I started off my football-supporting life as a traitor.
As a mackem living in exile in Bournemouth for all of my childhood, I had no idea what Roker Park was or who Sunderland AFC truly were. At the tender age of eight, after watching the 1996 League Cup Final where Aston Villa's Mark Bosnich made save after save, I declared to a distraught father that I wanted to support Aston Villa.
After Sunderland's promotion to the top flight in the summer of 1996, my dad kindly promised to take me to Villa Park to watch Aston Villa take on Sunderland.
I was only nine and vividly remember the cold February air and the smell of burned burgers and stale fags as the teams came out onto the pitch. My Dad covered up his ALS t-shirt and we took a seat in the Villa family stand.
Sunderland were shite, and were beaten 1-0 by a strike from Savo Milosevic if I remember correctly.
The Villa fans barely even stirred and grumbled as their team played quite well against a lacklustre Sunderland side. What really, really got to me as a nine year old were the Sunderland away fans going absolutely bonkers - singing, dancing, shouting, screaming, jumping around - and all of this when there team were losing.
I left the ground that day with my Dad wanting to join the party.
From that moment on, I knew that I had no affinity with the dour Villa fans, I wanted to follow the red and white army - I had seen the proverbial light.
Even in defeat, Sunderland fans will always be guaranteed to scream their hearts out for the lads, and this was something I wanted to be a part of forever.