Sunderland 'Til I Die is back - This time I will be glad to cry on Netflix

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The third series of the hit series premieres on the streaming platform on Tuesday.

Teardrops; sometimes happy, usually sad. Little involuntary globules of emotion, trickling down cheeks, mingling with snot, soaking into paper handkerchiefs or, more often than not, bundled cuffs. To cry is to be human, we are constantly reminded, in all of our salty, sob-streaked confusion.

Sunderland supporters have had more to weep about than most in recent years. The successive relegations; the repeated Wembley traumas like steel toe-capped punts to the groin; the grimly cartoonish Donald/Methven duopoly; the Lee Camps and the Callum McFadzeans and the Will bloody Griggs, to name but a few. And through it all, or at least through considerable swathes of it, Netflix were there on the periphery - cameras ceaselessly rolling, pound signs ceaselessly spinning past their telescopic eyeballs like speeding fruit machine reels.

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There have been few sporting documentaries that have captured the imagination of the streaming age like Sunderland 'Til I Die, fewer still that have left so many feeling so conflicted. Across the agonising breadth of two series, the Black Cats were ridiculed and revered - and not always in equal measure. Viewers were dumbfounded by comedic nadirs like the infamous Zlatan Ibrahimovic transfer list incident or the textbook David Brent affectation of Charlie Methven's [EDM continues] face palm, and frequently stirred by the humanity of those supporters who peeled back the curtain on a community and region that is so often overlooked.

And now the show is back for a third run. For years, travelling crowds have arrived at the Stadium of Light and revelled in gorging on the cheapest of jibes, the lowest of verbal hanging fruits. We get it, folks, you saw us cry on Netflix. Let me tell you, you would have been bawling too. But brace yourselves, because the watching world is about to lay eyes on a whole sea of wailing Mackems once again - only this time, they will be tears of joy.

In many respects, this is a fitting conclusion to a narrative arc that has spanned a trilogy and dragged a club and its surrounding city through all kinds of cluttered hellscapes. A third act should always bring with it resolution, and in the case of Sunderland, there could be no twist as redemptive as a hard-fought, long-awaited escape from the doldrums of League One.

Even now, more than a year after the fact, to think of that sun-drenched afternoon in the capital - the Ross Stewart second, the roar from the terraces, the full-throated mob of red and white delirium - is to feel the skin prickle and the rib cage swell. I cannot say for certain how I will react when I properly relive it in the coming episodes and evenings, but would sincerely imagine that I will be a wreck. At least this time the fervour will be intermingled with a dose of pride.

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There are large parts of me that never cared for Sunderland 'Til I Die. I find it too painful, like re-watching home video of a natural disaster, or reading through old, naive love letters from a doomed romance. My mantra has always been to let the outsiders gawk while I shuffle past quietly, ignoring what I can, blinkered stare fixed on pavement and shoelaces. I was there when the shambles actually happened; I do not need a 4K, drone-shot reminder.

But this third series could be an antidote, a salve for bruised egos and grazed hearts. And it isn't just about the moments of ecstatic spectacle either. Like any tale, Sunderland 'Til I Die rests upon the shoulders of its cast of characters - the players, the staff, the supporters - some of them very different from years gone by, others entirely the same - the joints a little stiffer, perhaps, the furrows on the brow entrenched a little deeper, partially due to the natural traipse of time, partially due to the rigours of devoting their lives to a club like ours - but nonetheless steadfastly fond of their beloved Black Cats.

What better way of shining a light on these people than by giving them a voice just as they (finally) gain something to shout about? It's brightness and shade, my friends. Chiaroscuro, if you will. We've had enough abject misery to endure a lifetime, a dash of happiness won't go amiss. Give me optimism and absolution, give me red and white confetti on the verdant Wembley turf and Luke O'Nien's beaming grin beneath the glint of a trophy.

Because beyond anything else, the simple truth is that Sunderland 'Til I Die is a story, and if this is to be the final chapter, as we have been repeatedly assured that it is, then there could hardly be a more deserving ending. This time around, I will be glad to cry on Netflix.

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