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Doing Things The Hard Way

Only now do we look like a side capable of survival, writes guest blogger Michael Bowers.

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Just when the world seems to write us off, we deliver a ‘shock’ result and prove we won’t give up without a fight.

A lot of people seemed to be dejected after the Southampton game, myself included, because I was struggling to see a way out of the mess that we (once again) found ourselves in.

Nothing seemed to be going right. We play attacking football at Everton and get thumped 6-2 before reverted back to being hard to beat against Southampton and then a stupid mistake costs us potentially what could be a valuable point.

Then comes Crystal Palace. Not long before Jermain’s goal two thoughts were going through my head. One: I’d take 0-0 now, just don’t do a Sunderland and find a way to mess this up! Two: No, we need to get the three points, especially with results around us going in our favour.

Like every other long-suffering mackem out there, after we took the lead I was begging us to hold on for just 10 minutes. Even though we were ahead I was still worried, especially when Alan Pardew’s side had a free-kick right on the edge of the box with the literally the last kick of the game. We actually held on for a change.

I think it’s sad that a win feels this valuable because we should be used to the idea of winning but for some reason we’re not. Don’t get me wrong, the Palace game was by a country mile the best performance of the season because we showed that we ARE good enough to get a result in the Premier League. While I was over the moon with the win, I was also deeply frustrated at the same time.

Most people probably would have taken a draw before the game. I think it says a lot when a 0-0 at Crystal Palace, who were only promoted to the Premier League two years ago, is seen as a good result given the players they’ve got.

When the fixtures came out this season, I was looking at five of the first six games: Leicester, Norwich, Swansea, Aston Villa and Bournemouth and thought: ‘Surely, THIS TIME, we will get wins and precious points on the board to make sure we aren’t scrapping later on in the season’, but it wasn’t to be.

I appreciate I may be in a minority opinion on this, but I believe Sunderland, even with the current squad we’ve got now, ARE more than good enough to compete in the Premier League. Fabio Borini, Jermain Defoe, Jeremain Lens, Jack Rodwell, Lee Cattermole, Yann M’Vila, John O’Shea, Younes Kaboul among others aren’t rubbish players yet we’re always in the bottom three only to scrape our way out of it at the end.

With players like that, we should be beating teams like Norwich and Bournemouth and at least drawing against Leicester in my opinion. Yet in all three games I feel we lost because the players didn’t put in 100% effort and application. I’m not saying we would have won these games had we done so but I’m almost certain we would have got a result out of them. This is a big problem which has existed for years now and I’m hoping Big Sam will be the one to get rid of that, quite frankly, lazy mentality against winnable sides.

As for Big Sam, we all know the football won’t be attractive and I suspect that came to mind when he was appointed. It’s true that his style of football isn’t particularly pretty to watch but to be honest, when over the last few years have we had good attractive football to watch. With Martin O’Neill, we had dreadful football and even though I liked what Gus Poyet was trying to do, his style of football wasn’t appealing on the eye either.

Regardless of style under those managers we weren’t getting results. Sam knows what he’s doing and Monday night was the first time I had a genuine glimmer of hope.

Yes, we beat Newcastle, but they were down to ten men and we still weren’t great. Palace was the first time when I felt like this team was good enough to get themselves out of trouble. I refused to believe Sunderland weren’t good enough because we had a worse team last season and stayed up. Now, I’m starting to believe we can do it.

In order to do that though, Monday can’t just be a one-off result. For me, four points out of the Stoke and Watford games is an absolute minimum. No less.

I think we will get a surprise result somewhere in those Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool games because that’s same old Sunderland but we need consistency. If we can somehow get to the Aston Villa game out of the relegation zone, then that would be brilliant. Big Sam should then be trusted by Ellis Short to get the players in that will help us to safety.

Until then, let’s get through the next month. Same old Sunderland, always doing things the hard way!

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