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Lockdown or not, Sunderland fans can start to love their club again

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Sunderland’s semi final win made Paddy Hollis feel connected with the club for the first time in a long while.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Logging on to start work on Wednesday morning felt like any other morning since coming back from furlough in December. Working from home and furlough were terms that hadn’t crossed my mind 12 months ago, and another new concept this pandemic has introduced is a cup semi-final kicking off at 6pm in an empty 49,000 seater stadium.

I told myself that I wouldn’t get too annoyed if we departed the Papa John’s Trophy at this stage. This continued right through the first half. By the time Lincoln took the lead, only then I felt tangible disappointment. I was, however, delighted with the way we responded and absolutely elated when big Charlie Wyke scored once again.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

As much as I said I wouldn’t get too swept up in it, seeing Grant Leadbitter slot home the all important penalty was an absolute delight. It was the best moment of watching Sunderland this season, and it edged me closer to rebuilding a connection with my club I haven’t felt in some time.

Following Sunderland this season has been difficult, mainly because we haven’t been able to follow them at all. I’ve begrudged watching us play very often, especially at the SoL, as a result of the big empty stadiums and often dire football. Luckily, this has improved ever so gradually under Lee Johnson and culminated in the last 30 minutes of the semi-final win.

Reaching the cup final had me thinking the same thoughts I had when we beat Bristol Rovers in the 2019 semi final. Any game at Wembley matters. Even if none of us can be there, we have another date under the arch, and we will enjoy it any way possible.

We’ll get plenty of stick for getting excited about reaching the final of this trophy. We did two years ago and we already are this year. The best way to think of this is that unlike so many teams, we have a day marked in the calendar to look forward to.

Yes, we can’t be there in person, but it will still be something to see the lads turn out at the most famous football stadium in the world.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If the booking of a virtual trip to Wembley following a thumping win against a promotion rival made for a good start and middle of the week, then the confirmation of a takeover was the ideal way to do a Thursday.

Arguably the best way to end the week would be by beating our very own bogey side Burton Albion.

It has been hard to remain invested in football this season as we have had no choice but to watch from afar.

However, seeing how much getting to Wembley meant to the players does at least give some faith that they will put in a performance for us on the big day.