Last May, 45,000 Mackems inside Wembley and thousands more in homes and pubs around the world breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Four years of turgid football, mercenary owners, and life in the footballing wilderness of League One was finally over. Forget Stoke, because we dealt in cold, wet, and windy Tuesday nights in Accrington, Cambridge, and Morecambe and the prospect of the soulless confines of the Bet365 were comparative bliss.
Last season arguably signalled an outpouring of emotion not seen at our historic club since the days of Peter Reid.
A year on from those unforgettable games against Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe, we sit on the cusp of yet another playoff campaign, a feat simply unimaginable to those fans leaving Wembley last May.
‘Mid-table consolidation’, ‘avoiding relegation’ and ‘just a bog standard, uneventful, and boring season’ were the requests and expectations bandied around by most fans guided by a mixture of hope and realism.
This is Sunderland, remember? Uneventful, unremarkable, and unmemorable aren’t words in the Mackem dictionary.
Newly promoted, decimated by injuries and the youngest squad in a division full of seasoned experience. The fact that with two games to go, we sit in sixth place with the playoffs within touching distance is nothing short of miraculous.
This young side thrives off the atmosphere generated by our fans and the first leg against Sheffield Wednesday was a cauldron of sheer delirium.
From ‘Passion, Pride, Wearside’ to ‘Ready to Go’ and ‘Wise Men Say’ through to the final whistle, the Stadium of Light hadn’t witnessed such an atmosphere since that Jermain Defoe volley.
Wembley saw the volume reach new decibel levels and a mesmerized Luke O’Nien, mouth agape, soaked up the mass rendition of ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ which famously drowned out the national anthem.
This is a club built on industry, generational loyalty and the power of its fanbase in helping to determine performances and results.
Saturday could feasibly mark the defining game of our season and with that will come a bumper crowd. After our buoyant display at West Brom on Sunday, the mood ahead of the 3:00pm kick off against Chris Wilder’s Watford is set to reach fever pitch.
This’ll undoubtedly be the biggest game both in crowd size and significance in years, a sight and occasion that many of our youthful squad are yet to taste in their fledgling careers but one they’ll relish and hopefully greet with the same level of spirit and fearlessness as they did at the Hawthorns.
The likes of Ross Stewart, Luke O’Nien, Pierre Ekwah, and Jack Clarke have frequently spoken about feeding off the fans, especially during big games, and that’s why it’s paramount that the 45,000+ in attendance on Saturday afternoon deck themselves for, head-to-toe in glorious red and white and make the Stadium of Light as raucous as possible.
With Spirit of 37 planning another display, let’s do everything in our power to ensure the players walk out to a cacophony of noise that’s as supportive of our players as it’s deafeningly hostile to Watford.
A massive game awaits and who knows, maybe another date with destiny at Wembley fifty years on from that day, when Bob Stokoe was immortalised in Sunderland folklore, so let’s inspire Mogga’s men to all three points!