Dear Roker Report,
If you’d asked Sunderland fans ahead of this season would they’d have taken four wins and three draws from the opening seven matches - the overwhelming majority would have said yes. It is a sign of how good the start has been when many were disappointed with home draws against Oxford and Fleetwood.
Not since the 2009/10 season under Steve Bruce have Sunderland started the season so well. In the seasons after that we never had more than one win from the opening seven fixtures which inevitably left us in the lower reaches of the division. Managers like the aforementioned Bruce, Paolo Di Canio, Dick Advocaat and Simon Grayson all left their jobs before people were putting their Christmas tree up because of poor starts.
Given the overwhelming changes that Sunderland AFC has had over the summer and the fact that the club are repeatedly slow starters, you could have expected the team to be mid-table or worse so far. Credit goes to Jack Ross for dealing with the mass alterations and getting results so quickly. Managing a squad of players at a big club must be very challenging without the club going through an almost unprecedented period of change and yet the Scotsman is coping well.
The key now is for Sunderland to maintain that. Fans will remember the 2006/07 promotion season under Roy Keane. By the turn of the year and with January signings we started to motor and went from 11th in January to winning the league in May. The run was so good that Sunderland only lost once in the league and the team looked unstoppable. A combination of good form, a settled team and increasing confidence spear-headed the leap up the table.
The big crowds that we get are an asset and will surely play a factor. The attendances have been between 25 and 30,000 - already excellent for this level - but will surely increase should we continue to get positive results. For too long the Stadium of Light has been easy pickings for opposition teams. With larger numbers and a partisan crowd, it will become tough for any visitors take maximum points from Wearside.
Over the past few seasons losing has become a habit but the same can be said for winning. With confidence high in the dressing room and vociferous support in the stands, the momentum should continue and that could send Sunderland soaring to the top of the League One table. Performances have hardly been amazing so far but lets not forget that Sunderland are still unbeaten. If we can maintain the level of results than it’s only a matter of time before we go top.
It is of course early days yet and as Sunderland fans it is almost required to have gallows humour as things turn sour. Ross is quietly going about his business however and if he can keep things up - we should become an unstoppable force on our charge to promotion.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: That’s a good summary of where we are at ahead of today’s game, Jack, and perhaps the message to take from it is that this is going to be a long, hard season and fans need to be patient with the players and the manager.
To me it almost feels as though we’re still in our pre-season phase - until McGeady and Watmore are back, we’ve not got our best players available and I think Ross deserves credit for getting us this far with the players he’s got. Decent results have meant that he’s been able to ease the likes of Wyke and Sinclair back into the fold, whilst Tom Flanagan is just about ready to start playing a regular part.
We can’t go unbeaten all season and we have to expect that there’ll be bumps in the road. Whenever that happens the real test of our strength and character will be whether we can rebound quickly from disappointment.
Dear Roker Report,
I have a question that was not posed to Stewart Donald when he appeared on your Podcast last week. If we are trying to create a great atmosphere then who cares what music we play... the sound systems are twenty years old and useless.
Can this be mentioned?
Ed’s Note [Gav]: The new owners are very much aware of all the problems at the Stadium and I have no doubt they’ll be working through them. Just be patient! Little birdie tells me they had people up on cherry pickers checking them this week, so I guess we’ll see if there have been any improvements made when we play Rochdale next week.