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It Feels So Good To Say We're Safe

I think it’s safe to say relief is the overriding emotion among Sunderland fans right now, writes Michael Bowers.

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Even though I’m a rather-obsessive Sunderland supporter, I don’t hate Newcastle but I must admit I did get a good bit of satisfaction in sending them down to the Championship.

Ever since I’ve been into football, which hasn’t actually been that long, I’ve only known both Sunderland and Newcastle being in the Premier League. I’ve never known anything different so it’ll be strange not being in the same league as them next season.

I’ve previously said I HATE playing against them so I’m hoping they’ll stay in the Championship for a good few seasons. I also want us to avoid them in both the Capital One Cup and F.A. Cup and, most importantly, finally get away from these annual relegation battles.

I was very happy we went about things in a professional manner against Everton. Although I must admit Everton were shocking, we were very good. The manner of the win was overshadowed by us confirming our place in the Premier League for next season but I thought we were very organised at the back and looked a good threat going forward.

After we went two-nil up Everton’s response was pathetic but I could actually enjoy a game at the Stadium of Light for what felt like the first time in absolutely ages. Most times it’s spent being nervous wrecks so it was lovely to get into a commanding position early on and coast through the rest of the game.

We weren’t at our fluent best but we didn’t need to be. We got the job done and right now that’s all that matters.

Most of all, you could tell the players were motivated to get over the line themselves and on their terms meaning we can now enjoy the final day, especially all of those who are lucky enough to go to Watford.

That’s not just for the Everton game either. We’ve deserved to stay up because, apart from 80 minutes at Liverpool, the last 30 minutes against Leicester and the Stoke game, we’ve been consistently doing the right things since the start of February.

As for the supporters, as ever as they always have been, they were magnificent. Over the last two homes games, but especially against Chelsea, we were the clichéd 12th man. We helped make the difference. Just seeing so many faces jump up and down when we scored, particularly in the singing end, was extraordinary.

In many ways I think losing five games in a row in December was the best thing that could possibly have happened to Sunderland. It wouldn’t have felt like it at the time but think about it; if we hadn’t been at such a low point going into the January transfer window chances are we wouldn’t have signed Whabi Khazri, Jan Kirchhoff and Lamine Kone. Those three players have made a massive difference in the second half to the season.

That was one of many turning points but for me in terms of results, the biggest turning point was the win at Norwich. If we had lost that game, we would almost certainly have gone down. Drawn it and safety would definitely not be sealed by now. But thankfully they are just theories. We can enjoy Sunday.

I obviously want to beat Watford on Sunday but I’m not too bothered if we lose now. All I care about is that we have avoiding having that dreaded ‘R’ letter next to Newcastle, Norwich and Aston Villa.

But in the previous four seasons, we have lost our final Premier League match of the season so it would still be nice to go into the summer on a win but it’ll be a party atmosphere mainly down at Vicarage Road.

It also makes me very glad I was there at the Stadium of Light to watch us secure safety. The lap of appreciation, which is a much more accurate term than ‘lap of honour’ given what we’ve had to put up with in the last few seasons, was a nice finishing touch to the night and the reception Sam Allardyce got brought massive warmth to my heart. Yes I’m soppy at the worst of times!

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Sunderland fan who has been torturing themselves over every single possible way we could have got relegated but had that hope in their hearts that we would pull it off in the end.

I’ve kept on saying things like ‘IF we stay up’, ‘providing we survive’ and ‘assuming we beat the drop’ for weeks and weeks now. While I’ve kept a level head on things and had to remind myself we could still go down, people have no idea how much of a relief it is for to not have to say that anymore.

I can now say we have stayed up. That feels so good. So let’s enjoy Sunday without any nerves or pressure.

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