Compliments of the season!
That’s another one done, and 2021 is coming to a close.
Did you enjoy it?
And... hold on, I hope you’re either reading this on Boxing Day, or on your new internet enabled device.
It’s funny: when you look at the year that has just gone by, nothing changes, but everything is different. Football, mercifully, is back.
Yet hubris continues to leak out of our government like an overcooked camembert at a Downing Street “works do” - something known to the rest of the nation as “Thursday afternoons”.
Of course, in 12 months bookended by the frosty turds that were Alpha and Omicron, we had hoped that it would be a better Christmas this time around.
Unfortunately, there is a strong whiff in the air we’re being gaslighted by leaders who couldn’t tell you truthfully what time it is.
As such it feels like we’re all collectively going arse-over-tit across every patch of ungritted pavement, because we have to listen to a man who would insist to your face that it’s snowing during a heatwave.
But: good news! This is the season for excess, and as the rules are yet to limit pigs in blankets to three per person, place tariffs on real Christmas trees or ban snowball fights, we should at least be thankful for small freedoms.
The year in footballing terms has been a bit of a mixed bag: at certain points, even the most pessimistic of Sunderland supporters will have probably felt that automatic promotion was not just a possibility but a distinct probability - Portsmouth away was a particularly high point.
Alas, one win in the final eight league games brought about that familiar sinking feeling.
Then, after a scintillating start to this campaign, we were brought crashing down to earth again as Fratton Park offered an altogether... different experience, as Luke O’Nien and the rest of the defence forgot to pack their armbands in the most one-sided water-based battle since the Armada.
However, the truth is none of that really matters.
The most important aspect of our year for many has been the chance to see the Lads in action once again. For so many people it will have been an incredibly emotive experience; too many fans - good people of Sunderland and further afield - are no longer with us to share in the joy of supporting our team; on that lovely summer afternoon in August versus Wigan, that fact will have truly hit home for a lot of you.
Some of us are fortunate. Fortunate to be able to embrace a mum, dad, son, daughter, friend or random bloke called Brian in the stands as we celebrate a goal; this will now take on an extra significance.
In isolation such a small thing, but in reality it’s the togetherness, that shared happiness and camaraderie that makes supporting our football club a privilege at times.
Only at times, you understand.
I’d better stop before I turn into a very pleasant chap from The Athletic called George Caulkin.
So it is this time of year where we recalibrate our thoughts, and remember what truly is important in our lives. We all have our lived experience of 2021, and the various challenges it has posed us.
If you have had a better year than last then that’s fantastic - we hope the next continues to be the same. However if you have experienced difficult times this year, because you have lost a loved one, because your mental health has been affected or for any other reason, then we truly hope that 2022 brings better times for you.
Thank you too to everyone who has contributed to the Sunderland City Soup Kitchen Fundraiser 2021. It really is a mark of the fans, the football club and the city as a whole that there has been such an astonishing level of support for a fantastic cause.
The kindness and generosity so many people have shown is incredible; for any footballer thinking of making the move to SR5 - this is the best advert not just for the club, but for the city and just how people feel about it. Three points are always welcome, but it is this sort of willingness to give and support those in need that is ultimately what makes Sunderland by far the greatest team the world have ever seen.
So who knows what 2022 will bring? I think we can all agree that if we can get some small amount of joy from our football team, it would be nice.
Lee Johnson, lads, it’s over to you.