The tragedy of our imminent relegation is the memories that it will tarnish - instead of looking back on the often dramatic 2007/08 season as the foundation for better things, it will instead be remembered as the first of many rounds where we scarcely made it to the bell, staggering back to our corner and feeling disorientated.
It is also depressing to compare the two squads - whilst Roy Keane spent a considerable amount of money on assembling our squad for our first campaign back in the top flight, it was not a squad full of quality.
But as much as we consider the likes of Dean Whitehead and Nyron Nosworthy ironic heroes, the team showed a willingness to fight for eachother on a weekly basis and they achieved Premier League survival, something which our current mismatch of a team look incapable of doing. But enough moaning, let’s go back to March 2008.
At the time, Premier League survival was everything to Sunderland - their previous two Premier League campaigns had resulted in record low points totals and widespread humiliation. But this time things were different. From the second Michael Chopra sent the Stadium of Light wild with his last-minute strike against Spurs on the first day of the season there was a feel good factor and a siege mentality around the club and the city. We weren’t going to be pushovers this time, and we belonged at this level.
Our home form had been decent throughout the season and a first away win of the season at Villa Park saw the lads sitting above the drop zone going into the West Ham game. Sunderland were looking to record back to back Premier League wins for the first time since December 2001.
As is traditional in such games, we went 1-0 down in the first half.
Former Arsenal star Freddie Ljungberg cut inside before his deflected effort nestled in the bottom corner of Craig Gordon’s goal. Under our current regime, we would have surely folded before going on to lose 2 or 3-0. But this was a different era, this was a different Sunderland and they weren’t behind for long. After good link up play, Daryl Murphy squared the ball for Kenwyne Jones to dink the ball home from point blank range.
The crowd sensed blood and Danny Collins was unlucky to see his header cleared from underneath the bar by Lucas Neill. In the second half the home side huffed and puffed without creating many clear cut chances, until the final 10 minutes when Jones played in Daryl Murphy but the Irishman blasted over to create a tension-filled finale.
As the game wore on Sunderland continued to press but it looked like all their good work would be in vein until a Carlos Edwards cross from deep was only half cleared by Anton Ferdinand and Andy Reid timed his volley to perfection to spark wild celebrations on the pitch and in the stands, there was an outpouring of relief as the lads took a giant step towards safety.
At the time we didn’t appreciate what we had; a united football club, a team of players with a never say die attitude and a genuine buzz around the area. Hopefully the lads will show a similar amount of bottle on Saturday to restore some long overdue pride.