Despite the result, the Luton trip was a blast – and so was the rest of the season

Matthew Keeling looks back on the trip to Luton Town that brought Sunderland's season to a close

It’s about 8pm on Monday, May 15, and I’m in the kitchen making a chilli for tea (very nice it was too, thanks for asking), and I decide to have a quick check on the state of the trains for the journey to Luton. CANCELLED.

Oh fabulous. Biting the bullet, we decide to get the 06:43 and with that all hope of a reasonable sleep ahead of the play-offs had gone.

Turns out, the decision was a great one. We arrived in London a cool three and a half hours before our scheduled train would have – in fact, we were too early to check into our hotel. More on that shortly.

Our favourite haunts of Bloomsbury were obviously the pubs of choice for the day; McGlynn’s, who have sadly lost their beloved pub cat at the age of 15, and the Marquis of Cornwallis, both of which provided some “refreshments” before we headed to beautiful Luton.

Once the game kicked off, I think it was clear fairly early on that Sunderland were going to struggle. We looked a side who were small on height, and very much low on energy. Luton knew what they had to do to beat us, and fair play to them, that is exactly what they did.

We struggled to really create anything, nothing was coming off and the game to be honest almost petered out. If anything, Luton could and should have had more.

Yes, a couple of decisions could have gone for us, but I think the fact that this wasn’t mentioned much after the game showed the nature of the 90 minutes. Luton probably deserved to make the final.

Anyway. We went back to London, met up with some friends before checking into the hotel at around 12:30am. “This hotel is going to be terrible, isn’t it?” We weren’t exactly wrong. If you’ve ever seen Mr Bean in Room 426, think that, and think of a hotel not decorated since the first showing of that episode.

Our journey home consisted of getting to Stansted, flying to Dublin, leaving, and re-entering Dublin airport and then flying to Newcastle. Giddy, hilarious social media posts of “Airport drinks with the girls”, and “Really looking forward to this break” ensued, as we got the emptiest flights I have ever been on. We landed in Newcastle and with it brought a close to the 2022/23 Championship season.

I write this before work on Thursday morning. The trip was a blast and the season has been too. We surpassed expectations, and Tony Mowbray worked miracles with the most threadbare of squads.

Last season I wrote a similar article after we’d just got through to the play-off final. This time it just wasn’t to be, and you know what – that’s fine. It will be our time again, it really will.

This season and the group have made it okay to say that. We will have our time again. Saying that two years ago just felt like I was lying.

Ultimately, football is a relief and a distraction. And so, it should be. It’s what we do to spend time with those who mean so much to us, and it’s an escape from a world that is increasingly tricky to navigate with a smile on your face. It’s one of the shining examples of trying to do what makes you happy.

This is obviously aimed at Sunderland fans, but ultimately it doesn’t matter who you support (within reason, obviously). We all get one shot at this, and I know I’ve written this before but, try and enjoy it. If enjoying it is flying from Luton to Newcastle via Dublin, then you do you. I can confirm it is great.

The season is over. It’s dead. See. SEE! But what a ride it’s been. Thanks once again for listening to me on Wise Men Say, it means a lot. And thanks for reading this, if you still are. I know I am always wrong, and I know I say things that you think is just me being stupid. I do love the football club though, and I’ll follow them until my last breath.

That’s a wrap, I’ll catch you over the summer. I’ll still be waiting for that pint off you all in the Harbour View. Unless I’m going somewhere via Dublin, that is.