Q: What means more to you - automatic promotion come season’s end, or seeing Sunderland lift the Checkatrade Trophy at Wembley and having that whole weekend down in London, and why?
Craig Davies says...
I’m relieved the question posed was ‘what means more?’ rather than ‘what would you prefer?’
Because, meaning implies emotion, love, and personal connection. Those heart tingling, blood pumping and hair on end moments build memories and attachments, that in turn construct attachments to the club that last a lifetime. For the the simple reason of meaning, is why I would choose Wembley.
From the cold and practical standpoint of preference, perhaps promotion and increased revenue would be preferable for the fiscal future of the club and I’d likely agree.
But for meaning alone. Well again it’s Wembley. It’s the occasion, the smell of a thousand street vendors selling their savoury wares. The sound of 30-40,000 Sunderland supporters singing harmoniously in one voice, crooning ferociously to the hits of the season, fully believing Luke O’Nien really is rocking League One or that Will Grigg is on fire.
Memories being made with kids bouncing off the shoulders of proud fathers and families forging links with other families who share the club, the history, the heritage. Taking over London with a sea of red and white. The joviality, the experience, the bonding. The occasion. They’re all moments. Moments to treasure. For my young kids, it’s these moments that will provide meaning and joy.
So Wembley for me. Each time.
Mark Carrick says...
I remember being at the Milk Cup final in 1985 as a teenager: the euphoria at getting tickets for Wembley, the excitement for days prior to the game, travelling down, the atmosphere outside the ground.
I remember going in and trying to take it all in. The crowd, the players coming out, even seeing my hero, Gary Rowell, amongst the Norwich contingent.
I remember them scoring and not being able to make sense of why we hadn’t cleared the ball in the first place. Then, a penalty!! Clive Walker never misses... Only...
I remember the final whistle, the crowd still singing, the journey home - sad but proud and pleased I’d been there.
I remember going to every round of the ‘92 cup run. The atmosphere at Roker Park when we beat Chelsea with Gordon’s header. The Byrne header at Hillsborough. The final whistle to take us to Wembley. And then not being able to get a final to ticket... But we had a day round our mates house, dreaming of what might be. We were happy enough at half-time despite Byrne’s miss. But then I remember coming away feeling proud but disappointed once more.
Wembley is an amazing experience. But I also remember Denis Smith taking us out of the Third Division. And again into the First via another Wembley day out that ended in defeat. Or Reid’s promotions. And Mick’s. And Keane’s.
For all Wembley is an amazing day out full of emotion and joy, if it ends in defeat in can be the worst of places.
But promotion. Secured over months of rollercoaster rides, amazing highs, a few lows, but ultimately success... I’d take that every time.
Those are the success stories we remember. Where heroes are made and where our love of Sunderland stems from. Promotion means more to me as I remember the season, not the one-off event. The players - all of them who contributed, not just the XI on the day. The fans -turning up at places like Plymouth or Bristol Rovers in droves.
Promotion wins out, for me.