of our first nine matches with relegation now a real possibility. I can barely muster the enthusiasm to switch my laptop on and sit through tonight's game, so to have those levels of commitment is impressive and I take my proverbial hat off to all of you. You're much better people than I am.
I've no idea if the Sunderland players or manager have any concept of reality having lived in a bubble of wealth and privilege for most of their professional lives but it would be great if every once in a while they could commemorate the commitment of the ordinary people that would do anything to support them by winning some football matches, or at least showing that they care about the team they're a part of for more than five minutes.
Whilst the Premier League and, ultimately, survival has to become our primary focus this season, winning ANY game right now would provide us with a much-needed morale boost. Confidence amongst the supporters is at an all time low and, having seen us fall apart on no more than four occasions late on in games this season, it would be great if we just won a football match in a semi-competent fashion for once.
Some Interesting Stats
Southampton haven't lost a home game since February, when they were beaten by Chelsea 2-1 after a last minute winner from Branoslav Ivanovic denied them a point.
Sunderland have won just three of their away games in all competitions in 2016, against Swansea (2-4) in February Norwich (0-3) in April and then QPR (1-2) last month in the third round of this cup.
Patrick Van Aanholt faces a late fitness test before this evening's game but should play.
John O'Shea, Jermain Defoe and Steven Pienaar will travel but are not expected to start the game - David Moyes is keen to protect his older players fitness-wise. This of course means that Victor Anichebe, Papy Djilobodji and Lynden Gooch should come into the side in their place.
Predicted XI: Pickford, Van Aanholt, Djilobodji, Kone, Jones, McNair, Rodwell, Ndong, Gooch, Watmore, Anichebe.
When asked if tonight's game is an inconvenience, David Moyes told the press that it couldn't be any further from the truth:
No I don't think so, I think this is a game we could do with. I think it’s another game to show that we’re improving and another game to show that we’re doing better, and we have been slightly.
If I was sitting here today with a 0-0 we could have said it was a good point at West Ham – we’re not and we would love to be – but had we got it we would be saying we deserved it because of the way we played and stuck at it.
We go to Southampton, who are playing very well, and we know it’ll be a task to get a result, but we drew there earlier on and if we do that we get extra-time and penalties.
You want to get through and you would love to go and win it, so we will try to do the same with this one. We want to get to the next round.
He's talking about drawing the game.... and extra-time.... Jesus wept.
I'm not particularly confident if I'm honest. Jermain Defoe isn't playing and it will be interesting to see if we're actually capable of scoring goals without him in the team.
Southampton are brilliant on their own pitch and they aren't going to allow an under-strength Sunderland side wade in and take liberties - I'm going for a 1-0 Southampton win, although if we do go to extra-time I would fancy us to nab it on penalties.