Football can be horrible at times. Our whole season came down to one game at Wembley - one game that marked the difference between success and failure this season. We lost. Actually, we didn’t just lose. We lost in the most Sunderland way imaginable.
Sunderland are a club with extraordinary fans, Premier League facilities, and players that have an uncanny ability to break your heart and disappoint you no matter the division. A lot of clubs say they are a club like no other but - for better or worse - there is no club quite like ours.
For as long as I can remember, I have gone to games expecting the worst but having that small flicker of hope that today might just be different.
Sunday was meant to be different. We’d had the bad luck. We’d had the heartbreak at Wembley already this season. Today was our day to right the wrongs of ‘98 and put our Charlton hoodoo to rest once and for all. But even after our gift of a goal went in and we sat back to protect our freak lead, you could tell there was more heartbreak to come. Our players switched off at the worst possible time and, under the grey skies and the Wembley arch, disbelief turned into devastation.
They say a little bit of poison makes you stronger -and if that is so then Sunderland AFC should be the strongest in the land by now. All the spineless performances, all the relegations, all the back-firing transfers, all the last-minute heartbreaks, all the Wembley nightmares. We are a club that has ingested more than it’s fair share of poison, and no-one feels that more than our supporters.
For me, supporting Sunderland is about naïve optimism. It is about frequent disappointment, infrequently punctuated by moments of sheer ecstasy.
From the bottom of my heart, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because there will come a day, a season, a squad that makes all this pain worthwhile.
Yes, the bad times far outweigh the good. I won’t pretend otherwise. But the good times we experience are more emotionally rewarding than those of fans of any other club, because we know what pain we had to suffer to get us to that feeling of ecstasy and pride in our team.
It’s these moments that I chat about with my mates down the pub - the Peter Reid years, the season under Keano in the Championship, that Defoe moment against Chelsea.
The poison we go through - and went through at Wembley in the 95th minute - just make the good times taste sweeter. We are too big a club to not have these good times come back to us.
So I urge the fans to keep the faith. Not in this crop of players as they will chop and change this summer. Not in the manager or even the owners either - the inquest will begin in earnest right away.
No, keep the faith in this club. Because we may be suffering right now, but you deserve to be part of the success when the good times come back. You deserve to experience the ecstasy because you stayed loyal at our lowest point.
Every insult thrown your way by a glory supporting mate.
Every time you changed your weekend plans to watch the Lads play this season.
Every Wembley heartbreak you suffered.
All of this will only make the good times feel that much better. So keep the faith in our club; Sunderland will come back stronger.