The mentality Sunderland must adopt from their supporters this weekend as they eye a remarkable play-off comeback
442 days of waiting are almost over.
On Saturday, Sunderland supporters will be able to step foot inside the Stadium of Light for the first time since March 7, 2020.
10,000 fans will pour into the ground for the second leg of the club’s play-off semi-final with Lincoln City – and they will bring their ‘A-Game’, there is no doubt about that.
While a 2-0 defeat at Sincil Bank in the first leg dampened spirits ahead of the return of supporters, the home faithful will still be in fine voice come 3:30pm on Saturday afternoon as the Black Cats eye a remarkable comeback.
The fans will do their bit, roaring the side on and creating the kind of atmosphere that can so often accompany the most memorable of games.
But so too must their players perform. Sunderland need to put in a showing befitting their fantastic support if they are to have any chance of reaching Wembley for the play-off final.
We can already say with some certainty that Michael Appleton’s pre-match team talk will make some reference to the fact that the Imps will have to silence the home crowd.
That is easier said than done of course, particularly with a support as passionate as that of Sunderland’s, but Lincoln will be doing what they can to negate the impact of what can undoubtedly be a powerful force for the hosts.
Sunderland’s players cannot allow that to happen.
For months they have spoken about how much they are relishing the chance to play in front of a home crowd. Now it’s time to back up those words with actions, and a performance befitting of the supporters.
We know what fans value – passion, fight and quality in the areas that matter.
Those traits were largely absent in the first leg, and that cannot afford to happen again.
For many players this will be their first chance to play in front of a vocal Stadium of Light crowd. For others, it may well be their last.
The fans will be optimistic. They will believe, and so too must the players.
And if their performance mirrors that belief, then Sunderland will undoubtedly stand a chance.