The Championship play-offs step up a gear tonight and for Sunderland, the task on paper is simple - don’t lose and we’re off to Wembley. Our magnificent effort to come from behind on Saturday has given us a narrow advantage which could be crucial.
Of course, avoiding defeat will be easier said than done against a side that you would expect will chuck the kitchen sink, the pots and pans and the pet dog at us. Luton were unable to take advantage of their height advantage on Saturday and they’ll will no doubt be keen to test us on that front tonight more frequently than they did in the first leg.
There’s been a distinct worry about our fragile and patched up backline for much of the last few weeks. Having no first choice centre back for the run-in could have cost us, but we’ve managed to knuckle down and stay strong. We’ve seen some revolutionary displays from Lynden Gooch,
Trai Hume and Luke O’Nien as they have all dug deep and relished their unfamiliar roles with a smile on their face. The return of Niall Huggins and news that Aji Alese will be in the squad for the trip to Luton are huge boosts for our battle-hardened defence.
This has been a long season, but it has been by far the most enjoyable many Sunderland fans have experienced in at least 15 years. For 47 matches, we’ve taken this division by the scruff of its neck despite not being given the right to do so by many more established teams. We’ve bucked the trend for newly promoted sides whatever happens tonight with our fearless attacking football and commitment to playing the game.
We’ve finished above two sides who were in the Premier League last season and are light years ahead of some of these so-called established sides. The club has progressed both off the pitch financially and in terms of the football played on it in a short space of time. We’re on the up, Sunderland AFC is a club that now wants to take risks and keep on pushing rather than one seemingly content with anything from mediocrity down to abject failure.
The near comical injury list we’ve racked up this season has not stopped us from achieving a place in the top six, and there’s no reason why it would stop us from taking the next step. These players have taken on every challenge put in front of them, and their ability to play without fear has earned us this shot at promotion so many - including myself- had ruled out as being a step too far this year.
This young and passionate group of players have given us fans so much to cheer this season. For the first time in years, we’ve players who play with their hearts on their sleeves and without fear. We’re one more huge effort away from another day out at Wembley and boys - we’re all behind you.