Not to be overly dramatic, but losing this weekend could really kill off any of the lingering optimism that came with our decent start to Championship life, before two back to back losses against Leeds and Barnsley tempered our expectations and hopes somewhat.
And that has to weigh heavy on the mind of Simon Grayson, who knows that a failure to score goals and win the game in front of an expectant home crowd will lead to criticism over our inability to sign a striker before the transfer deadline closed last Thursday. Whilst I concede our transfer business this summer has been - considering the lack of funds afforded to the manager - surprisingly decent, our priority going in to that last day of the window should have been to sign a centre forward and as an outsider looking in, it appears we did very little in order to remedy our issue beyond a half-arsed enquiry for Jordan Rhodes.
I guess, in that respect, we have to hope that the likes of Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan will step up and show Sunderland supporters just why they’ve been burdened with the task of bringing the majority of our goals, until January at least. But that’s a big ask, particularly in the case of Vaughan. I can’t help but admire his enthusiasm and tenacity but he’s quickly showing that he’s just not up to scoring regularly at this level. Maybe a break from our busy start to the season, perhaps on the bench, will help to improve his fortunes - who knows.
Sheffield United have won their last two games and won’t have been too worried having watched the tapes back of our performances against two of their Yorkshire rivals, and I’m wary of the threat that they pose to us. Chris Wilder has a growing reputation as a manager within the game and he’s achieving success through an injection of heart and soul into a side littered with functional, unheralded players. They’re exactly the type of side we should dread facing - one that plays without fear and is used to winning away from home, that will lap up taking on a big team in their own stadium in front of an impatient fanbase.
Having had our arses handed to us against two sides that many were expecting us to beat, we cannot afford to slip up again this weekend. Three league defeats on the trot spells trouble, even at this early stage of the season, and it’s important that we find a way to win by any means necessary. Having strengthened our side on deadline day we can no longer blame a lack of squad depth - we have players that are more than capable at this level, and the excuses have to end here and now.
Sunderland success - or lack thereof - this season certainly does not hinge upon the outcome of a handful of games but discovering a ruthless, winning mentality would certainly give us fans hope that things are only going to get better as our campaign develops.