After 15 games in League One under Jack Ross, Sunderland seem to have struck consistency gold with a string of competent performances across the starting eleven and off the bench.
The defenders are all marshalling our back line with solidity and brutality, our midfielders have a good blend of fight and guile, and up top Josh Maja has produced the goals with others chipping in around him. Oh, and the goalie saves penalties, claims crosses, and has just kept his third consecutive clean sheet in the league after a lengthy period where we couldn’t seem to get one, despite good results and performances on the pitch.
In this generous vein of form, against Southend at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, fans expected and the players delivered. Sunderland won their fourth league game in a row, and a fond, familiar feeling was draped over all in red and white for the rest of the weekend.
After the win, Jack Ross spoke calmly and thoughtfully about building this momentum:
It isn’t easy to do, from that run of results the players deserve an enormous amount of credit as a squad, because we’ve seen in those games, it’s not just the same 11 that’s went and won these games, there’s been a change in the lineup and in each and every game there has been a contribution made from the subs bench.
And that’s what we’ve really spoken about in the changing room post match — how they deserve credit individually for their professionalism and the desire and what we’ve created collectively within the group. They want to keep winning games and they’ve got that opportunity now to keep doing that.
The Scotsman, who is splitting the season up into phases of seven games, could not have started the third phase any better - a victory and clean sheet on the back of a sharp upturn in performances that looks a lot more built in than on a whim.
Ross undoubtedly deserves plenty of credit himself.
With each game that passes, the players look more together as a unit. They look like winners. And, what’s more pleasing, Sunderland are trying to play the right way.
It’s the difficult way, the head up and look for the pass way that doesn’t always come off, but when it does it’s a joy to watch.
Ross could have easily played it pragmatic and signed bruisers for a lump it and bump it approach. Instead, Sunderland are developing a brave and positive style of play, something fans haven’t seen for far too long.
It’s a style that pivots around the players’ individual strengths and, as a result, every man on the pitch finally looks competent. It might sound underwhelming, but that hasn’t been the case for so long - it’s just the basics done very well by everyone on the pitch.
Granted, it’s not perfect with bouts indiscipline and injuries. Max Power should be starting games and Maja should not be leading the line for example, but when the mood is positive and players are invested, these are headaches that players will overcome with quality, commitment and understanding.
Right now, the consistency feels contagious at Sunderland. Keep it up and we’ll go up.