I’m a born and raised Londoner who started following the Lads when I was eight years old, after my Dad (a Mackem and massive fan) took my brother and me to Roker Park for a game.
Don Goodman scored twice that day, and ever since hearing the ‘Roker Roar’ and seeing the passion, I fell in love with all things Sunderland A.F.C.
In the early days, I was spoilt by the team we had.
Led by Peter Reid and spearheaded by Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, it seemed like nothing could stop us and seeing the players tear the league apart in 1998/1999 was an amazing feeling, knowing each week that a win was inevitable.
I thought that was normal, but how wrong could I be!
Fast forward to the present day and we’ve experienced many ups and downs since that time, but definitely more downs than ups!
I’m now in my mid-thirties and one thing I’ve noticed is that this current crop of young players we’ve invested in and developed seem to be on the crest of a wave, and never have I been so excited about a Sunderland team than I am now.
There have been shoots of some outstanding football this season and not only that, their ceiling hasn’t been reached yet, so surely the sky’s the limit?
This season, we’ve endured many injuries to key players but with some clever investment in the future, I believe this squad will get better and better.
Yes, there’ll be departures and I really wouldn’t be surprised to see Dan Ballard leave this summer, for example, because as these players develop and get better, we’ll see interest from clubs in the Premier League and elsewhere.
The reality of some of our most promising prospects leaving the club will occur more frequently as time goes by, but if we see profit from each sale and the money is reinvested as cleverly as they have done, I can’t thank Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman enough for saving our club and making me feel excited about Saturday afternoons once again.
It’s felt like years since I went into a match day with the confidence that we have a team that will compete and at times play some brilliant football.
I felt compelled to write in order to put forward my feelings on where the club finds itself now and where it could be headed.
I feel positive and confident and would urge all other fans to be too. I also hope that over the next few seasons, this squad goes from strength to strength and that we help as many of these young players to reach their potential as possible.
They may or may not reach it with us but for the first time in roughly a decade, I’m excited about what the future holds for Sunderland. I trust Dreyfus and Speakman and I just wish that all supporters would remember where short-term planning gets you: League One, and I don’t want to be back there anytime soon!
If we can cement our place and our playing style in the Championship over the next few seasons whilst working within our means, so be it, because our club needs to be sustainable.
I certainly don’t want us to take on the kind of investment that Newcastle have benefited from, by a state that condones truly awful behaviour and policies that I for one would never stand behind.
We’re investing in young men who are talented, passionate and responsible.
They play with honesty and pride and it makes me proud to be a Sunderland fan once again, after years of feeling disillusioned with the players that played for our club.
My major frustration is that some fans seem to lack insight as to what our club is going through.
For me, the supporters have a major role to play and we must trust the process and show faith in both the management and the players.
We all wanted another striker in January and although we didn’t get one, I’d rather we didn’t get any old has-been in. After all, we’ve done it before, and it’s pointless.
We’ll lose players to other clubs and we’ll get annoyed when these kids make mistakes, but we must remember that slow and steady progress is the objective and that must be better than what we experienced during the Ellis Short and Madrox eras?
As fans, let’s be hopeful and positive but also realistic.
Let’s make the Stadium of Light a fortress and back these lads. Let’s stand together, support our club and strap in, because the good times seem to be on the way again.
I’m looking forward to the remaining games where the new lads can get some more minutes, and hopefully with yet another positive summer transfer window, it can lead to another season of competitive Championship football.
Haway the Lads!