It’s just over an hour on the train from the capital to Leicester so this was a relatively popular trip for the London Branch, despite the Tuesday evening kick off.
Obviously nothing compares to a weekend game, but I don’t actually mind a midweek away day. There’s a strangely rebellious aspect to using half a day’s annual leave to drink cans on a train. It’s one of those things that feels illegal but isn’t, like bringing your own sweets into the cinema.
Most of us were looking forward to the trip despite a sense of foreboding about the match itself, with the Foxes’ squad looking ridiculously overpowered for the Championship, and Sunderland faltering lately.
After pulling into the city at around three o’clock, we began the search for a suitable watering hole. Leicester is one of the many British cities that features few charming, historic-looking cobbled streets a stone’s throw away from areas that give off a distinctly post-apocalyptic vibe.
The oldest pub in the city also seemed to be the best, so we settled into The Globe to discuss the game ahead.
A few ales were sunk, a few songs were sung, and it was time to trek down to the King Power. Both sets of fans were in fine voice, and there was a poignant minute’s applause before kick-off to mark the anniversary of the tragic helicopter crash.
Leicester’s late owner did so much for their club, but his achievements also made a mark on English football as a whole. They gave everyone who supports a less successful, less moneyed club hope that, one day, the stars will align, the bottle will catch the lightning, and your team will achieve something incredible.
A microscopic shred of hope, perhaps, but better than nothing.
By now the game itself has been analysed in far better detail elsewhere, but suffice to say that fears of a thrashing proved to be unfounded. The Lads competed admirably against a squad that’s probably mid-table Premier League quality (definitely compared to the likes of Everton, Bournemouth, and Burnley this season).
We conceded the same carbon copy headed goal from a set piece that Sunderland have been conceding for decades, but didn’t let our heads drop, and it was only some poor finishing and even poorer officiating that stopped us from getting what would’ve been a deserved equaliser.
We need some more points on the board sooner rather than later, but it was at least a far more encouraging performance than we’ve seen in the previous two games.
We headed for a couple of post-match drinks back in the city centre, where we met a few home fans from each end of the likability spectrum. There was a group of older fans who spoke very highly of our team and support, saying we were the best team they’d faced this season, and another lad who repeatedly came over and making the 1-0 sign at us.
Well done mate, you’ve remembered the score from an hour ago.
They say all good things must come to an end, and Tuesday’s reverse was the first time I’ve seen Sunderland lose in person since Blackburn away last season, over a calendar year and twenty live games ago.
Losing games is always frustrating, and the inevitable social media meltdown is growing after every defeat, but the fanbase needs to take stock and recognise that, despite the inevitable bumps in the road, the overall trajectory of the club is surely an upward one.
When you think about where we were just a few seasons ago, I’ll definitely take that.