Every single person in the Stadium of Light on Saturday will be there to cheer the team on to hopefully a win and a massive step towards achieving our goal of promotion.
We can make a huge difference to the flow of the game with our presence.
When we faced Portsmouth in the league a few weeks back, over 41,000 fans were in attendance and the game had a real ‘cup final’ feel to it. The atmosphere was fantastic, the Roker End flag display was brilliant and every single tackle was cheered like a goal. In many ways it had the feel of an old-school derby game, with two teams duking it out as they (at the time) attempted to put pressure on the two teams occupying the promotion spaces.
This Saturday, a similar atmosphere at the game could have a huge say in the result we get and take into the second leg at Fratton Park. The players feed off our energy - being vociferous in our support might actually be the difference between a positive result and a negative one.
No matter what the crowd is, I’m sure each and every person in attendance will put their disappointments aside to get behind the team and scream themselves hoarse in order to ensure we make the environment work in our favour.
The Clean Slate...
I thought Lee Cattermole made a brilliant point in his interview with SAFC.com this week, where he was quick to point out that everything that has happened before this weekend’s game ultimately has no baring on what lies ahead for Sunderland.
We’re effectively entering a new competition, so whilst it’s hard not to dwell on our recent form it’s important to also remember that it doesn’t really matter that much. We’re going into a knockout competition against a similarly placed team. There’s no goal difference, and there are no points to play for. We’re starting with a clean slate, in essence.
And that is pertinent. We’re going to have players who have been rested back in the squad, and there are no distractions. We’ve got to win over two games of football against a team who are good, but not unbeatable.
Anything is possible.
Our Mental Strength...
More often than not this season we’ve seen the Lads rebound on the back of disappointment. When they lost against Burton earlier in the season they went on an unbeaten run that stretched over 16 games, and then when we lost to Portsmouth at Fratton Park (rather dubiously, some might say) we went on another 19 game unbeaten run before we were beaten on penalties at Wembley. We then followed that game up with an emphatic win away at Accrington which had us all believing again.
Is in inconceivable that we’ll put our latest disappointments behind us quickly again and react in a similar manner? I’d say not - they’ve proven their toughness already this season so it’d be fair to say they’re capable of doing the same again at such a crucial stage of the campaign.
Lee Cattermole has said he feels training has been better this week and that the lads are at it, so let’s hope we actually see the results of their hard work on the pitch this Saturday.
Having looked in a great position to achieve automatic promotion, Pompey failed to beat us at the Stadium of Light before losing to Peterborough, thus ending their chances of finishing in the top two. Then, they ended the season on a flat note by drawing at home with Accrington Stanley.
Alright, I know our form isn’t great going into this either, but let’s not build Pompey up too much - they’re probably worrying just as much as some of you are about this game, knowing that they didn’t end the season well and that they have to come to a notoriously difficult stadium without any momentum behind them.
So whilst form ultimately means nothing going into this game, I can’t help but take comfort from the fact that Portsmouth are probably feeling a little bit disappointed from missing out on the automatic places too.
The fact that the first game is at home is a massive advantage for us, in my opinion.
The Law Of Averages...
We’ve played this lot three times already this season, and whilst we’ve been unable to beat them I can’t help but feel hard done to.
We had a man sent off and a penalty decision go against us in one fell swoop which cost us the game, and then at Wembley there was a fag paper (or a Lee Cattermole missed penalty rather) between us.
At the SOL just a few weeks ago we battered them for much of the game but, because their goalkeeper turned in a genuinely top-class display, Pompey left Wearside rather fortunately with a point.
We’re due a win against them. Why not on Saturday?