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Sunderland v Bradford City - Sky Bet League One

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I just can’t wait to finally return home - back to the Stadium of Light, where we all belong

It’s been a long, difficult 18 months or so - and frankly, regardless of all the other things going on right now, I just cannot wait to get back to the Stadium again with my family and my friends.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Come Saturday morning, Sunderland supporters will all be going through their usual (or perhaps unusual, given it has been so long since we had to get up on a Saturday for a proper game) pre-match rituals.

For many of us, it’s the first time since Mikael Mandron equalised in the last minute for Gillingham (in added time on March 7th 2020, in case you forgot) that we will once again go through those turnstiles, and take our seats to watch the lads.

For me, whatever happens on the pitch on the day, it will be probably come second to the pure emotion and ecstasy of being back inside the Stadium of Light.

I have not stepped foot in our ground for almost 18 months, and quite honestly, I’ve missed the place.

I’ve missed getting picked up by my dad.

I’ve missed meeting my cousins at the Colliery Tavern.

I’ve missed going over the team selection with them all at 2pm and deliberating over who should and shouldn’t be playing, and wondering what formation we are using.

I’ve missed the walk to the stadium.

Hell, I’ve even missed the plastic pint glasses.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League
We’ve missed that match day feeling
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

We have all been through a lot since around the time of that last game at the Stadium of Light - and, sadly, a fair few of us have experienced the loss of a loved one due to this awful pandemic.

A friend of mine lost his Grandad, who used to take him to the matches as a child. This grew into their Saturday tradition. From Roker Park to the Stadium of Light, they sat together for almost thirty years.

They saw it all, from promotions and seventh-placed finishes to the relegations and the dramatic slide that this club has been on in more recent times.

My friend returned to the stadium for the first time since the passing of his Grandad, at the Hull game on Friday. He told me that as soon as he walked up the access way and saw the pitch for the first time, he just broke down.

Not through sadness or through grief, but through the realisation that he was back watching the lads, just like his grandad would have wanted him to.

We all want Sunderland to win on Saturday. Of course we do.

But, if we get off to a bad start, I just hope that we all get behind the team and the manager. This has been a long and hard road for all of us, just to get back to this point, being able to return to the stadium to watch the Lads play again on Saturday.

Please, just take into account that some fans have not been so lucky. So, enjoy the game, enjoy the result (hopefully!) but most of all, enjoy the day.

We are home at last.

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