Ah hello, fresh off our exploits for the nationals, it's time to get back to our usual business of writing a column in The Durham Times.
This week, believe it or not, was the turn of David Boyle to write for them. No, it really was. Despite the fact I'm writing this because he stubbornly won't buy or even steal a copy of Microsoft Word at home, and the fact the column in the paper had my name on and not his, David Boyle really did write it.
You can buy the copy of The Durham Times from your local newshoppery for the miniscule price of 30p, or indeed just read it on their website every Friday, right about here - http://www.durhamtimes.co.uk/sport/rokerreport
Failing that, you'll just have to wait until Sunday and read it here when it's quite literally, old news. Without much further fanfare though, here's what David Boyle had to say in this week's Roker Report Column...
I don't get to many away games these days. I won't bore you with details regarding my financial situation or the current economic climate; we're all in the same boat and have had to tighten the belt accordingly. Needless to say however that after putting up the cash for my season ticket each year my budget for following the lads is all but spent. That said, when money allows I will always jump at the opportunity to follow the lads on the road. There is something special about the fan that will travel the length and breadth of the country to support their side. Luckily for SAFC we have these fans in abundance. For example the thousands of fans that took on the dreadful trip to Norwich. We salute you all.
Last weekend I had that opportunity myself and made the journey across the UK to the Reebok. The game itself was exactly what Sunderland and especially Steve Bruce needed, an accomplished, professional display where the away side fully deserved their full share of the spoils. Granted the first half didn't provide much to get excited about but SAFC grew in confidence throughout the second period, Sessegnon in particular excelling once moved into a more advanced central role behind the front two when we were in possession. You could call it the perfect away performance. We kept things tight first half then took the game to the hosts when it became clear that they, seemingly, weren't particularly interested in trying to win the game.
A major contributing factor behind Sunderland flourishing in the second half was certainly the support that they received from the away fans. The travelling side found themselves attacking the end which housed their followers, four thousand plus packed into both tiers of the stand, who created a superb atmosphere, proving how vital the backing from the stands can be. The chant of "We're by far the greatest team..." that bellowed out following Sessegnon's opening goal for example was deafening and echoed around the stadium. It's been a long time since I have witnessed such a rallying cry from the Sunderland faithful and it was a joy to behold.
It is this mentality that we must carry forward. It is all well and good having put in such a good display but we must back it up with another this weekend otherwise it could all have more than a slight feeling of de-ja-vu about it, remember the Stoke game anyone? Hopefully now Bruce will have been enlightened by the positive effect that playing two forwards can have. I know it's a tried and tested system that has existed within the game for decades now but Bruce, this season at least, has been overly faithful to his 4-4-1-1 and it was nice to see him try something different. The gaffer also showed more courage in his team selection leaving the likes of Elmohamady and his skipper Cattermole out, a decision which paid dividends.
Going in to tomorrow's game there is a concern that the football will be little more than a sideshow for the main event that will inevitably be the return of Darren Bent. Our former goalscorer has been desperate to plead his case in the press during the week, claiming his move was for football reasons and not monetarily motivated. Too little too late I'm afraid Darren. That said it is important that we as fans do not get sidetracked by his presence. The win at Bolton proved how important we can be as a twelfth man. Of course I'm not completely naive. Bent is in line for a torrid afternoon come kick off and in truth deserves a bit of stick, all in good nature of course.
However, lets not allow ourselves to become completely consumed with emotion and forget the main attraction, Sunderland vs Aston Villa. Sure, give the lad the odd heckle here and there but be sure to follow it up with support for the home side. Let's remind Darren what he left behind, what he turned his back on and is missing out on - the sheer passion that we as Sunderland fans can generate. Just like the Bolton game, we can do our part; we can really act as the twelfth man and be a positive influence on the side.
This support must also be afforded to the gaffer. I'm not saying all is right in the SAFC world following a 2-0 win at a struggling side, but it's a start. Yes at times Bruce can be baffling, frustrating and irritating and I believe a lot of the criticism, the constructive kind, has been justified. However we are about to embark on a series of games, Manchester United aside, that on paper at least should give us a good opportunity to put some serious points on the board. Following the Blackburn game in December I think we will be in a true position to judge Bruce's efforts. If we haven't turned the corner then of course he days will probably be up but until then lets all stick together and keep our end of the bargain as fans.
Now remember kids, buy this in an actual newspaper and read it every Friday. 30p! Blooming heck that's far too good a value not to miss!