I've been watching Steven Fletcher with some interest over the last few weeks, trying to fathom whether he is unfit or something a little more serious. I feel like I'm treading on thin ice questioning a player so rightly held in high regard by us fans - but is he a victim or part of our problems?
This ladies and gentlemen is what it is like to witness a good away performance over ninety minutes without the red cards and other nonsense. I’m not beaming with pride nor racked with disgruntlement. I don’t feel it’s necessarily to lavish a great deal of praise but neither do I sense that impending doom is upon us. Despite how big a point it is and how admirable a performance it was, it all feels a bit…meh…really.
Well, that whole Stoke malarkey didn't go to plan whatsoever. Time for a new plan and give ourselves a fighting chance of that illusive away victory. Next is Aston Villa in what should be an intriguing encounter.
This week proved difficult to conjure up with a topic for the history piece, but little did I know that it had been slapping me in the face for days, may be even weeks leading up to this fixture – Gavin McCann.
We visit Aston Villa on Saturday in yet another huge game. Well, let’s be honest, every game is massive when you’re bottom of the table. For some insight from the other side, Damian from Villa’s best blog site The Villa Blog (@thevillablog) kindly spent the time answer some questions on Sunderland, Paul Lambert and the match.
There was something canny significant about Crystal Palace’s away victory with ten men which seemed to draw out our road to recovery to what feels a never ending length. I don’t necessarily think the result has made our survival any less palpable, perhaps it was better they did win, however seeing us slip back to the Premier League basement does hack away at the weary, old optimistic side of me. I hear a lot of people talk to me about how much easier we have things at home over the second half of the year which surely blind sights the difficulties we will face away from home.
It is rather ironic that the difference between Stoke City and Sunderland at the Britannia Stadium was largely Charlie Adam. Yes it is true that his over-the-top reaction helped to convince referee Kevin Friend to send off Wes Brown unjustifiably. Perhaps he deserves to be described as a cheat or much worse. But he was also arguably man-of-the-match for the victors and all but illustrates the calibre of a player the Black Cats are sadly lacking.
So the Britannia is next, a Stadium which hasn’t imposed it’s famed toughness on us in recent years. It is a huge game to help us keep up the momentum built in our two momentus recent home wins. It is also a big game for Stoke City and we were lucky to get a few moments of ESPN blogger James Whittaker’s time (@northstokie) to talk about Sunderland, Stoke, Mark Hughes, the relegation battle and of course the weekend’s match.
When writing this week’s historical piece there wasn't a shortage of players to choose from, Stoke have had a number of our former players in their ranks at one time or another. In the end though I have chosen to go for Kenwyne Jones, a player I both loved and hated in equal measure.
I think the international weekend was perfect timing, contrary to the belief it could have dampened the high of winning two massive home games. I’m sure the players selected went about their national team duties with much bigger smiles on their faces than the break in September whilst those left back at home continued to swat up on an information-heavy footballing philosophy. Preparation is key and we visit Stoke City who are a completely different prospect to the Stoke who have only scored once against us in the last four meetings.