This isn’t how it was meant to go.
We aren’t allowed to be having this much fun, we aren’t allowed to be in this position, and we aren’t allowed to dream of where we’re going to be next season.
This was meant to be a season of consolidation. Secure Championship safety and take things from there. No talk of the top six, the playoffs, promotion, or the Premier League.
Yet here we are. Two matches from football’s most expensive game, and three from potential eternal glory.
If you’d told me back in July that we’d finish sixth in the Championship, one year on from finishing fifth in League One, I would’ve simply laughed in your face.
We simply aren’t allowed to be in this position.
The first team in eight years to finish in the Championship playoffs after being promoted from League One, and potentially on the verge of the glory of back to back promotions.
It was a final day of the season that served up the climax to a dramatic playoff race that’s unfolded over recent weeks.
At one point, we were massively out of contention.
Millwall were winning 3-1 against Blackburn and Coventry were one goal up on Michael Carrick’s Middlesborough. Meanwhile, at Deepdale, we needed half time to regroup and to relieve some Preston pressure.
But in the playoff picture that’s always seemed desperate to have Sunderland in the frame, it was the ecstatic away contingent at Deepdale that serenaded a group of players who’d reignited the dying flame.
It’s important to remember that many of these players dragged us out of the depths of the third tier, and now they’re on the edge of greatness.
This season has been a gripping watch from start to finish, and a campaign that began against Coventry back in July could end with a promotion shootout against the Sky Blues at the end of May.
But that’s just a permutation that may occur over the next few weeks, and if the last season has told me anything, it’s that you always need to expect the unexpected with this group.
This is especially true when you factor in Sunderland’s dramatically increasing injury list (one that now includes Dennis Cirkin and Lynden Gooch) and our managerial difficulties at the start of the campaign. It’s just a remarkable feat.
The youngest squad in the Championship and an inexperienced team in the second tier, but a side that are just purring in the red and white.
Sunderland will be the underdogs when it comes to the playoff semi final against Luton, and rightly so.
Rob Edwards has resurrected the Hatters since the turn of the year, and they head into their playoff campaign on a fourteen game unbeaten run, but you simply can’t rule us out.
At home, it’s going to be an absolutely ferocious atmosphere for a Saturday evening kick off, and away from home is where we truly come to life.
With that in mind, you wouldn’t bet against the Lads going to Kenilworth Road and producing a defensive display similar to that of Jack Ross’s team back in 2019 at Fratton Park.
Yes, I know that’s massively getting ahead of ourselves. ‘One game at a time’, and the next one is the biggest of the lot, but you’d imagine over 40,000 fans will turn out for another special occasion at the Stadium of Light.
With this side, anything is possible as our playoff campaign is set to kick into gear.
We shouldn’t have had this much fun in the Championship.
We just shouldn’t be in this position, especially when our fellow promoted teams have suffered so badly during this campaign, yet here we are.
Regardless of what happens in the next one hundred and eighty minutes of football, Sunderland have made their fans and city proud.