My Fellow Sunderland Fans,
Could I say, first, how delighted I am that you’re visiting Roker Report today.
The Stadium Of Light has provided me with some of the most memorable events of my life. The balti pies are famous around the world, but nowhere are they more appreciated than among the members of my family. I am deeply grateful that you, and all other SAFC fans have seen fit to visit the blog and by giving me a memories which I will greatly cherish.
Thank you also for inviting friends and relatives of SAFC fans around the world to view the blog. To use an expression more common north of the Border, this is a real 'gathering of the clans'.
2010 is a year on which I shall look back with unadulterated pleasure. In the words of some correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'Annus Mirabilis'. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so. Indeed, I suspect that there are very few people or institutions who can find anything to gripe about with SAFC at the moment. This encouragement and undying support of the North Easts Greatest Team to Steve Bruce and the lads is welcome at any time, but at this particular moment, as we march towards Europe, it is especially so.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? A well-meaning Bishop was obviously doing his best when he told Sir Niall Quinn, "Sir, we cannot pray too often, nor too fervently, for the boys in red and white". Quinn's reply was: "Too fervently, no; too often, yes".
I sometimes wonder how future generations will judge the events of this season so far. I dare say that history will take a slightly more moderated view than that of some contemporary commentators. For now we must enjoy the moment, before looking back into the distance.
At Roker Report we will be looking at all SAFC matters, providing an extra dimension of judgement, giving it a leavening of moderation and compassion - even of wisdom - that is sometimes lacking in the reactions of other websites/TV shows/radio shows/newspapers who's task it is in life to offer instant opinions on all things great and small.
Not all the players have all the virtues, neither does any have all the vices. I am quite sure that most players try to do their jobs as best they can, even if the result is not always entirely successful. He who has never failed to reach perfection has a right to be the harshest critic.
There can be no doubt, of course, that criticism is good for management and clubs as they are part of public life. No institution - Club, Management, whatever - should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don't.
But we are all part of the same fabric, and that scrutiny, by one part of another, can be just as effective if it is made with a touch of gentleness, good humour and understanding.
This sort of questioning can also act, and it should do so, as an effective engine for change. SAFC is a good example of the way the process of change can be incorporated into the stability and continuity of a great institution. I particularly admire Niall Quinn, and the way in which the Club has adapted so nimbly to what the Prayer Book calls "The changes and chances of this mortal life".
They have set an example of how it is possible to remain effective and dynamic without losing those indefinable qualities, style and character. We only have to look on the pitch at the Stadium Of Light to see the truth of that.
I am glad to have had the chance to witness, and to take part in, many dramatic changes at SAFC. But I am glad to say that the magnificent standard of hospitality given on so many occasions has not changed at all, plus the pie and a pint deal is great value.
You, the fans, Sir Niall Quinn, and all those whose prayers - fervent, I hope, but not too frequent - have helped sustain the club through all these years, are friends indeed.
And now I ask you to rise and drink the health of the Sir Niall Quinn and Sunderland AFC...