The journey home after Saturday’s exhausting draw away at Walsall was different from any of the trips home that I’ve had to endure over the past few seasons.
There was no singing, nor an inevitable feeling that we must enjoy it while it lasts, but instead something a little different... a feeling of satisfaction, and a calm belief in the players that adorn the red and white stripes these days.
That said, after a flick through my Twitter timeline it wasn’t long before I noted that fans of other clubs appeared to be revelling in the reaction that the scenes following Lynden Gooch’s late equaliser caused. “Sunderland used to play in the Premier League... now they’re celebrating a draw away at Walsall in the third tier with a pitch invasion”.
The passion that was felt when Sunderland got their second goal on Saturday was the sort of thing that all football fans live for - the kind of scenes that anyone with a modicum of zeal about their football club hope they see as they leave the house for the 3pm kick off on a Saturday morning, no matter which division your club happens to play in.
Yeah, we get it... “it’s only Walsall” and given our infrastructure, size and ambitions perhaps we should be beating them, taking three points and leaving without a fuss, but to look at the opposition, the result and our current league status is to simplify the entire outlook of our football club.
Before jibing at Sunderland and, more specifically Sunderland supporters, I implore fans of other clubs to look a little closer at our club and the things we’ve had to experience recently. The past few years of supporting Sunderland have been nothing short of soul destroying.
We’ve been the butt of every joke, suffered a double relegation, been through countless managers and even more players - and that’s just scratching the surface. It doesn’t even begin to tell the full story.
The reason for the overzealous celebrations wasn’t due to sheer relief. It was community, a new belief in a team that cares again and joy at a forgotten unity of a previously apathetic, unresponsive dying football club. It was symbol of the past few months - to say “we never die” even when most of the football world thought we had months beforehand.
Eight or so months ago Sunderland was a lifeless club, yet through the sheer dogged determination of owner Stewart Donald and a fanbase that gave him their full backing without fully knowing how it would turn out, it’s been given life again - and boy is it breathing.
You see, to deride the sheer joy and togetherness of Sunderland and its fans and our enjoyment of grabbing the club it loves back from the depths of despair is to completely disparage what football should be all about. It’s to place power into the hands of the money men in the top flight, as if to say football is nothing unless it’s the bright lights of the big league, with their inflated prices and absent owners (something Newcastle fans apparently know all about).
Those who laugh at us high up in the Premier League need to ask themselves exactly where they would be if the shoe was on the other foot.
Enjoy League One they said - and we are, all by having an affiliation with the men on the pitch, which is something I admittedly thought I had forgotten existed in football!
What we saw on Sunday wasn’t invading the pitch to celebrate drawing with little Walsall - who have been grossly disrespected during all of this - but it was a showing of togetherness.
We’ve had a club that has paid mega bucks to millionaires that couldn’t care less about the history or the importance of Sunderland or our fans, millionaires that have rewarded us with nothing but relegation battles and disrespect, all of this underpinned by negligent ownership under Ellis Short - now we have an invested boardroom, a talented young manager and eleven men ready to sweat blood for this football club, ready to give every last drop to reward a magnificent fan base that has supported and traveled in numbers despite a catastrophic few seasons.
If being ridiculed for celebrating in the manner we did is the price we have to pay for having an owner, a manager and a team we connect with and collectively believe in, then I’ll take buckets of it.
We are Sunderland, again.