After the dust had settled on the sizzling second-half demolition of the Marcus Evans-branded opposition on a beautiful, sunny spring day, my mind went back to the dark days of November.
Four games – three defeats and a draw – that left us in eleventh place and seven points behind ‘that lot’ in second.
The bitterness felt by the cold wind blowing through Middlesbrough at the start of that miserable month, when we suffered our heaviest defeat of the season, was matched only by the general air of rancour towards manager, squad and CEO.
Fast-forward six months and a shot at promotion via a trip to Wembley represents a remarkable transformation in fortunes. The fact that we finished the season one place and one point above the meanest defence in the league is testament to a seismic turnaround.
And all brought about by the inspired appointment of an inspirational manager who now has the chance to be the youngest to take a team to the dizzy heights of the top league since Steve Coppell with Palace back in 1989; incidentally also achieved it via the play-offs, albeit a double-legged final format back then.
The modern world is a very different place to that of the mid-late 80s when fans of Norwich (1985 Milk Cup Final) and Middlesbrough (1988 Play-off Final) last made the trip to the previous incarnation of Wembley. In both cases they were triumphant.
This time round one of us will be heading home gutted.
Haircuts and fashion sense have changed immeasurably since those days when a Tory government ruled the roost – some things go in cycles. The shorts will be a little less forgiving and revealing than back in the days of Ken Brown’s boys.
I was there in 1985 and although I don’t recall my outfit for the day I’m guessing it wasn’t one to look back on with great pride.
The big question for me is will Alex Neil stick to the lucky track suit or follow convention and suit up for the big day? Back in 1985, Mel Machin was resplendent in flat cap and track suit on the bench. I don’t expect Frankie McAvoy to follow in his fashion footsteps.
The half-time music at the old ‘Twin Towers’ would have been more Dire Straits or Phil Collins than One Direction or Calvin Harris. Whether that’s a downward or upward curve I leave to you to decide.
Because of that vast passage of time, the new Wembley will be rocking as two sets of supporters – many of whom were not even a twinkle in their parents’ eye last time out – make the most of what might be a once in a lifetime experience.
Just as in 1985, the stadium will be awash with red, white, yellow and green. That Milk Cup final was known as the ‘friendly final’ because of the general air of camaraderie between Sunderland and City fans. At stake mind you was *just* a bit of silverware.
With the £100 million plus reward of promotion to the big time, it would be very surprising if everyone are best buddies this time round, particularly at the end of the match when one lot will be in utter ecstasy and the other in abject agony.
If it doesn’t go our way, I’d like to think that City fans will show a lot more grace and good humour than some Ipswich fans did after Saturday. Dignity in defeat is never easy but when you’ve come off second best to a clearly better side, there’s no excuse for petty and puerile prodding.
It’s going to need a cunning plan – cue a canny Scotsman; some top quality performances – cue a buoyant squad, and quite possibly a large slice of lady luck for the yellow and green ribbons to find themselves on the Play-Off trophy.
However, my good friend Claire Voyant reckons we will finally get the better of Karanka’s talented team and tawdry tactics with an extra time blockbuster from Bradderz or a piece of dribbling wizardry from Redderz.
In that eventuality, cue the open top bus and City Hall balcony scenes. And who’d have thought that back in November?
This is where I sign off for the season. Thanks to everyone who has read my efforts and sent in comments. All much appreciated.
For everyone travelling to Wembley, have a great day out and may the footballing gods be with us.