Waitrose United, the inevitable failure to score at the Stadium of Light. You may recall that I am an alumnus of the hallowed Sunderland University (though it was a Poly in my day of course) and if you don't recall, you may be finding out for the first time now. Having lived in the area off and on for three years (or so) I did develop a soft spot for the Black Cats; thanks largely to the mostly genuine people of the place with their enduring, powerful love for the game, and for their sometime illustrious team. In extremely adverse (both economically and climatically) conditions, the people remain friendly, stalwart and open. Steve Bruce's tenure at the place put my affection for the Mackems on hold for a while, but - though I'm not as fond of him as I used to be - Martin O'Neill's arrival did at least make up for the presence of the softly spoken bent-nosed Rag. Niall Quinn's involvement also helps.
Yet I knew that a Boxing Day trip up the A19 (or would it be Teesside Airport these days?) was never going to be easy, given the fickle nature of football and the fact that a) we've not done well against the Mackems under Bobby, and b) we're struggling to score at all at the moment. However, that was no excuse for the missus to say (somewhere around Christmas Eve, I think) that she too had a soft spot for Sunderland. Oh, and Newcastle - as it happens.
You will know that I am a man of science, and as such hold no truck with superstition, but there really are limits to everything, and this kind of jinx simply will not be washed away without a suitable human sacrifice. Everyone knows that. The gods of Footy Volcano grew angry and unleashed their ire onto the heads of Vincent, David, Carlos, Sergio and the rest, even teasing with a Geordie lead three times - THREE TIMES!!! - against the fucking Rags before laughing in our faces. There now only remains the duty to chant the holy incantations in an attempt to appease the anger of the Great Ones before taking on the canary bumpkins on Saturday. Merry Yule to one and all.