THEY turned Wembley red and white and despite the defeat fans celebrated their cup final day with gusto.
While Manchester City fans had their fair share of ticket allocation, it was the Black Cats supporters who turned the run up to the match into a carnival.
Specially tailored jackets, gorilla outfits, horses heads, every Sunderland strip ever made could be seen in the throng as fans made their way to their gates, with Sunderland memorabilia sold out hours before the 2pm start.
In the build-up to the game, chants could be heard up and down Wembley Way as old friends embraced, new friendships were forged and club heroes, including ‘73 cup player Richie Pitt and Dennis Tueart, mingled with fans as one of them.
In the minutes leading up to kick-off, the roar of the crowd and singing was loud enough to believe Sunderland had already won and ended more than 40 years of hurt and hope to land silverware.
And as Fabio Borini opened the scoring after just 10 minutes, there was unrivalled elation as the crowd – on its feet from before the game even began – leapt as one to celebrate.
While there were red eyes and youngsters in need of consolation in the crowd as the final whistle blew, those who made the journey down to London were sure of one thing – they had a great time regardless.
Among those enjoying the match were Melanie George, 34, who works as a volunteer, and her uncle Dave Brown, 52, who runs Community First North East training company, who travelled down from Sunderland for the fixture.
Melanie’s late grandfather Billy Elliott was a player, coach and manager of Sunderland and was a coach with the side when they played the cup final against Leeds in 1973.
She said: “It was my first time at Wembley and it’s been a really good experience. While it wasn’t a good result, I appreciate that we got to the final and that’s an achievement in itself for the team.”
Dave added: “I’m disappointed but the fact we kept on at them was something.
“I just hope for more of a chance in the FA Cup.”
As fans had filled the pubs surrounding the ground in the run up to the game, so they returned as they took in the day’s events.
Graham Miller, 31, from Roker, teaches business studies at the University of Sunderland.
“It’s disappointing but Man City’s first two goals were world class and there’s nothing we could do about it.
“There was just a feeling of helplessness.
“I thought we played well and the whole experience of seeing Wembley for the first time was great.”
Also mulling over the team’s performance at Moore Spice – one of the bars set side for Sunderland fans near the stadium – was Stephen Burke, 22, of Durham.
The Santander worker said: “Cattermole was tremendous.
“The result was what I expected, but it was still a great experience.
“When we got that first goal I thought ‘hello’, but City showed their quality with their goals.”
Shop worker David Rowlands, 22, of Barnes, who works in Tucci in The Bridges, was philosophical as he looked back on the squad’s performance.
“We played well in the first half and there was of course that fantastic goal for Borini, and there was a great intensity in that half, but Man City must have had a hell of a pep talk from Pellegrini at half time.
“It was a beautiful game.”
Andrew Wharburton, 21, travelled down from Seaburn for the game.
The Gentoo worker said: “The result didn’t show the true performance of Sunderland and we didn’t deserve to lose 3-1.
“But the whole weekend, being in Covent Garden the night before, just seeing all the supporters, just shows we’re the best in the world.”