When news broke yesterday that sales ahead of the Boxing Day game versus Bradford had surpassed forty-thousand, the foundations of a cathartic moment set themselves firmly in the imaginations of the romantics among us.
After the Netflix documentary, ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ rekindled awful memories of the recent past, this Boxing Day could well be the perfect scene to encapsulate the manner in which new ownership has helped rebuild badly damaged bridges with a badly-beaten fanbase.
And, since the Boxing Day bumper crowd target was set by executive director Charlie Methven back in November, fans have responded to his summons in their droves.
Methven himself was impressed by the response:
To get 40,000 for a third division game is nearly unprecedented – it hasn’t happened for 39 years, and that was the Sheffield derby in 1979.
When I set the target five weeks ago, I received quite a few messages asking why on earth I was setting targets that we might miss. My response was that part of the Board and Jack Ross’ ethos for SAFC is to set stretching targets and then give everything to hit them, without being fearful about falling short.
So, this is just another stepping stone to re-building the self-belief of this great club that all is possible if we have the right plans and give it our best.
And Charlie is right - this club should concern itself with constantly striving to reach the next level. For too long we’ve been content with sub-level aspirations of mediocrity that subsequently descended into full-force oblivion.
Now it’s time for the fans to lead the way once more and turn this newfound sense of hope into real, meaningful action. Showing up in force, cheering the Lads onto a victory, and then doing it all over again is what needs to happen.
This is a chance for this ownership, and this team to show us they mean business, and a chance for the fans to show their true worth.
A packed out SoL absolutely rocking on Boxing Day stands as the ultimate symbol of a resurrection from the apathy that infested our club for so long. It stands as a moment whereby the fans of this club can show just what this institute means to our region and our people. It shows that Sunderland is back in business.
And now that the initial target has been surpassed, the ploy now should be for as many of us to pile into the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day as possible - for all Sunderland supporters who are able to go to the game, this is a reason to be proud, and event worth being a part of. The club is as united as it has been for quite some time - what better way to celebrate that fact than by making this an occasion to remember?
The phrase ‘second-to-none’ is much over-used, but who can doubt that it applies to Sunderland fans? The number of English clubs who could confidently say that they would attract over 40,000 to a League One game could be counted on one hand.
Stewart and I are just very proud to be custodians of such a great institution.
We will never take for granted the support that Sunderland fans give their club.
That final line is an oath - an oath that the new ownership must live and die by because we truly are second-to-none. Together we are key to the future of this club, and Boxing Day is just the chance we need to demonstrate that to the wider footballing world.
This Boxing Day could well be an historic day in our club’s history, one that is remembered long in the mind as a moment where the turnaround became tangible. Let’s make sure it’s a day to remember, let’s pack the SoL and cheer our club onto victory. Ha’way the Lads!