I have criticised the club and the players heavily in the last four seasons, which I still believe was justified, but I can sympathise with them this time because this was a situation we didn’t need and one that we definitely didn’t want.
The club were screwed over by the incompetent FA and to this day I’m still quite angry with them for how they handled it. If they had to appoint Allardyce then they could have easily done it a couple of weeks earlier than they did. They only stalled to make it look like they were going through a process. It’s cost us two or three potentially precious weeks in the transfer window.
However, it made sense in my opinion that we didn’t sign any players until we knew for sure who the manager would be. The club dealt with things pretty well for me given the circumstances they were forced into.
Despite all of that, the one thing we were still able to do was improve the fitness of the players already at Sunderland for the start of the season. I have to say, I was very impressed with the attitude of the first-team players and coaching staff.
It sounds easy to say but I’m happy that they got on with improving their match fitness and there seems to be a good team spirit in the dressing room.
I've been watching Jermain Defoe interview Duncan Watmore on the club’s official YouTube channel as I write this article and, aside from being very funny, it put me at ease in many ways because there seems to be a real togetherness there.
We’ve heard that cliché before many times but it’s so important in any profession, let alone football.
They seem much fitter this time as opposed to last year in North America, although that probably isn’t saying very much, but they also seem a lot happier. Last time, we just seemed to go through the motions of pre-season and not only did we look alarmingly unfit at the start of last season, but I still felt in parts we looked somewhat uninterested.
But we saw towards the end of last season that the team really played like their lives depended on it and really for each other. One defeat in the last eleven matches and only four league losses since the turn of the year tells its own story.
That seems to have carried over in recent weeks into this season and it would have been all too easy for the players’ moods to dampen. It looks like that’s not the case and I’m very happy about that.
With David Moyes, I think he is a manager our players will, or at least should, respond to in a positive way. Like I said last week, at Manchester United he was in a difficult situation because he’d never won trophies and his players achieved more than him over their careers. At Sunderland, the players haven’t won anything major and they all know what he did for Everton.
They know that for a club like ours he has proved he can be successful in permanently establishing teams as a good Premier League side. That can only help the team spirit and make sure the players, the coaching staff, the manager and everyone at the club is on the same page going forward.
There’s still a lot of work to do but there’s also something there to build on. The January signings, Jan Kirchhoff, Lamine Kone and Whabi Khazri, are still there. Jermaine Defoe, Younes Kaboul, Fabio Borini and others are still there. The team spirit and general spirit of the club is still there. I truly believe we are a couple of really good additions away from being a genuinely good side.
Ironically the positive mood around Sunderland at the moment is down to Allardyce because, despite the whole England thing, without him and what he did last season we would either be in the Championship or we would be in the Premier League but with no prospect moving forward. Without him, we would have no hope and for that I will always be thankful.
Hopefully the much-improved team spirit stays with us for the upcoming season and that, plus with proper quality signings who will add something to the first-team, we will be nowhere near the relegation zone this time.