Former Black Cat Darren Bent said that he sympathised with Sunderland’s supporters and staff – after the Black Cats’ relegation to League One was confirmed.
Bent, roundly booed by the home support on his Stadium of Light return on Saturday, headed the leveller as Burton Albion came from behind to win 2-1.
Bent said: “Of course, I have sympathy. There are still a lot of friends at this club, who I am still close with. For instance, Cookie (John Cooke), the kitman and others who work here. I knew I would get some abuse but never thought reception would be as bad as it was.
“I know they are hurting, but, at the same time, things like that, I can’t control.
“If it was going to be us or them relegated, then I prefer it to be them But Sunderland is still a fantastic football club. I still have incredible memories and played my best football of my career here.
“It is not as simple as me handing in a transfer request. There is so much more to the story.
“I may get a bad reception from the fans but this is a special football club. Fantastic. I appreciated every moment I was here. It is hard to think this football club and this stadium is now in League One.
“That is scary. It will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Burton boss Nigel Clough has spoken of his sadness after Sunderland were relegated.
Clough, who was born on Wearside when his dad, Brian, was a Roker Park star, saw his Burton side give themselves a real chance of survival with Saturday’s 2-1 win.
Clough said of his father: “He spoke unbelievably affectionately about Sunderland. He was always very disappointed that his career was cut short here.
“Myself and my brother were born here, but we didn’t stay too long, unfortunately.
“But when he talked about the club over the years, it was with genuine affection. My brother has memories of it here, our little bungalow on the corner. But I was only two when we left, so I can’t remember much, unfortunately.
‘Unless he was going to get the top job here, which was unlikely, he was going to leave. He wanted to be a manager and nothing was going to get in the way of that.
“I think there were a couple of opportunities of him coming back up here, and he talked about that, what a great thing it would be to manage them. He didn’t talk about many other clubs like that.
“He never said ‘I want to manage Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal’ or anything like that –but he talked about this one.
“There have been mistakes over a period of years. I don’t think it’s one season, it’s been building for a few seasons. I don’t think many people could have done much more than Chris (Coleman) did. They just have to start building from here.”