I can take losing a game of football. It wasn’t even the manner of our defeat against Celtic that angered me the most - infact, it has become second nature witnessing us capitulate at the Stadium of Light.
The occasion as a whole is what left me feeling irate as I came away from the ground on Saturday. Everything about it was downright disgusting and hurtful and yet another kick in the teeth to loyal supporters that are consistently shit on by this football club, year on year, despite supporting and backing them through thick and thin.
Having already spent a fortune on tickets and travel following Sunderland around this pre-season, I was looking forward to taking in our twentieth year at the Stadium of Light celebrations this past weekend. Sadly, I was let down.
My first issue was what I was greeted with upon arriving for the metro before the match. The trains were packed with pissed-up Glaswegians intent on making the atmosphere hostile even before we got near Sunderland. Then the route to the ground was even more hairy, with fights between the two sets of supporters kicking off all over the shop. We were ushered away from the bars near the Stadium because of the trouble that had already unfurled and the heavy police presence was just obscene, particularly for a pre-season game.
It felt like a Derby day against Newcastle, except if they let the mags just wander the streets freely to do as they please. I’m sure that the majority of the Celtic supporters in Sunderland behaved themselves properly but the arrangement of the fixture just invited bother and hostility to an area that didn’t really need it.
And for what? I can only assume the game was arranged due to the request of the shirt sponsor that we both share. Was no thought given for the chaos that this event was going to cause?
It was just overbearing. I didn’t feel like I was at ‘home’ at all - more like I was an outsider in my own city, watching over my shoulder as I walked to the ground because I happened to be wearing a red and white shirt.
As I looked around me inside the stadium I couldn’t help but feel that the true legacy of the last twenty years at our ‘home’ was apparent. Empty, pink seats everywhere. Very few Sunderland supporters gave a shite about this game or the cheap tickets because, in truth, what the fuck have we got to celebrate about the last twenty years? Disillusionment? Being lied to and let down time and time again? Financial peril? Suffering? Countless relegations and a lack of progress both on and off the field?
Sure, there are isolated games and moments that will live long in the memory, but generally speaking our time at the Stadium of Light has been largely tinged with disappointment.
The formative years there were golden and we really did appear to be going places, but things soon unfurled once our ageing team dissipated and we rotted slowly. The fact we’ve never finished higher than tenth in the Premier League since Peter Reid was manager tells you the whole story - Sunderland have not been good enough for years and, finally, people seem to be giving up on the football club.
The home crowd at the weekend should give us strong hint as to how many season cards we’ve actually sold ahead of our upcoming Championship campaign. Anyone excited about the season beginning again will have made an effort to be there for the Celtic game on Saturday and whilst I’m yet to see an official attendance figure, I’d hazard a guess that there were more of their fans than ours in the ground.
What should have been a proud day for our football club ended in a farce, with our ‘history’ brushed to one side so that thousands of Glaswegians could have a nice day out and Jimmy White could present them with a custom-made trophy. The whole thing felt mucky.
This was an event created purely to appease a sponsor, with the twentieth year celebrations and the Sunderland supporters merely an afterthought.
People are fed up and are tired of being fed bullshit, and really I am disappointed that I didn’t see what I encountered on Saturday coming sooner. I really wish that I hadn’t bothered making the effort to go along.