This is an awkward moment. Appear too cocky and we could be made to eat humble pie. Fail to celebrate the truly giant step we took towards safety and we would not be true to the uniquely euphoric states that football in its horrifying, captivating, teasing, wonderful way, bestows upon us. As Sunderland fans, we know that the highs have been too few and far between to not enjoy them when they come.
I have only recently stopped grinning everywhere I go and confess to having laughed for a solid 12 hours after we won, stopping only to sleep. And why not?
I mean, we beat Chelsea, Newcastle could only draw against Aston Villa, Norwich were beaten by Manchester United, John Terry was sent off against us which effectively ends his Chelsea career as it stands and Aleksander Mitrovic gave an interview during which he thought we had lost and Newcastle still had a two point advantage over us. And now we need only one win to secure our survival and relegate Newcastle. It was a day where everything seemed to go right, the stars aligned and we earned ourselves a huge survival boost.
Just like last season, we are faced with a game in the middle of the final week which requires a positive result to ensure we do not go into the final day still to guarantee safety. This season we need a win rather than a draw, but we are at home and having seen and heard the crowd against Chelsea on Saturday, we can go into this game knowing we - the fans, the players, the club - are truly in it together.
The players seem to not only be willing to fight for each other, but they actually seem to like each other and, most importantly, have a real connection to the fans. They want to know about the club, they want to stay at the club and they care. It is the most likeable group of players that have been at the club since the days of Quinn and Phillips and their affiliation and hard work seems to go well beyond professional integrity, demonstrating a passion for our club. The club, once again, appears to have gotten under these players skin.
As good as Saturday felt and as much as it embodied everything that is great about our club, we mustn’t start planning for next season and lauding these players for a job well done yet. Our safety is still threatened by two teams who are still scrapping for their lives. These teams have been knocked to the floor this weekend and it is up to us to make sure that they do not get the opportunity to get back up again. To do this we need to beat an Everton team who do have real quality in their team.
If we go after Everton, pressure their defenders and don’t let their dangerous players turn with the ball and run at us, we are more than capable of beating what is a depleted Everton, low on confidence. It wouldn’t be the end of a Sunderland season without something like this and as much as we’re used to it, I don’t feel like an expert in handling the pressure. Similarly, I find myself optimistic for the following season if we stay up, despite feeling the same way in almost every other season.
I have always believed that we had the upper hand in this fight against Norwich and Newcastle, owing our team spirit, our performances since January and of course the experience of Big Sam and the goals of Jermain Defoe. Big characters and big performances have emerged during this season and we’re nearly there. We need one more game, one more push, one more win. We can do it.
Ha’way the Lads.