Sunderland’s season has sensationally resulted in promotion to the Premiership today, along with Birmingham, without a ball being kicked; Derby County’s defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace ensured that the Black Cats will once again take their place amongst the country’s elite teams.
South Shields was once again looking like a ghost town as fans packed clubs and pubs and gathered around television sets to watch the Crystal Palace vs Derby match, and after the promotion was confirmed there were scenes of relief and joy, it has been a breathtaking achievement to lift the club from the foot of the table to promotion in just one season under the leadership of Chairman Niall Quinn and manager Roy Keane.
Now next weekend’s games between Preston North End and Birmingham City, and Luton Town against Sunderland will take on extra significance as the two promoted teams battle it out to see who wins the Championship title. Should Birmingham stumble at Preston (who are still fighting for a play off spot) Sunderland could be crowned Champions if they beat Luton.
Roy Keane decided to walk his dogs rather than watch this afternoon’s game, he told Sunderland’s website;
“It’s great news for the club. I’m delighted for the players who have done a fantastic job.
“I’m also delighted for all the staff who have played such a vital part, the fans who have been tremendous in their support for the team and for Niall and the board who have been a great support since I arrived at the club.”
Niall Quinn, the mercurial Chairman said from Ireland;
“It’s terrific because everybody played a part, non more so that Roy and the players.
“It shows you that when people put their mind to it and work as a team, you are capable of doing anything.
“It’s a terrific time for the people of Sunderland, especially after the season they had last year, when they were rock bottom.
“There will be immense pride around the city tonight. I’m so pleased for the fans and there were times this year when they were the vital part – Derby at home, all those away matches when we had thousands there, even the other night when we were 2-1 down, they roared their team on.
“I’m trying to take this in and enjoy it but I’m also thinking very much about going forward and the people of this city have to realise the role they play.
“Looking back at what Roy and his staff have put together in such a short space of time, it’s amazing, they are brilliant people.
“I’ll celebrate with a bottle of champagne tonight with my wife and family.”
There are reactions from some of the Sunderland players here.
Preparations will start tomorrow to plan the defeat of Luton and prayers will begin next Saturday morning for Birmingham to find a banana skin!
I had been worried after recent promotions that the team would not have sufficient quality to survive the rigours of the Premiership, and I was proved right, our last foray resulted in the team securing the lowest ever tally of points in the Premiership’s history. I do not have that anxiety now, because I believe that many of this year’s players will not be making the journey into the Premiership this season. Reluctantly Keane will wave bye bye to them with heartfelt thanks for their efforts and he will ruthlessly build a new team around a nucleus of players who have shone this season. Players like Dean Whitehead, Grant Leadbitter, Carlos Edwards, and Nyron Nosworthy will be assured places in Keane’s first Premiership squad, and I believe that huge efforts will be made to secure the signature of Johnny Evans from Manchester United. The board of Sunderland AFC will make more money available to Roy Keane for team rebuilding than has been seen by any of our previous managers in recent years, new sponsors Boyle Sports and Brittania Insurance along with bSkyb will ensure that funds will not be scarce.
There are very good reasons to be optimistic for next season.
Bring on the Hatters!