What the gaffer said
We had a very good first half, an exciting first half. There was a terrific atmosphere in the stadium and even conceding a goal didn't affect the team or the fans at all.
There was more work to be done in the second half, but we need to understand that this is going to happen. You get tired, or the opposition is stronger, but these players are trying to get a result and we've got another point on the table so overall a very good day for us.
It was exciting to watch and we came back into the game; I'm very pleased with how we performed on the first half.
We talked about the mentality of the team last week and we can talk about this again. Last year if we had gone a goal down in this game we would probably have lost two or 3-0, but the team didn't get nervous or feel pressured and they just kept playing.
It was exciting to watch Will Buckley on the right side; the fans are going to love him.
I know him [Will Buckley] well and I know how much he improved during my two years at Brighton. He knows what we want from him and he's such a professional that he will listen to you and do it to the best of his ability.
I think it was a great afternoon to play well and take a point from a top team - even the weather was good, so even if we didn't win we need to be happy with that result.
Sunderland Is Finally A Side That Knows Itself
We've had all sorts of Sunderland sides take to the field over the years. But not since the best seasons under Peter Reid have I had confidence that every single player understands what their job is from the first minute until the last.
I highly doubt we'll finish 7th like back then, but we have finally have a team that knows itself, and that we as fans know. I'm trying not to use the word 'identity' because it seems a bit cliched now but you know that's what I'm driving at.
Buckley Could Be Bargain Of The Century
Will Buckley could be a player who bridges the gap between the old school fan and he (or her) who sees himself (or herself) as some sort of modern day football hipster. While there'll be some who'll simply never allow themselves to evolve and accept this new found identity, the former Brighton man is a mutual crowd pleaser based on first impressions.
He appears to have the movement and intelligence to play across an interchangeable front three, something that's vitally important in Premier League today. But he'll also get the "up and at 'em" crowd off their seats because of his directness. No matter what day and age we're in, and what part of what system you play in, if you run at defenders with purposefulness, excitement levels rise and the atmosphere turns up a notch.
Kevin Kilbane and James McClean both had debuts that saw impressive late cameos; running and beating defenders before putting marvellous crosses in. They were moments that dictated conversations in pubs across Wearside for a couple of hours afterwards, offering hope and anticipation to supporters.Neither delivered what we hoped for. Buckley displayed more intent to persevere with this in 60 minutes than either of the aforementioned did in the rest of their Sunderland careers. (maybe slight exaggeration in the case of McClean)
We Potentially Have An Imposing Midfield
When Gus Poyet implemented his system after his first few games, it was clear the ridiculous days of seeing two underwhelming central midfielders being overran were over. That's not to say we've dictated and orchestrated play in every game, and it's not to say we haven't lost many a midfield battle. We have. Of course we have, we're Sunderland.
But Lee Cattermole keeps getting better and better, driving the side forward and allowing the more advanced players to maintain their shape and receive the ball in better areas of the field. Had Steve Bruce or Martin O'Neill thought about playing similar systems, either could still be in charge now. Add this to the fact that something has clicked with Seb Larsson, and we're two thirds the way there. After pondering about for the best part of three years, the Swede is suddenly moving the ball quickly and has figured out how to grab control of the game.
So then we have Jack Rodwell. Off the pace at The Hawthorns, there was a marked improvement from last week from the former Everton golden boy. He's still a bit behind the others but a goal will have made a significant impact in regards to his self-belief and determination to keep improving. When a fit and in-form Rodwell starts making his mark on an already functioning midfield then we could really be in business.
Fletcher Continues To Look Out Of Sorts
While we all laud the new system and get ourselves excited about what we could be with a couple of even better players, there's one guy who'll have contrasting thoughts. Steven Fletcher is a fantastic goalscorer and centre forward in the right set up. One that isn't ours.
If we bring in a left sided front player and consider that Will Buckley and Adam Johnson could possibly play in the same side, then it doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out who'll be making way. I'd be truly amazed if Connor Wickham wasn't employed as a striker from when the transfer window shuts, and based on the two games so far this season, I'd personally question whether Fletcher should even be given the nod over Jozy Altidore.
He's looking more and more like a saleable asset now, for me, and he'd be a very decent signing for a side who pay two up front. If we could bring in around 6/7 million for him and reinvest that elsewhere, it could well be the sensible thing to do. For the record, I really like Fletcher and campaigned for us to sign him long before we did. Nobody would be happier for him to start performing from now than me. I hope he does.