Black Cats promoted back to Championship

Sunderland secured promotion in the League One play off final

Ethan Todd
7th June 2022
Sunderland victorious at Wembley - Twitter (@SunderlandAFC)
After back to back relegations and suffering four years in League One, agonising defeat in the play-off final to Charlton in May 2019, Sunderland AFC have managed to begin their journey back to the Premier League, defeating Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 at Wembley Stadium last Saturday.

Alex Neil’s side comfortably overcame Gareth Ainsworth’s Chairboys with goals from Elliot Embleton and Ross Stewart securing their promotion back to the Championship.

As 50,000 raucous Mackem’s descended on the capital city, with the infamous Trafalgar Square takeover, the electricity of the atmosphere was tangible as the Sunderland faithful mirrored the impassioned performance of Sunderland.

Red and White Army at Wembley - Twitter (@SunderlandAFC)

Within the opening exchanges there was evident early pressure from Sunderland as Alex Pritchard strook a beautiful free-kick which went teasingly close, taunting some of the Sunderland fans into thinking he had mirrored the McGeady free-kick against Portsmouth.

Sunderland dominated from the on-set and Embleton, brought in for Jack Clarke, broke through with a powerful run through the midfield with the tentative Wycombe defence inviting a strike and his seemingly hopeful effort from outside the area saw the Black Cats take an early lead, aided admittedly with some suspect goalkeeping from the experienced David Stockdale.

The Black Cats saw the second half out comfortably one to the good as Wycombe failed to register a shot on target within the opening 45 minutes.

As the second half ensued, Sunderland could have doubled their lead just shy of 52 minutes, as a teasing cross from man of the match Alex Pritchard, was met by the head of Ross Stewart at the far post yet glanced just inches wide.

Throughout the fixture, Wycombe failed to create any sufficient chances, aside from almost being gifted an avenue back into the game as a hopeful cross from Anthony Stewart bizarrely evaded Bailey Wright and allowed Sam Vokes in on goal, but the Wycombe front-man failed to garner a proper attempt as he was smothered by an unshakable Anthony Patterson.

Wycombe would live to regret squandering such an opportunity as Ross Stewart cemented the promotion of Sunderland granting the Black Cats a calming lead, picking up the ball from the almost unplayable Pritchard, slotting the ball deftly past Stockdale on the edge of the box, taking his tally for the season to 26 and thus sent the 46,000 Mackem’s into utter euphoria.

The overall quality, attitude and tactical nuance evident within the Sunderland side lead them to an eventually comfortable victory, as the new hero on Wearside, Alex Neil concurred:

“I thought we deserved to win… the lads deserve it. I’m buzzing for them, and the fans. This club shouldn’t be where it is, and this is the first step towards getting us back where we want to be.”

Alex Neil - Sky Sports Football
Sunderland boss Alex Neil - Twitter (@SunderlandAFC)

It seemed written in the stars for Sunderland to finally break the Wembley duck, given their immense record under Neil and the 93rd minute winner against Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-final.

Gracious in defeat, Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth agreed that “The better team won today. I can’t sit here and pretend that we were better than Sunderland.”

Gareth ainsworth - sky sports football

A weekend of triumph, tears and Trafalgar square takeovers seeing Sunderland literally painting the town red, saw many emotional supporters as the shroud of League one football lifted, and some players were notably entangled with the emotion of the day.

With the pedigree of Alex Neil, a squad littered with marked talent akin to the likes of Stewart, Wright and Pritchard surrounded by academy of light products such as Lynden Gooch, Anthony Patterson and the goal-scorer and winner, Elliot Embleton; signified the end of a turbulent, sorrowful and heart-rending era for Sunderland AFC.

A hopeful new dawn beckons on Wearside, with a fanbase rejoiced at-last and a promising squad with the potential to be heavily backed financially over the summer; under the guise of Alex Neil, it bodes vast promise for the future of Sunderland as they look to solidify themselves in the Championship whilst battling the demands symptomatic of this extremely gruelling league.

After having literally painted the town red, the Red and White Army journeyed back to Sunderland, they not only brought the league one play-off winner’s trophy; they also yield the next chapter in the history of Sunderland, one of hope, togetherness and faith as it truly feels like the love and prosperity for the future of this wonderful club has been finally rediscovered once more by the Black Cats faithful.

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AUTHOR: Ethan Todd
Aspiring football journalist studying at Newcastle University.

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