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Roker Report are looking for reader submission 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!
Sunderland dominate my every single thought. If I'm not staring at my phone, scrolling my Twitter timeline to get in with the latest crack coming from the club I am watching videos, talking about it to friends or to people at work.
It's an obsession that I'm unable to curb. It started when I was a little boy and it has manifested into this, whereby I attempt to somewhat satisfy my cravings through running a blog site. I eat, drink and breathe Sunderland AFC. I couldn't imagine a life without it - even though there are days where I wonder why I even bother.
I don't need to explain to you why, because we all, in some form, have experienced the same kind of feelings towards this club at some point in time. We all have our reasons for why we love Sunderland, but in the main it's the stuff at the very root of the club that binds all of us - the proud heritage; the fantastic memories of trips all around the country with our friends and family following this club we share a common bond over; the direct links back into the community that the club have provided us with over many years.
Before football became a business it was a form of escapism from the tribulations of working class life - shipbuilders and miners from all across the region would flock to Roker Park to roar their team on to victory, and as time has moved on those working class ideals have been retained by the majority of supporters who only support this club because it's all that they have ever known.
Sunderland, to each and every one of us, means more than being just a football team. Because, if it was footballing reasons that helped us to gauge our support, we'd have all scarpered many years ago to find glory elsewhere.
It's why I get really pissed off when people tell me that 'it's only just a game', in fact, my lass does this quite often when we quibble over why I can't go shopping on a Saturday afternoon or whatever. She doesn't understand why I continually spend copious amounts of money and time going to watch a team that do nothing but torture my emotions on a weekly basis. But why would she know? If you've never been invested in football, you'll never know what it is that keeps you going back. The reasons for doing so go far beyond just watching 'twenty two blokes kicking a bag of air around a pitch'.
I recently very briefly considered cancelling my season card for the first time in over twenty years. I've became disenfranchised with the way that the club has been ran into the ground by people who don't love Sunderland in the same way that I do, and that hurts me immensely.
But then I think about the things that keep me tied to this club. Spending precious time with family, going for a few pints before the game with people that I love to talk about football, enjoying the crack that comes with it - you just can't replace those moments. And in years to come, I'll look back on the fact that I got to go to the games with my dad and our friends and wish that I could relive them for even just a minute, because it's precious and money can't buy it.
All of the shit that we have had to put up with over the years makes the memories of the good things that we have done feel even better.
Remember standing in Covent Garden the night before the 2014 Cup Final singing Sunderland songs and drinking beer amongst thousands of other supporters? Remember the raw emotion felt when Thomas Sorensen saved Alan Shearer's penalty and we tumbled down rows of seats at St James' Park? Remember the pride of seeing our new Stadium for the very first time in all of its splendour? Remember knowing that we had relegated Newcastle? Remember serenading Paolo Di Canio after we beat Everton? Remember when Quinn and Phillips made a mockery of Chelsea? Remember winning the Championship with a record number of points? Remember Carlos Edwards' screamer against Burnley? Remember when Niall Quinn swept us off our feet and took us on a magic carpet ride? Remember beating Manchester United and Chelsea on their own turf on the way to our Greatest Escape? Remember the atmosphere in the Stadium of Light the night we played Sheffield United in the 1998 play-off semi finals? Remember going down to the Charlie Hurley Centre to watch the players train? Remember the countless bus trips up and down the country with your mates - some of the best piss-ups of your life - to see us, more often than not, get trounced? Remember seeing Kevin Phillips walk out onto the Stadium of Light pitch in an England shirt? Remember the scenes when Liam Miller lashed home a volley at the Riverside in the dying minutes of the game? Remember each of those beautiful six derby wins on the bounce?
I wish that I could relive it all again.
That is what Sunderland means to me. We create memories that will live with us forever - moments of pure, unbridled joy that are simply impossible to replicate, more often than not experienced with the people in your life that you love the most.