The Kids Are Alright
Chris Coleman’s show of faith in his young hopefuls was what pushed Sunderland towards the finish line yesterday afternoon at the Stadium of Light.
It was a superb team performance but the energy and pace that came with the introduction of Joel Asoro and Ethan Robson in particular really gave us a completely different element, and Hull didn’t really know what to do about it.
Sweden U21 international Asoro was full of beans from start to finish, and he caused an experienced centre half in Michael Dawson all kinds of problems. Asoro showed a willingness to close down, run in behind, drop deep to link up play and, of course, he took his chance in front of goal fantastically in order to get his first for the club in what was his first league start.
He linked up well with Josh Maja, who looked a completely different player to the one that seemed so stranded and alone up top against Cardiff. The pair clearly have a very good understanding and that showed from the off, with some fantastic interchanging play between the two ensuring that it was Sunderland and not the away side who started off on the front foot.
Ethan Robson gave a spirited central midfield performance and you could put up a good case for him as our man of the match. I’ve watched Robson for a few years now and he’s always looked very capable when recycling possession of the ball and winning it back, so it was nice to see him do it on the senior stage. He brought out a new lease of life in Lee Cattermole and the pair complemented each other perfectly as the Hull central two - David Meyler and Sebastian Larsson - struggled to get into the game.
Honourable mentions must go to Jake Clarke-Salter, Tyias Browning, George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch, who all played their part and provided us with the energy that we needed in order to get the result.
This might be one of the youngest, less-experienced Sunderland teams of recent times but they certainly don’t lack desire or effort. If we can complement what they can bring with some genuine quality and athleticism before January comes to an end, I honestly think that we’ll be alright.
Experienced Players Showed Their Worth
I have to hand it to our older lads - they put a good shift in and really stepped it up after what has been an incredibly tough week for the club.
Having been thumped at the hands of Cardiff, we had the whole Jack Rodwell debacle to deal with and then the issue with us not being able to strengthen the squad. It was important that the experienced players rallied around to help us to focus and give belief to the rest of the team as the game wore on, and to their credit they did just that.
I’ve been a critic of Lee Cattermole, but felt he played more like the controlled, aggressive version of Catts that we were used to seeing when Gus Poyet was our manager. John O’Shea was steady - a few misjudged long-balls aside - and even Billy Jones played his part (before he eventually succumbed to injury). Furthermore, Robbin Ruiter’s save right at the death showed that there is a good keeper in there somewhere.
All of those players will be looked upon as the ones to help take forward the momentum and positivity that we have coming away from this result. We can’t rely upon the kids to pull us out the crap every single week, so their influence will be crucial.
They’ve come under a fair bit of stick in recent times, but now they need to prove that they’re still capable of coming up with the goods when it really matters.
Hard Work Isn’t Over
I know that I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know, but the hard work does not end here. This cannot just be a one-off.
The result should give us confidence, and hopefully before the next game we’ll have some new players to call upon, plus the addition of the likes of Jonny Williams and Lamine Kone who are returning back from injury. The more options that Chris Coleman has at his disposal, the better.
All that winning yesterday did was pull Hull closer to us and bring us off the bottom of the table. It’s a good start, but it’ll count for nothing if a similar result cannot be achieved down at St. Andrews next week when we take on Birmingham City.