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Captain's Blog: Inconsistent Sunderland Remarkably Normal

Worried about Sunderland this season? Don't - we're just the same as almost everyone else.

Ian Walton

Upon first glance, there is something disturbingly unusual about Sunderland this season. They seem unable to string many results together and even appear to struggle to put in a single consistent performance over ninety minutes.

The players, too, appear to be a weird little bunch. With the exception of Patrick van Aanholt and Lee Cattermole, just about all of them have come in for both heady praise and stinging criticism from fans this season alone, and we are only just over a quarter of the way into it.

At various points of the fledgling season, Gus Poyet's men have been very good, against Manchester United and Stoke, doggedly resilient, against Tottenham and Crystal Palace, and wretchedly bad (we don't need reminding of those).

Monday's victory at Selhurst Park was, in many ways, a microcosm for Sunderland's season as a whole. As welcome as it was, it was difficult to really know what to make of it. There was plenty about the performance to like, though it still left many worried about the overall quality of the side.

The thing about Sunderland, though, is that they only seem unusual because of our, as fans, tendency to judge them in isolation. There is nothing wrong with that - your club being the shameless centre of your entire universe is the prerogative of any real football fan - but it can often lead to inaccurate assessments by accentuation.

In reality, there is nothing disturbingly unusual about Sunderland at all. In fact, in the wide scheme of things, they are reassuringly normal.

Because this up and down apparently random outbursts of extremes is pretty standard for the bottom half of Premier League, which, like it or not, is the club's level for the now.

We don't really see it, because all our attention is invariably on Sunderland, but if you take out may be eight or nine clubs, everyone else suffers the same frustrations and inconsistencies.

If you were asked to offer an objective description of Sunderland, you'd probably say something like: Splattering of quality, can beat anyone on their day, but you'd always fancy your chances against them. It's a description that applies to just about the whole bottom half.

Some claim Sunderland are unusually poorly managed from the top, but you don't go eight seasons at this level as a fluke. People say Sunderland go through too many managers, and they probably do, but it's not a problem unique to the Wearsiders. West Bromwich Albion, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace have had just as many managers since the start of last season as the Black Cats have.

There are those who suggest Sunderland can't score goals, but 6 teams currently in the bottom half have scored as many or fewer. The lack of a goalscorer is also cited as a glaring and almost unique flaw in the Sunderland side, but only nine players in the whole division have scored more than Steven Fletcher has this season.

The fact is, Sunderland are not unusual at all in the context of Premier League football. They're a decent side with good players who must accept the possibility of relegation, but will probably be okay with a decent amount of room to spare.

So, yes, worry about Sunderland. We are Sunderland fans and worry is what we appear destined to do. It's part of our DNA to be pessimists. But just know that we don't have anything more to worry about than the majority of the rest, and just as many reasons to be positive.

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