My father’s name is etched into the walls of the Stadium of Light. His is not alone. Many other supporters also took the opportunity to ‘buy a brick’ during the building of Sunderland’s new home. At the time it felt like a gimmick but as the years pass and as events have unfolded it takes on a different kind of significance.
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As they represent the fans, every stone has its own unique story, spanning generations. Just think of the tales they could all tell. These will now always be woven tightly into the fabric of the ground. To honour newborn babies, loved ones lost or just a reminder to someone that you care, symbolically the gesture of having their name inscribed in stone has become more important than I thought it would.
Those that matter – the supporters – will always be part of the club in a very tangible way no matter what. That feels very relevant right now. The victories, the defeats, the players, the chairmen, owners, the promotions, the relegations – to the fans Sunderland is not defined by one individual or by a single event. These last few years have shown that.
This latest relegation hurts that’s for sure. But all things pass both good and bad and sometimes these things lose their significance as new stories emerge around us overtime.
There is no use in trying to avoid the pain of the here and now though as it’s ever present like an aching knot in the stomach. Yet we’ve experienced it previously and overcome it. Perhaps too many. It’s been worse than this before, but in the moment it’s hard to apply some perspective.
Will we look back in years to come and see that it was the catalyst to rebuild, to reenergise and come back stronger? Will we recall that this one relegation in particular set us on a course which sees the club spiral further out of control? I hope not. But those happier times under Peter Reid and Roy Keane must have seemed like a long road off for those looking on after 1973.
What happens now? This is the question which requires addressing before we can understand which direction we are headed. Just like the names of those that adorn the walls at the Stadium of Light we will see plenty more bad times but hopefully a few more better days.
In this moment though all we can do is let the anger out of our system and accept that, as fans, we hurt, we heal, we enjoy brief moments of euphoria, that is part of following this team of ours.