Friday night’s game was an interesting one because, for the first time in what feels like an eternity, Sunderland continued the trend of not winning, yet many fans walked away from the game feeling optimistic ahead of the coming season. When was the last time that happened?
Grayson’s men showed spirit, fight and flashes of quality in the draw with Derby County, and most were impressed with what they saw. Obviously there are several things that need to be worked on; the defence, for example, looked rather nervy at times and will need to be more alert and steady as the season progresses. However, by and large the Lads looked good on their first showing of the season.
After the game we decided to canvass opinion and ask our readers where Sunderland will end the season and what they thought that kind of performance would equate to in terms of a league position.
POLL: Where do you feel that #SAFC will finish?— Roker Report (@RokerReport) August 5, 2017
Having seen the lads play yesterday, has your optimism for the season ahead changed?
Almost 60% of those who voted in the poll believe that after Friday’s showing Sunderland look to be a relatively safe top-half side. Whereas almost 30% think that Friday’s performance was one befitting a top six side. Only 12% argue we’ll finished below 12th - an interesting number which suggests Friday's performance has done much to dispel thoughts of a season of struggle.
Of course Friday was only one game, and there’s still an enormous amount of football to be played in the coming months - so fans must remember to guard their optimism with a sense of realism. One game doesn’t make a season, and we will have to be patient with Grayson and his men as they continue to adapt to his methods and plans.
That being said, Derby are a good side who finished 9th in the league last season - so Friday's game certainly stands as a good barometer as to how Sunderland can expect to fare this season against some of the league’s bigger teams.
More optimistic, but defence scares me. Plus need more cutting edge up front.— Sven (@sven_ftm) August 5, 2017
The amount of chances created was certainly a positive, and the quality displays from the entire Sunderland midfield was also something to get excited about as Bradley Johnson and Tom Huddlestone barely had a sniff. Yet, as already mentioned, Sunderland’s defence looked rather unsteady at times with some poor positioning and communication from several players - an issue that will need to be remedied if Sunderland are to have a successful season.
Up front Vaughan and Grabban looked a real handful, but missed a couple of gilt-edged opportunities that could have won us the game; it’s only early days of course, but it really does seem like Vaughan needs a goal as soon as possible to really get going - hopefully that’s sooner rather than later. Grabban took his penalty well and looked a real threat going forward, fans will be keen to see if he can improve on that impressive debut.
Friday proved to be a positive evening, and fans are right to be pleased with the manner in which we played our football. Grayson will have learned a lot from that showing and will certainly be keen to address any issues he might have identified going into next weekend. We though, as fans, must do our best to remain grounded and allow Grayson time to mold his side into one capable of challenging any side they face. Hopefully the Lads will continue to improve as the season continues, but if they struggle here and there we must do our best to encourage them, rather than berate them.
In all, it’s nice to feel optimistic for a change, and long may that continue.