It’s often said that it’s never boring being a Sunderland supporter.
And the thing is - certainly over my lifetime, anyways - that’s not a cliché. It’s actually true.
Throughout my Sunderland supporting life we’ve either been battling relegation or fighting for promotion, other than in a handful of seasons where we were bashing away towards the top end of the Premier League under Peter Reid and Steve Bruce.
Why is that? I wish I had an answer. I’ve referred to this before as the Sunderland Chaos Theory - we either go through extreme highs or extreme lows, with no in-between.
For the last five seasons we’ve been, to varying levels of success, fighting for promotion. Obviously, the level of pressure on us when trying to achieve this in League One far outweighs the pressure (or lack of) we’ve felt this season in the Championship. Still, we’ve seen this current Sunderland side thrive regardless of whether people are expecting them to achieve something or not. Quite the litmus test for this young, hungry bunch of players.
Prior to that it felt like all we ever knew was pure doom, clinging onto survival from the Premier League by the tips of our fingers only to eventually succumb and then drop like a stone the following season into the third tier. I don’t mean to stir any bad memories, but to see how far the club has come since then is nothing short of remarkable.
Regardless of whether our season ends on Monday or carries on for another few weeks beyond that, this season was both expected and unexpected in equal measures to me. Even though deep down I probably should have felt as though Sunderland would just finish comfortably in midtable this season, was it ever likely to be the case?
Fate decided we’d actually go on to do quite well, but it was either that or struggle at the bottom end of the table right til the death. It feels like there’s an unwritten code somewhere that determines Sunderland just aren’t allowed to do boring, midtable or mediocre.
Perversely, I rather enjoy that we’re so chaotic. Obviously all I ever want for my football club is to be on an upward trajectory, and right now that definitely seems to be the case, but let’s be honest - it’s more likely that we’ll score a last minute winner on Monday to get into the playoffs followed by a win in the final only to get battered every week in the Premier League, than it is we go out without a whimper and have a pretty bog standard, midtable finish next time around.
Stability is ultimately what this club craves, on and off the pitch, and whilst I think that we are in the best position we’ve ever been in to be stable in my lifetime, we’re a long way away from that yet. Not because there are still huge gaps in our infrastructure, but because the team on the pitch is completely outperforming their expectations. Even Tony Mowbray admitted himself this week that we’re a bit ahead of schedule, and I wonder if an eventual promotion this summer could actually destabilise us rather than put us in a position to be successful not just now, but over a far longer period of time.
Possibly. But you know what? I don’t care. I’m loving the craziness. This season has been an absolute whirlwind and I’ve never loved watching a Sunderland team as much as this one.
Frankly, I don’t want the madness to end.