Proper away day
I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an away day as much as I did yesterday, which might seem like a strange thing to say about a 1-1 draw at Leeds but it’s true.
The Sunderland fans housed in the John Charles Stand made an almighty racket from start to finish and never let their disdain for the owner or the club’s perilous league position spoil their fun - they are a fantastic advert for this football club, and whoever buys us from Ellis Short can rest easy in the knowledge that they’ll have a loyal, passionate fanbase behind them when they do.
The acoustics of the stand - with its low tin roof and the close proximity to the pitch - meant that the noise from the travelling red and white army carried right around the stadium and onto the pitch, and the players undoubtedly responded in kind with their performance.
I mean... just listen to the noise at the end on this video. Immense.
FULL TIME: Leeds 1-1 Sunderland.— Roker Report (@RokerReport) April 7, 2018
Loads of effort today but it wasn’t enough and relegation is all but confirmed. pic.twitter.com/22eqc1QWwq
The fight was there
It’s a shame that it has come when it appears to be far too late, but each and every player really fought for the shirt yesterday at Elland Road and the effort on show was fantastic.
I have to wonder if the combination of our change in formation and the continuity in team selection is what has got the players going again, and I can’t help but to speculate whether or not results might have been better had we been able to play this all throughout Chris Coleman’s time at the club.
Regardless, each and every one of them got stuck in and fought right until the bitter end, and that’s commendable. If we’re going to go down we need to go down swinging, and to see players that are likely to be here playing well is comforting. Hopefully we can follow this performance up with another good one on Tuesday... but I won’t hold my breath just yet.
Gooch is growing
Whenever a young player gets a chance in the first team we’re all desperate to see them grasp the opportunity with both hands, because seeing them succeed in the team helps us to connect with the players on a more personal level.
It’s been fantastic watching Lynden Gooch play in recent weeks after a significant spell away from the side, and yet again yesterday he was a standout. He was a thorn in the side of the Leeds full-backs all afternoon and perhaps showed Chris Coleman why he should have been selecting him on a more regular basis.
Next season we’re going to need players like Lynden in League One and I just hope that between now and the end of the season he can continue to impress in the manner which we’ve seen in the last few games.
Relegation almost confirmed
It was tough looking at the results elsewhere after the game - failing to win meant that we failed to close the gap again, and with just five games left to play it’s hard to see what we could possibly do now to survive. Even winning all of our remaining games might not be enough.
I made peace with Sunderland being relegated a while ago now, and in truth I just want our fate to be confirmed as soon as possible so that we can work out what we’re going to do next season.
It’s sad but inevitable - it seems strange to even consider that Sunderland could be playing football in League One next season, but we’ve made far too many mistakes and the kind of performances that we’re seeing now just weren’t evident earlier in the campaign.
I have to admit that I was a little baffled by the timing of Chris Coleman’s substitutes.
Kazenga LuaLua’s introduction in particular was one that I was uncertain of. As soon as he came on he had a go and created chances - and I can’t help but wonder whether we might have benefited from having him on earlier.
There were a few raised eyebrows over Joel Asoro’s non-inclusion too, and having been such an important player before the international break the injury he sustain appears to have set him back slightly.
Ovie Ejaria offers a fresh pair of legs but I’m not sure what he brings other than that, and though he’s clearly a good footballer I’m not sure what we need in this battle.
I am nit-picking really, but I do think in hindsight that we might have been better off introducing some fresh legs slightly earlier in the game, perhaps around the hour mark.