Today, we hand over the penultimate prize Guess the Score* to a three-year-old girl who has embarked, even at such tender an age, on a lifetime of what we all know supporting Sunderland brings.
As Derek Scott points out, we have already heard eloquently from his daughter Natasha, keeping faith from faraway Cornwall. (Re-read her heartwarming contribution from a few years ago, sadly stripped of the photos by the system, here).
Now he introduces us to his granddaughter (who naturally had no idea this would be turned into our regular competition ahead of the game, otherwise meaningless to us save for pride, at Craven Cottage). Monsieur Salut will even enter a scoreline on her behalf – 1-1, which she or grandad is welcome to change …
Sometimes, and admittedly it’s only on the rarest of occasions these days, something happens that makes you realise why you support Sunderland.
It’s certainly not for the glory, the trophies or the glamour, but it’s about why you went to football for the first time, it’s about why you love the game, it’s about traditions, it’s about family, love, shared experiences; it’s part of growing up – an acceptance that sometimes, maybe even frequently, things don’t go as well as expected. Its part of our culture. It’s like life.
Like a large proportion of the Salut! Sunderland community, I no longer live in the North East.
Where we live you can see football shirts on the streets every day, not the shirts of local clubs but those of the Manchesters, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal (not so much recently), even Barcelona and Real Madrid – the wearers are the Children of the Champions League.
One of the joys of returning to the North East is not seeing that.
In the North East kids wear Sunderland kit, Newcastle kit and even Boro kit, it must never change.
All of us have had our dark days, our desperate days, yet we still cling to our colours proudly, competing, jumpers for goalposts style, with all the passion, commitment and attitude we expect of (and, all too often don’t witness) our heroes.
There haven’t been many bright Stadium of Light related moments since Roy Hodgson thought it was a good idea to have Harry Kane take corners at Euro 2016, a handful of victories, the odd equaliser….. and now I’m running out of highlights so I’ve got to share my best moment of this awful season with you.
Previously, my daughter Natasha has lit up your pages with tales of her early days at the Stadium of Light, now, my granddaughter, Olivia, three, provides the glimmers within the gloom.
Olivia, a resident of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, is the proud owner of three Sunderland kits (all obtained at minimal expense due to our current predicament); the green away kit – think of Borini at Norwich, the blue sash away kit – think 4-0 at Palace, and this years light blue away kit – …. think of errrr….. well use your imagination!
Anyway, Olivia sports her Sunderland kit, with pride. When the blue away kit was delivered recently she was reluctant to get dressed, however as soon as it was suggested she wore the blue away kit to go to a family meal in town she leapt at the chance.
I must add she said to my partner “Will people laugh at me?” before venturing on to Bridgnorth’s streets. My reply was to the point “You’ll just have to get used to that sweetheart.”
Clearly she has the steadfastness to rise above that traumatic experience, this week she started at nursery and shunned all her father’s attempts to get PE kit, insisting, you’ve guessed it, on wearing her blue away kit for all physical activities!
Which demonstrates what its all about really; following your team through thick and thin, it doesn’t matter what division we’re in or where we play we are Sunderland.
Keep the faith.
* Guess the Score in Fulham vs SAFC. If you are first with the right scoreline, post it before kickoff and have a UK delivery address, a prize mug awaits you – and Fulham fans can enter, too