Over the years, this thrilling, marvellous, magical game that we all share an addiction to, has thrown up many moments that etch themselves permanently on to our subconscious. Every supporter in the land can probably call upon several of their clubs achievements to warm their hearts when everything else in the world seems black and depressing. So it was last night.
Sunderland have had their share in their illustrious past. Most of them however were beyond the memory of the majority of the 40,000 or so that regularly populate their impressive Stadium of Light. The 1973 FA Cup Final defeat of the then leading lights of Don Revies Leeds United arguably sits at the head of them, but you would need to have been alive almost half a century to have a clear memory of that astonishing day.
Yesterday, Sunderland Association Football Club played their part in one of the most enthralling League Cup Semi Finals in the competitions 54 year history, and emerged gloriously victorious.
I use the word enthralling, because analysis of the quality of football played would challenge the most ardent follower of either team to describe it as average at best. No matter. To the 9000 strong contingent from Wearside the result ranks as the best thing to come out Manchester since Oasis.
Trailing to a Jonny Evans goal, with two minutes or so to play, it seemed that Supporter in Chief, Jim Montgomery was to be disappointed along with the 150 coach loads of travelling Black Cats.
Step forward Salford born Phil Bardsley. Aided by De Gea almost throwing the ball in to the bottom left hand corner of the goal, it seemed victory had been secured.
Not for Bardsley the annoying trait of not overly celebrating when scoring against a previous employer, as Jonny Evans had demonstrated earlier. Overcome by the enormity of what had just occurred his joy was uncontrollable as he charged towards the Makem congregation.
In the next breath, Januzaj, who was by far Uniteds best player and will, God willing, go on to be another in the list of greats to represent this illustrious club, did what he had been doing all evening. He carved open an increasingly fragile Sunderland defence, supplying Hernandez, who summarily dispatched it into the roof of the net. United had done what United do. Scored in Fergie time. The onlooking Sir Alex could be forgiven a knowing smile.
The less said about the Penalty shoot out the better. Suffice to say that without question the pressure got to both sets of the allocated five takers. Probably understandable for the Sunderland protagonists, but worrying in the extreme for the Mancunians. History shows that United deal with these situations more often than not. Moyes has problems that are running deeper by the minute, but that is for another day. This day belongs to Sunderland, from the troubled Chairman at the top, to the tea lady at the bottom, and their marvellous bunch of fans.
Interviewed after the game, Bardsley said it all. He actually did not have to speak. He was still visibly shaking with the emotion of it all. With players caring as much as this, Sunderland can not only enjoy their moment of a Cup Final, but hopefully look forward to a period of sustained improvement and secure their Premiership position for next season.
HA’WAY THE LADS!