This has been the most wretched season, the sort that leaves you itching for a long summer and a chance to recharge.
There have been few. Josh Maja ending the long home drought one, Chris Coleman’s triumphant march towards the jubilant away end at Burton Albion another. We may never know exactly what he said in that moment, but we loved it all the same.
Nothing has been as exhilarating as the scenes that followed the 4-1 win over Derby County. A long winless run finally over, Coleman taking every member of staff over to celebrate with the remarkably loyal Sunderland support.
As they shared a mutual roar of relief, joy and hope, you were reminded why we all put ourselves through this.
A moment of raw passion and collective ecstasy, goosebumps that only certain clubs can bring on.
The respite was brief, Sunderland falling flat on their face, to coin one of Coleman’s favourite sayings, in an infurtiating 3-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday just days later.
Infuriating because after a wretched period, Coleman had seemed to settle on a system that his players were comfortable in and they were responding with bolder, more adventurous displays. Flawless, absolutely not, but improved.
It has not been enough, the failings in the squad too great to overcome.
Coleman remains popular and commands respect from the Sunderland support, but all expected more from his arrival. No one more so than Coleman himself, as he has repeatedly said when asked about his long-term future.
Why, then, does Sunderland’s future seem to look far rosier if Coleman and assistant Kit Symons are at the helm?
Above all else, it is based on the strength of Coleman’s charisma, his past record, his connection with the region and his honest appraisal of the environment he is working in.
To put it simply, not so much because of the work he has done so far but because of the belief in the vision he puts forward.
Given the time and scope, Coleman will look to build a side that better mirrors the supporters, athletic and playing on the front foot. There have been hints of that in the last two games, but the spine has been nowhere near robust enough.
For Sunderland, a crossroads clearly nears.
All, including the man himself, hope that Ellis Short can sell to a credible, forward-thinking buyer.
This is strong interest in the club from multiple parties but as of yet, no resolution. One suspects that is unlikely, either way, until Sunderland’s Championship status is settled.
If a new owner arrives, one hopes they see that Coleman is worth perservering with, that after nearly six months at the helm he has a good grasp of the club’s problems and what needs to happen next. Another false start next season is inconceivable. With dramatic upheaval on the playing side inevitable, quick and definitive progress is essential.
After a brutal first, failed qualifying campaign as Wales manager, Coleman conducted a root-and-branch analysis of his team, working out where they were behind their rivals and putting in place what was needed to change it. Something very similar is needed for Sunderland now.
Should Short not be able to sell, then it is surely time for him to meet Coleman for the first time and listen to what he has to say.
Short’s withdrawal from the public eye on Wearside was a tacit acknowledgement that his involvement in the club’s affairs had not produced a great deal of good.
Many managers in Sunderland’s recent past yearned for a greater distance, as Coleman has now.
The current arrangement, however, is unsustainable.
Sunderland’s owner would hear from Coleman a sobering account of just how much work there is to be done to make the club successful again.
Like most who have shared Coleman’s company, however, he may well just find that for the first time in a while, he can see light at the end of the tunnel.
In a period of great uncertainty and testing results, there is little to hang onto other than optimism and hope.
With Coleman, there is more of that with him than without.
The Black Cats boss can see the problems, find solutions, but needs the backing to do it.
If a new owner isn’t around to offer that, then it has to be Ellis Short. At the very least, he should listen to what he has to say.