When Bolton scored yesterday night I felt no anger; no pain. I didn’t even feel a rush of anticipation or panic - my blood never boiled, and I just blinked. I got over it about as quickly as the actual goal hit the back of the net. I’d liken it to approaching a traffic light just as it turns red, or when the batteries in your remote control are dying. It’s just a minor, insignificant inconvenience that you’ll more than likely get over pretty quickly.
Once upon a time it hurt me deeply, but not now. I’m honestly numb to it all. Losing - the feeling of being second best - has become second nature to me and many other supporters. And trying to think back to a time when I genuinely enjoyed watching Sunderland play is difficult; my mind, more often than not, is blank.
I’m not saying that I don’t care, because I do, a lot. Sunderland AFC dominates my every thought, every conversation. It’s the one thing that unites me with my family, and brings together my mates on a Saturday afternoon. We talk every day about them - I talk to the lads at work every day about them. I’ll never not care.
But I do wonder, does anyone else know how I feel, though? That feeling whereby you’re almost powerless?
It’s like watching a loved one deteriorate right in front of you as they suffer from a debilitating terminal illness, trying your best to be there for them even though you know nothing you can do personally can make a difference. And as the days go by it gets worse and worse; there’s just no fight left anymore, and unfortunately you can see the end of the road ahead of you, even despite feeling the occasional flickers of hope along the way.
That’s how I feel about watching my beloved Sunderland now. I can’t watch a game anymore without feeling an emptiness - it no longer satisfies me; it no longer brings me joy.
I write about Sunderland because there’s nothing I love more than this club. They’ve been the one constant in my life and I’ve been there right through the good and bad times, and I’m sure that I’ll carry on just the same going forward. But trying to comprehend dropping into the third tier for the first time in my lifetime just doesn’t seem real. We could actually be watching Sunderland playing in League One next season.
How mad is that? It doesn’t seem like two minutes since we were celebrating staying up against Everton with Sam Allardyce beating his chest in front of the South Stand to a packed audience. 48,000 has quickly halved, and who can blame people for turning their backs on what they now witness?
I sometimes wish that I could. But I can’t. There’s a thick, tight elastic band holding me down and I have no choice, in my own mind, but to be there with them through thick and thin. To me that’s what being a true supporter is - remembering that Sunderland AFC and those that support it were here long before Ellis Short or Martin Bain, and that our club will still be here long after they depart.
I live each day knowing that there’ll be a time when I wake up to the news that Ellis Short has gone, and that keeps me sane as a supporter, you know? Naturally we want things to change right now, but of course it is clear that things aren’t going to develop like. As fans, we have very few options as we tap our fingers wondering if we could be doing more.
Which is why I think signing this petition, as a Sunderland fan, is important.
Whilst ultimately a petition isn’t going to force this man into selling the football club, it shows the world that Sunderland supporters are united; that we have solidarity, and are proud of who we are. That we aren’t prepared to stand idly by as this cultural institution we love so dearly slowly rots in front of our very eyes.
The great Jock Stein once said that “Football is nothing without fans.” And he was absolutely right - this game, this club - it means nothing without you and I standing side by side in the stands, hoping and praying that better times are just around the corner.