From The Durham Times: A Sea Change At Sunderland

Here's looking at you...

Well as you may be aware, we've got our own column in The Durham Times. News never stops, so here's our musings on the latest goings on in SAFC-land condensed into one neat package.

You can buy the Durham Times for the princely sum of 30p from all reputable newsagents, or you can head to their website on a Friday and have a read of this column. Here's the link - CLICK HERE.

Or if you want just read the below. Yeah it's a day later, but you should have just bought the paper. Anyway, enjoy it!

The tides are certainly changing at Sunderland AFC. Martin O'Neill has only been in the job for a short time, but already, the differences are thoroughly apparent.

For too long, there was an air of negativity, both around the Stadium of Light, and when we travelled to other Premier League teams. With the fans, it was hard to imagine anything else as we had witnessed such a barren period in terms of positive results, and especially wins. However, it had most certainly spread to the team, and the performances. Too often, Steve Bruce's side seemed set up to try and avoid defeat, rather than going out and trying to win games. On top of that, it became apparent that when we went behind, the mentality could have been seen as damage limitation, rather than a burning desire to get back into a match.

Thankfully, neither is any longer the case. As expected, O'Neill has brought an overwhelming sense of optimism back to the North East. Call it the ‘honeymoon period' if you like, but it probably more accurate to suggest that fans are just glad to have a man in charge that they coveted for a number of years. However, it is his team's positivity that is more striking, and it makes a welcome change.

Our victory at Blackburn wasn't exactly snatched from the jaws of defeat, but for the first time in a long time, positive substitutions changed the flow of a game. Rather than just throw on every striker that we had on the bench, there was thought put into where we were lacking on the field, and the momentum caused by the change dragged the game in our favour, and set us up for the thrilling finale which culminated in Sebastian Larsson's right foot earning us all three points.

It was a similar story at Spurs, where barring one Wes Brown moment of madness, a very credible draw would have come from a very good performance.

The same applies to QPR on Wednesday night. Impressive throughout, Sunderland threatened to go back to their old ways when a period of madcap defending undid all the hard work that came before it, and a 2-0 lead was thrown away in a manner that we have seen too many times in the last 12 months. However, rather than trying to cling on to earn a point away at one of the Premier League's newly promoted clubs, we are now in the position where we can expect more, and once again, we snatched three points when we seemed destined to pick up only one.

It is refreshing to see the team actually playing a match for the full 90 minutes, and threatening right until the end of games. It is also refreshing to know that we will no longer be happy with a draw in such circumstances, and are now striving to pick up three points at every opportunity.

This calendar year has been a miserable one for the Black Cats, but we have every reason to go into the new year with the utmost optimism that the O'Neill juggernaut will continue to pick up pace. Wins against a frankly awful Blackburn side and QPR, who have done well so far but aren't setting the league alight, may not send a message to the rest of the league just yet, but as fans who watch the game, we can see the changes being made, and collectively, it is something that we have every right to be excited about.

As much as the last year was difficult to stomach, the next has the potential to be a very enjoyable one as a Sunderland fan. We have a crazy 31 days of transfer speculation to look forward to, and also have every right to believe that our manager's previous pedigree in cup competitions means that we should look forward to the FA Cup this season, something that we haven't felt for a long while.

We at Roker Report don't want to get ahead of ourselves, and pile too much pressure on the team, but I'm sure you will all agree that it's difficult not to get excited about what is going on at the club under the stewardship of our new manager.

Let's hope that 2012 brings much more joy than it's predecessor. Merry Christmas everyone.

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