Christmas is almost upon us, bringing its usual glut of football with it. In the past few years we’ve had festive jaunts to Old Trafford and the Etihad, but this season’s New Year’s Day trip is building towards being one of the most highly anticipated in living memory.
Picture the scene. The sun is hanging low in the Lancashire sky. Across the town folks are rubbing their eyes, welcoming in the new year with a horrendous hangover. Then comes the distant rumble of coaches and trains from the east. Some are hungover, some have simply carried on the drinking.
It’s the first day of 2019 and there’s about to be a red and white invasion of Blackpool.
Sunderland travel to Bloomfield Road to face Blackpool in a match which, thanks to a generous allocation from our hosts and the enticement of seeing in the new year by the seaside, will see just shy of 8000 Mackems head westwards. Whether it’s either of these reasons or the fact that we’re up near the top end of the table, the feel-good factor is alive and well. By the time we visit, we could well have beaten Bradford and Shrewsbury, and the festive merriment will surely be still high amongst the red and white masses in Blackpool.
⚪️— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) December 21, 2018
An astonishing 7,759 tickets have been snapped up by #SAFC fans for the New Year's Day trip to Blackpool - and our allocation is now SOLD OUT!
Join us and #turnblackpoolredandwhite https://t.co/6LDq7z2wH8 pic.twitter.com/FxZhkh3Zp4
Making the most of the good times is important for any football club, but for Sunderland it is imperative. The memories of the past two seasons are still too raw for some, due mainly to the impact of the Netflix original series ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’.
The renewed optimism of this season has meant that the challenges set by Methven, Donald & Co were always going to be easier to achieve, but the idea of taking so many fans to an away trip at a time of year when many people are spending time with family shows that Sunderland fans can’t really get enough of the new and improved version of the club.
We’ll be heading over to Lancashire off the back of hosting the biggest attendance at a third-tier match in almost 40 years, helping to show that at the half way point of their first campaign our new owners are succeeding in putting pride back into our club.
After relegation from the Championship not even the most optimistic fan could have imagined taking so many thousands of fans to a festive away match in League One, yet the strength of the average Sunderland fan can never be underestimated.
The New Year’s Day trip is arguably not out most glamorous, but it’s been a while since we’ve gone into this time of year having only tasted defeat once. The winning feeling is still something of a novelty for Sunderland fans, so we’ll take three points wherever we can find them. The engagement from Donald and Methven has continued to make fans feel involved in their club.
There is a genuine appreciation from Sunderland AFC for their fans, and us supporters are being rewarded with some fine performances on the pitch - three points in front of a packed away end on New Year’s Day could be the start of a fantastic 2019.