As Sunderland supporters we’ve become accustomed to failure and disappointment, particularly in recent years when the match-going experience has been anything but enjoyable.
I find it difficult to explain to people who don’t support this great club (or that don’t have the same level of enthusiasm for fandom as I do) about what it is that keeps making me go back. I suspect most of you reading this will know exactly what I mean - putting your finger on what it is that draws you to Sunderland isn’t easy.
Last year was testing, both as a supporter and as a writer. You can imagine how hard it is having to sit down and digest every single piece of information pertaining to our club when everything is just so negative.
There are, after all, only so many times you can talk about how rubbish everything is.
But now, just over three months on from that defining day when it was announced that Stewart Donald would be taking over the club, things have changed significantly.
The attention to detail from the owners with everything has not gone unnoticed. Nothing is ever a problem. Everyone - even those with the smallest of issues - can have their voices heard. Just by sending a tweet or an email you can expect that you’ll get to the bottom of whatever your issue is, no matter how big or small.
And the culmination of a summer of hard work from everyone associated with the club came on Saturday afternoon when Lynden Gooch’s head met Bryan Oviedo’s inch-perfect cross to send the Sunderland supporters into a state of delirium - the kind of unbridled joy and ecstasy that our fanbase haven’t had the pleasure to experience in years.
Don’t get me wrong - we have achieved NOTHING yet. The hard work has only just begun, and if any of us weren’t quite sure of what we can expect from League One this season before Saturday game, they’ll most certainly know now what we’ve got to come.
But that doesn’t deride from the fact that Saturday’s experience was one that we’ve longed for in years. The truth of the matter is that the supporters of this football club do not care what division we play in for as long as we can see that the players, the management, the owners and the staff are genuinely invested in what we are trying to achieve.
The vibe around the club has changed - for the better. We’ve changed. The mentality has changed. Even the stewards at the game on Saturday looked happy. We are in this together.
We’ll undoubtedly hit bumps in the road along the way, but it’s important that we take the time to analyse the situation and remember that there are greater things at play here.
When we went behind on Saturday there was an enormous roar from the home supporters, a clear show of defiance and solidarity, and that the fans are fully on board with what everyone is trying to achieve. Six months ago that would have been replaced by boos and groans - a telling sign of just how far we’ve come in such a short space of time.
This is a new Sunderland.