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Why I love Sunderland AFC #10: Michael Bowers - ‘For every dark day, there are some truly amazing moments’

In the tenth edition of our 'Why I love Sunderland AFC' series, Michael Bowers describes his love of the community and their passion.

Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

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Why do I love Sunderland? Believe me, it's a question I often ask myself.

Among the relegation battles, the poor appointments made and inadequate players signed, my love for this club has never diminished. They might make me want to pull my hair out week after week, but my love for Sunderland is the very reason I get so angry when they mess things up.

As opposed to the majority of Sunderland fans, I haven't been into football for very long. But even before I ‘caught the bug’ so to speak, I would have to be a Sunderland fan - mainly because I would be disowned if I chose to support anyone else.

The 2010-11 season was the year I really became interested in football, and at that time Sunderland were hovering around the top six at one point. 'Wow this is great' I thought to myself - how mistaken I was.

That being said, even the following season when we were in the top eight of the Premier League for a little while, and had made it to the quarter finals of the F.A. Cup, I thought to myself 'this must be what it's like to support Sunderland'. Fast forward five years and I now realise how wrong I was.

Regardless of how bad we've been, however, there's always that fresh optimism on a match day and with it comes hope that 'today may be our day'. The anticipation when the teams emerge from the tunnel to be greeted by a huge roar from those inside the Stadium of Light is enough to give anyone hope that perhaps this might be the start of something special.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
My glory days.
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

The array of emotions experienced when at a match is something genuinely unique to life.

There's the tension when the opposition breaks into our half and you're worried we will concede; there’s this eerie drop in the crowd’s tone that suggests something foreboding may be just around the corner.

A crunching tackle brings a rapturous applause, and we’re on the break - the fans urging the Lads forward into enemy territory.

As we push further into the opposition’s half there's a tangible increase in the pitch and tone of the fans’ voices. An audible portrayal of hope. Hope that maybe we can do something.

People rise from their seats as someone takes the ball past a player and into the eighteen yard box. He looks up and plays a pass to a teammate in space; a sharp intake of breath descends into a millisecond of silence and then... pure elation. Visceral joy explodes from tens of thousands of fans as they cheer success embracing and jumping wild with delight.

It’s the best feeling in the world.

But it’s not just the atmosphere inside the stadium that makes me love this club. The social aspect of going to games can't be topped for me. The journey when traveling to away games and that feeling of going to a new ground with your mates who share you passion is something else. The constant singing and banter is enough to make anyone feel upbeat. I haven't seen us win on the road yet, but I still love going to away games.

For every dark day, and there's been plenty to choose from, there's some truly amazing moments.

Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League
The fans are simply incredible.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

And while I may not have been around to appreciate Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, I've still had exceptional moments to cherish.

I remember the Man City game when we had Martin O'Neill. We had been under the cosh all match as they looked to further extend their gap at the top of the Premier League, but Ji Dong Won's last minute winner sent us into raptures. That goal always gives me goosebumps whenever I re-watch it.

Speaking of goosebumps, I remember that night at Old Trafford. The League Cup semi-final second leg. You know the story; we had a 2-1 lead from the first game, but former Mackem, Jonny Evans, levelled the tie on aggregate. Gus Poyet's Sunderland didn’t give up however, and Phil Bardsley scored the goal which looked like sending us to Wembley. I wasn't at the game but I watched it with friends at the Stadium of Light sports bar. We were in total ecstasy, but that didn't last long as Javier Hernandez sent the tie to penalties. After what was a strong contention for the worst penalty shootout ever seen, Vito Mannone saved Fabio's spot kick. We were through!

One of my friends who has supported Sunderland for much longer than I have is very calm and collected even when Sunderland score. But when we went through to the final he fist pumped the air and fell to the floor. For me, that was a particularly special moment from what was one of the best nights of my life.

Then there’s Jermain Defoe's absolute stunner against Newcastle. Not just the occasion, but the goal itself was truly remarkable. I had to digest that we had scored for a moment before throwing myself into wild celebrations like everyone else.

Probably one of my most memorable moments from recent times though is the anticipation when Defoe controlled the ball then fiercely struck home as we beat Chelsea last season which, coupled with Newcastle's failure to beat Aston Villa, guided us to survival. The Stadium of Light erupted with relief, joy and hope. I remember Mike Jones noting that when Defoe scored it was the first time he couldn't hear his officials because the noise was just too overwhelming. I can believe Jones’ claim, the noise levels were truly unbelievable and, to me, they serve as a reminder of how great this football club could be if we could just get things right.

Sunderland haven't given their long-suffering and loyal fans what they deserve for years now, but the people's love for this club will always remain. I know mine will.

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