Captain and manager reflect on Sunderland's '˜sensational' away support and its League One impact
For George Honeyman, the sea of red and white at the Ricoh Arena summed up '˜the best time I've had at the club'.
Just shy of 5,000 fans travelled for the lunchtime kick-off on Staurday, and while Honeyman wad frustrated that the Black Cats couldn’t secure three points, he opened up on his pride at playing in front of such passionate supporters.
“It’s definitely the best time by far I’ve had at the club,” he said.
“It always makes you immensely proud when you step out there and the support we get no matter what. Even last year we were selling our our away allocations.
“I’ve never seen anything like the support we had on Saturday, that was pretty special and long may it continue. We wanted to give them three points but I think they’ll be satisfied with a point.
“It was like a semi-home game, it was weird. It’s a lovely stadium and to take up so much of it was great.
“The support we get every week at this football club is great, the lads are so proud to go out and represent them. We wanted to give them three points but I think you could see from the reception at the end, they knew what we’d been through.
“It’s not going to get much harder than that. It was a point gained, a point closer to where we want to be at the end of the season.”
The size of the support brings its own pressures and manager Jack Ross has been persistent in his belief that it is raising the performance levels of opposition teams.
Honeyman says it will be up to the Sunderland players to ensure their work-rate is exemplary to cancel that out.
“I can only speak for myself but it makes you want to do better, it just makes you proud to be part of this club,” he said.
“To have that backing no matter where the club is, to be in a decent position in the league but not the league we want to be in and still be bringing 5,000 fans is sensational stuff. It makes you proud to be a Sunderland player and everyone just wants to produce for them.
“We didn’t get exactly what we wanted on Saturday but under the circumstances, it’s a point gained.
“We have no divine right to come out and expect to win just because we’re Sunderland in League One,” he added.
“Coventry won’t play in front of a better atmosphere this season at home so they’re going to automatically raise their standard – it’s their cup final every week. It’s just how it’s going to be. We have to match them every week.
“It should be something we as a squad strive for, we should want everyone’s best to go out and prove why we are the best team in the league. It’s not something to complain about, that’s just how it’s going to be.
“Just because we’re Sunderland we’re never going to have a divine right to turn up and win a game of football, no matter what league or who we’re playing against, as we’ve seen previously.
“We’ve just just got to keep building on the resilience, match teams when we need to and hopefully our quality will shine through.”
Manager Ross echoed Honeyman’s comments and said it is a ‘privilege’ to be in charge of the Black Cats.
Ross said: “It is a remarkable following for any team, in any league, in any country - that is the best way to describe it.
“It is a privilege to manage a club like this and have that following.
“I never take it for granted, as someone who loves football, to look at that end of the pitch and hear the noise that comes from it is outstanding.
“It drives me on to give them a team to be proud of,” he said.
“When I took the job, the first thing was to get a team on the pitch that reflected their passion from the stands.
“I think we have that now, we can improve and get better at certain aspects of the game but they can at least relate to what is being given on the pitch. It replicates the commitment they show.
“To come in those numbers away from home is magnificent and I’m pleased we at least gave them something to go home with.”