If Nigel Pearson was to angrily furrow his brow in my direction and ask me if I was an ostrich, I’d look back at him, making contact with those Action Man eagle eyes of his and say “Yes, Nigel. I am an ostrich.”.
I’m not proud of it but to be honest, I have been in hiding. I’ve been using the likes of Wembley, London Stadium and The Etihad to forget about what’s going on back home and if you want the truth, I’ve enjoyed myself.
Premier League football that doesn’t involve Sunderland is still a novelty to me after years of looking at it from the other side of a TV screen and there’s a renewed sense of excitement in me that I thought I’d left behind a long time ago.
I did get that same feeling when I began coming back to watch Sunderland after a long pause when I first started this column but that was soon knocked out of me. The choice was now clear. It was either Sunderland and a dose of Valium or get my joy from somewhere else. So off I went.
I’ve been to Wembley more times this year than in the previous 20 and I’m getting quite attached to Mauricio Pochettino and his Spurs side. I mean, I still love Sunderland, it’s a part of me, but lets just say I’ve put my mirrored sunglasses on, let my gaze wander a bit and someone has caught my eye.
I know I’m late to this party but Pochettino is a man who is difficult not to like. As a coach, he is impressive. In the four games I’ve seen them play this season (three times at Wembley, once at London Stadium) I have watched them adapt their game to suit their new surroundings. They have tentatively felt their way around the place for a few games and now they’re really growing in to the place.
The football itself, whilst not being scintillating, has still been interesting to watch but it’s just one of three parts of the game I go to see, along with the warm-up and the part of the game I have looked forward to the most lately, the post match press conferences from the managers.
It’s a real exercise in decoding their body language and deciphering the way way they word their responses. As many post match interviews I have done as a player and a coach, I still find these briefings fascinating.
The real novelty has been watching managers who have actually wanted to sit and talk, whether it’s to wallow in the satisfaction of a success and explain their genius to us, or, as in the case of Slaven Bilic, try and spin some good PR out of another defeat and buy themselves a little more time.
In my brief time watching press conferences at the Stadium of Light, both the home and visiting managers can’t wait to get out if there quick enough. The home manager usually because of a defeat and the away one itching to get back home after their long journey north.
I can’t make the excuse that I have too be elsewhere for work reasons any longer though. I’m going to have to confront the problem head-on and come to the Bristol City game.
To convince myself it will be worth coming, irrespective of the score, is that I will at least be able to catch up with my mate Luke Steele ,who recently signed for Bristol City, and Jamie McAllister their first team coach who I played with at Aberdeen.
Yet this wasn’t how I saw it being once I returned to watch Sunderland again but I’m not alone in the way I’m feeling. The fact I’m making excuses for not coming and desperately looking for a reason to make the 300-mile round trip from home says it all.
I feel guilty for feeling like this, for having the choice to go and watch Pep’s teams pass the opposition off the park if I want to and actually doing it. Then again, when you’ve divided your love between your hometown club and the clubs you’ve played, I dare say it is easier for me to be more free with my emotions than the rest of our fans who turn up week in, week out.
I had thought about writing a rousing piece for this week’s column, a call to arms for all fans to back the team, to unite and get behind them but it felt too much of a hard sell.
The truth is, our greatest fears are being fulfilled, without protestation and with a resignation that I fully understand but never thought would come to pass. At least where there is anger, there is fight. And where there is fight there’s hope.
But there is no anger, there is no fight and the only hope we have is that there will be three teams worse than we are come May next year.