Sunderland’s win on Saturday didn’t come as the result of a particularly pretty performance but instead because, over the ninety minutes, our players simply wanted it more than theirs.
How often in recent times have we honestly been able to say that after a game?
It’s taken years of torture - and, subsequently, back-to-back relegations - for us to get to this point, but finally it looks and feels like we have a team on the pitch that reflects the values of the supporters in the stands.
For the first time in eleven years, Sunderland have a squad of players that win, lose or draw, you can - without a hint of irony - say that they have the best interests of the club at heart.
That attitude was perhaps best reflected in the performances of the three substitutes which came on in the second half of Saturday’s game and made a huge difference.
It would be so easy to just sulk and think selfishly when you don’t make the starting eleven on a match day, but time and time again the men tasked with entering the field of play late on in a game were the ones to make a difference - further proof that Jack Ross has managed to galvanise each and every member of his squad in a way that so many more experienced men were not able to during their spells in charge of this club.
Barring huge issues I don’t see how, come the end of the season, we won’t be sat assessing the 46 (or potentially 49, depending if we end up in the play-offs) games played in League One knowing fine well that whatever the outcome, everyone at the club gave it their best effort so that Sunderland finished as high up the table as we possibly could.
It has taken an embarrassing, rapid descent to the third tier for us to reach this stage, but it almost feels as though we had to go through all of the toil and depression that came with it to reach a point where we could be content with supporting our team again.
Whether we achieve promotion this season or not, I can’t envisage me ever being disappointed with this group of players and this manager.
They care in a way that so many others before them didn’t - just look at how passionately the players celebrated Luke O’Nien’s goal late in the game on Saturday, for example. He’s barely featured this season but this squad are together - they all know how much it meant to O’Nien to be able to have an impact, and I have no doubt that this has come as a result of his own infectious attitude which is apparent each and every time he opens his mouth.
It doesn’t matter how small a part you play, you have still played your part and it’s that what matters - there’s no individualism apparent here, but instead just a collection of passionate people that understand the merit of having a cohesive team unit, and a common bond.
Wherever fate takes us, I just hope that Jack Ross remains at our club long enough to see this project through. Not to tempt fate or even get ahead of myself, but I think it’s fair to say our manager has qualities which will undoubtedly see him reach the top eventually - and we can only hope that it is as manager of Sunderland that he tastes a level of success befitting of his own abilities as a coach and a motivator.
But, for now, let’s keep enjoying ourselves in League One.
I still find it amusing each time I see a Newcastle fan jibe at us for the division we play our football in. How many toon supporters, deep down, would swap their situation with ours if it meant getting rid of an owner they want to see the back of?
It seems drastic, but even though they’re in the top flight it feels as though we are the ones with the most positive forward momentum. If things continue as they are, we could both be playing in the same league next year - isn’t it funny how things work out?
What will be, will be. The fact is that Sunderland supporters are loving life in League One - I can’t even put into words how it feels looking forward to each game again.
Another sold-out away end head to Doncaster tomorrow night in search of another three points, already content knowing that the squad that head there to represent our football club go intending to come away with another victory, one that could even move us into the automatic promotion spots. Bring it on, I say.