Can Sunderland use the support of the crowd to their advantage on Friday?

Joseph Tulip says…

There’s no hiding the fact that during our four seasons in League One, we haven’t held the reins in front of big crowds and have often sent fans home disappointed.

We also can’t hide from our lousy playoff form over the last quarter century, but now is the time to put that aside and focus on the present.

I have a lot of love for the current generation of Sunderland players, I believe in what they are capable of and I think in Alex Neil we have a manager who knows how to get the best out of them.

Our players are a committed group, they seem to enjoy playing for the jersey and for the fans, and they know they are capable of getting a positive result against a team that we comfortably watched at the Estadio de la Luz recently, in December.

I’m not saying it’ll be 5-0 again, but I’d rather have 35,000+ on my side, rather than the opposition, and I think our players will rise to the occasion and do business on Friday.

People can say what they want about games from years past, including the amazing atmosphere against Sheffield United in 1998, a game I attended.

Back then, excitement was fueled in part by the novelty of our new stadium and the prospect of a new dawn for Sunderland. Back then, Mexican waves were commonplace and game days were authentic carnival experiences.

It’s a different era now, and we can’t recreate the same situation a generation later, but we have a committed team that can excel at this level, and for now, that’s all we can ask for.

There is a strong sense of unity between players and fans, and I anticipate an enthusiastic atmosphere under the lights. I don’t think we’ll fold and hopefully this is our time. If we get behind the guys from start to finish, I think they’ll deliver on us Friday night.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light

Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images


Gav says…

It may just be the inner pessimism in me that comes from a life of suffering, but I’m not too sure it’s of any benefit!

Defoe’s Homecoming game is still fresh in my mind… I don’t know, it just feels like whenever something feels ‘right’, it rarely is.

What I hope is that regardless of whether there are 40,000 fans, or a man and his dog on the field, the atmosphere is supportive and the fans in attendance recognize that they can play a part in how the game ends.

There have been home games recently, Shrewsbury comes to mind, where the mood on the ground was quite toxic for a period of the game when we let them back. Unfortunately, that’s always there: people lose faith and sometimes forget that players can really benefit from us giving them our full support until the end of the match.

The extra effort shown by the newly formed flag group in the South Stand gives me hope that it will, that the atmosphere is going to be special, and that if the players do their bit and put in a performance worthy of the effort of the attendees, we will finish the match with a good lead heading into the second leg.

My plea to my fellow fans is simple: never give up on them, even if they’re playing shit, because it doesn’t help anything.

I know of course most people will, most of the fans are great. But let’s remember how important we can really be on Friday: We really could be the difference between a good and a bad result.

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League 1

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


Sam Blakey says…

The large crowd expected on Friday night only highlights the fact that this playoff race has a different feel.

Before he bites me again, I’ll point out that I don’t mean that we’re definitely going to go up or anything, more that in previous years we’ve been pretty deflated going into the playoffs, due to it coming off the back of the automatics of bottled last. This season we’ve had to put together a very impressive run to even achieve them, and Friday’s attendance epitomizes the mood at the club recently.

Whether or not the atmosphere will affect players remains to be seen. One thing I will say is that I am confident that Alex Neil will do everything he can to prepare the team for Friday’s game, ultimately it will come down to the players getting their nerves under control and carrying out his instructions. Our players will know what to expect and should be enjoying the opportunity to play in front of so many fans, particularly at this level. They will know that we will do everything we can to push them to the limit and bring a positive result to Hillsbrough (because we are going to need one!).

The atmosphere on Friday should be chilling. I am very nervous about the game, however I am very excited to see everyone in the stadium singing their hearts out for the guys.

When the wise men say that (hopefully) over 45,000 rabid people are shouting it out on Friday, take a moment to be proud of our fan base, because I know I will be!

Morecambe v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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