Away days became more frequent, and as such I finally succumbed to the demon drink, limiting myself to just the one pint before a game - no more, no less.
At the time, I was the supervisor of a particular smelly bath bomb shop you may know of and felt it would be a good team building exercise to go to a local restaurant before heading over the Hancock pub in Newcastle near to where I was living for a beer or two with the team.
Despite my previous one pint rule and the impending journey to Merseyside the morning after, I felt that this was the time to shake off the previous years of teetotalism and have as much alcohol as I had missed out on in the years previous. As the night descended I had began on the shots, the nice smelling Swedish cider stuff and whatever else my colleagues felt like throwing at me - most of them giddy in excitement at seeing a previous constantly coherent man become a gibbering mess. It wasn't a pretty sight. I got home around 1am after being kicked out of the Hancock for being sick through the lats of the wooden table and I passed out with thoughts of Anfield away drifting through my spinning head.
By the time morning came around, you can imagine how a night of hardcore drinking had affected someone who, previously, never used to sup. As my Uncle picked me up for the drive to Anfield at 9:30am, I shuddered in agony with a Sunderland blanket wrapped around me like I was a Mackem Mother Theresa.
We arrived at Anfield with my blanket still bandaged around my sore head, and my Uncle's recently cleaned BMW now had what looked like sambucca sick stain flames on the left hand side of the car.
My head was spinning - and it did not help when a bizarre early goal from Liverpool put us 1-0 down. We went behind controversially when Michael Turner was ruled to have taken a free-kick, and as such Fernando Torres stole the ball from him and squared it to Dirk Kuyt who finished with ease - it was a finish which would continue this fixture's penchant for the bizarre after Darren Bent's beach ball goal the season before.
Soon after the Lads won a penalty after Christian Poulsen was adjudged to have handled in the area. The spot-kick was confidently dispatched by Darren Bent and I give a sole weak fist pump to the celebrating Jordan Henderson beside him from the third row.
Sunderland had the best of the first half and we went into half time disappointed to only be drawing, feeling a sense of injustice.
We didn't have to wait long for Sunderland to score again as an early second half cross from Nedum Onuoha was bulleted home by Bent for his second of the game.
As the game wore on, the occasional Liverpool attack was snuffed out by the solid pairing of Turner and Bramble. We passed the ball around with confidence and composure and seemed to sense an air of dejection about the struggling Scousers, who were coming off the back of their embarrassing midweek Carling Cup exit at the hands of League Two Northampton.
Just as I was beginning to feel better, disaster stuck - a deflected cross met the head of Steven Gerrard, who nodded home to draw the hosts level.
As both teams appeared to settle for a draw, I began to rest my head on my plastic red seat.
After numerous visits to Anfield another near miss, again, was to riddle my evening thoughts. As I trudged back to the car - not despondent, but disappointed - my uncle passed me an ice cold can of beer from his cooler bag - you'll learn with Sunderland son, you have to drink plenty before the game to deal with it, and more afterwards to drown out the disappointment - little did I know then just how true that would turn out to be!