How thousands of Sunderland fans took over Trafalgar Square in London ahead of the League One play-off final against Wycombe

“These guys are crazy,” laughed one of the locals as he hopped back on his bike to leave Trafalgar Square.

Saturday, 21st May 2022, 7:02 am

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He probably didn’t even know this is Sunderland’s fourth successive season playing in League One, or that recent trips to Wembley have ended in disappointment for the club’s travelling supporters.

When the Black Cats last played at the national stadium - a 1-0 win over Tranmere Rovers in March’s 2021 Papa John’s Trophy final - the match was played behind closed doors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, there has been another failed play-off campaign, another managerial sacking and more unrest about the club’s muddled ownership structure.

Sunderland fans at Trafalgar Square. Picture by FRANK REID

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Yet, still, they come back for more.

Over 46,000 Sunderland fans are set to attend Saturday’s League One play-off final against Wycombe Wanderers – the Black Cats could have sold more and received two additional batches of tickets.

As has become tradition, many travelled to the capital a day early, as #sunderlandtakeover started trending on social media.

Red and white shirts could be seen scattered around bars and restaurants in Central London, with many gathering in Covent Garden upon their arrival.

"Sunderland takeover, everywhere we go,” was the evening’s main soundtrack as supporters headed to Trafalgar Square.

Police were on hand to keep an eye on proceedings and, while the singing and dancing was all good natured, there will have been some sore heads on Saturday morning.

As the daylight faded, the red and white flares shone brighter. Fireworks went off, while chants of '`Red and white army!” and ‘Haway the lads!’ continued into the night.

Some even went as far as climbing into the giant fountain. They really were the crazy ones.

If you didn’t know better, it would be hard to believe this is a club which is yet to recover from back-to-back relegations to the third tier of English football.

Victory over Wycombe would provide an actual cause for celebration. A long overdue return to the Championship would be a big step in the right direction for Alex Neil’s side.

From the outside looking in, this may have seemed crazy. Sunderland fans just can’t stay away.