By David Callaghan - @DavidCallaghan
So, you’re a rank and file journeyman for Nottingham Forest or Barnsley. Sure, you’ve worked hard with what limited talent you had at your disposal and made it all the way to the giddy heights the second biggest league in English Football.
But something’s missing - you don’t feel that kind of fluid sensual fulfillment that comes with playing flowing dominant cohesive football at a professional level, with many of the wins you have every season coming in at a hotly contested 1-0, or perhaps an edgy 2-1. You never get that feeling of going into half time knowing your four-nil lead will go unthreatened for the remainder of the game.
You’ve never outplayed, outclassed, and frankly humiliated an opposition. Couple this with your wife being able to go on regular spa days to recuperate while you train hard running on your city’s park, kicking balls into some badly-maintained local authority goals each and every day of the week - well look no further, the Football League have just installed a new relaxation experience for men of exactly your situation, and its simply entitled ‘Playing Against Sunderland AFC’.
What’s that? You’re a right back and you want a weekend off from being asked questions from even the most mediocre of wingers? Then play against Sunderland! For some reason you’ll be up against Adam Matthews, a right back played out of position for no discernible reason or effect due to a meaningless formation change from Simon Grayson. You’re a centre half and you fancy a day of barely moving and heading easy balls back to your uncontested midfield? Then come on down, because you’ll be playing against an isolated James Vaughan, a 5’11” striker who is exclusively asked to flick on long balls to - and here’s the kicker - no one. Oh, you’re a midfielder who can barely control a ball? Well look no further, Sunderland’s midfielders cant even control their drinking habits. You’ll be up against the ‘Lee Cattermole’, the namesake of a talented footballer who played for Sunderland between 2009 and 2011 before being Paul McCartneyed and replaced with a sock full of birthday cake. Darren Gibson, the biggest waste of money since channel four bought Paul Hollywood and a rolling pin for seventy million pounds, and Jack Rodwell - who has recently been reclassified as a smell.
Whether you’re pushing for the playoffs or just expecting yet another ordinary campaign, you’ll have exactly the same experience, knocking fairly easy long balls over into the path of interchangeably dreadful Jason Steele and Robin Ruiter - a pair of keepers who let more forwards past them than the AOL spam filter I had in 1998.
Yes, obviously Sunderland have Aiden McGeady occasionally turning in a moment of brilliance, so you may have to settle for 4-1 rather than 4-0, but not to worry - because its not like that goal will inspire even the briefest of fightbacks from the Wearsiders. Honestly, even teams who engage in match fixing try harder. You’re up against a squad of players who are so gutless and cowardly that they’re willing to concede three against almost anyone and retire back to their dressing rooms and Premier League salaries without a thought for the dwindling numbers of fans on the terraces, heads in hands, fathers and sons consoling each other, all paying £30 to see their once proud club be humbled by the likes of Cardiff City.
So come on down the the Stadium of Light today - we guarantee a minimum of four celebrations with your bemused team mates and unrecognisable tracksuit manager. The Stadium of Light is now a leisure resort for any team willing to show up, having been bought by Ellis Short and repurposed from its previous life as a fortress. Its now goals, space in the six yard box, misplaced five yard passes, and muted boos galore.