Given that I enjoyed last season as much as I did, and the complete absence of a distracting summer international tournament to tide me over, the last couple of months without Sunderland have been absolute torture.
I’ve even resorted to watching bloody cricket. That’s how desperate it’s become.
There were some international games, and England U21s have been playing in some competition abroad, but none of it satiates me in the way watching Sunderland does.
I often wonder what people who don’t like football actually do with their spare time, because the feeling of waking up on a Saturday with no game to look forward to is genuinely torturous.
To be fair to the club, they’ve kept us occupied here and there with bits of news drip-feeding out - and I have to give props to the media arm of Sunderland AFC because whilst we’re desperately lacking on the commercial side of the operation, they’ve kept us entertained during the off-season with the transfer news, videos and so on.
Signing four players in June is simply unheard of on Wearside, but this is the new normal at Sunderland AFC. We’ve plugged the most obvious gaps in our squad with efficiency, and we’ve added attributes that were sorely lacking last season, mainly the height of our team.
And whilst not everyone is back from injury yet, a handful of the lads we could have done for the playoffs are back and ready to fight for a place in the team next season.
Some of the younger lads have had their honeymoon period and are now fully bedded into the football club - the likes of Lihadji, Ekwah, Ba and Bennette in particular will be expected to fully embrace the opportunities afforded to them to impress during pre-season, with the carrot dangling before them that they could go on to become established and vital members of our first team squad in the Championship.
It all bodes well for the coming weeks, and seeing the Lads play not once but twice in one day is something I’ve been looking forward to ever since tickets went on sale.
Just being around my fellow fans, my mates, in the summer sunshine watching a game of football again... it’s what I live for. And it doesn’t matter that it’s in a relatively unimportant game where the scores don’t really matter, because for most of us this is what supporting Sunderland is about. It’s a release from the day to day distractions of life; it’s an escape, a sense of belonging.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with Lads fans on the terrace at South Shields, hopefully seeing a new face or two and a few goals... you can’t beat it.
It feels like there’s genuinely a lot of momentum being carried over from last season into this one, and with a strong start to our pre-season campaign we can hopefully start as we mean to go on — culminating in what should hopefully be another successful season for Sunderland in the Championship. This young team must be absolutely buzzing to be back, and given the path we’ve taken to this point, doesn’t it feel fantastic to be able to say that?
Bring it on. I cannot wait!