Stop the presses, everyone. Supporting The Lads is good again. That feeling of nervous excitement has returned and it’s bloody brilliant.
In these few short weeks since his appointment, Simon Grayson has re-energised this fanbase with his infectious enthusiasm, his clear passion for the role and the evident respect he sees for this football club. There are no airs and grays-ons (GET IT! LOL), he gets on with the job and all the limitations that go with it without so much of a grumble. Grayson clearly relishes the challenge and doesn’t trot out tired excuses at every turn and that is so refreshing.
Our positive start to the season is helping to build bridges (and there are hundreds to go) between the club and the fans after the shambolic reign of the utter charlatan that was David Moyes. After encouraging displays against the so-called “better” teams in this jobber division - Derby County and Norwich City - it was time to visit another of these stalwarts in Sheffield Wednesday.
Regular readers (both of you) to the Cans & Megabus column will note my utter despair that this fixture was plonked on a midweek. It robbed a lot of supporters (the unlucky one’s like me, who’d ran out of holidays from work) of a lovely day in Sheffield sampling the local ales and mixing with the clientele. Alas, here we were, aptly on a Wednesday to visit Hillsborough.
Armed with two cans of Lidl’s finest German pilsner I dodged out of work early to catch the train to Leeds with a connection to Sheffield awaiting. It was a military operation: Leeds by 17:56, train to Sheffield at 18:11, in at 18:51, tram to Hillsborough, swift one in the Hillsborough Tap, straight in for kick off. Bosh.
Alas, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry and there I was rolling into Sheffield at twenty past 7 (cheers, CrossCountry) and gazing upon a tram rolling from Sheffield station off into the distance. Luckily, Hillsborough is only four-bastard-miles away from the city centre so I resigned myself to missing kick off.
However, out of the shadows came a knight in shining armour. This God-like figure going only by the name of Rupesh offered a helping hand with the words “Hillsborough, the football ground? Yeh, about 8 quid mate”. This saint in a sea of sinners had reached out to get this stricken Cinderella to the ball.
Rupesh was true to his word and I made my seat in the magnificent temple of football that is Hillsborough just as the lads kicked off. Rupesh’s quick thinking and skillful driving meant I was able to witness the absolute limbs that proceeded George Honeyman leathering in our opener.
It was great to have this feeling back. That immense outburst of emotion that only comes with scoring a goal away from home. Sunderland were back. Sunderland supporters were reborn and my shin was a bloodied mess. After 18 months of being constantly shit on, we were back and we were here to royally take the piss. While we did exactly that in the away end (which had some exceptionally good acoustics), the team desperately should’ve done the same on the pitch.
The opening 45 minutes demonstrated once again that we are simply better than some of the bigger names in this division and we really should’ve seen off a pretty poor Wednesday team. Lewis Grabban, Brendan Galloway and Billy Jones (of all people) had chances to bury The Owls before the break but failed to do so.
Despite finishing last season in the play-off final, the home side seemed clueless how to break us down but as we sat back, and back, and back, and back we seemed to be almost willing them to score. We allowed ourselves to be dominated by a team that should have been dead and buried by this point.
The equaliser eventually came from a 25-yard pot shot and then ensuing onslaught made us slightly relieved to come away with a point. However, from a personal point of view, this was a missed opportunity to properly lay down a marker that we are a serious player in this division and will mix it with the “best”.
However, still undefeated since Darron Gibson called them all shit so there’s that.
Special shout for attempting to get away from Hillsborough. Spending a good 45 minutes pressed into a bloke’s armpit on a packed tram was not my idea of post-match entertainment. Congratulations Hillsborough, you now join the Britannia Stadium, the Macron Stadium and Anfield as the worst grounds to get away from in British football.
Oh, and can we stop singing about the IRA, ey lads?
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