Sport Football Marriage vows made by sports fans aren’t always fair
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Marriage vows made by sports fans aren’t always fair

AP
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Forget Leicester City.

Forget fireworks, Italian tenors and odds of 5000-1, the real miracles have been happening at the bottom of the English Premier League table and it’s Sunderland who’s been walking on water.

Written off for the past four seasons the Black Cats have confounded everyone, including their own long-suffering supporters.

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Managers may have been replaced quicker than stocks of Donald Trump’s hairspray but Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and now Sam Allardyce have all pulled the proverbial rabbit out of a hat (when talking about football it’s impossible not to talk in clichés) and staved off certain relegation. Houdini and Lazarus would be proud.

Why do I care?

When you partner up with an Englishman you enter into an understanding.

It’s one of the marriage vows – do you promise to love and cherish each other, do you promise to support each other’s teams – in sickness and in health till death do you part…

All well and good if your other half’s from Manchester but hardly fair if he wears the red and white of Sunderland.

Sunderland fans are known for their passion. Photo: Getty
Sunderland fans are known for their passion. Photo: Getty

He gets to barrack for the mighty Adelaide Crows and I get to cheer on the perennial strugglers.

Talk about pulling the short straw – it’s a bit like going on a double blind date and seeing David Beckham and Wayne Rooney walk in – and Wayne (after two squirts of breath freshener) makes a beeline for you.

With Sunderland, it’s all about grim endurance.

They spent 237 days cemented in the relegation zone this season.

Months and months were spent shuffling around the bottom three, drawing games they should win and losing. Lots of losing.

The magic wand (very battered nowadays) only comes out in the final act – all elusive victories come deep into the English spring at the end of the season – all in one giant nail-biting flurry.

Each game is watched, or rather suffered.

In many ways Sunderland fans are the equivalent of Richmond fans but AFL teams don’t get relegated.

AFL teams get a wooden spoon and tasty draft picks.

If Sunderland goes down, the club loses an eye-watering £100 million.

That tidy little sum is part of the new record £5.136 billion TV rights deal that comes into play next season – up 71 per cent on the previous deal.

There’s a lot at stake.

Which is why I got up at 4.30am (I only usually do this for the Matildas and Socceroos) bracing myself for 90 minutes of bottom-clenching hell.

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce celebrates on the pitch. Photo: Getty
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce celebrates on the pitch. Photo: Getty

Being Sunderland, nothing went to script.

They were magnificent – full of energy, verve and attack.

Roared on by close to 47,000 fans, the Stadium of Light became the stadium of noise, with every pass and tackle cheered.

The first goal came in the 38th minute and helped ease the building tension. The second followed shortly after. Two-nil at half-time. Party time on the couch.

The third goal came in the 55th minute and the realisation hit home that, once again, for the fourth season running Sunderland had somehow pulled itself out of the mire.

For the fourth season running they have put their supporters through the wringer – four cruel long seasons with the flicker of survival the dangled gold bait that keeps the fans coming back.

When the final whistle blew the match commentator called it perfectly: ‘they are an ongoing soap opera – they are never dull’.

The players celebrated like it was a cup final; Allardyce busted a few Dad dance moves on the pitch and this Sunderland household finally took a deep breath.

Unlucky Norwich City and Newcastle United fans will be heartbroken as the reality of relegation sinks in – they will lose the glitz of playing in the big time, they will lose players and massive amounts of money.

Allardyce’s predecessor, Advocaat, declared Sunderland was doomed to relegation. He should have known better.

This is a club with an uncanny ability to rise from the dead.

Already my partner is talking up a tilt at the top six and European football next season.

There is no soap opera greater than sport.

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