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Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final

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It’s days like these where you realise you’re completely & hopelessly in love with Sunderland

It’s been a long time coming hasn’t it? The Lads did it the hard way, but they’re finally on the up once again. It almost makes the dark moments worth the pain...

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

It was a weekend where many of us found emotions that we thought we had lost; it was a weekend many of us discovered emotions we never knew we had.

This was so cathartic in so many ways.

If you ever are stuck trying to explain to someone just what Sunderland AFC means, what football signifies or simply why this club is a special club in a special city with incredible people behind it then all you need to do is produce one of the many spine-tingling videos of 46,500 (and the rest!) Mackems singing Wise Men Say barely ten seconds after the full time whistle.

Wow.

The fact that we had just had our promotion confirmed, to have that moment of togetherness is something that will stay with me forever. It’s the moment of the match that I have replayed the most, even more than the goals.

On what feels like the 10,000th repeat it’s still getting me deep in my heart.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

People who disparage football and in particular its supporters might thumb their noses at the hyperbole and emotion around the simple act of kicking a ball into a net; but why would you ever want to devalue, dilute or criticise something that means so much, and makes folk so happy?

For the first time in arguably 14 years this is now a club on the up.

Grown men and women whose memories do not stretch back to a time when Sunderland’s trajectory was going firmly in the right direction. In many ways it is unforgivable it was allowed to pass like this.

On the other hand, it has made this initial moment of progression even sweeter.

And for now, the voices coming from elsewhere are silent. There will be no more Newcastle reserves on a loan trip to nowhere celebrating in front of us, no Joey Barton nonsense and thank God no sneering about enjoying Forest Green.

It doesn’t need to be said - but we should never allow this to happen again.

The kind of rush that this club can produce is a drug that would make Colombian cartels blush. It’s the collective desire which has made this feel all the more special; the 46,500 in attendance show that. Trafalgar shows that. The city of London being transformed into a sea of red and white shows that.

We wanted it, we got it and we sure as hell deserved it.

A club conditioned to expect disappointment? Well, no longer.

You’ll have to come up with some new jokes now, everyone.

We all know careful planning is needed for the next campaign. It’s a matter of considerable comfort that in Alex Neil there is a man who is a major part of the conversation - as every Sunderland fan has complete and utter trust in him.

We must have faith that the board does too.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final
Someone buy that man a pint
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Seeing what Neil has done since January has been a valuable lesson in what makes a good football manager, and what - given what we’ve had before in others - doesn’t. Time after time he has made the right moves and has brought the fanbase to a point where if anyone disagrees with the decisions he takes, they swallow it down because there is absolute trust.

This is for all of us, we have played our part and we should remember during the periods of doubt, and the difficult moments that our football club can deliver moments of supreme quality. An unfettered joy that no one can ever take away from you. Ask fans almost anywhere else to have pride, passion and unconditional love for their team despite the last five years you would most likely see the room empty pretty quickly.

Saturday was also important for the legacy of many of these players. Despite being in League One I have grown incredibly fond of many of them - Gooch, O’Nien, Stewart, Embleton and Wright to name a few - and now I can say that they have played their role in pulling this club back from the deep. I did not want the regret of them being the ones to fail to do this, and being unable to remember them as lads who achieved success with us.

Next season brings new challenges but for now, I hope each and every one of you is enjoying this magic feeling.

Ha’way the lads!

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final
You beautiful boys
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

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