Many of us have been there: you’re skint, you’ve got a demanding family and a hectic home/work life balance, you went to that night out with [place random name here] and embarrassed yourself just two weeks ago- yet you’ve somehow found time, money and approval to go away to follow The Lads…and you can’t wait.
There’s just something about going away that makes it special and, in most cases, it’s got nothing to do with the match itself. Sure, you’re going to watch it and you have all of the hope and trepidation that come with that but, be honest, that’s not what you’re thinking about the night before an away day whilst you struggle to say hello to sleep.
No, you’re looking forward to harking back to your more innocent days. Those days you loved when you were free to roam the land; when you did what you wanted, when you wanted. When you didn’t have that annoying, mocking monkey on your shoulder, prodding your temple to remind you of the jobs you need to do. When you and your closest friends felt like you had all the freedom and empowerment in the world and procrastination simply meant you hadn’t asked your mam to wash your jeans yet.
You can’t wait to see familiar faces – many of whom you don’t know- and share the joy (you hope) or, more often than not, the frustration that comes with the disease of supporting Sunderland. You can’t wait for that oh so satisfying sound of the ring pull of your first can, slashing against its metal counterpart and ripping through it to reveal the strong scent that alcohol gives off at silly o clock in the morning on the train to nowhere.
When the day finally comes, you’re full of the optimism of youth again. Last week’s disappointing display is long gone. This is it. This is the game that will go down in infamy. This is the game that, when your life is in stoppage time, you will tell everyone that will still listen that you were there.
All week, your alarm has screamed at you to get out of bed and you’ve ignored it. You’ve lost your daily argument with it Monday-Friday as you’ve tiredly succumbed to its repetitive ring. But not today. You’re awake before it. You’re showered, dressed, prepped, coffee’d up and even had time for a butty in front of the tele before your alarm even knows what’s happening: now who can’t get up eh?!
All the while, you hope and pray that the result and performance allows you the ability to sing with pride and give it the biggun to your opposite number. But, you know what, you’re going to play your part either way. You’re going to be amongst friends. You’re going to be a part of a band of brothers and sisters who are going to show the world that We Are Sunderland.
It’s not that the hope kills you- it’s the hope that gives you the memories that make you…and it’s fucking great.