Nic Wiseman takes a break from professional gardening, serious running and preparing his editing debut at Salut! Sunderland – if only young Keir gets round to handing in his homework – to reflect on the latest twists and turns in the life of a Sunderland supporter. Will the Lads keep up the momentum of terrific trips to the top of the league and for once see off fellow-strugglers? Nic sees the obvious pitfalls, St James’ Park being one on the last but one matchday of Cardiff’s season, but keeps faith …
This football lark is easy isn’t it? Just get battered 5-1 at Spurs and claim that only a miracle can save us. From then on we lost very unluckily to Everton (I know, I know, that’s what we always say) and then harvest four magic points from the supposed ‘unwinnable’ games at Citeh and Chelski.
We’re now three points from safety, with a game in hand and a superior goal difference. Martin Keown, on Sunday’s Match of the Day 2, reported the results of his forecasting matrix for the bottom clubs and related that his relegated teams would be Fulham, Cardiff and Norwich. Not Sunderland! Not the team that has spent the majority of the season in the bottom three.
This exercise reminded me of the spreadsheets the office staff of the club populated in the ultimately doomed 1996-97, last season at Roker Park campaign, featured on the landmark BBC series, Premier Passions.
The problem is that once the euphoria has subsided, and one analyses our results this season, of our seven wins, only one was against a relegation rival. Our 4-1 romp over Fulham was the exception to prove the rule, though granted Stoke were down in amongst it when we beat them at the end of January.
There has been much head-scratching over the season as to our incredible inconsistency. We beat Chelsea twice (once on the way to a cup final) and lose demoralisingly to West Ham at home and Norwich away. We do our first double over the Mags since 1966 and complete a hat trick of wins over them since 1921. We take four points from Man City and scare them in the Capital One Cup Final, yet are beaten by an abject Villa at the SoL. The list can go on..and on..and on. It could be said that we are only consistent in our inconsistency.
And then the latest irony (certainly not the last) is that once we all concede relegation (Stephen Goldsmith, in his Wise Men Say podcast, asked the Everton fan guest if they will miss Sunderland in the Premier League), the team springs back to life and claims four points from two games.
There are more twists to come, say the media commentators. Next up is Cardiff at high noon on Sunday. If the season goes with form (??!!), we’re due a full house and a massive let down.
Websites, fanzines and tweeters have urged fans to pack the stadium to give one final push to the season. Sunderland, being Sunderland will not show up and we’ll be back where we started. But maybe there’ll be another double bluff and we actually do take Cardiff apart. This is the conundrum that is supporting Sunderland. Who can say?
One thing we need to be aware of is that Newcastle’s final home game is against Cardiff, so that’s a guaranteed three points to the Welshmen, given the Black ‘n’ White’s dreadful form at the moment.
My predictions? I hesitantly think we’ll stay up. But it Really Is the Hope I Can’t Stand!
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