Charlton finished the League One season in style and ended up two places ahead of us, writes Monsieur Salut. Until that poor return of four points from three successive home games, I was confident we would go up in an automatic top two place.
It wasn’t to be. We did not end the season in style and and now we start the playoff final at Wembley, after gritty semi-final displays against Portsmouth saw us through, technically as underdogs.
Before I invite readers to predict the outcome of Sunday’s Wembley encounter, I shall reflect on the 1998 version of this momentous tie in May 1998. That was for the greater prize of Premier League and we had, of course, finished above Charlton only to fail to overcome them in the playoff final.
For some of us, Sunday’s second visit of the season to Wembley is not just a question of seeing us reverse that outcome (and indeed the outcome of the Checkatrade final). It is a matter of craving a Sunderland victory of any kind at Wembley. No one under the age of 46, and in practice needing to be older unless they attended as babes in arms, can have been there that last occasion in May 1973. I am comfortably old enough but couldn’t get a ticket.
This will be my sixth attempt to see Sunderland win there (I also missed the Swindon playoff though those of ours supporters who were present will say I missed nothing).
What will happen on Sunday? You tell us. Be first to predict the final score, after 90 minutes or extra time, and you’ll win a Salut! Sunderland mug. If it goes to penalties and you are first with both the AET scoreline and the outcome of a shootout (no need to forecast the actual score in penalties), I will dig deeper.
Charlton fans are welcome to enter. A winner from their ranks would win something more suitable than this …
Have a go in the very last prize or non-prize version of the series this season.
And Ha’way the Lads, Our Lads.
PS: a reminder of my anecdote from the 1998 playoff final, as published here a few years ago and recalled ion a column I wrote for the SAFC matchday programme this season … let us have your Wembley stories …
In the early evening of Monday May 25 1998, the space occupied by two cars, one in front of the other on the quayside at Dover, was a sad place to be. I had delayed a holiday in France to be at the Charlton playoff final (my wife was already there) and Roy Sandbach was heading to his home in Brussels, where he was then living and working.
We’d never met but there was immediate rapport: he was wearing the gold away top our lot had worn when losing that heartstopping decider on penalties, and my 1937 replica was lying along the back shelf of my car. We swapped tales of woe over taste-free burgers on the crossing to Calais. I told him of my plan to stop somewhere on my way south, get very drunk and sleep it off before proceeding; in the event, I was so angry that I just kept going through the night, replaying over and over in my mind the missed sitters, the folly of Perez’s charge out of goal for their final equaliser and the Mickey Gray penalty.
Roy and I have kept in touch ever since … most recently on Twitter the other day:
— Roy Sandbach (@profRoys) May 17, 2019