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Captain's Blog: Familiar Result But Fresh Sunderland Mentality Holds Promise

The result was all so crushingly familiar on the opening day. But is the fresh attacking mentality on show the real story of the new Sunderland?

Chris Brunskill

Revolutions are rarely synonymous with smooth beginnings. Sunderland learned that lesson the hard way with an opening day defeat at the hands of a very fortunate Fulham.

It was arguably the most anticipated start to a new season that I can remember. There were a lot of new players to see and we had been promised a fresh identity. Paolo Di Canio had spent all summer charming us and appealing to our dreams and egos, and you'd have to say that he did it rather well.

As with most revolutions, his began with shots being fired. First in isolation at the situation he inherited, and then a 20-minute machine-gun salvo at White Hart Lane.

Then came the talk of change, and Di Canio has spoken of little else all summer. His promises have often even bordered on the boastful and, to give them plenty of credit, Ellis Short and his new recruitment team have backed him. Managers - sorry, head coaches - will always ask for more. It is their job to do so. But deep down I can't believe the former Swindon boss could have any complaints about the level of support he has received from the top.

However, words and intentions don't change a football club. Anything can work on paper. The only place you can really effect a footballing 'revolution' is on the pitch. Rousing speeches and cutting policies are all well and good, but it is results alone which carry the punch.

So in many ways, this was the real start of the Di Canio reign. His team, his preparations, his expectations.

There were hopes that results would be instant. There always are, though I don't believe there was a demand for it. Patience is second nature to a Sunderland supporter now. A mere inherited survival skill imperative to the environment in which we exist. The hope was probably heightened by the natural sense of summer optimism that prays on the football-starved senses. It always is.

Perhaps, in cold hindsight, that was asking a little too much. The performance against Fulham was good. You'd have to say that. It deserved more, though ultimately went the same way too many games went for Sunderland last season - soft decisive goal conceded at a crucial time and away it slipped.

But the magic of football - the very reason we find it so irresistibly absorbing - is that you can't really tell anything from one result. Anything can happen. Anyone can win a game. The important thing, even more so than the performance being noticeably better, is that it was noticeably different.

The American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen", and this was a Sunderland team who had made a decision. A decision to attack and seize control of their own destinies.

It was a million miles away from the ponderous and tentative wannabe pickpockets of last season who would cower in their own half waiting for an opportunity to pinch a result that their opposition dropped.

It is no guarantee of success, of course, but it will mean that this season Sunderland will thrive or fail according to their own merits rather than the generosity of others. That has to be preferable. It just has to be. There has to be more to football than we saw last season.

Now the new campaign is under way and the top clubs (and Newcastle) are literally queuing up to visit the Stadium of Light, it will probably be a season Sunderland must grow into. For the life of me I can't work out if that is a good thing or not. It is what it is, I guess.

But feeling like we've just been hanging around on the street corner between the Premier League and Championship for two years waiting for some charity, I'll take it. At least we can detect some forward motion now, even if it wasn't as quick as we'd probably hoped for.

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