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Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One

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Savour every moment - the ‘new’ Sunderland is better than anything we’ve seen in years

Drink it in and enjoy every last second of what you’re witnessing - lord knows we’ve deserved it having supported Sunderland through thin and thinner over recent years.

Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

By 1am on Wednesday morning I was absolutely shattered, yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to shut off and go to sleep, because the adrenaline from having watched The Lads absolutely batter Cheltenham Town into submission at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening was still coursing through my veins.

That’s what watching Sunderland AFC does to me these days.

There’s something very different about what we’re witnessing from our club this season, about this team, and whilst I can’t quite put my finger on what that is yet, this is starting to feel like we are building towards a very successful campaign.

We’re top of the table, have won all six of our home games, have the best goal difference in the division, and are through to the last sixteen of the League Cup.

Not only that, but we have a massive squad full of talented players that all offer something unique, and the competition for a place in the side is unbelievably fierce.

Not too shabby, eh?

Yet, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself just yet because, more often than not when I do, I end up with a face covered in egg, but part of me wants to get really carried away about Sunderland this season... and, well, if it goes tits up, then so be it.

That inbuilt cynicism is incredibly tough to shift, unfortunately.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

When one of the lads in the Victory Club before the game read the teamsheet out at quarter to seven, noting that Lee Johnson had made five changes to the side that beat Bolton on Saturday, I don’t think there was a single raised eyebrow in the room. These days, there’s an unspoken acceptance amongst supporters that the manager knows what he’s doing - and as results on the pitch reflect this, people are less likely to question his decisions.

Isn’t that nice? Isn’t it great being able to turn up at games and just enjoy it?

Over recent years, my matchdays have changed. During the Moyes, Grayson, Coleman, Ross and Parkinson years my enthusiasm for the matchday experience wasn’t as high, and I was more likely to take my car through to town, avoiding a drop of alcohol as a result, and get away from the ground straight after full time - because, why would I want to hang around when the football was, more often than not, mind-numbingly bad?

This year, though, it seems like we’re all looking forward to games - matchdays are an occasion, and we make a day of it. It’s not just about going to the game though, but getting through to the pub early, and even heading back over the bridge into town afterward to continue the day out, pouring over the performance of the day whilst supping another half dozen pints of Guinness.

To me, that’s what following a football team at any level should be all about - it should ultimately be an escape from normal working life to spend the day enjoying yourself with your mates and your family.

And I’ve got to say, I’ve absolutely loved it - it would be great if the good times kept on rolling, because it’s been so long since we were able to just enjoy following our team right throughout a season, from beginning to end.

That’s the dream - however, the reality is often very different.

As Lee Johnson said himself yesterday in his meeting with the press, it’s likely that we will eventually hit a slump this season - all teams do at some stage - but how we react and prepare for inevitable adversity will be the making of these players and this manager at Sunderland.

That slump may start next month - it may even start at the weekend. Hey, it might not start at all. That said, we have to just take each game as they come and enjoy the football as much as we can at the minute because, as we all know, watching Sunderland play this well just doesn’t feel familiar - although it would be great if, against all the odds, this way of life for our club and our supporters becomes the ‘new normal’.

I’m more confident now than I probably have been since the Reidy years that we have a squad and a manager capable of taking control of any given situation, and ensuring that Sunderland will have a successful season that ultimately ends in promotion.

Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t - I guess the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

But for now, and whilst we’re winning games and playing great football, drink it in and enjoy every last second - lord knows we’ve deserved it, having supported them through thin and thinner, through all the shite at the end of the Short era, successive relegations, and the various League One promotion campaigns that have ended in despair.


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