You know, I’ve really, REALLY missed the Lads over the last two weeks since our last game.
International football just doesn’t satisfy me. Unless England are playing in a tournament, it’s hard for me to even feel remotely engaged, and I barely watch the games - and the same goes for the rest of the international football going on elsewhere too. There have been the odd EFL games going on, but not a lot overall, but even then I wasn’t bothered enough to watch because it didn’t involve us.
That said, Non-League Day last Saturday was canny - I got along to the home of Birtley Town to watch a 3-3 thriller with Boldon CA in the Northern League second division, with the sun blazing and pitchside beers - but it still wasn’t quite the same as the build up to a big Sunderland game.
Especially at this point in the season, where the bums are particularly squeaky and every single point matters - it’s a well-worn clichè, but every match Sunderland take part in from now is like a cup final, with so much at stake if we can somehow push ourselves back into the Play-Off places come the end of the campaign.
Strangely, I thrive on the tension. It’s the dreaming, it’s the hope, it’s the anticipation before each game. I absolutely love it.
I love the feeling that we *might* just somehow defy the odds, win all of our remaining games and get out of this hellhole of a division. And even if we have a disappointing result, by the time that the next one rolls around I’m full of hope again, wishing we might just do what we set out to achieve at the start of the season for once.
It’s not quite like the great escape season under Poyet, where we had the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City standing in our way, but the next challengers are Gillingham - yet, I’m still just as hopeful, and just as excited.
And I know that you reading this might be thinking “are you for real?”, but in all honesty, I’m so passionate about this club that I could work myself up over Sunderland playing Birtley Town on Non-League Day if it ever came to it. This is my club, my team, and I can’t help but get carried away from time to time… most of the time - even despite the fact that they let me down more often than not.
These might not be Premier League players, but I still enjoy watching some of them play.
Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard, Dan Neil, Nathan Broadhead - on their day, these are all fantastic footballers capable of doing some really great things. I love the heart and desire of Luke O’Nien, and only wish that you could bottle up his enthusiasm for his profession and give it to some of his teammates. I enjoy seeing the young players making their mark, like Anthony Patterson - someone who could go on to be a Sunderland number one for many years to come if he keeps improving.
In Alex Neil I feel we have an honest, capable manager who - with his no-frills approach - will hold his players to high standards and tell them the truth when it’s required, and that could be the difference-maker if we do get into the Play-Offs. The dreamer inside of me can’t ignore the fact he performed a similar job at Norwich, when he lifted them into the Premier League following a win at Wembley in 2015 - does lightning strike twice? Has he got what it takes? Not knowing the answers is exciting.
So yeah, I’ve missed it. I hope that you have too.
More importantly, I hope that the players are eager, because with games coming up against other Play-Off hopefuls our fate is still in our own hands - and if we can somehow manage to foster a winning mentality, the collective confidence of everyone involved at the club will surely grow, and the momentum will increase week on week, game after game.
Or, it could all just go tits up. That’s the beauty of supporting Sunderland, I suppose.
Regardless, whether it’s in the Championship or if it’s another League One promotion campaign, I’ll be there all over again, full of the same hope and optimism that I’ve had within me throughout my entire life as a fan. I can’t help it.