I renewed my season card last week.
The ITHICS crew all decided to buy season cards in the 2014-15 season because the experience of getting tickets for the League Cup final in the March was so stressful.
As it turned out, a friend of mine who worked for a marketing company for Capital One, the then sponsors of the cup, rang me the week prior asking if I needed tickets and he very kindly furnished us with four tickets eight rows from the pitch in the Sunderland end - not far from the cup winning team of 1973 were sitting. We didn’t even have to pay for them.
Prior to that call from heaven, we were all working out ways of getting Wembley Club tickets, which would allow us to see the game.
But they would have been some crazy price and we would have had to buy the equivalent of a season ticket for all Wembley games.
To avoid any such repeat, we opted to buy three seats just behind the North Stand goal, which was always our preferred part of the ground. Though since they put the away fans above us, it has been considerably less fun.
Please, club hierarchy, put the away fans back where they used to be in the South Stand.
And make the North Stand the proper home end.
Anyway, I digress.
Ironically, now we’re embarking on our ninth season of season cards, those Club Wembley tickets are starting to look cheap.
I renewed, not for the prospect of scintillating football every other Saturday.
Now that I live back in the area, it is the chance to catch up with mates pre and post-match, to chew over the team and all things Sunderland and all things not.
It’s a chance to unwind with your mates and the football is incidental.
I think I speak for the three of us, that when we lived far away in London or even further afield for some of us, we bought the cards as a way of putting a small bit back into Sunderland.
We often didn’t get to more than four or five games a season and when we weren’t using our cards, we would give them to friends to use.
Now two of the three of us are back living locally, it’s the chance to see each other and reconnect. Re-establishing that matchday routine, pints bought, pies consumed. And we’re now of an age when some that we know are passing on.
So, memories about those chaps are fondly shared.
It’s about community. And football is community, it’s the heart of the community, and I’ll keep renewing until my ashes are scattered over the turf.