As I made the two-hour plus drive down to Bradford last weekend for our game at Valley Parade, I did so with an expectation that Sunderland would give me something to cheer for.
Over the last few years my away day trips have lessened to the point where last season I only attended two games away from the Stadium of Light. The first, a trip to Oakwell, was enough to put me off ever attending another game again. We lost 3-0 and it was an utterly pathetic showing.
The second and last match I went to away from home last season was Hull City a few weeks later whereby we conceded a late equaliser via our old boy David Meyler. At that point, I’d lost my enthusiasm for an away day - in the short term, at least.
Fast forward to now, though, and like many other supporters I’ve recaptured some of my enthusiasm for the trips away to see the lads play.
I’ve attended two away games so far in League One - our draw at Coventry and the win last weekend against Bradford. And, boy-oh-boy does it feel nice to actually travel away from home and witness a positive performance, atmosphere and day out.
Stewart Donald, Jack Ross and our squad of players have done a wonderful job of putting pride back into our superb support and now it feels like everyone is pulling in the same direction.
The ITV camera crew that followed me around at the game only had to ask me how I felt as a Sunderland fan this season compared to last for me to chat for 10 minutes about the differences at the club.
Away days last season were hard work. The fans were still travelling in their numbers, but my experiences over the last few years of following the lads away have been far more negative than positive.
In fact, my main concern with the TV package was that it would come across the wrong way because of how glowing I was about the club and how I feel about it at the moment. Luckily, the producers at ITV managed to have me as the perfect blend of happy and excited without it coming across as overly sweet and happy.
Watching it back, it made me realise how much I have regained my love and passion for Sunderland as a club and a place. Last year I was still attending games but I had lost that spark. Defeats were greeted with a shrug of the shoulders rather than a weekend of misery. Victories still felt sweet, but they were so infrequent that I rarely got the feeling.
Now though, I am fully engaged again. I drink in SAFC content, I get excited for planning and hosting the Roker Rapport podcast. I want to go to every game and I get genuinely sad when I can’t get tickets in the away end. Home games are fun again and no longer feel like the chore that they had become over the last few years.
We hit our lowest ebb last season when we were relegated to League One, but now we are only just starting our ascent back to the top and I really cannot express how happy it makes me knowing that we have the right people at our football club now.
So f*** people that laugh at us for being in the third tier. This is the first time in about eight years that I have truthfully enjoyed watching Sunderland week in, week out.