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Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Weston Homes Stadium

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Editorial: Can we start believing in Sunderland now?

After a successful Easter weekend the table is still looking good - but can we throw off this feeling of nagging self-doubt and start believing in this side now?

Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

I was just a young kid in the summer of 1990 when I saw the announcement on teletext that Sunderland had been promoted despite defeat in the play-off final against Swindon Town.

Financial irregularities at the County Ground had resulted in Newcastle fancying their chances as they had finished third in Division Two, and Ron Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday saw it as a way out after his side had been relegated from the First Division, but we got the nod.

As I did most nights, I went for that evenings edition of the Sunderland Echo so my Dad could read all about it, and I could nick it afterwards to read the latest and see if there were any decent pictures of players I could cut out.

A conversation on the trip for the latest evening edition of the Sunderland Echo on that warm summer’s evening over thirty years ago, came to the fore in my memory banks after a recent conversation with Nick Barnes for our podcast - although I’m sure this will come to bite me when I realise what the salvaging of this memory has replaced, maybe I’ll forget to put the bins out or something.

Soccer - Barclays League Division Two - Playoff Finals - Swindon Town v Sunderland - Wembley Stadium
Keep the champagne on ice there Ossie.
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Anyway, the fella who lived directly across the road as I grew up was a season ticket holder for many years, and was always good enough to speak to me about the comings and goings at Roker Park on a regular basis, and on this particular evening he was tending to his front garden as he so often did.

As the young whippersnapper I was, I jovially enquired if he had heard the good news of the day, that Sunderland were off to the First Division to face the best in the land, to which the reply was “aye, we’ll only come straight back down”.

Now, I’m almost certain anyone reading this will have either heard a similar remark during a discussion on Sunderland Association Football Club, or themselves replied to a statement about the club in a similar fashion, and I’d even suggest that this is quite normal and nothing out of the ordinary - and on this occasion of course, he was right.

I’m not someone who can claim to have seen the four corners of the globe, but I’d like to think I’ve travelled a little and I’ve also lived outside of the North-East of England for around twenty years, and in terms of general confidence, I don’t think I’ve witnessed another part of the country that has so much confidence in so many aspects of life in general, and yet, not when it comes to our football club.

Luton Town v Sunderland
Before this season Roy Keane was the last manager to lift a trophy and achieve a promotion as manager of Sunderland back in 2007
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

It’s as if the pain has accumulated through the generations, to then be passed down unceremoniously, and has now manifested in a fear of confidence in Sunderland AFC to achieve.

It’s a fear that has possibly morphed into some kind of defence mechanism that we hold up to guard ourselves against what we sometimes perceive to be inevitable disappointment.

It’s something that is now mixed with a period of almost 14 years where we have had nothing to celebrate, other than Premier League mid-table mediocrity or defeat in a final of the League Cup.

Roy Keane’s promotion was our last tangible success that resulted in a league title and anticipation of a new, higher division to follow, but it's about time we put that right, and I think we’re starting to believe.

The Easter weekend was a huge opportunity for Lee Johnson’s side to prove this current run of form is not temporary, and to make a statement that this is who we are now, rather than pointing to a good run of form of which the bubble could burst at any moment.

Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Has Lee Johnson got us to a position where we can start believing again?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Four out of six points over the two fixtures, especially considering the the bank holiday Monday clash was away to one of only two sides above us in the table that can boast the best home record while scoring goals for fun at London Road, is a statement.

I’m starting to throw off that feeling at the back of my mind, and I believe we’ll do it. Not just because we’re on a good run of form, but because we’re a good side with good players who are being managed competently.

For too long now it’s been talking about a string of 5 or 6 results, but in the past we always knew the drop in form would inevitably come, but this team are setting a new standard.

I don’t think I can sum it up any better than BBC Radio Newcastle commentator Nick Barnes, as he did on our podcast last week.

Why shouldn’t we have confidence in them? They’ve gone ten unbeaten and pulled themselves from being also-rans in the play-offs, to almost being nailed on for automatic promotion candidates, so why do we have this nagging self doubt?

There’s no reason to doubt this team at all. They’ve got a mentality, a character, a spirit and a momentum at the moment that I think will see them go up automatically.

I’m believing, and it’s taking some getting used to.


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