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The Roker Ramble: We Have To Get Behind The Team

The fans have as big a part to play as the players do on Saturday. It's another cup final.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In my many years as a Sunderland season ticket holder I can remember very few good times as a supporter. It's a wonder that we keep coming back really, but there's just something special about the bond between a football fan and their football club that is almost unexplainable.

You know what I mean, right? I've tried countless times to tell my lass why it's important that I cannot miss watching a game, and she can't get her head around it. It doesn't matter how bad we are or where I am in the world, my priority on a match day has always been Sunderland and planning days around ninety minutes of football is second nature, as I imagine it is to most of us. We look forward to seeing our team play - they might seriously test our resolve from time to time, but you never fall out of love with it. It's ingrained.

With that in mind, consider this - can you imaging watching us play Championship football next season? There isn't a single plus side to being at that level, and don't even try to kid yourself otherwise. Sure, you might win a few more, but the quality, lack of exposure, low attendances - the negatives far outweigh the positives.

When Niall Quinn set out to wake the sleeping giant ten years ago his vision was clear - he wanted to make Sunderland a football club that the fans could be proud of again. He worked harder than anyone through his love for what he believed in, and we saw instant success - a magic carpet ride - before a tumultuous period that saw Sunderland struggle to attain an identity, something which we've suffered for ever since. Year on year we've just scraped by - we've been just good enough. Like Coventry City many years ago, we've been the team that somehow survive when really they shouldn't, year on year.

And in recent times we've seen the ugly side of the football club - right from the top to the bottom - moments I can't bare to recall due to the embarrassment that comes over me. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

What remains throughout those times, though, is the fans, and the people behind the scenes that help run the club that have just as big a part to play as the footballers on the pitch do, but go unheard of - they are a constant. The stewards, the greeters, the tea lady, the canteen staff, the office staff, the receptionists, the shop workers. People's livelihoods are depending on us surviving.

And, with this on my mind, I cannot bare to face relegation. It's all of those people - and the fans - that suffer most.

Right now we have a team and a manager that I enjoy an association with. Since the end of January we've seen a different Sunderland; a side that should not be in the position that we find ourselves. It's making it all tough to take.

Let us not forget the fact that our status as a top flight club remains in our hands. Win our remaining three games and we survive. Sadly, it's not quite as simple as it sounds. Sometimes, football just doesn't work like that.

Come Saturday, we all need to remember just what is at stake - we cannot head away the ball for the defenders, nor can we score the goals for the forward players. We can't pick the team, we can't cut the grass - we can't even influence the other team into having a day off. Nothing is that simple, and as we saw on Monday night, Chelsea relish in spoiling a good party.

What we can do is will our team on with every ounce of our being. Creating a hostile, loud environment - a Roker Roar - is critically essential. We have to let everyone know that we aren't going down without a fight, and we have to remind the players that to us - the fans, the club staff -  this is more than just a game.

Like it or not, we're all in this together.

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