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Cans & Megabus #9: Burton Albion - Sheer elation in the beer capital of England

A blocked earlobe, a missed train, a nagging hangover and terrible, terrible weather was not going to ruin this most wonderful of days.

Elation is a weird emotion. It is so pure in its delivery yet so elusive to find. Many try to manufacture it, but when it comes in its most natural form it can be overwhelming. We often forget how good it feels but when it returns it is one of the most enjoyable sensations the human body can experience.

For a couple of hours, you feel as if you’re walking on air. All those little stresses and strains melt away, those nagging issues are put to one side and the world seems that little brighter. After months upon months of doom and gloom, there is finally a little crack of light piercing through the intense grey that has engulfed us Sunderland supporters.

It’s amazing what a scrappy victory against Burton Albion can do.

This is what we imagined life in the Championship to be, this what we wanted life in the Championship to be - rock up to some town you never thought of visiting, drink all their beer, bowl about the terraces in some shed of a ground and watch on as The Lads roll over another hapless foe.

The trusty Carling, brewed in Burton.

A Saturday afternoon in Staffordshire in mid-November gave us that. However, this day wasn’t without its hitches as I found myself forking out for another train after inexplicably sleeping through my alarm (thanks in no part to a blocked earlobe that had rendered me part-deaf). This was not stopping me witnessing the dawn of the Chris Coleman Revolution in an utterly freezing Burton upon Trent.

There was an almost giddy anticipation among my fellow Sunderland brethren, whether that was to do with the fact we could sense that today could be turning point in our season or the fact that Burton literally stunk of beer, remain to be seen.

Could this actually be the day? Could we actually win? Three months without a victory does this to the mind.

Burton had a lot to live up to. For weeks, word around the north east had been of a mythical place where the rivers ran rich with hops and barley, where there was brewery on every corner and where you could get a Carling Premier on draught.

The town had the same mystique as Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory as hardy souls gazed upon the huge metal gates and the steel cylinders speculating about the magic that lay inside.

Alas, the closest we could get to stepping into this secretive world was by sampling as many of Burton’s finest tipples as possible. Unlike many of our opponents this campaign, literally nobody supports Burton Albion so the pubs were welcoming to a band of red and white clad patrons.

There was a different feeling about the day.

We crammed our way into the Pirelli Stadium, a venue that clearly didn’t think it would be hosting second tier football, and there was an air of confidence - a weird unnerving air of confidence. We were going to win today, by hook or by crook, we were going to win today.

This was Championship football at its finest - frantic, bitty, lacking intensely in quality and so, so cold.

The rain, hail, sleet and snow battered down on this glorified non-league ground but that air of confidence never seemed to din. Burton Albion were there for the taking and it felt like it was only a matter.

And then it arrived. A beautiful flicked header by Cattermole, Stephen Bywater (yes, he’s still playing, I don’t know how either) caught in no-man’s land and the biggest of big dawgs James Vaughan arriving at the back post to nod home. Everyone exploded. The stand exploded. Delirium. Elation. Everything.

Today was going to be the day. We weren’t going to throw this away. Not today. And as the second was bundled in we were home and dry (well, actually pretty sodden but you get the jist). Those months of frustration had been lifted, this is the day we had wanted to experience from the moment relegation was confirmed.

Coleman gave it the big’un, we gave it the big’un back and then drank the remainder of Burton upon Trent dry - isn’t elation such a wonderful feeling?

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