It’s going to be a long struggle till the end of the season but Sunderland fans can be a bit more hopeful after last week’s win against Hull. Narrowly edging past a poor Tigers side shouldn’t be the cause of wild celebration, but the manner of the victory was especially pleasing.
Coleman threw in some kids - who performed - and seems to be developing a formation and game plan which works for the small band of players he has at his disposal.
There’s a lot of focus on tonight’s game at Birmingham and while a win would be brilliant, avoiding defeat is the main priority. We need to get a run going and our fate this season rests on grinding out home wins against the teams around us. Birmingham have also perked up of late so a draw would be a point gained.
Inconsistency is our main foe, with wins this season automatically followed by poor performances. To some extent this is inevitable when young players are thrown into the first team, as consistency is the hardest thing for players to achieve. Tonight’s game is a great opportunity to show we can build on a good performance and then set up the game against Ipswich next Saturday; which is extremely winnable.
However, the main reason I am feeling more hopeful is that Coleman has identified the root cause of the problems at the club and started to deal with it. Players who don’t want to put on the shirt have been publicly identified and told they can leave. Good.
We need a squad which is committed and determined and wants to play for the manager - not a team built around talents and big names who want away at the first opportunity.
“TeamKone”, for example, has put more effort into his Twitter profile in the last 12 months than he has to playing for Sunderland. And then there’s poor Jack Rodwell, desperate to play but left on the sidelines with only his immense wealth to comfort him. Sob.
We all live in a bit of a bubble of our own making, but really, has Rodwell so little connection with reality that he thinks he might play again in the Premier League and make a success of his career? The statistics are not on his side. He’s barely played since 2012, his youthful promise at Everton coming to nothing. According to a recent piece in the Liverpool Echo, Rodwell’s slide began when he was sent off in a derby game in 2011, after which he lost confidence and became the indecisive, anonymous shadow we’ve become accustomed to, drifting around without making an impact on the game.
Coleman’s honesty and straightforwardness in dealing with these players augurs well for the future. It also provides an opportunity for us to get off the backs of two men who have made solid, honest contributions to our club over many years - John O’Shea and Lee Cattermole.
Both have been blamed for contributing to the club’s rotten core without there being any evidence to back this up. O’Shea’s main crime seems to be his age, which is hardly his fault.
Coleman has spotted that putting a vastly experienced centre half in a back three with a couple of nippy youngsters could work well – hardly rocket science but something his predecessors didn’t think of.
Cattermole has been poor this season, until the Hull game, but he has been excellent for us over the years and, at his peak, he’s a joy to watch.
An in-form Cattermole will go a long way towards saving us this season.