Monday, May 25th 1998 - to some of you, this may be a standard date from the past but not to me - this date has meaning.
This was the day I fell in love.
I woke up at 7:30 am, put on my Sunderland shirt, got into the back of my dad’s old red Vauxhall Cavalier and we left Southampton to head up the M3 to West London.
We arrived at Wembley stadium - it was awash with red and white stripes and a wave of that fetching gold shirt.
I remember the smell of frying onions circulating in the air like rain falling from the sky. We walked by the stalls of merchandise, seeing all the nik naks on sale - scarves, fanzines, badges, baseball caps (still got it) and flags (again still got it and it’s gone from white to yellow).
We climbed up to the seats (today I would say it was like climbing Skidaw or Latrigg), sat amongst fellow fans, sang about the mags (I was nine and didn’t know what this meant), and looked at strangers with hope in their eyes, excitement in the air and Lionel Perez masks everywhere.
The closer it got to kick off the noise rose, and second by second the louder it got, with both sets of fans trying to outdo each other.
The game kicked off, they had the ball, we had the ball (but from where I was sitting the players just looked like gold blobs running around), and Charlton scored the first. Five minutes into the second half a gentle Irish giant scored - pandemonium. Grown men were crying, and a few minutes later, the Irish giant set up a little superhero, 2-1 to us.
The fans were in fine voice - happy , jubilant.
Then, they scored - 2-2.
Seconds later, the big Irish Giant notched again. It was 3-2 to Sunderland.
Five minutes from the end and with a win close, they got back into the game - 3-3.
The pattern from the opening ninety minutes re-occured - the game was end to end, chances galore.
They took the first chance - 4-3 to Charlton... Was this it? Nope. More drama ensued, as moments later a fizzy haired winger scored Sunderland's fourth - 4-4. Incredible. There were embraces on the pitch and in the stands.
Next came a penalty shootout. They scored, we scored. They scored, we scored. This went on until the seventh round of penalties - who was going to make the first mistake?
A player in red tucked his penalty away with ease. Our go... saved.
There were tears on the pitch and in the stands. The contrast of happiness and pain was all over the faces of the Sunderland supporters. There were grown men and women crying in unison, unperplexed at what they had just witnessed.
My dad said supporting Sunderland would get easier, and I'm still waiting.