The build-up to this year’s playoff final has been superb! I’ve been absolutely buzzing since Sunderland confirmed their place in the tie, even though I’m an ocean away.
Being an SAFC fan in the US can have its drawbacks. No matchday walks to the ground. No pubs filled with Mackems either on their pilgrimage to the Stadium of Light or exiled and sat in front of a screen. Almost no contact at all with anyone with even the remotest idea where Sunderland is on a map.
But, being a Sunderland fan, anywhere in the world, has got its undeniable perks, and this week they’ve been on full display.
Even from 4,000 miles away, the excitement has been contagious. The desire to have the match here already - is palpable. And the nerves of another Wembley final are unbearable.
Not travelling to the match has had its definite pros and cons as well. On the one hand, I won’t experience what promised to be an unforgettable 48 hours in London with the travelling supporters. I won’t get the goosebumps while signing in the Sunderland end with 50 thousand other voices. And I won’t be in person for the euphoric celebrations that ensue at full-time.
In contrast, I also haven’t lost sleep trying to book flights to London via Spain or trying to memorise the train schedules.
I haven’t had to experience the nail-biting anxiety of waiting for my emailed tickets to come through to my “junk” folder.
And I haven’t had to refresh the Wembley ticketing site every ten seconds when we’re given another allotment of seats.
I’ve just experienced the build-up, in all its glory. All the articles and podcasts from fanzines and news outlets. Comments and conversations from friends around the globe about who will start and when they’ll score, and how we’ll all go wild when promotion is finally achieved.
I may well be at Wembley for Sunderland’s next major final, in fact, I hope I will be. But, for now, I’ll be content to switch on my TV on Saturday morning local time, sip my coffee, and watch the lads bring home what we’ve all been waiting on, for far too long!