Chink of Light

We have the Stadium of Light, The Academy of Light, The Foundation of Light, and there’s even a Church of Light in Southwick.

It would appear Sunderland is flooded with light, yet it has been a dark place in recent years.

Plummeting down the leagues, comical mismanagement at all levels, and whenever we’ve allowed that thing called hope back into our lives, it’s snatched away from us. The two Wembley visits in 2019 spring to mind.

We’ve seen more false dawns than false nines.

Veterans of the eight Wembley defeats are no strangers to disappointment. Wearing our ‘I was at the Mercantile Credit in ’88’ badges with a sense of perverse pride.

But anyone who has witnessed a single Wembley letdown knows how it feels. Anticipation, excitement, nervousness, pride, that word hope again, and then a massive kick in the nuts.

I love and hate Wembley in equal measure. It’s the best of us and the worst of us. 

Pumped full of pride to instant deflation in the space of ninety minutes.

The past year has knocked the wind out of everybody’s sails. We’ve muddled through Covid as best we can, but it’s hard to do it with a smile on your face.

I’ve had my health issues. A dodgy heart showed itself just before the Checkatrade Final in 2019. McGeady’s last-minute equaliser confirming that it wasn’t up to the job.

Two years, many hospital visits and three stents later and I might just be on the mend.

My dicky ticker bumped me up the queue for a Covid vaccine and I had my jab three weeks ago. There are plans for the pubs to open again soon, and I’ve tentatively started looking at rearranging my 50th celebrations that were postponed last year.

Could things be close to returning to normal, whatever that is?

And then there’s the football.

A 23-year-old billionaire has taken over Sunderland. I’ll not get excited, we’ve known billionaires before. We’ve also had Chairmen who talk a good game.

Maybe lockdown has done us a favour, and he’s not been able to whore himself around the talk ins and podcasts. Or better still, maybe he is someone who likes to do his talking where it matters.

Which brings us back to Wembley. 

I spent the last week telling people I didn’t care if we won the Papa John’s Trophy. Might even be a little disappointed if we did, as I wouldn’t be there to witness it. And I believed it.

Until Saturday, when the excitement started growing.

Then Sunday.

I got up early and opened Twitter, and it was awash with Wembley fever.

Yeah, it’s not the same as wandering round London looking for a McDonald’s breakfast whilst laughing at your hungover compatriots.

It’s not the same as sharing photos from the previous night’s visit to Trafalgar Square, or the sense of pride you feel in a strange city, miles from home, where everywhere you look there is red and white.

But there was togetherness and a sprinkling of hope.

The match wasn’t great, and I’m sure I didn’t shed the emotions I would have shed had I been there in person, but the relief was there. Relief that our Wembley jinx was finally over.

I wasn’t there, but maybe that’s how it had to end. Typical Sunderland.

We’re close to being sat in a beer garden, I can tie my shoe laces without being out of breath, and the football club we all love so much might be turning a corner.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. It might just be a chink, but there is light.

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