And so, with a much-needed victory against Doncaster Rovers, we reach the end of another decade in red and white. It’s been quite a ride over the years.
There have been lows, more lows, truly crushing lows, as well as some memorable highs. Everton at home in 2016, THAT Defoe volley, Ji-Dong Won sidestepping Joe Hart and slotting home to send the SOL into raptures, as well as a turnover of managers and players at a rate that you would scarcely believe.
It has been a memorable period for everyone, filled with the kind of mixture of pleasure and pain that only our club could provide, but we’re still here. A club beaten and scarred, but not dead yet, and a fanbase who’ve taken countless punches, but refuse to throw in the towel.
And so to on-field matters. If the dismal home draw against Bolton on Boxing Day, where an ultra-defensive and disjointed display threatened to bring about a state of all-out pandemonium, our visit to South Yorkshire - following hot on the heels of demands for a change of both ownership and manager - did at least provide us with some belated Christmas cheer. It wasn’t just the victory that mattered. It was the level of performance.
Where has that passion, drive, and ‘take no nonsense’ attitude been hiding for so long?
Why did it take our backs being firmly pinned to the wall to bring about such a spirited performance? Perhaps the players had taken a glance at the league table, and our perilous position, before finally emerging from the mass hypnosis they appeared to have been in for weeks.
Whatever it was, the difference was plain to see, as the likes of Charlie Wyke and Max Power turned in vastly-improved performances. It was an excellent response.
Several weeks ago, I wrote that a fit Lynden Gooch would be an asset to the team if we wanted to achieve anything of note this season, so positively had he started the campaign. His performance at Doncaster offered further evidence of this. You get the sense that the American is playing like a man with a point to prove this season, and let us hope that he can remain injury-free for the remainder of the season.
We need to create more chances, and here is a man who can certainly do it.
Despite ending the year with a victory, the problems - both at boardroom and pitch level - linger. Stewart Donald’s ownership of the club is still under the microscope, and Phil Parkinson - the supposed pragmatic, sensible choice to replace Jack Ross - will enter 2020 on a tightrope, knowing that one more bad result could spell disaster.
He needed the Doncaster victory badly. It was a game that I don’t believe he should’ve overseen, but nevertheless, he did, and he deserves credit for coaxing a much-improved performance from the team. One win won’t buy him much credit with the fans, but he upheld his end of the bargain, which is all you can ask for.
And so, Sunderland head into 2020 propelled by the merest sliver of momentum.
With another double-header against Fleetwood and Lincoln this week, the games are still coming thick and fast. Given our current league position, two more positive results might just breathe new life into this grind of a season, but conversely, two poor results might pour another bucket load of petrol onto a fire that has been quelled, albeit nowhere near extinguished.
To that end, the message this week should be reasonably straightforward:
‘Same again, boys. Same again’.