Honestly, until Everton scored the first goal, I thought Sunderland weren’t that bad actually. Yes, we weren’t offering a great deal going forward, but I could only think of two real chances Everton created before they scored. Generally at the back, we looked solid.
However, all that went completely out of the window once we went behind. I’m not going to talk much about it because others will have had their say, and I don’t want to dwell on the game even more so than I absolutely have to. I’ll only ask one question: why on earth did Romelu Lukaku have complete free space and time in our six yard box for the first two goals? I’m not an expert by any means but that’s basic. Why was no one onto him at all? The lack of fight in the last half an hour is extremely worrying. Why are we seeing this crop up again? I thought we’d seen enough of this over the last couple of seasons.
I am trying to console myself that things will get better. Firstly, someone on Twitter made a very good point to me that I’d completely forgotten about – at Everton Moyes’ team always started slowly but finished the season strongly. Does that sound familiar anyone? Hopefully that’s the case here then.
But secondly, I was looking at the fixtures we’ve got coming up.
Tottenham (A), Crystal Palace (H), West Brom (H), Stoke (A), West Ham (A), Arsenal (H), Bournemouth (A), Hull (H).
If you take the Middlesbrough game out of the equation, we’ve had a tricky start to the season on paper. Manchester City and Everton are two big clubs and although I was angry at the way we casually gifted Everton the win, it’s more likely that we will lose those two games.
Southampton, who have finished in the top eight in the last three seasons, would always be hard despite losing Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane. We were unlucky not to win that but a point down the South Coast is not to be frowned upon.
For me, six out of the next eight games are winnable. Tottenham and Arsenal (we should still be aiming to get something at home there though) are almost, if not complete, write offs but the three biggest games in that sequence are Palace, WBA and Hull at home. Seven points is the minimum we should be targeting at least from those three games in my opinion. Bournemouth are decent going forward but I don’t particularly rate them defensively and while both the Stoke and West Ham games will be difficult, they’re not unbeatable.
I’m trying hard to not be deluded as I’ve accepted we are going to be in another relegation battle and I think we shouldn’t expect any better realistically for this season. But if you take the last half an hour out of the Everton game out of it, we’ve been in every game. The first two games we’ve had to field reserve players and youngsters but only lost both by one goal not to mention we still have Jan Kirchhoff coming back to full fitness plus Lee Cattermole is to hopefully return in the coming weeks.
I still believe we are more than good enough to do well this season. People can laugh and point fingers at me all they want but my opinion on that is not going to change. We ARE better than a few teams in this division. I firmly believe that’s not me being deluded either. I still trust that David Moyes will do well in the long-term but we need to stick with him.
There was a man-of-the-match for Sunderland on Monday - someone who is showing the fight and battling qualities needed. It’s no surprise that person is none other than Bradley Lowery. In Micky's piece yesterday he already rightly said that Bradley's fight against cancer puts football into perspective and I can’t really add anything new to that.
To see Everton and their fans show support for this brave boy and donate money to help him get his treatment in the USA while chanting his name is outstanding. I still want revenge on Everton when we play them at Goodison Park but I have nothing but ultimate respect and admiration for their club.
Good luck to the Lowery family for Bradley's treatment. Team Lowery all the way.