Last week’s FA Cup trip to Fulham felt like a free hit for Sunderland.
It was our first game against Premier League opposition for over a year, and a match we went into as the underdogs. It also had the feel of a fixture where we could express ourselves and continue to build on our promising run of current form.
At full time, that’s exactly how it felt.
We went toe-to-toe with a very decent Premier League team and led for a good portion of the match. Our football was free-flowing and exciting, we carved out plenty of good chances, and we made the most of the opportunity to test our style of football against an in-form side.
Something else that’s almost always of the highest quality is our support, because as Sunderland fans, we’ve been through a hell of a lot in the last five years.
Our relegation from the Premier League was slow and painful, but we all saw it coming. What we didn’t count on, however, was that the implosion would continue in the Championship, sending us down to the third tier at the end of 2017/2018.
The less said about the League One years the better, but during the second half of last season if felt as though we were on our way back, as our fans sold out away ends across the country.
Since the start of our current Championship adventure, it’s been no different.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend three away games so far this season, and although Bristol City and Birmingham were almost perfect in terms of the journey, atmosphere and result, they were eclipsed by last weekend’s encounter.
A trip to London to watch the Lads is always a bit special.
Our triumphant visit to Wembley in May is still one of our more recent ones and a visit to one of the few characterful stadiums left in the top flight- Craven Cottage- had the makings of a top day out.
Just under 6,000 fans were packed into the Putney End in what was the best away following I’ve ever been a part of.
They watched our young team give their all against an in-form Premier League side, and before Fulham’s equaliser, there was a party-style atmosphere in the away end.
Every tackle and chance was willed on by the thousands, and some tough challenges from Dan Neil, Edouard Michut, Pierre Ekwah and Abdoullah Ba were cheered more than some goals!
The football we’re playing this season is daring, ambitious and exciting, and the joy of seeing the likes of Amad and Patrick Roberts link up is there because it feels as though something is going to happen every time.
Having a team worthy of the club’s support has been very long overdue.
Being in the away end at Fulham was a reminder of how good things are at the club and how we’ll only strive to get better under the current regime.