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From The Durham Times: Enjoy The Unpredictability

This week's Durham Times column, for your eyes.
This week's Durham Times column, for your eyes.

As you're probably aware by now, we also write a column in a proper newspaper, more commonly known to the public as The Durham Times, musing on all things Sunderland.

Out every Friday for all your local news and sports, you can pick a copy up from all reputable newsagents for a low-low price of just 30p! Thirty pence! They say you can't buy anything good for that price, but The Durham Times fly's in the face of such nonsense. Go get it.

Or if you live in the future and have the internet, or you're cheap, read it online every Friday by heading to http://www.durhamtimes.co.uk/sport/rokerreport for a read. The final possible way to read it is to come here a day (or two) after publication and have a read. I'd implore you to do that, however I wrote it this week, so it's probably best avoided.

Next week though, be sure to read often and with great intensity...

Last Sunday afternoon saw the start of Martin O'Neill's reign as Sunderland manager. Of course, you all know that, but how many of us thought we'd have to wait until deep into the second half to really see any of his impact? Certainly not me, that's for sure.

Against a Blackburn Rovers side making headlines for all the wrong reasons, I expected for some reason us to come flying out the blocks, establish a lead and keep it in a dominant performance. Perhaps this was too much to ask initially from the new man working with Steve Bruce's plodders, but I'm sure there was 35,000 plus at 1:25pm thinking the exact same.

And so we were made to wait, in the end it didn't really matter as three points are three points, but the way in which those points came about was all down to Martin O'Neill for me.

With 70 minutes or so gone, and all the spoils heading to Lancashire we saw just how different things are going to be under O'Neill with the introduction of James McClean to the side.

Things under Steve Bruce had hit the point of predictability where you know for a fact we'd have seen the inconsistent Egyptian, Ahmed Elmohamady introduced, and possibly Ryan Noble for all of 30 seconds in a desperate attempt to hand on for a draw. Not to mention it's likely a Bruce favourite such as David Meyler could well have started over goal-scorer David Vaughan in Lee Cattermole's absence.

All that might sound very cynical and bitchy about our former manager, but when you think about the last few weeks it does seem a very realistic scenario.

The introduction of McClean was inspired. Whilst he didn't directly contribute to either goal there was a shift in energy levels and a buzz around the Stadium Of Light. A buzz which although felt before kick-off had been lost somewhat by the visitors insistence to camp out in their own half and hold for the 1-0 win.

McClean got down the wing with speed, skill and put in some of the best crosses of the afternoon. The move also pushed Kieran Richardson inside, where he was twice as effective as he had been for the first part of the afternoon. All in all, it was wonderful to see us playing with such natural width, and as for McClean, I think he's done more than enough to cement a place in the match-day squad for the foreseeable future.

If only Bruce had had the gumption to employ one his least heralded signings, he might have still been in a job.

Then of course, on Sunday we're heading down to White Hart Lane, not a particularly happy hunting ground in the past, and Tottenham doing quite well in the league, everything would point to a defeat.

That said, is anyone else strangely optimistic about our chances? With the clichéd bounces of a new manager AND a last minute winner, spirits will be high around the Academy Of Light this week, just as they are around the town.

Combined with Spurs coming off a Thursday night in Europe, and the fact I think they're pretty light in defence, I think there's every chance we come back to the North East with something.

Changes could be spung. Lee Cattermole returns from suspension and with O'Neill looking to find out about every player you'd think there's going to be an opportunity for him when most fans have run out of them for the Teesider.

There's also Striker-Come-Pizza-Shop-Employee-Botherer, Nicklas Bendtner and Michael Turner making a case for their inclusion following some injuries.

Perhaps more pertinent than all of them however will be whether or not James McClean starts. Tempting as it will be for O'Neill, for me this week it's no. With the likely combination of Aaron Lennon & Kyle Walker marauding down the Spurs right, I'd fancy the chances of Richardson once again.

That's not to say McClean's chance won't come. It will. You don't want to get carried away following last weekend's cameo, but it's hard not to as it's been so long since we've seen a player of that ilk in red and white.

All the above seems to be somewhat the theme for Sunderland at the moment. Last week we wrote that the fun had returned to the club... but what makes it so fun? It's the fact we're now unpredictable. We might lose, we might win, we've no idea who's going to even be playing... and I'm loving every minute of it.