The sense of relief and happiness on Wearside today in the aftermath of our first home win in 364 days will be immense. It’s pretty overwhelming for me, and I’m writing this from a flat in Southern Germany - hundreds of miles away from the scene of yesterday’s glorious victory over Fulham.
The difference between this team now and the one that took to the field a month ago when a comical series of goalkeeping errors from both sides saw us draw with Millwall is staggering, and it’s largely down to small tweaks and changes that Chris Coleman has made since arriving.
Yesterday we looked like a team with a clear game plan and ethos - something that we’ve been crying out for ever since Sam Allardyce was Sunderland manager.
We created plenty of chances and looked threatening practically every time we went forward, which makes a change. This was largely down to Coleman’s decision to start with both James Vaughan and Lewis Grabban up front, showing that the intention was to hurt Fulham should opportunities arise to do so.
Vaughan’s time so far on Wearside has perhaps shown that he isn’t particularly prolific in front of goal, but one thing that he does do is put a shift in - and yesterday he looked a real handful. His half-volleyed effort early in the second half couldn’t have been hit any sweeter, and either side of the keeper it would have been in.
We’ve seen this a lot so far this season - we create decent chances and play reasonably good football, only to get caught out and fall behind. Thankfully, this never really looked like happening yesterday and whilst the decision to set up in a 5-3-2 was bold, it was one which resulted in us keeping a clean sheet and claiming all three points.
It was exciting to see the introduction of Josh Maja and Joel Asoro late in the game from the bench - two young, hungry attackers that offered us energy and enthusiasm, characteristics which helped us to achieve the win. The decision to boldly replace two senior forwards with youth ones would not have crossed the minds of our previous two managers, but Coleman has shown a willingness to work with young players, and on this occasion it paid off.
Both Joel Asoro and Josh Maja look fantastic young prospects and the latter’s winner yesterday was beautiful to watch - the turn and shot, all practically in the same move, gave Fulham ‘keeper Bettinelli no chance in the Fulham goal. I very much hope that the pair gets more of a chance in the coming weeks to prove how good they can be, and if they can continue to make an impact similar to yesterday on a more regular basis I’d be more than happy.
In the short time that he’s been here, Chris Coleman has already shown more fervor and expertise as manager than either of his two predecessors combined. His passion for turning around our fortunes emanates from every pore in his body and if he receives the right backing from the club and the supporters I have no doubt that he’ll be able to take us forward in the future.
In truth, ending our home hoodoo couldn’t have come at a better time, particularly with basement side Birmingham City coming to the Stadium of Light next weekend.
More of the same lads, eh?