Tier two of English football is like an ocean - it’s vast, treacherous, and has claimed many victims, but for those who can navigate its choppy waters, survive its strong currents, and cross it successfully, the rewards are bountiful.
Having been marooned on a metaphorical sandbank for such a long time, being re-floated feels liberating and it’s easy for the dreams of those on board to get carried away on a wave of optimism. However, more often than not, these are dangerous waters where the high hopes are dashed against the cold hard rocks of reality.
Yet if the vessel is big and strong enough, if its owner is ambitious enough and has the gold in his pocket to assemble a hearty young crew, it’s possible to achieve great things.
Storms will hit, and you need an experienced head at the helm to ride them out. It’s a long voyage but one that has been charted by ships built in our city many times before, and it’s crucial that calm heads take advantage of the fair winds that blow our way.
The spirit of togetherness, of all hands working together above and below decks - from the bridge to the crow’s nest - is what will determine the success of the journey. When we are inevitably knocked off course, it’s crucial that resist the urge to throw the first mate overboard or to turn to bloody mutiny. Keeping faith and staying the course is the only way, right now, for those who ride in the good ship Sunderland to go.
How long can I keep this nautical analogy going? I’m not sure, but you catch my drift.
Nobody likes a 0-0 draw against a stubborn, unadventurous side firmly anchored in the middle of Championship for one more season - but when the Lads have a 46 game league season, we’ve got to take these results as part and parcel of what it is to play Championship football.
The games this season will, indeed, come in waves - punctuated by international breaks of various lengths that will break up our rhythm and the flow that is so often crucial to building up the head of steam that powers a side to a position where they can start to think seriously about securing one of the prized berths in the Premier League.
Across the many decks of our great tanker of a club, things are improving but are not yet entirely ship shape. Progress won’t always be at the pace that we want to see, and there will be errors and omissions made along the way. We’ve currently lost our figurehead and we’ve not got a spare one in the stores, but we’re still very much afloat.
More hands are needed in some areas, a couple of the officers could do with pulling their fingers out even more, and in some areas we’ll have to try a different tack to be successful. But everyone is learning the ropes and fathoming just how to get the most out of this squad in this league after years in the doldrums. Promotion may be long shot, but we’ve not been outclassed since the season got underway.
The next few weeks will be chock-a-block with six games washing over us in quick succession. We’ll have to get our heads down, hold on tight, and grind out results before we can look up and see the World Cup on the horizon.
As fans, we know what our mission is, and to be honest, we’ve passed it with flying colours so far this season. We don’t always have to toe the line, and there’s nothing wrong with telling a few home truths when needed, but we are the mainstay of this ship, we’re in it for the long haul, and without our continued weight to ballast it, it will list.