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Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship

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Opinion: Sunderland - The biggest club in the Championship once again

Sunderland again flexed its muscles with over 40,000 fans attending the first Lads game at Championship level in five seasons. Our support is crucial to our success.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

While some teams around the country claim to be the biggest, richest, and best clubs in the world, Sunderland continues to prove, by the numbers, that they really are one of the English giants.

This was put on full display at the weekend when over 40,000 fans crammed into the Stadium of Light to bear witness to Sunderland men’s return to the second tier.

The attendance of 40,851 bests any Championship match attended in all of the 2021/2022 campaign.

In fact, Sunderland’s home attendance number from Sunday and the whole of last season are staggering in comparison to our new league rivals.

The Lads played in front of over 33,000 fans on average during last season’s campaign. That’s over 5,000 more home supporters per game last season than the next closest club; Sheffield United, who averaged 27,720 during the 21/22 campaign.

More emphatically, SAFC’s home attendance numbers would have been good for 12th among Premier League clubs and, if averaged for a full season, Sunday’s attendance would be ranked 9th - higher than the likes of Everton, Leeds United, and Chelsea.

These statistics have really important implications, both on and off the pitch.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Several players have commented on the atmosphere at the Stadium on Sunday, saying that it contributed to their motivation and encouraged their performances.

New boy Dan Ballard was even quoted as saying the support was “brilliant” and the Stadium of Light produced “a noise you don’t hear many places”.

The pre-match display and vocal, supportive fans for the game’s duration are set to be such a vital part of this season for the Lads. Continued attendance of the magnitude and motivating cheers, chants, and song could be the difference most days between and loss and a draw, or and draw and a win.

Beyond the performance lift, such great home support can have significant knock-on effects on player recruitment for the rest of this summer’s window.

Quality players interested in a move or big-club youngsters looking for advantageous loan opportunities will take notice of a former Arsenal academy graduate making such comments about playing at the SoL.

Of course, there are a plethora of things that go into a player’s decision to join a club, but the size of the stage that is playing in front of Sunderland supporters will surely play a part in those future decisions.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

The point of all this is to say that our supporters have a massive role to play in the success of our season. We can play a role in results, player recruitment, and public perception. As we’ve seen from a minority of our opponents’ fans Sunday, a club’s support can have a negative effect on the team as well.

We want to be the type of supporters that continue to blast through attendance records, push the Lads on to greater accomplishments, give quality players another reason to make the trek to the north east, and garner respect by how we conduct ourselves along the way.

We as fans must keep coming out in droves to home games, show how “Sunderland take over everywhere we go” on away days, stream every match we aren’t able to attend in-person, and continue to show that Sunderland AFC isn’t just a club way off in the north east - it’s a world-wide movement of massive magnitude.

We are, in fact, and again, the biggest club in this league, and we’ve only just begun to show it!

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