I’ve heard this Saturday’s game being described as a relegation six-pointer, which is a fair assessment. Lose and we are cut adrift at the foot of the table, win and we are very much still in contention.
But, back in April 2009, this match at home to Hull City was the very definition of the cliché. The lads went into the game on the back of a torrid seven match win-less run, five of which ended in defeat. The Tigers had won just one of their previous seven games themselves and had suffered a 3-1 defeat to relegation threatened Middlesbrough. Again, this is all sounding eerily familiar.
Hopefully tomorrow the lads will follow the trend set by this Sunderland side by starting brightly and getting at Hull in the early stages - Boaz Myhill in the City goal did well to deny Djibril Cisse, as the Frenchman couldn’t quite get on the end of Grant Leadbitter’s attempted through ball.
Hull attempted to carve out chances of their own and Geovanni came close with a threatening volley just outside the penalty area.
The rest of the half was perhaps a fair reflection of the combined quality of the two teams on the pitch. There was plenty of endeavour from both sets of players but as the half wore on, it looked more and more likely that it would be goalless at the break.
But then, Cisse provided us with a moment which reminds us all of the reason we all love football and Sunderland AFC. On the stroke of half time Andy Reid swung over a cross which was flicked on by Danny Collins before Cisse headed the ball into the back of the net to give us the lead.
Replays later showed that he may have been just offside but not a single Sunderland supporter cared. I was at the back of the south stand near the segregation between the home and away supporters and as the ball struck the net, it was as though a bomb had gone off.
Bodies flew in all directions as people hugged strangers and shouted themselves hoarse. After a half filled with nerves, tension and frustration there was an outpouring of relief and emotion as the lads went into the break a goal to the good.
This momentum was carried on into the second half as Cisse nearly have added another in the first minute of the second period when he raced through, only for Myhill to block his low shot with his legs.
Kenwyne Jones thought he had added a second but he was adjudged to be just offside as he headed home from three yards.
But it wouldn’t be Sunderland if we didn’t make lives hard for ourselves and Caleb Folan shot inches’ wide as the clock ticked down. After a nerve shattering finale, the lads held out to get the win which would ultimately keep ourselves in the Premier League for another year.
As the crowd saluted the players, another sight rarely seen outside of a football stadium took place as a man well into his fifties bounced up and down on his seat in delight as Paint Your Wagon blared over the PA system, hugging and high-fiving everyone on their way down the rows to leave the ground.
I remember as I left my dad turned to me and said “that’s it, we’re safe now I reckon. Even if we don’t win another game, the mags and Boro haven’t got enough to catch us.” Thankfully he was proven right, but there was no need for the useless bassas to leave us biting our finger nails right until the last day of the season!