It’s not been easy being a Sunderland fan in recent years.
Successive relegations and a host of other uninspiring events had left the club feeling rudderless. but a new season, new owners, a new manager and a new set of players have assembled ready to fight to get the club back on the up.
And while it’s still early days, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited heading into the remainder of the season...
The best start to a season in 20 years. Considering the changes behind the scenes and difficultly of our opening fixtures, to sit third is a great achievement. And huge part of that has been remaining undefeated at home.
The character and desire of the players, backed by around 30,000 fans at each game, has been phenomenal, including the ninth highest attendance in European football when the lads played host to Scunthorpe United in mid-August.
The might and support of the fans has changed the Stadium of Light from an arena of apathy, to a fortress of defiance. That feeling is backed by some memorable moments, Charlie Wyke netting a debut goal, Loovens almost stopping time with a mammoth challenge at home to Fleetwood.
The magical moment Lynden Gooch powered a stoppage-time winner into the back of the Charlton net relit a fire in the belly of Wearside, producing a chorus of passion, relief and joy that had everyone believing the good times were back.
And if any one event could signify the change in fortunes, it was Jon McLaughlin’s penalty save against Fleetwood Town. The first spot kick saved by a Sunderland ‘keeper at home since 1989.
Not only is the mood changing around Sunderland, the results are, too. Whilst the players, manager and owners deserve credit, nobody deserves as much praise as the supporters. Not only for backing the Lads in your thousands, but for being a part of the future by changing seats and restoring the identity of the club.
You can also come down to the fanzone ahead of all the action, as Stewart Donald shows us a trick or two on the 5-a-side pitch, and Charlie Methven soaks in the pre-match build-up with the fans.
The club hasn’t felt as open and honest as it has since the day Stewart and Charlie set foot in the city, even more so once Jaun Sartori came on board. From flying around the fan zone armed with a hot dog, to smiling like a Cheshire cat immersed in the heart of the South Stand, the Uruguayan has shown his excitement and passion whilst falling in love with the club.
We all want to look to the future but can’t forget our past. The reception Joey Barton received earlier this month is a reminder of that, and with battles against old foes such as Coventry City on the horizon, there remains a host of days to look forward too.
‘Lee, Lee, Lee,’ is bellowing from the South Stand once more, Lee Cattermole has risen like a Phoenix from the flames and promises there’s a lot more to come following a match-winning display against AFC Wimbledon.
A young and progressive manager in Jack Ross has the team playing great football, showcased by multiple goal of the season contenders from Chris Maguire, George Honeyman and Max Power.
But I have a feeling, the best is yet to come.
Young Josh Maja has shown the predatory instinct that has seen him awarded with EFL young player of the month, an award previously won by stars such as Dele Alli and Wifried Zaha, a Sunderland great in the making, perhaps?
That’s 17 moments, events or changes in a few short paragraphs.
But the biggest reason to be excited for the future of Sunderland AFC, is YOU!
None of what has gone before would have been possible without the unmatched backing of our supporters.
To follow the Lads in your thousands, both at home and away.
To sacrifice your own time to change the image of the club.
To scream your lungs out, to will each and every player on, to inspire Gooch to score that header.
To give Maja the confidence to score goal after goal with such maturity and swagger, to instil the defiance in McLaughlin to deny all who challenge him.
To no longer be the whipping boys, the pushovers or the laughing stock.
Together, we have achieved so much, and the potential of what we can achieve moving forward is unimaginable.
This is what it means to be Sunderland.
With so much riding on a season of hope, expectation and promise, only one question remains...
Do you want to witness it, or do you want to be a part of it?
The views expressed within this article are the views of the individual contributors and not necessarily those of Sunderland AFC.