Doesn’t it feel great to wake up as not only a Sunderland fan, but as an Englishman too?
England - who, for longer than any of us care to remember, have been a source of derision in this country due to a complete lack of connection between the players and the supporters - are finally producing and making the citizens of this great island incredibly proud. Sunderland AFC - who really couldn’t have tried the patience of the fans any further than they have done in the last five years - are also going to extreme lengths to win back the hearts of the people who care for them most.
The scenes of universal celebration yesterday on the streets of Wearside and beyond as we lauded yet another World Cup win were immense, and were further indicators of the pride that we English have in ourselves deep down.
Football is such an amazing sport. It unites and divides us, captivates us, encapsulates us. The hopes of an entire town, city or nation can fall upon the shoulders of eleven men that kick a ball around a grass pitch for ninety minutes.
I’ve already wrote about this recently, but watching on as Jordan Pickford and Jordan Henderson are at the forefront of this English revolution just makes this whole experience taste even sweeter.
Pickford’s quality has never been in doubt amongst the supporters of Sunderland and Everton, and it was a true show of character when he successfully rebounded from criticism leveled at him from influential figures in the game after the Belgium defeat.
His heroics in the penalty shootout with Colombia and subsequent man of the match performance against Sweden last night have put to bed any doubts about his ability or his right to the England number one shirt.
In the last two games he’s really stolen the spotlight and, when all is said and done, I have no doubt that he’ll be heralded as a national treasure. There’s absolutely no two-ways about it - Jordan Pickford is a world-class goalkeeper and it won’t be long before he’s snapped up by a top European side. We’ve known that for ages though - and it’s nice that we’re finally able to welcome to rest of the country along to the party.
Similarly, Jordan Henderson has suffered from years of doubt from Liverpool supporters and fans of clubs that don’t really watch him on a regular basis. And, in fairness, Henderson might have suffered just a little from effectively being the man that replaced Steven Gerrard as the linchpin of the Liverpool midfield - and those are some big boots to fill.
But now people must recognise Henderson for his achievements and quality. He’s gone several steps further than Gerrard ever did at a World Cup with England and, even if we drop out at the next stage, there’s no way that this side can be recognised as anything other than exactly the type of England team that we’ve been crying out for since the days of Gazza, Pearce, Adams and Shearer.
But to see two young Mackems step out there and perform on the biggest stage there is fills the Sunderland supporters with immense pride. These are two young men that were crafted and developed by our often-maligned football club, and after many years of struggle and strife it’s a fantastic reminder of just how good Sunderland AFC could be if everything is in order behind the scenes.
We have no doubt that we can produce top level footballers here, and maybe in the future it’ll be a possibility where we see these lads turn out in red and white as opposed to colours of other teams because we’re able to compete at a decent level. That has to be the dream of the club, and of any young player that is either coming through here or that is given the opportunity to come here. You can make it if you choose Sunderland - just look at the two shining examples that we have playing on the elite stage right now.
‘Football’s Coming Home’ has undoubtedly been the anthem of this year’s competition, as it often is, and that’s because the England supporters genuinely feel like this could be our year.
There’s a belief amongst the public and indeed the players that we can conquer this competition outright, and why not? We have nothing at all to fear. We’ve already over-exceeded everyone’s expectations, and to progress further and even win the trophy would be beyond our wildest dreams.
Hopefully this journey won’t end when we face Croatia next week.