One such occasion was in May 2014, when the Wearsiders pulled off one of the greatest escapes in football history. Even more incredibly we completed the job with minimum fuss with two early goals, sending the Stadium of Light into party mode but the build up to the game was anything but stress free.
The Saturday before Sunderland had beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford with a dominant display. A 1-0 victory really didn’t do the lads justice on the day as Giaccherini and Borini both hit the upright in the second half. Borini’s chance came as a result of a flowing pass move which would have been a goal of the season contender had it gone in. This win sparked jubilation, surely Norwich wouldn’t get anything at Chelsea and we would be safe.
Of course, this didn’t happen. On that Sunday a group of us had gathered at a pub in the town hoping to celebrate our mathematical survival. But what we were instead treated to was 90 minutes of frustration as José Mourinho’s men failed to break down the Canaries which left me with a surreal feeling.
In the grand scheme of things, the result was pretty much irrelevant, despite Norwich’s draw all we needed was a solitary point from our two remaining games against opponents who were both in little or no relegation trouble of their own. But on that afternoon as I watched Neil Adams and John Ruddy’s bizarre saluting and fist pumping towards the away end, I had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.
We could still “do a Sunderland”. I could just see us struggling to break down West Brom for 90 minutes before conceding a late goal to set up a tension filled 90 minutes at home to Swansea. The thought was more than I could bare. I knew I was being irrational; I knew we had produced a series of excellent performances against some of the Premier League’s finest teams but years of disappointment had instilled an unshakable feeling of pessimism in me.
As with all important night games, the day of the match dragged. I saw people at University laughing and joking amongst each other which to me seemed such an alien concept. How can you have time for such trivial conversation when we play West Brom in a few hours’ time. The nearer the game got the more I was filled with dread.
I didn’t need to worry, however. Sunderland dominated the game from the outset and were soon in front as Marcos Alsonso’s superb cut back was stabbed home by a ginger lad from Killingworth. The lead was doubled just over half an hour, producing one of our goals of the season. Seb Larsson received a pass from Jozy Altidore deep into the West Brom half before executing a beautiful lob over the top of the visitor’s backline which was volleyed into the back of the net by Fabio Borini.
The rest of the game was a rare treat for Sunderland supporters, the lads on the pitch saw the game out with no drama and would have won by more had Jozy Altidore…well hadn’t been Jozy Altidore. But on that night this was just laughed off and the fans saw this as a perfect opportunity to fully utilise their songbook.
Hopefully we’ll all be going home equally as happy on Saturday as we look to kick-start our season.