Watching Sunderland play in the Championship feels good - very good.
I don’t want what I’m about to write to seem belittling or patronising to the teams in League One, because we deserved to be there and the other teams did a very good job in keeping us there. League One looks very competitive this year as well, and I think we’d have struggled to get out of it if we didn’t last season. For any fans of other teams reading, our complaints about League One were genuinely more to do with our own expectations of the club rather than thinking we were too big for the league.
Having said that - respectfully, Shrewsbury, Accrington, Fleetwood and co… I never want to see you ever again. Honestly, it was nice for the first season - a bit of a novelty, and very different from what we were used to – but it was boring by the end. Sunderland risked losing a lot of fans if we didn’t go up. I said to my dad that if we didn’t go up then I wouldn’t commit myself to games every week, as travelling up to home games from uni in London was becoming more of a chore than something I enjoyed doing.
But to be back one step below where we all believe we should be is just a great feeling.
It’s now where the Premier League doesn’t feel a million miles away and, most importantly, derby days don’t feel a million miles away.
For young fans like myself, the Premier League was all I knew until the back-to-back relegations. My first home game was a loss (of course!) to Blackburn at the SOL in the 2007/08 season and the first away game I can remember was a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the 2009/10 season.
Even for older fans, Sunderland have mainly been in the first or second tier of English football - so being in League One was considered wrong for a club like ours.
Anyway, I know we’re only two games in... but I can see it being another exciting season.
After all, we don’t do dull and boring.
On the way to the game on Saturday my dad said (as he often does) “I’ll take a point today”, to which I replied “we can’t just accept a point every game this season, we have to win a few here and there”.
In the end, I did what he said and put 50p on Ross Stewart to score first and for the full time result to be 1-1 and off we went into the ground, grabbing a £4 Bristol City pie before sitting in our seats and eating said pie with a plastic spoon (I know!).
As the match was building up to kick off, we said how nice it was to be at a game with some atmosphere, and you could tell that the away end was more up for it than they have been in the last couple of years, minus Sheffield Wednesday in the playoffs and Wembley. Even being largely outnumbered felt nice.
I said we don’t do dull and boring, and this game was anything but - some of our defending may have been iffy, but we did what we’ve done many times under Alex Neil and fought on to the bitter end, winning the game having gone behind in the second half.
It’s early days but it feels as though Sunderland aren’t just making up the numbers in the Championship and that we’re back - and having carried our momentum forward from last season, maintaining our strong unbeaten run to eighteen games, it feels as though we’ve truly arrived to put our own mark on the division.
I may have lost 50p on Saturday afternoon but I can’t complain - the Lads won, Championship away days are here to stay, and so is my passion for OUR club.
Sunderland AFC are back on the map!