“I couldn’t sleep last night before this...”
“Yeah, I was too excited for this...”
“I’ve been waiting for this all week...”
Statements like those above seemed to be representative of the thoughts of the majority of Sunderland supporters as we rocked up in Staffordshire. A Love Supreme had managed to go a step further by tweeting with their big doe eyes that they (or probably their social media guru) had been awake since half 1 in the morning and how they “absolutely love football again”.
Ah, the folly of optimism. The naivety of preparing for a Sunderland Association Football Club away fixture with a modicum of confidence and positivity. Have we not learned anything? Have the past five years been completely forgotten?
You fools - you happy, wide-eyed, sunny side of life fools.
The disappointing home draws against Oxford United and Fleetwood Town had generated an odd sense of confidence. While I am not one to urinate on your raging bonfires, we should know better not to get overly excited about a Sunderland stringing an unbeaten run together. You know why? Because this is Sunderland.
However, if there is one place I would happily lose an unbeaten run it is Burton-upon-Trent.
Bathed in the last remaining embers of summer, this mecca of ale provides everything you could want for a Saturday afternoon watching The Lads. There is the scent of hops and barley in the air and public houses are opening their doors just a little earlier to accommodate the thirsty hordes.
There is a certain beauty to the sheer humble nature of Burton’s pub scene.
It feels akin to taking a step back to a different time, a simpler time. The bars refuse to take card, the only food option is crisps or, if you really want to treat yourself, a pork pie and they view anyone ordering a lager with extreme suspicion.
Burton, of course, was also one of the scenes of hope during our calamitous 2017/18 season. This was the place we had all been looking forward to because it had terraces. We thought that James Vaughan was going to be the saviour and that Chris Coleman could genuinely guide us to safety. All seems a long time ago now, doesn’t it?
However, after several pints of Hairy Helmet (stop laughing at the back) the feeling had returned. We are going to absolutely murder these jobbing Burton mugs. It’ll be a piece of cake, we’ve got an exciting front three and they’re playing a goalkeeper they signed four days ago. This is going to be an absolute breeze.
The terraces were crammed with well-oiled Mackems and confidence flowed through the stands but ultimately stopped at the advertising hoardings.
Despite warnings in pretty much every game we’ve played so far this campaign, Sunderland started incredibly slow and allowed Burton to take control of the game from the off.
While Oxford, Fleetwood, Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon had failed to properly take advantage of our incredible inability of defending set pieces, the Brewers did and within half an hour they were two to the good.
It’s all falling apart, lads. Combine that with Charlie Wyke being stretchered off after being assaulted by former Chavdar Etropole goalkeeper (?) Dimitar Evitomov and Josh Maja missing a delightful sitter - it resulted in The Lads being laughably booed from the field.
Despite clawing a goal back through the gorgeous left foot and hair of Chris Maguire, there was never an urgency that would force an equaliser. A smattering of applause and grumbles greeted the final whistle and the “isn’t football amazing” sensation began to give way to the familiar feeling of disappointment.
However, this felt like a defeat that needed to happen and hopefully it’ll be a mere blip on a glorious return to the Championship.
Enough about that though - let me tell about this pork pie I had.
This was gourmet taken to the next level. Imagine (if you can), succulent pork encased in flaky light pastry. Oh, and what’s this? They’ve done something a little different here, the little devils. In lieu of a pasty roof, they’ve incorporated cherry tomatoes and a smattering of cheddar. Oh ambassador, with these pork pies you are spoiling us.
When I pass on, lay my bones to rest in Burton.
Tinpot Sponsor of the Week: Don Amott - “The King of Caravans”