In both games we, in my opinion, made two very good comebacks. Especially against an organised Accrington Stanley side. Those were games where I wasn’t frustrated with the team, but the lack of luck in general. We have been punished for poor starts but had the character to come back into the games. Lady luck would intervene by a tight offside call or a clearance off the line. This has allowed Luton Town to pull further away from us in the league. However, in all honesty they are not my concern. In fact, neither is Barnsley, Portsmouth, Charlton Athletic or Doncaster Rovers.
My concern is solely on the performance of Sunderland, I am not going to be looking at how these other teams get on simply because it’s a fruitless task which causes me to clutch at straws of “if they lose and they draw and they score so many goals”. Where does it end?
Ultimately the next 14 games are only going to be as crucial as Sunderland make them. I think describing every game as a “cup final” is also pointless and just leaves us fans even more frustrated when things aren’t quite going our way. I think Jack Ross and the squad will be taking each game on its own merit.
We have the talent and ability to beat any team in this league. However, that doesn’t mean we should.
Let’s take an extreme example, by rights Manchester City should’ve wiped the floor with Newcastle United a few weeks ago. I mean, pick a combined starting 11 and you’d pick Manchester City’s starting 11. When that final whistle went everyone was left scratching their heads and that’s just how football works. How many F.A cups upsets do we have to see before we realise that football is not a given and you get handed nothing. Liverpool were how many points in front when Gerrard slipped? Football is a cruel unforgiving mistress who punishes complacency.
I want Sunderland fans to take this message into the last 16 games. We don’t deserve anything, we won’t be given anything, and we have to work bloody hard for it. For the last 16 games, can we get behind the Lads no matter the circumstances? Sometimes we all need a pick me up. Whether it be your mate asking to go for a pint or encouraging a player to keep going if he makes a mistake.
Our squad is filled with young British and Irish talent and a couple of local boys. These are players who, until a few years ago, were still probably having a kick about with their mates. Jack Ross and co have put together a squad that could play together for many years to come. As long as they continue to improve as players.
Now this would be the ideal scenario. We finish second, have a party, celebrate. However, the supporter who has glass half empty will tell you that this is not going to happen. I disagree, it is still a very probable outcome if you judge on the statistics. We have lost two league games all season, we have scored in every league game this season and we have clutched points from defeat, and then been very unlucky not to take all three points.
We are the prime candidates for automatic promotion. You only have to be 2nd on the last day of the season at about 4:50 to finish 2nd. The only team that has really pulled away from us is Luton Town so as far I’m concerned, we are still favourites for automatic promotion.
The dreaded words no Sunderland fan really wants to talk about. The simple fact is we have to not only talk about but acknowledge its existence and the possibility that we might need to get through them. Looking at the teams we might have to face, the only one that really phases me is Portsmouth. However, the play offs are a different type of game aren’t they. I think we could get through them but it there would be a huge warning alarm with flashing lights alerting us of banana skins.
As long as we stay behind the lads and keep picking them up after games, we should be fine.
If we don’t get promoted
For me two simple words which when first read will be read with disgust and accusations of madness. Don’t Panic.
If we don’t go up it is not the worst thing ever. Obviously, it is not ideal, but it is also not the worst thing that has ever happened to this football club. When Stewart Donald first took over, I said I’d be happy to be back in the Premier League in five years’ time. Mainly because we need time to rebuild the club after Ellis Short left it in a mess and ready to crumble.
Stewart and co are putting their stamp on the club and are trying to reinvent the club. Being away from the main news for another season could be a good thing. Look at Aston Villa. They’ve went from Premier League royalty to a “maybe next year” club. Look at Leicester, Southampton, Wolves, Burnley, Bournemouth, Watford and my biggest surprise of them all, Brighton. Brighton have gone from EFL regulars to sneaking under the radar into a half decent Premier League team. They’ve done this with smart investments, building a young squad and not trying to hard.
We can do the same in the future if we just give the lads time and support them.
I still think we will end up finishing 2nd but a word to the wise, prepare yourself to decide how many trips to Wembley you can afford. We may miss out on the automatic promotion but again I think we have more than enough to get through it. I haven’t mentioned the Check-a-trade Trophy in this article because I honestly believe it is a nice distraction from the stress of the league and I think it is best if they’re treated as two separate entities.
Just be prepared that you could see Sunderland play at Wembley twice but see this as a positive thing. I think it will send a beacon of hope out that we are on our way back. Plus, the publicity and TV money will go a long way to helping the finances of the club.