By 90Min
March 19, 2018

As a Sunderland supporter, feelings of positivity and joy are often absent. A club which is in its worst decline, arguably, in history; destined for the third tier of English football for only the second time in its 139-year existence. 

During that solitary campaign in the old third division; 1987/88, a 19-year-old striking prospect named Marco Gabbiadini was snapped up from York City by manager Denis Smith, who had replaced caretaker Bob Stokoe after the 1973 FA Cup legend was called upon to try and rectify Lawrie McMenemy's failures. 

Going into that season, a certain darkness, the likes of which had never been witnessed before, had descended onto Wearside; a new low discovered, and the Roker Roar muted. A once thriving sea of red and white filled with hope and adoration, left a neglected concrete shell, with memories of a rocking Fulwell End all that remained of a fallen giant. 

But loyalty remained. Over 400,000 supporters paid their duty across the year to watch on from the terraces as a patched-together XI fought their way back to the second tier, vowing never to return. Led by a man aged just 19, Sunderland's journey of reconciliation had taken a substantial leap and happiness was running through the vibrant shipbuilding town once again.

However, 30 years later, 1.3 miles south west of Roker Park, the gloom of 1987 has returned. The Stadium of Light; once the beating heart of a region who have celebrated their city status for over 25 years, has become a symbol of failure; a heartless bowl of toxicity; one fit for purpose in the higher echelons, but a structure that encases those who do not deserve such luxuries. 

Nigel Roddis/GettyImages

The XI who grace the stadium's green turf to represent 'the pursuit of excellence', indeed, are not up to the task. Their apathy-brimming confidence-stripped shells are destined for demise; however, those who prey on their suffering must also be held to account. 

A national media reported mass exodus was all that greeted those who braved the snow-filled winds on Saturday. And while the events described were undeniably factual, although contextually unforgiving, the majority of the remaining souls witnessed rejection much greater than anything seen before. 

The on-pitch happenings during the final quarter of Preston North End's cruise to victory were played to a chorus of negativity that surrounded Sunderland's possession. Constant minority-catalysed chastisement and slander washed over those attempting to find some way back into the contest, with smatterings of obtuse cries to the absent owner a periodic encore. 

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Genuine repugnance filled the crisp, River Wear-kissed air as it circled the sparse Stadium of Light before enveloping each within it. A new level of distaste had been unearthed; a cancerous force which grew stronger as time drifted away. This once proud football club had reached depths more profound than that of 31 years ago, and it was heartbreaking to witness. 

Freedom of expression is welcome, anger permissible, elected non-attendance understandable; however, remaining solely to inflict relentless animosity; unforgivable. 

Sunderland have fallen a long way in 20 months. From miraculous survival to having their Premier League status stripped away, and now being en route to their Championship standing snatched in a similar vein. Everyone connected with the football club is hurting, including those who have taken it to its fate; even if their professional pride is the only casualty. 

But to see those who attempt to label themselves as loyal, those who claim their fan base is better than any other, either turn their back as the chips go down or stay solely to berate those who represent them; those nauseating actions, they are deserved of nothing more than what is on offer. 


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