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Roker Report are looking for reader submissions as part of our 'Why I love Sunderland AFC' feature. If you would like to pass on your tale of why you love this club, please email us a piece of no less than 500 words to RokerReport@Yahoo.co.uk - we'll feature the well-written ones here on the site!
It’s 5th April 2015. The clock ticks past the forty-fifth minute mark as the fourth official's board goes up to signal an additional one minute of added time.
Steven Fletcher flicks a long ball up into the air, and Jermain Defoe unleashes a volley, an absolute howitzer of a shot into the top corner, sending the Stadium of Light delirious.
That day, after Sunderland secured another win over deadly foes Newcastle United, in amongst the full time celebrations, I cast my eye up towards the TV studio where Sky Sports cover their live games. I could see Niall Quinn outside of the studio doors out on the balcony. He had one arm draped around Thierry Henry. Quinn was beaming, pointing, happily gesticulating; educating Henry on exactly what it was he was experiencing. The legendary Frenchman was taking it all in. He said live on air that yes he was "a neutral", yet he didn't want Newcastle to equalise that day as it would spoil Sunderland's celebrations, which he also remarked were like "winning a title".
Like Quinn, Henry buys into how special a club SAFC is. He's had heroic welcomes twice before from home supporters, something that he doesn't forget. Arsene Wenger says he knows how knowledgeable Sunderland fans are. Wenger has stated that "they appreciate good football and good footballers."
As if we needed reminding, Sunderland AFC haven’t won a domestic cup since 1973. In 138 years of existence, we’ve seen only 6 major cup final appearances, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Where else would you find 48,000 supporters turning up in their droves each week after the seemingly perennial underachievement that lingers around our club? Why do we do it? It is sheer loyalty. Hope. Anticipation. Wonder. For the good days and the special times. The derby victories. Unforgettable penalty shootout wins at Old Trafford. Promotion pushes. Miraculous runs to Wembley. The marvel at another unexpected 'Great Escape'.
As a little nipper who took in his first game at Roker Park against Southend in 1994, I knew right away that this was a special club that would change my life forever. That day I unknowingly created an obsession as I embarked on a lifelong football education, with SAFC at the very centre of it. I now had an unbreakable affiliation that will stand the test of time, something that I will pass on to my own son.
I have collected plenty of heroes along the way; Goodman, Smith, Ball, Reid, Johnston, Phillips, Quinn, Hutchison, Arca, Keane, Bent, Defoe… There have been some incredible matches, atmospheres, goals and individual moments.
Whatever the future may hold, I'll be there every step of the way, at The Stadium of Light and up and down the country as the seasons tick by. If it's Manchester United or Torquay United, I simply wouldn't miss it for the world.