You regularly hear political commentators on the box state that a week is an eternity in politics, but that’s still nothing when compared to supporting the Lads.
This is especially true of the current climate where the schedule has been unforgiving. At certain times this season, and especially over the past four months, the rollercoaster over any given week is enough for any reasonable person to ask ‘why do we do it?’.
Talk about messing with our emotions – starting off well making us think there’s a chance of a successful season, dropping off to cling onto the coat-tails of the play-offs, change manager to give us hope but seemingly nothing changes, snap into a fantastic run to make us think we could win the title and then drop off once again to confirm a play-off place with one fixture remaining.
When you throw in a takeover on top and stir it together, that is some melting pot of emotion right there. Since we gained back that hope, that almost manifested as expectation – when automatic promotion was in our own hands, each week felt like a microcosm of the season as a whole.
This rollercoaster is also capable of playing out in a matter of hours, as we saw in all its glory on Saturday. News filtered out early in the day that two of our big hitters this season, in the shape of 30-goal striker Charlie Wyke and the talismanic Aiden McGeady, were missing through injury, which was an unforeseen kick to the b*llocks before we’d even kicked off.
This made the mind wander to thoughts around struggling to cement that top six place, to make sure that we actually achieved what none of us desired only three weeks prior. But the first-half display managed to dispel those thoughts as we were seemingly cruising to a somewhat rare routine victory.
We then forgot to turn up for the second half and got pegged back, which swung the pendulum back to despair before the Lads did the business in the final six minutes of the game to provide that uplifting feeling as we marched off towards the bank holiday ahead.
Whether it’s over the course of this season as a whole, any given week, or several hours on a Saturday afternoon, the peaks and troughs of this season are seemingly bigger than I’ve ever known them.
Maybe it’s amplified by the fact we’re not there in person or it could also be the fact that there’s a possibility of a fourth season in League One, and we’re just all desperate to clamber out of the third tier by any means available.
I mean looking back at everything since we came down from the Championship, through the opportunities and the bad choices, we should really be out of this division by now, and that hurts.
But despite everything this season has thrown at us – owners who were focused on selling up, Phil Parkinson, losing four first-choice central defenders at various points, Phil Parkinson, McGeady being ostracised till December, Phil Parkinson, being 11th on New Year’s Day, Phil Parkinson, new owners with a new recruitment team, Phil Parkinson, missing out on automatic promotion late in the day and Phil Parkinson – despite all of this, all of the ups and downs of this season, it boils down to the plain fact that we have three games to determine our fate.
All of those issues, all of the struggle, those numerous days where a Sunderland defeat would linger in our consciousness until we allowed ourselves to begin contemplating the next fixture, will all be forgotten and will pale into insignificance should we achieve promotion.
It’s just short of four weeks until the League One play-off final, should we get through whatever the semi-final throws at us, and whatever has gone on before goes out of the window, all the focus is now on whatever tests these three games throw at us.
People might be desperate to ask – did we blow automatic promotion or did we do well to secure that playoff berth? Right now, during this extension to the regulation season, who cares?
There will be plenty of time for reflection, but to have an opportunity to decide our own fate over three games, after all that has gone on in the midst of a pandemic at our football club, is a proposition I would have gladly accepted during most weeks since kicking off last September.
Three games. We’re just three games from the Championship.