I stood in the Fulwell end through most of my adult young life.
A cup tie - it was a night match at Roker Park against Everton in the late 70’s - certainly sticks out for me, when joy turned to pain after Gary Rowell had put us 2-1 up - as usual, during a goal celebration. It was absolute bedlam, with everyone jumping on each other and hugging each other, as if it was New Years Eve!
When Rowell cracked our winner away I remember jumping up, then feeling a sickening pain in my head, as if someone had stabbed my skull with a bayonet.
I had crashed heads with my good mate Robbie Chapman - his front teeth had sunk their way into the top of my head!
I looked round, and saw Robbie holding his mouth in agony. All of his front teeth were literally hanging by a thread! Blood was gushing out of my skull, and trickling into my eyes.
I looked like Terry Butcher, and as if I had been through a war zone.
Both of us had to walk down by the side of the pitch, where all of the Everton fans were, at the Clockstand side. Of course they all cheered and jeered as if one of their lot had done us in.
We were took in an ambulance to Sunderland General hospital, with Robbie saying “I wonder if my girlfriend will still fancy me? I had six stitches in my head. Robbie over the years has spent thousands on implants! We are still good mates to this day - but I’ve never forgot our painful goal celebration that night at Roker Park.
I for one have found my joy in football again this year and even taken my 5 year old to a game to try and get him brainwashed at an early age.
I gave up on football as a whole when Moyes was manager, letting the wife sign the kids up to music classes on a Saturday and even volunteering to work Saturday shifts as the norm, something I would never had done in my season ticket days.
Everything was dour, depressing and so so out of touch at the club that it wasn’t any fun watching even the odd win. Poison ran through the place, with players as mediocre as Borini sulking and behaving like kids... I remember the knee slide in front of Moyes and just thinking “prick”.
Then we got relegated and there was a positive mindset based on “we will win more than we lose in this division so it could be fun” .
And then we got Grayson in to manage and tied his hands up, similarly to how we seemed to do the same to any keeper we signed all season, and sold players we needed – I mean was the £2 mill for Vito that good an idea in hindsight?
Interest was again on the decline, like the players who were dragged in to watch Grayson’s presentation in the Netflix doc, I started to only glance for the results as I knew them before the kick off really.
Then came Big Chris, largely employed on a reputation of getting the best out of mediocre players plus Bale, almost fool proof but we never got him the Bale but he went and got Camp – remember that the messiah chose Camp!
When he was sacked I genuinely thought I might not ever go again as we were not only a shambles we lacked any morals at all as a club but then the new owners came in and at the time all were suspicious.
Which brings me to my point.
I have quit my job to get my weekends back I have taken the boy to games and I have loved the shithousery of the King, the “physical” stuff we have grown into, the 100% pride and joy in players playing for the shirt, several of our own breaking through and one being a league one superstar.
We now have a manager who has got hold of the out of control juggernaut and started to turn it round, all the social media you see looks to be a training ground having fun and in harmony pulling in the right direction - I hope we get the Netflix second season as I think the contrast will be massive, and he has put smiles on our faces.
Yes, we have been badly burned but that’s all to do with an absent owner, a bunch of managers who were either out of their depth or thought they were above the club and a bunch of cretins in the shirt that thought they were doing us a favor wearing it – this clusterf*ck created a lot of pain and a lot of distrust. I know this.
However to move on we need to look at the now, and enjoy it as then the atmosphere will push the lads over the line, Saturday was an awful game but all the nerves and several voices of disapproval from the stands will only inhibit players who, by large, haven’t got us here and are working harder than anyone I remember to get us out of here.
Enjoy this time, it has the potential to be great.
And, I have a brainwashed 5 year old - my dad would be proud!