From The Durham Times: New Year, New Start

Tom Dulat

Every week we provide our views to The Durham Times. Our favourite local newspaper, and we're not contractually obliged to say that. Honest. You can read this when it's still sort of in date by buying a copy on a Friday for 50p. Or just read this later on.

At times, it seems that modern football can no longer be discussed in ways that it used to be. Rather than chatting at the pub post match about a thumping header or heroic tackle, we are all being conditioned to look at our midfielder's pass completion percentage, or look at how many of our goalkeeper's long balls were with his right foot. I'm not saying that the new importance of statistics in football isn't great, I'm sure it is, but sometimes I just yearn for the (relatively for me) olden days.

The thing with stats is that they can be misleading. Yes, I'm impressed when Barcelona's Xavi plays 4.1m passes in a game, but I watched that game, and 4m of them were half a yard to his side.

Some stats don't lie though, and the cold hard truth is that Sunderland have only won 11 league games this calendar year. It's not a pretty stat, although it is pretty much in keeping with how we've been doing for the past few years. However, with the new year only a few days away, it is time for us to unite, and show the rest of the Premier League what Sunderland is all about.

Football isn't played over a calendar year, we all know that - which made everyone going on about Lionel Messi's most recent record-breaking achievement something of a moot point - but form transcends the organisation of fixtures, and it's time for us to break free of the relative misery that's engulfed our club since we were dumped out of the cup by Everton all those months ago. It's been a difficult time for Martin O'Neill, the players, Ellis Short, and unquestionably, the supporters.

But, we're still here, and although our fixtures at the turn of the year aren't what anyone would describe as easy, we can look to the future with optimism, draw a line under what has happened recently, and declare this our fresh start.

The manager has another opportunity to bring in his own players, and to start moulding the team in his image, rather than that of his predecessor. We would be foolish to think that Martin O'Neill won't have already sat down with Mr Short to discuss his targets, and if his past purchases for the club (Louis Saha aside) are anything to go by, then we have a lot to look forward to.

The players, too, have every right to look at January and 2013 as a whole with optimism. Connor Wickham is looking stronger than ever, Simon Mignolet is finally getting the credit that he deserves, and players like David Meyler should relish the opportunity to attempt to prove themselves to our head honcho. Although it won't be champagne all-round, and some players will probably be on their way out of the club, the ones still here when the transfer window slams shut, alongside any new arrivals, have the chance to show the Premier League, and the world, just what it means to play for Sunderland.

It may not happen overnight, we'd all be delighted if it did, but the potential is there for Sunderland to soar, and to prove that the team is far better than our league position would suggest.

Keep the faith, success is just around the corner. The future's bright, the future's red and white.


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