Despite constant cycles of fighting relegation, transfer blunders, managerial roundabouts and off-the-field scandals, Sunderland supporters have been unwavering.
Crowds were up last season and have been again this time around, with more than 47,000 witnessing one of the Stadium of Light’s greatest afternoons on Saturday as Sunderland fought back to secure an epic 3-2 victory over Chelsea.
Sam Allardyce has had three previous spells in the North East as player, coach and manager, yet he has been taken aback by the support his side have received this season, particularly considering there have been a meagre five wins on home turf.
But he wants one last white-hot atmosphere inside the Stadium of Light on Wednesday, when victory over Everton would secure Sunderland’s place in the Premier League and relegate Newcastle and Norwich in the process.
“There aren’t enough victories at the Stadium of Light and haven’t been for many years,” said Allardyce.
“The fans have been extremely patient. They’ve gone home happy on Saturday and you want to give them that more and more.
“I think fans are very, very good here on their patience and the support they’ve given the players when they could have turned and shown more frustration.
“They could have shown more disappointment than they’ve actually shown and they’ve been very good in trying to help the players rather than hinder them.
“It can be a very difficult place to play when your home fans are dissatisfied with your performance and verbally showing it.
“The fans know what’s needed and they’ve helped the club stay up because of their support in the last few years, no doubt about that.
“Again they’re in a position where they don’t want to be, but it was a full house when you’re fighting against relegation.
“It’s pretty miraculous for a football club. You would think they would get a bit disgruntled and say ‘I’m not wasting my money going to watch that rubbish’. But they’ve not, they’ve stayed with us for the fight.
“We’re fighting all the way and they’re up for the fight with us.”
Allardyce hung up his boots 25 years ago, yet the crescendo of noise when Jermain Defoe put Sunderland in front – less than three minutes after Fabio Borini equalised – had the Black Cats boss wishing he was out on the field.
“It was deafening. I think the only time I’ve heard that much noise was Wembley with West Ham, in the play-off final,” he said.
“It’s the only time I’ve heard noise as loud as that. It was making the hair stand up on the back of my neck, never mind the players.
“That wall of noise excites and thrills a player. That’s what gets him going.
“There’s that moment when you play a game of football that you come out of the tunnel and hit that wall.
“It makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck and makes you think ‘This is why I train so hard and why I love football’. Supporters want to love you, they want you to do well and try to help you.
“If you give them something to cheer about they love cheering and supporting their club and you as a player. That’s why you do it.
“That’s why you’re playing at this level, it’s why you’re a professional footballer.
“When you can’t play any more, that’s what you miss the most. It’s the adrenaline rush you get from it.”