Bournemouth away was an occasion to remind supporters of Sunderland AFC, from nippers to long-in-the-tooth codgers, why they care so much about football. And this lovely piece from Rob Hutchison, the perfect complement to an excellent Chapman Report, captures our part of a special day …
“Which is the away end mate?” asked Colin, aka Monsieur Salut, as we approached the stadium. “Follow the voices”, the young friendly steward replied “They sound nothing like us!”.
We’d just been putting the world to rights in the Sir Percy Florence boozer with a few hundred other Mackems who had started drinking when the coaches left at 6am by the sound of the place.
It was absolutely bouncing, and this was before we’d kicked a ball. Our conversation had covered poppies, young exiled supporters, sleeping with Christy Moore – read about that episode here – and the merits of being teetotal (not a state known to M Salut) among a plethora of other random pre-match banter topics.
At the ground the minute’s silence was observed impeccably, with just some slight noise from our concourse below with late stragglers unaware of what was going on above, and then it was down to business.
Ten minutes in and we were behind, undone behind PVA and Kone proved yet again when the ball’s played back from behind him he cannot deal with it.
Heeds dropped as they walked back to halfway, we smelt same old same old in the air, but still we all roared the lads on, we settled down a touch and carved out a couple of half opportunities before Vic slammed home a terrific opener.
Bournemouth were shaken by this and for a period until Pienaar saw red we were without doubt the better team and we sensed that maybe just maybe there was something to be had today.
The sending off seemed bizarre but after watching replays we cannot really argue. No intent but unfortunate, as Pienaar was instrumental in any possession we had all afternoon up to that point. He really is a class professional for his age. We completely lost the plot after his departure, and it really was men against boys stuff just waiting for them to score, but a quick break with neat passing lead to the pelanty and cue an explosion of unbridled emotion from the Mackem masses as Defoe Defoed Bournemouth.
Hugging of strangers, rolling in the aisles, kissing the lass beside you whoever she was. The euphoria was like a moment we had waited for all season and for the remainder of the game it continued unabated. The noise was deafening.
Every goal kick or throw in won was greeted like Porterfield’s classic strike, every free kick earned to relieve the incessant pressure was roared to the rafters, and then the board goes up. Five minutes.
FIVE MINUTES. F-I-V-E M-I-N-U-T-E-S!!! Think about that, close your eyes, the longest five minutes of your life in the slowest of slow motion … and then it was over. We’d won the Cup, and I’m looking for a trilby-clad figure galloping across the hallowed turf towards Jimmy . . . . . we’ll you’d think so but we’d just won a game of football against all the possible odds.
The girl with the Anichebe shirt turns out to be Leah Pratt, just 13, whose mum Kellie tells me ‘she’s been going to Sunderland games a long time now and loves SAFC. She also watches the Under 21s. SAFC is her life, up and down the country, constant and I can’t put into words how she felt on Saturday at Bournemouth with the tops from Defoe and Anichebe. She cried, laughed and all sorts of emotions were with her. No matter how the team are playing, she always has a positive attitude and believes in them from start to finish. A very caring 13-yr-old and we’re very proud of the young lady she is turning into’. A mug will be on the way soon, Leah …
This one will go down in folklore. Were you at Bournemouth when we had 10 men and Vic played on with a cracked rib? Aye I was there. It was stuff of legend.
A couple players worthy of attention….
Big Vic: Truly titanic and almost unplayable. Match-fit, passionate, committed he never stopped. Cracked rib? Whatever. Sitting tight on the left of midfield out of possession, chasing everything and moving forward when we had it. He was blowing out of his backside for the last 10 minutes and still ran AFC B ragged. Pickford’s goal kicks landed right on his chest almost every time and the ball just sticks to Velcro Victor, his close control was outstanding and more often than not he found a pass or won a foul in the process. In the last 15 minutes Bournemouth put two defenders on him for Pickford’s kicks but he just waved JP on, asking for it and continued to deliver everything asked of him.
Most of this took place right in front of the away fans and it was quite something to watch if you focused on it, it was our pressure cooker outlet and saved the day. The whistle went at full time as he had the ball at his feet, he breathed an enormous sigh of relief, like a Pixar giant peeled off his top and slowly ambled along the touchline and passed his shirt to a very very happy recipient; the stuff of dreams.
Jordan Pickford: He produced the finest save I’ve seen in the flesh since Simon Mignolet at West Ham a few years ago. Quick of reflex and instinctive he saved the day with an absolute stunner. But there were others, tons of them. He could become the finest goalkeeper the club has ever had – he has it in him to be that good and without doubt the points are down to him just as much as VA. He breathes it on the pitch for every one of us, and he knows just what it means. He gets it y’know.
It’s one small win, but it’s a start. Have we actually bottomed out?
That’s what I’m hoping and the chink of light is now clearly visible. It’s down to David Moyes to build on and keep us just in touch until Christmas when we may have a chance to mount yet another Great Escape.