I’ve sounded like a broken record for a number of months now when banging on about giving Luke Molyneux a chance in the first team, and, as luck would have it, he found himself starting the game today as, five minutes before kick-off, Kazenga LuaLua pulled up injured.
He lined up on the left - not his favoured position - but he still managed to do all of the stuff he likes to do when playing for our U23s, like drifting along the attacking line, taking his man on and having that uncanny knack of getting into good positions in the box.
He fluffed his lines a few times in the first half, and I have no doubt that nerves played their part, but as the game went on he grew into it and his confidence improved.
Molyneux has a bright future in the game, and if he keeps working hard and taking his chances he’ll be just fine here. Dropping a league will surely afford him even further chances to impress, especially if Joel Asoro is, as many suspect, going to leave.
Regular readers of this column will be aware by now that I’m not a particularly big fan of John O’Shea, but that doesn’t mean I hate the guy - I just want us to move on from his type and bring fresh leadership to the team behind the scenes and on the pitch.
He more than likely put an end to his seven year stint with the club yesterday afternoon, and left the the pitch to a respectful applause. In doing so, he handed over the captain’s armband to 16-year old prospect Bali Mumba, who came on to make his first team debut.
I just thought that it was a real nice touch and showed he’s a decent fella. Nice one, John.
Fair play, Stockdale
Since I’m being nice to people today I think it’d be unfair if I didn’t pay a compliment to caretaker manager Robbie Stockdale also, who just got us back to basics for the game whilst also encouraging the team to play a fairly free-flowing style of football that they were clearly enjoying.
Stockdale probably needs to take a hike this summer too but he did alright, although I wish he’d put Mumba on a little earlier than he did - but I’m nitpicking.
Probably the best thing he did was give out so many chances to young players. The decision to throw Luke Molyneux on from the start when LuaLua got injured was a big one, particularly since Callum McManaman was in the squad and has played a fair bit recently.
Whisper it quietly...
You mightn’t want to admit it but deep down you know that you should - hasn’t Jason Steele played alright recently? I mean, he’s done nothing special really, but his performances since coming back into the side have been... well... canny.
It feels really strange. It’s like paying a compliment to someone that really irritates you - you don’t want to really be seen or heard in public doing it.
His distribution was good, he was comfortable on set pieces and commanded his area well. He also sniffed out danger on more than one occasion when our defence went wandering, and made a handful of good saves to go with it.
Steele probably wants to leave and if the club receive a decent cash offer they’re likely to take it, but it does make you wonder if his recent performances might make one or two people behind the scenes reconsider whether or not he has a future here. Food for thought.
A nice way to end
Well, writing this after each and every game this season has not been easy - in fact it’s been down-right torturous. I think in the end I actually ran out of ways to say how sh*t we’ve been, and for weeks and weeks I’ve been dreading this particular game.
The Lads sprung a surprise on us, though; they gave us all something to cheer about, and if I’m honest there was a totally different feeling around the Stadium of Light yesterday.
The sun was shining, the manager had changed, the team looked fresher and more vibrant and there was a potential new owner in the stands. The fans seemed really up for the game and were keen to encourage the young players, who were of course eager to impress having been given the chance to do so.
It’s not the end of the world, relegation. Honest, it isn’t.
All we want to see is a team that tries its best, wins a few games and every so often manages to send the Sunderland supporters home happy.
It really isn’t that much to ask for, is it?