Since we moved there in 1997, it’s safe to say that the Stadium of Light has hosted its fair share of games that have gone down in Sunderland folklore.
There have been plenty of memorable, goal laden Premier League encounters and thrilling Championship and cup games, and Good Friday’s clash with Hull, a game during which all logic went sailing down the Wear in a frenzy of goals, errors and mad moments, has elbowed its way onto the list.
This was easily the game of the season, one of the most unpredictable encounters for a long time, and a match that encapsulated all that’s good, bad, and utterly captivating about this team.
Eight goals, some scintillating attacking play from both sides, and a final twist from twelve yards that left the travelling fans in raptures and the home support sickened as two more points were dropped as a result of naivety and a lack of composure in a pressurised situation.
First and foremost, you have to give Liam Rosenior’s side immense credit for the way they approached the game, as well as the way they executed their plan.
Similar to ourselves, Hull are lacking strikers but with the classy Jean-Michaël Seri in midfield and the brilliant Ozan Tufan a constant menace in attack, the Tigers certainly came for a game and the purpose with which they played, as well as the raucous backing from their fans, deserves to be praised.
From a Sunderland perspective, it was hard to reconcile this display with the disciplined and resolute performance we’d turned in at Turf Moor one week previously.
After executing a perfect game plan against the Clarets, we were at sixes and sevens defensively for the entire game on Friday, the midfield was alarmingly porous at times, and at no stage did we ever really gain control of the match.
Whether it was simply borne out of desperation to impress in front of a 40,000 crowd or a little bit of giddiness following an excellent result at Burnley, we’ll probably never know, but it made for one hell of a spectacle, although perhaps not one for those of a nervous disposition!
Some of our forward play, ignited by one of Jack Clarke’s finest performances in a Sunderland shirt and some sublime touches from Amad, was majestic, but therein lies a huge issue: if you need to score four goals at home merely to get a point out of the game, you know that something’s gone haywire somewhere along the line.
In terms of entertainment value and sheer, edge of your seat thrills, nobody would’ve left the stadium feeling cheated on Friday night, but points aren’t awarded for artistic merit and if we’re to mount a more sustained challenge next season, there needs to be less drama and more efficiency, particularly at home.
The number of points dropped on Wearside this season, as a result of individual and collective errors, poor game management and defensive lapses is infuriating, and we must surely be at least twenty points shy of what we could've gained.
From the visits of QPR and Burnley earlier in the season to this Good Friday goal fest, we’ve generally competed strongly and taken the game to the opposition, but have too often been caught on the hop and have let games slide as a result.
Yes, the players are learning and will be given time and patience, and this will be particularly important for Pierre Ekwah, who’s experienced two contrasting results during the past week, but that’s not an insurmountable challenge for the former West Ham man.
Putting faith in young players means accepting their shortcomings and weaknesses in exchange for what they can bring to the team, and Tony Mowbray has shown no signs of wavering, which is certainly to his credit.
The sense of youthful vigour and fearlessness that this team is built on is truly fabulous, and after four years of League One stodge, it’s also a welcome relief, but it needs to be tempered with far more control and savvy for next season.
As Neil Warnock once said, “By all means enjoy it, but enjoy it by being disciplined here”, and that’s something that we need to continue to work on if a season of real promise is to be built on come August.