Good times for a change, that’s what we had on Saturday. Sure, there’s been some good moments to savour this season but there’s also been plenty of set backs. The win over Chelsea felt like we were washing those disappointments away as the Stadium of Light overflowed with emotion. A great atmosphere is best created when there’s a constant rumbling, wall of noise and not just chants repeated over and over again. That roar reached it’s crescendo when Jermain Defoe put us in the lead, just seconds after Fabio Borini had pulled us level. The noise that greeted Defoe’s winner was special and a true “I was there moment.” Now we have to make sure that moment doesn’t count for nothing. We have to finish the job.
For every bit of optimism and excitement going into the game against Everton, where a win will end the relegation battle with us the victors, there’s been fear and nerves. If you’ve been supporting Sunderland for longer than five minutes you’ll know that we don’t do things easy – Look at the way we got to our last cup final as the perfect evidence. Whilst it would be predictable for the lads to draw or, unthinkably, lose against the Toffee’s, to ensure we have one last game of checking results elsewhere, there’s plenty of reason to be hopeful that they won’t. The way Sam Allardyce’s men are fighting for every ball couldn’t be further away from what Roberto Martinez’s lot are showing. If we can match the intensity we showed against Chelsea it should be enough to undo a side in wretched form, with a terribly leaky defense.
You’d still be right to be nervous though, that’s fine. Make sure those nerves are channeled correctly though. If we’re struggling to break Everton down, if we go behind or even if someone just plays a poor ball – Don’t get on the lads backs. We have to get behind them in the same way we did at the weekend. Shout, scream and cheer your nerves away. Show the lads the desire in the stands that you want to see on the pitch.
We’ve had plenty of bad luck that could see good man turn bad but the players haven’t let it get to them. After Virgil van Dijk broke our hearts at Southampton, we went to Newcastle and played them off the park. We may not have won but we took a point that could look very decisive come 10 o’clock tomorrow night. After defeat at home to Leicester City, with dark clouds starting to gather, we went to Norwich and turned over our relegation rivals in a romping 3-0 win.
Only three defeats since the close of the January transfer window shows how much Sam Allardyce has turned us around. If we stay up this time, it wouldn’t feel like a fluke – It would feel like the start of something. The newly acquired quality of Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri and Jan Kirchhoff, added the to likes of Jermain Defoe, Younes Kaboul and Lee Cattermole, mean we have the makings of a good side that won’t have to worry about relegation again next year. If we seal the deal we can continue the development of Patrick van Aanholt, Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford, whilst also looking to bring in Yann M’Vila on a permanent deal. There’s so much potential and we can’t let it go to waste.
There’d be the obvious bragging rights over our local rivals if we win tomorrow but we’d have more to smile about beyond that. Our good players will stay and there’ll hopefully more to come through the door. Those players will be under a manager who knows how to establish teams in the Premier League and has made going to games enjoyable again. Why’s it so more enjoyable now? Because Big Sam has got the lads running through brick walls for the club and they’re getting results doing it.
There’s been plenty of false dawns with Sunderland, even in recent times. I haven’t had a dream in a long time, but this lot have got me imagining again. Tomorrow could be the start. For once, Sunderland, let me get what I want.