Walking on clouds away from Ewood Park on Wednesday night, I had a bit of a troubling revelation. This is very likely to be as good as it gets.
Our second 3-1 win in a few short days is quite hard to sum up in footballing terms.
At times in the first half, we were as shaky as I’ve seen us be this season. Not for lack of effort from the Lads, Blackburn’s energy, passing, pressing and shape were proving too much for us to deal with, and we were overrun repeatedly. But for absolutely miraculous defending from big Dan Ballard, the game should have been dead and buried in the Lancashire side’s favour by the 20 minute mark.
Yet this team are made of sterner stuff. Where we’ve dominated games and not always had our way at times earlier in the season, on this occasion we rode our luck, but what a ride it was. Blocks and tackles flew in from all quarters, Clarke’s toe end and Hume’s six studs wrapping around the ball in the nick of time again and again.
We can’t win every game by outclassing the opposition on the ball - although in the end we earned the right to do so here - and although we will need to improve our defensive shape to keep producing this type of result, I was as encouraged by our grit as I have been by our silky skills elsewhere this campaign. There is something thrilling about staying in a game by the finest of margins, and this Sunderland side are nothing if not entertaining.
If I did have to sum the night up, I’d do it like this. I couldn’t ask for more from this Club at the moment. I’m back on the magical carpet ride that is a football fan’s insane over-optimism, and I’m enjoying every moment. Standing among thousands of others belting out “Clarke will tear you apart again” as our star winger dazzles yet another defence is everything being a football fan is about at any level.
How long this will last, who knows. Guessing where our peak will be is a fools’ errand (not that that will stop us). Our model seems increasingly sound, whatever the naysayers might think, but sport is capricious - just look down the road to Teesside for confirmation of that.
Ultimately, though, the memories made on the road to Blackburn and the streets of West London this week will last long after our winning streak ends. Whether we win the league, ‘do a Brighton’, or retrench into mid-table mediocrity in the next couple of years is beside the point.
Acquaintances forged in common captivation at a team that is finally worthy of its fantastic support, shared laughs at vanquished opponents’ expense, overpriced beers toasted to totalling another set of journeymen jobbers the likes of whom we’ve seen all too often in the last decade ourselves.
That’s what it’s all about, and I honestly don’t think it’d be much better if we’d not been in Blackburn but Milan.
So bottle this stuff for the bad days that inevitably come the way of every football team sooner or later. Because these are the decent days and nights that make it all worthwhile.