From The Durham Times: A Tale Of Two Sunderlands

Stu Forster

Each and every week The Durham Times newspaper allows us to spout some opinion on Sunderland. It comes out on a Friday and this is Sunday, so obviously it makes less sense. Save the confusion and buy a copy next week for 50p from your local newsagents.

And so ends another week in the frustrating yet never dull world of Sunderland AFC. After being comfortably beaten at home by Chelsea, the Black Cats came roaring back against Reading, hammering the relegation strugglers at the Stadium of Light.

Before a tough test away at Old Trafford, we've seen two sides to Sunderland in recent games. We put up a decent fight against the champions of Europe, but conceded three goals which were all easily avoided. After a woeful first half against Norwich, Sunderland fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst when Fernando Torres opened the scoring for Chelsea after only ten minutes, proving that once again, we're the team to end any player or team's barren spell in front of goal. And so it continued, as two more goals were gifted to the visitors, and despite a valiant effort, we wound up being comfortably beaten. It was becoming a familiar story.

Again then, Sunderland fans could be forgiven for letting the occasional doubt slip into their heads before a stuttering Reading side came to the Stadium of Light. After the disappointment of a terrible performance to bottom-of-the-league QPR only recently, fans would be forgiven for wondering how the Lads would perform against Brian McDermott's men.

However, after seeing the worst of what we offer against Chelsea, defensively anyway, Tuesday's game was an example of the attacking football that both Martin O'Neill and the Sunderland faithful have been desperate to see. Getting off to the best possible start, thanks to a James McClean goal after only three minutes, things would only get better for the Black Cats, with Steven Fletcher's cheeky back-heel, and Stephane Sessegnon's strike adding to the tally.

Signs of improvement have been evident in recent weeks, and with a run of extremely tough games on the horizon, everything will have to fall in to place for the team to pick up points regularly in the coming weeks. With trips to Old Trafford, Anfield and St Mary's, as well as Tottenham and Manchester City visiting the north East, things could be easier for us over a busy Christmas period, but if Martin O'Neill's team can finally click, like the Reading game suggested - although McDermott's team were dreadful, it has to be noted - then Sunderland can prove to be a real force in this division.

Of course, being Sunderland, we are also a team that enjoys an occasional false dawn. The optimism generated by winning away at Craven Cottage was soon lost at Carrow Road, and on countless occasions in the past we've seen things be on the verge of getting better, only to go drastically wrong again, and quickly.

It would be easy to get carried away by the Reading result, in the same way that it would have been easy to throw in the towel after the Chelsea game, and demand Martin O'Neill's head on a plate.

As the manager said this week, he's not only the right man for the job, but the only man for the job. It would serve Sunderland fans well to remember that right now, and if the upcoming fixtures do prove to be as difficult as they look on paper, remember the feeling generated by the Reading result, and keep the faith going into the new year, and perhaps more importantly, the transfer window.

DAN WILLIAMS

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