I feel convinced.
Not convinced that we’ll win the league. Not even convinced that we’ll finish in the top two. (I’m very optimistic that we can do it, but a lot can happen between now and the end of the season). No, I’m convinced that this really is a new era, and not another false dawn.
We’ve heard the right messages from everybody involved with the club, from the new owner to the manager to the players. But saying the right things is easy and with a bit of luck and a good run of results, you can back up the words in the short term. You can “fake it ‘til you make it”.
But this really feels like a genuine new start. You can’t fake the emotions we saw yesterday both during and after the game. Watching on, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “these people get it” and, as a Sunderland fan, that’s a feeling I haven’t had for a long, long time.
This manager gets it. I don’t want Lee Johnson to come out and say we’ve been brilliant when we haven’t been. I want to hear him give an honest verdict after every match, even if we’ve just won a cup final. I want him to be constantly looking for ways to improve the team as a whole and his players individually. I want him to deliver that improvement and he is doing just that. Charlie Wyke is the obvious example but I look at Power, O’Brien, Winchester, Sanderson and, most recently, Callum McFadzean too.
They’re all getting better under Johnson.
This group of players get it. I don’t want us to sign big-name players with big egos. I want players like Luke O’Nien, who are proud to be here and who love playing for Sunderland. Seeing the injured /cup-tied lads in the stand really getting behind the team, witnessing the celebrations start when we lifted the trophy and continue on social media after the game, watching the post-match interviews - you could feel how much it meant to the whole team.
The owner gets it. I don’t want him to be calling the shots from thousands of miles away. He could have chosen to spend his weekend literally anywhere he fancied, but instead he was in an empty Wembley stadium cheering on the lads - because he knew that thousands of us would have dearly loved to be there. He could have involved himself in the celebrations and post match interviews and stolen some of the limelight, but he didn’t. He congratulated the lads in a low-key way and melted into the background. He seems like a real class act.
To sum up, I’m convinced that, for the first time in a long time, we have the right people representing our great club on and off the field.