March 2, 2014 at 2.47pm was as good as it's ever been for most Sunderland supporters
Sunderland’s 2013-14 season was certainly one of their more memorable ones.
Gus Poyet’s team pulled off the most unlikely relegation escape of them all, recorded memorable league victories against Manchesters United and City, as well and Chelsea.They also won two derbies, the second of which was particularly emphatic.
This is all fine. But to be remembered outside your own town, it’s winning trophies that really matters.
For Sunderland fans who don’t remember 1973, which is most of them by now, March 2, 2014 was the nearest they have come to witnessing their team actually achieve such a thing.
The League Cup semi-final victory against United is probably a more obvious choice for a memory match than the final. But the Wembley fixture against City is Sunderland’s biggest “what if?” moment of the last 47 years.
There had been cup finals in 1985 and 1992. But both were damp squibs. This one was different.
Thirty-six days elapsed between the semi-final and final of the Capital One Cup (as no one called it). So the supporters were more than ready. Casual visitors to Covent Garden the night before the big game could testify to this.
The kick-off was at 2pm and at 2.10pm Fabio Borini slotted past City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon from a tight angle. At the interval Sunderland deservedly led 1-0.
Ar this point everyone had but one thought, although no one dared articulate it during the excited half-time chatter. The unspoken thought was that Sunderland had one proverbial hand on a trophy.
That notion was emboldened by the fact that Sunderland had won four of their last eight against City and drawn two. Now, if they could only draw the second half…
Alas, as we all remember, the previously anonymous Yaya Touré pinged in a wonder-goal/fluke and City, the heavy favourites, were a different side. They had too much for Sunderland. Such was the superiority of the opposition (Agüero, Silva, Kompany, etc), it was disappointing rather than heartbreaking.
However, within minutes of the game ending we were reflecting that half-time at the 2014 League Cup final was, for the majority of living Sunderland supporters, the best that things had ever been.
Lamentably, it most certainly still is.