After our victory over MK Dons at the weekend, and after almost a quarter of the league campaign complete, Sunderland currently sit fifth in League One - not great, but not bad.
We sit three points behind second-placed Wycombe Wanderers with a game in hand, having suffered one defeat so far this season and also being unbeaten at home.
Alongside the league form, two victories against Premier League opposition, in the form of Burnley and Sheffield United, have provided an opportunity to reach the last eight of the League Cup – with a tricky away tie at Oxford United to negotiate in the last sixteen.
So... where has it all gone wrong?!
Two draws in succession during September, especially following soon after an inept performance away to Peterborough United, saw the vultures circling Jack Ross’ tenure at the Stadium of Light. This manifested as not only a typically passionate and disproportional response on social media, but more worryingly for Ross, as discontent in the away end at the Macron Stadium.
Even at this stage in the season it’s difficult to ignore that the team are dropping points with similar performances and results that saw us ultimately miss out on promotion last year - and more so than last season, anxiety builds with each drawn game.
Having already drawn four out of our ten games with the scoreline of 1-1 so far this season, this fear is growing. For some, the threat of missing out on promotion from League One at the second attempt is too much to take and this season already has the smell of the previous one.
In fifteen of our final tally of nineteen draws last season the final result was 1-1. It’s not an exact science but extrapolating our results from the first quarter of this season would see us on course to draw in roughly sixteen games by the end of the season.
This is where the some of the criticism directed at the current management team moves from the result itself to the reasoning behind why we draw so many games - especially by the same result. The style of play has been deemed as being too safe by critics who argue that a more expansive style would result in more wins, and probably defeats, but in the long term more points.
This is all good in theory, but football is about fine margins. Despite those nineteen draws, Jack Ross was one goal and a penalty shoot-out away from a promotion and cup double last season.
If this was the outcome, and we’d won the play-offs and Football League Trophy, nobody would care that we drew nineteen games, and they’d likely be considered good results or merely forgotten.
This season it only took the opening week for the whispers surrounding the manager’s future to begin when Sunderland drew their opening two fixtures. The response from the team was not only two victories in the space of the week, but five straight victories thereafter.
This last week has again seen the manager and squad respond to two successive draws with a win at Bramall Lane followed by three points at the Stadium of Light against MK Dons at the weekend.
These responses show that the squad is prepared to dig in and respond to the scrutiny placed on them, which surely has to be testament to the manager and his staff as well as the players.
They now, rightly or wrongly, work in an arena where failure to win a league game will invoke an immediate outcry of comments and questions aimed at their abilities, dedication and future at the club.
It’s simply the pressure of managing a club such as Sunderland in the position we find ourselves in, driven by a fear of remaining in the third tier for a third successive season and something no doubt Jack Ross expected when he accepted the job.
The League Cup game during the week came at a good time for Jack Ross, providing the opportunity to rotate the squad. It led to fielding a midfield pairing of Max Power and Dylan McGeouch with the addition of Luke O’Nien in an advanced position linking the play up to Wyke. More importantly, it gave an opportunity for new signings Laurens De Bock and Joel Lynch to get much-needed game time at the back where they both impressed.
Many thought Ross may revert back to players who have recently shown a lack of form, but on one of the few occasions in his time at the club, his starting line up was cheered by the majority of fans - not many could disagree with the team he put out at the weekend.
Despite the results of the last week, there are still calls from certain quarters that Ross isn’t the man to lead Sunderland into the business end of the current season and beyond.
Purely looking at results over the last thirteen months, is there an argument to say this is sacking territory? Well, I’d argue there isn’t.
Jack Ross continues to prove time and again that a week is a long time in football, but each time we go through this reactionary process the supporting voices become quieter and less frequent. Others have made up their mind, and for this section of fans it will take more than good results to change their mind on Jack Ross.
For this group, the draws not only need to be turned into victories, but convincing wins where we create more chances with a more expansive style. The fear is that with our options upfront as they currently stand, this isn’t an easy target to achieve. Although this may be more of a possibility moving forward with an improved back four that we don’t need to protect as much.
Sticking by Jack Ross means we have a chance of automatic promotion and unless things drastically change, we’ll highly likely end with a top six finish. Changing managers at this stage would be a roll of the dice and has as much chance to potentially threaten that likely outcome as it has of guaranteeing automatic promotion.