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Why I Love Sunderland: Fulwell-ender Jonny on the Sheff Utd 98 play-off, Defoe’s volley & PINTS!

In the first edition of ‘Why I Love Sunderland’, Jonny Young tells us about standing in the Fulwell End, the play-off semi final win over Sheff Utd in 1998, Defoe spanking THAT volley in against the Mags, and how matchday pints with the Lads makes it all worth it.

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Danny Roberts

Loving Sunderland sometimes feels like a chore, doesn’t it? Years of disappointment, strung together with brief flashes of hope and joy, tempered with a shared sense of doom, knowing its but a momentary blip on the journey of Sunderland AFC.

I don’t know why I love them, I cant describe it, I can’t explain it.

Those who do get it, get it. Those who don’t get it? Well, they never will.

To start my Roker Report journey I thought i’d do some digging, to find out what makes us tick and whether loving Sunderland is a two way street, or if we’ve all just got some low level Stockholm Syndrome going on.

First up, I quizzed Jonny Young - he’s @jonny8686 on Twitter - on what it’s all about.

TA: What was your first Sunderland game?

JY: My first game was a 1-0 win against Tranmere in 1992.

My dad brought me, and I’ll never forget my first trip up the steps at the Fulwell end and being sat on the bars along the terrace!

TA: So your first game was a memorable one, but what would be your favourite ever Sunderland game, one that you felt rewarded your years of support?

JY: That’s a tough one and whilst the playoff semi-final against Sheffield Utd in ’98 was special, the comeback against Chelsea a few seasons ago was something else.

It was the only game comparable with the atmosphere of that Sheffield game - the place was absolutely rocking, we were in a relegation battle and came back from behind twice to beat the champions. That’s hard to beat for me.

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Play-Off Second Leg - Sunderland v Sheffield United Photo by Michael Steele/EMPICS via Getty Images

TA: I remember watching that game in the house and to say it was incredible wouldn’t do it justice! Do you have any enduring memories from watching Sunderland - not a game, but a specific moment?

JY: When Defoe creamed that left-footed volley into top bins against the Mags.

At first I thought it had gone over the bar until a guy from three rows behind fell on top of me celebrating. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the scenes at half time and don’t think we’ll ever see that again - that’ll stay with me for life.

TA: It seems a common theme here is the highs of Sunderland feel astronomical thanks to how low the lows have been. We’ve had a shocking few years (for those who needed reminding), so what was it kept you coming back through all of that?

JY: I think it’s the energy the match creates - it’s that hopeless expectation you can’t help but get. It’s the kind that makes your hairs stand on end... its hard to compare the mix of emotions to anything else. Plus, its a good excuse to have a few pints with the lads on a Saturday afternoon!

TA: So, after well over 20 years of support, you’ve seen some pretty low moments and a few heights too, so its safe to say emotionally the club have taken you from one extreme to the other, why does the club mean so much to you that you put yourself through all the agony and anguish?

JY: It’s easier to explain than you’d think.

The club is a huge part of my life, it always has been and will always be. It’s not like a house or a car where if you don’t like it, you change it, this is a one time deal, you choose your club (or have it chosen by your dad, like me) and that’s you for life, through the highs and the lows.

It’s been a rollercoaster, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

TA: Can you give me your favourite anecdote from supporting Sunderland?

JY: I think one of my favourites has to have been after Sunderland had beaten Burnley 3-2 and Carlos Edwards scored from the banks of the Wear.

The result as huge and it was just an insane game of football under the floodlights - it was everything you come for. We got more than carried away though and a quiet pint after the game ended up in a full scale night out. We spent the whole night bothering DJ’s to play KC and the Sunshine band in honour of David Connolly, so much so that we got kicked out of two separate pubs.

However, I think the top one has to be when we beat Newcastle 3-0 away from home and I was in Sunderland town centre watching it with you [thats me, Tom!] and a few others.

After the game we went absolutely wild, as did just about the whole of Sunderland. Before we had any idea where we were, we were in Gatsby’s and you were stood on a table using the bandit as a drum - before long you had the whole bar singing off our song sheet before bouncers stopped play.

It’s something that doesn’t sound so exciting, but having everyone so buzzing and so full of joy was absolutely brilliant. I never did find out if we’re allowed back in there yet...

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