After what appeared to be an absolute age, it was much welcomed for many reasons that Sunderland were back on home soil last Saturday against Ipswich.
In the club’s video released of a perturbed Lee Johnson at full time, it depicted a man who had the entire world lifted off his shoulders - a man who could almost afford a smile again.
The atmosphere at the Stadium of Light was possibly one of the strangest ones that I’ve witnessed in a long time - it was tense, and apprehensive.
It is somewhat understandable considering recent results.
Tensions are high at present. The fans pay their money - this is their right.
That being said, it felt to me that some people were just waiting for something to go wrong so they felt entitled to complain and boo. It must be stressed that this is only the small minority, but unfortunately, the minority tend to be the louder voices.
On the offical website, the club flirted with some light propaganda and hyperbole, as the atmosphere was described as ‘deafening’.
I overheard a fan near me complain that Lee Johnson was not doing his job properly as he didn’t sit in his dugout to discuss tactics with his assistants - and this was just ten minutes in. Another expressed his discontent in colourful language, and branded the manager ‘a disgrace’. All in the first half.
The performance was not vintage on Saturday - far from it. It was certainly very poor at times. Tuesday’s result against Shrewsbury was even worse, admittedly.
That being said, I felt there was not one minute in Saturday’s game that I did not see a team that were fighting for their teammates, for their club and for their manager. They seem a united bunch. Things just weren’t coming off for them.
This was a young vulnerable Sunderland side, it was a game where they needed the supporters, especially after their recent run of results.
Tuesday’s performance was disappointing - in fact, Sunderland have been disappointing for a while. However, as much as the fans have a right to be angry and express their discontent, I feel that it’s imperative that we continue to be united and support our club, our team and our players.
The power of a fanbase is a real thing - our fans are capable of creating an atmosphere that is frightening to play in, so let's make sure it is for the away team.
A negative atmosphere can engulf a stadium, and also inspire the opposition. A positive Stadium of Light can inspire a fanbase and intimidate the opposition.
There was no better example of it than at Anfield on Saturday evening. After Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta dabbled in a show of masculinity on the touchline, Klopp’s passion inspired the home crowd to get behind their team. The proof was in the result, as the home team went on to cruise to a 4-0 win. And in his post-match interview, Klopp cited the incident, and the noise after, as a turning point in the game.
On Saturday, after Sunderland overcame a tricky first 20 minutes, the players began to settle into the game. They began to get on top and created some half chances.
During this period, in the aftermath of some good attacking play, Lee Johnson gestured to the fans to make some noise. In response to that, the Sunderland fans duly obliged by creating a roar that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
This is what we can do. Just imagine a young Dan Neil or Callum Doyle hearing the roar of the crowd, cheering them on - it’d make them run through brick walls for us.
Let it not be forgotten the positive influence that us fans can have on our team - especially a team that is full of young players like this season’s squad.
Times are tough right now. The team and manager are struggling, but I think that this is a great opportunity to reinforce the positive vibe we can bring to a stadium.
With some big games coming up at the Stadium of Light over the next few weeks, I just hope that we collectively are a help to our side, and not a hindrance.