Phil West says...
For the greatest moment I’ve experienced as a Sunderland supporter, I’m going to choose a game that might be considered relatively obscure, but the outcome of which was significant and still provides me with wonderful memories, some twelve years on. Derby victories, great goals from iconic players, and memorable great escapes have all gotten the pulse racing over the years, but this one has always stood out.
In April 2008, after a challenging first season in the Premier League under Roy Keane, we went into a home game with Middlesbrough knowing that, if we won and other results favoured us, our status in the top-flight would be secured. I attended the game with my dad, after managing to convince him that there was no need to worry, we had the players to win, and that Keane would steer the team to a priceless victory (He’s supported Sunderland since the 1960s and I suspected that the passage of time and countless disappointments had bred quite a bit of scepticism)
The game itself was a typically raucous affair, as the lead exchanged hands, tackles flew in, the crowd created an atmosphere that was as feverish and electric as any I’ve experienced at the SOL. Middlesbrough, then under the management of Gareth Southgate, knew what was at stake, and you could see that we did too.
Finally, after a topsy-turvy ninety minutes, Daryl Murphy headed in what proved to be the winner with seconds remaining, and the subsequent roar was as loud as any I’d heard that season. As we’d done many times during 2007/2008, one of our players had made themselves a last-minute hero. Chopra against Tottenham, Reid against West Ham and Murphy against the Boro. The fighting spirit that Keane had instilled had served us well once again.
As the final whistle blew, we waited for the PA announcer to reel off the other results of the day before exiting the stadium, and when it was finally confirmed that we were safe, I remember feeling simply euphoric, knowing that we now had a summer to plan, to add to the squad, and (potentially) begin to progress to the next level.
At that moment, it was just a feeling of incredible excitement, unity, and pride in the club and everyone associated with it. One of the kind of moments that we all live for.
Gary Engel says...
Been through so many emotions, ups and downs with Sunderland. The team that finished 7th twice and beat the Mags two seasons running at St James Park during that era was special. Five minutes away from going top of the Premier League only for Paolo Di Canio to spoil the day... although, I think he made up for it with his dirty knees all those years later.
But while that Derby and so many are up there as great memories. It has to be the excitement of beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in the most incredible ending to a match I’ve ever seen with Wembley the prize pot!
I’ve seen some scenes but what came about from that moment, fans from other clubs would scarcely believe.
We were bottom of the league at Christmas, with only one club before us beating the drop under such circumstances. But that night, although it was a poor Man United side, we were easily their equals. We showed no fear, we had a dynamic manager who understood the club and supporters - we were far better than our lowly league position suggested playing like that.
Poyet had us singing, dreaming and believing that anything was possible. We were going well in the FA Cup, too. I’d never known such a whirlwind few months.
That to me encapsulated where the club should be. The goalscorer that night, Phil Bardsley, is by no means a flair player. He had been rather stupid on a night out the year before, fair do’s but he was just the kind of determined brick sh**house that would get Sunderland through.
If we could stay up, keep the majority of the team together and build, the future could be all we’d ever dreamed it could be...
Phil Butler says...
In quite typical Sunderland fashion, my favourite moment supporting the Lads comes from a game which ended in defeat. Fabio Borini’s opening goal in the League Cup final back in 2014 is not only the most I’ve ever celebrated a goal (something only McGeady’s equaliser at Wembley last season has come close to) but it was the first time I truly believed I would see Sunderland win a major trophy.
Coming a couple of seasons after my first real heartbreak as a Sunderland fan (the FA Cup Quarter Final defeat against Everton), and as Gary has mentioned Poyet had me believing that things were truly getting better and that Sunderland were entering the modern era and embracing a new style of football.
For those who were there that night at Old Trafford, Bardsley’s goal wins the world cup of limbs, but for the rest of us it was Fabio Borini who reminded us how enjoyably supporting Sunderland can be.