It was only a week or so ago that concerns of Sunderland’s quest for promotion were being seriously talked about, with only one win since New Year’s Day. The rare few calling for Jack Ross’ head were logically told where to go by their Sunderland counterparts, but in their own less extremist way I’m sure a lot more fans were growing concerned.
However, recent performances have not only greatly improved but have once again shown that Sunderland have what it takes to battle it out in a promotion race. It doesn’t half feel good.
You would have to go back through two relegations and many years of close shaves at the bottom of the Premier League to find Sunderland’s last season in a promotion race. 06/07 and a barnstorming title win in the championship was the last taste of promotion that this club experienced, and it was quite possibly one of the most enjoyable campaigns in the modern history of the club.
This season, albeit in different circumstances, is starting to have a similar vibe to it and has the potential to be just as sweet. Victory over Gillingham and down at Bristol Rovers on Saturday saw much improved performances, like what we saw at the start of the season.
Despite a drop in form over January and earlier this month we’ve kept in touch with the teams around us. This has need made easier with most of those teams dropping points in the last two weeks. The unusually high number of draws has been a frustrating part of our season, our failure to see out games in particular has cost us the points which would have surely seen us running away with the division at this point in the season.
Yet it is a chance to be optimistic - when was the last time Sunderland reached the end of February with only two defeats on the board? No matter how inconsistent the wins have been, we have managed to string together some very important unbeaten runs. Keeping the momentum going at the post important moments in a season is the art of a team ready for promotion.
Even the mere mention of the phrase ‘promotion race’ sets the pulse racing.
It’s refreshing going into matches and not expecting a comfortable win for the opposition. Looking back on that 06/07 campaign and the games in March and April, winning every week whilst the the sun was shining was magical.
It’s important to keep our feet on the ground, of course, but if this season has shown us anything it’s that we’ve found a side with just that. Having local lads in and around the team helps with this as well as adding that bit of passion which has been sorely missed over the last few years.
Football is a game of simple maths. The more wins you chalk up, the better everyone will feel. It’s no lie that too many fans feel we have a divine right to go up, but if anything, the faltering form has made these wins seem sweeter.
A successful promotion race after so many years of failure and a significant change within the club is exactly what we need at this point.
In the last few weeks I’ve really began to comprehend just how important it is to go straight back up and re-establish ourselves, primarily, as a hardened championship outfit. A promotion party in May would be much deserved for the many new figures who have come to the club in the last nine months helping to restore the pride on Wearside.