As Sunderland fans, we have been in this position before, albeit this time we can’t cheer or witness Sunday’s final beneath the great arch. The last time we were at this stage two years ago I wrote that we needed to be looking for a win.
I’m sure little has changed mentality-wise within our fan base. But after two previously unsuccessful stabs at promotion, we do appreciate how difficult League One is to escape. I also feel that the fans are buying into Lee Johnson’s philosophy.
So, when he or the players talk about keeping the momentum going, we appreciate every game is important to maintain that.
There is a feel-good factor building around the club at the minute, for fans who have supported the club for 20 plus seasons, we know how short-lived that can be. Watching Sunderland’s victory over Portsmouth on Tuesday night, for some reason felt like the days when Super Kev was on the pitch rather than in the studio.
So, when the commentary team announced how long it was since we had won at Fratton Park it really rolled back the years.
This moment feels like a new beginning; our time to start afresh, to show what this club is capable of. It is, of course, a funny quirk of fate that the two teams that competed in the last English Football League Trophy final to be played, were on opposing sides just days before their respective finals on the same weekend.
Oddly enough, I wrote the following remarks on here two years ago before we played them at Wembley:
It may not be the cup that either Sunderland or Portsmouth fans would want to be competing in… with both sets of fans willing to trade victory at Wembley for automatic promotion.
Back then, I raised the suggestion that we needed victory that day to propel us to promotion and to break our Wembley hoodoo. My opinion certainly has not changed, neither has our need for that elusive victory at the home of football.
Although, momentarily at least, following the club’s takeover and the positivity around us, I’m wondering if some of the normal Mackem-cynicism may be lifting. If we want to be a successful club, we can’t continually think in terms of either-or. As I previously pointed out, one success can push a team onto another.
In these days of Covid gloom, the turnaround orchestrated by Lee Johnson’s appointment and the Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ takeover has transformed the fans’ outlook. Is the real choker how the fans won’t be present for probably our greatest chance of victory at Wembley since the Kerr, Montgomery and Porterfield lifted the cup in 1973?
Again, as I wrote two years ago:
For any Sunderland fan present in Leicester Square the night before the League Cup Final in 2014, saw a glimpse of how desperate the club’s fanbase truly are for some success and what it would mean.
Many pundits have commented over the past twenty years - certainly, since the Stadium of Light was built - how the club has a platform and base crying out for success.
Even if we take our current run of form as an example, success breeds success. Much of it is psychological, but once a player of team gets into the right frame of mind then, they believe themselves unbeatable.
Just as easily, once a team, or their fans are looking at a terrible run at a particular place there is always that doubt. When that is in the mind of a crowd and that translates to the pitch it’s easy to see panic kick in.
I’ve always thought a win at Wembley, could be the stepping stone for future success. Now we have Johnson and Louis-Dreyfus in place, that belief is only growing by the week.
Imagine, a win on Sunday, if we ended the season where we are now, neither the play-offs nor Wembley should hold any fear for us this season or beyond.
This could be lift-off; two or three years we could look back and say the revolution truly started at Wembley, and the whole of Wearside will be hoping it does.