Boxing Day’s humiliation at the hands of promotion-chasers Sheffield United was perhaps Sunderland’s worst performance in a year that has been littered with absolutely horrific displays from the Wearsiders.
That said, today’s game in Nottingham affords Chris Coleman and his team the opportunity to give their battle-wounded fan-base - who yet again will pack out a sold away-end when they arrive at the City ground - something to smile about as we round off what has been an absolutely torturous twelve months for the football club.
Three points could lift Coleman’s side as high as 20th and above our opponents on New Year’s Day - Barnsley - but a loss and some results going against us elsewhere could really harm us, so it’s safe to say that getting over what happened in Sheffield earlier in the week and winning by any means necessary is of utmost importance.
Coleman, as cool as ever when he met the press earlier today, didn’t appear flustered by the task ahead and noted that his side know exactly what they have to do in order to get over the disappointment of our latest defeat - and that is to do their talking on the pitch.
Talk is cheap and it’s all about what you do on the pitch – and we have to do it tomorrow.
We missed the 90 minutes at Sheffield United and that was disappointing, but we have Forest next and that’s what we need to look forward to, and we need to put a performance in first and foremost because we definitely didn’t do that in the last game.
It’s up to us to weather that but let’s go and ask them some questions because we didn’t ask enough of Sheffield United.
Forest are a curious side, perhaps one in the same mould as the Fulham team we managed to defeat a couple of weeks back. They play a possession-based brand of football and are able to beat any team on their day, but they’re inconsistent and have lost four of their last six. Sunderland just have to hope that this afternoon we catch them on another bad day.
Last time we faced Warburton’s side they turned up at the Stadium of Light in search of a point, only to find themselves walking away with three. A costly Tyias Browning error led to former Sunderland forward Daryl Murphy scoring in front of the South Stand, earning his team a 1-0 victory - a win that coincidentally came in the aftermath of a defeat against Sheffield United.
The nature of the Championship means that the games come thick and fast, something that Sunderland’s injury prone squad have been unable to cope with since dropping into the second tier in the summer.
Tyias Browning picked up a knock in our last game and is almost certain to miss today’s match, which will in turn force Chris Coleman into making changes to his starting eleven and perhaps even formation. Quite who comes into the side in his place is a mystery, with the Welshman effectively ruling out Billy Jones as a potential starter when he spoke yesterday to the press.
One thing is for certain, a big performance is needed if Sunderland are to prove their detractors wrong once again.
Having done so much good work prior to Boxing Day, it felt like all of that was undone once the final whistle blew. Coleman’s side gave the type of performance that they’d only given previously to the manager’s predecessor - and that is indeed worrying.
But it’s important that we don’t panic, irrespective of what happens today.
The upcoming January transfer window is what I believe will determine Sunderland’s fate come the end of the season. It’s clear that we need a number of additions that can offer Coleman something different, and with the window open in a few days it will be interesting to see how quickly we react.
But, the focus must remain on the next game. Forest are a good side capable of beating anyone, but they’re not in particularly great form themselves currently and will be wary of that fact.
They need a win badly, as do we - and don’t forget that they’ve drawn just once all season. If nothing else it should make for an entertaining game of football!