It feels like forever since I had something positive to mention when it comes to discussing Sunderland. Twenty-one points from thirty-two games and ten months of resident doomster Davey Moyes makes optimism feel like an eternity away.
Of course, it isn't really though. As I sat down to write this piece it occurred to me that I'm too tired to complain anymore. I've got my theories and opinions, and I've shared some of them. I'm not saying that I should stop or that anyone should feel so apathetic that they don't voice their opinions, but I am saying that I am tired. And in the spirit of this inevitability - and with the realisation that my affair with SAFC continues regardless, masochistically, forever and ever until I die - I thought I'd share some thoughts with you about the near future in an attempt at dissipating some trepidation.
This isn't my first relegation, nor will it be the first for many of us. It was only a decade ago that we were in the Championship and I remember feeling then as I do now, albeit with a hotter head. Though I struggle to remember what I had for breakfast yesterday the passion behind supporting a club galvanises you as much as it can consume you. I discuss the matter on a daily basis, and as tiring and upsetting as it has been recently, I just can’t keep away from it.
Something to note about relegation is the very idea of it and the varying effect it has on different fans and different clubs. In its most basic form it is the decision made by your peers, proven by unbiased mathematical formulae, that you aren't good enough to be around them anymore. For anyone this scenario is undesirable but for a group of people that follow a sport, particularly an energetic, tribal sport like Football, this reality can be humiliating. It will never be quite the same as a few games of pool with your mates on a night out; something without permanence or meaning. For many people this club is what they want to talk about it, it's what they want to watch and the Stadium of Light is where they want to be. It's a large slice of how we spend our time so to an outside observer it wouldn't be beyond the realms of logic to expect a devastated reaction from us.
I find this fascinating and not least because I have a theory that relegation is feared far more by the fans of more traditionally successful clubs than by the other half of the table and indeed the five thousand and odd teams below the top flight. For a club and fans like ours it is sad; it is a kick in the gut in contrast to our annual dose of miraculous form and unity. But for other clubs the idea is sensational, it's mind bending and preposterous and something to dread much in the same way you dread a recurring nightmare or sedation at the dentist.
For a club like Sunderland the potential for relegation is ever present. The reasons given by certain pundits and media outlets as to why we will be relegated are not necessarily justified, but the possibility of relegation has hung over this club for years now - we all know it.
I've heard it said that the club has a rotten core preventing us from truly flourishing; I think the owner is almost solely to blame, my old man thinks footballers are just a bunch of fairies now. Yet, none of these opinions, whilst perfectly valid, are relevant. My participation in a chant, my money on travel and accommodation, the amount of merchandise I order – all irrelevant. For one reason or one-thousand SAFC is once again shown to be unworthy of rubbing shoulders with the elite.
There is debate to be had discussing the Premier League and who belongs where, the definition of a successful club, what the fans deserve, and what the club means. Yet realistically none of it matters for the purposes of what I'm saying here. What truly matters is situated in the here and now - it deals with certainties.
There is some small comfort then in our pessimism, or realism depending on how you want to look at it, as this current predicament could be viewed as an opportunity to be expectant and prepared. Regardless of your love for the club - whether you look around you and see a bunch of whingers or equally concerned aficionados - by the time you come to read this you will most likely have accepted that as a club Sunderland's position in the top flight is no longer sustainable, irrespective of whoever is to blame. And like a man on a plane with one wing you may find yourself thinking “This is OK. I am OK with this.” It had to happen and it's happening now.
So let's look to our voyage into the known, to a fixture list chock full of challenging opponents, old friends and new enemies. None of us have any reason to be downhearted, the game goes on and now we've got all the more to fight for. The fans will always turn up and they will always sing and so Sunderland will live on and thrive. If we're lucky we might even win something.
I'm kind of looking forward to it.