Sunderland return to league action this weekend after the international break with a trip across the country to Accrington Stanley and boy, does it feel good for the proper football to be back.
After a fortnight off the Lads head to the WHAM Stadium looking to avenge their first defeat of the season at the hands of Peterborough, with the expectation from supporters being that a successful, promotion-winning team don’t take losing lightly and always strikes back twice as fierce.
Trips to Accrington have been fruitful for Sunderland since we dropped back down to the third tier. We took three points and scored three goals there back in April and beat them 1-3 in the League Cup just a month ago - more often than not our quality and fitness has shown later in the game in our various contests against John Coleman’s side, and you’d think Stanley will be wise to that this time around.
Despite this, Sunderland have to get their heads back in the game. Peterborough are a promotion rival and losing in such dramatic fashion against them has bruised our egos somewhat, but the season is long and there’s plenty of time left to put those wrongs right.
Everyone in League One is expecting Sunderland to gain promotion this season. The weight of that expectancy can be detrimental, and I’m sure that Jack Ross would much rather be operating under less stressful circumstances, but that’s the game we’re in and anyone involved with this club has to learn very quickly about how to deal with pressure.
Until Sunderland actually gain promotion we cannot claim to have rid ourselves of the losing mentality that plagued us throughout the majority of our recent stint in the Premier League, and the subsequent relegation from the Championship.
That has to motivate our players to achieve something great at this club - to be the ones who FINALLY lifted Sunderland from the doldrums and brought some pride back to an institution that deserves another crack at the big time.
One thing that Jack Ross seemingly prides himself on is making Sunderland a tough team to beat. On countless occasions under the Scotsman’s stewardship we’ve came from behind in games to rescue points, and whilst the ridiculous amount of draws we accumulated last season was a bone of contention amongst supporters it was proof at least that we had the character to bounce back from disappointment. The way in which he and his player rebound will set the tone for the rest of the season.
The fans too have a vital role in how things play out. They’ll be there again at the weekend in large numbers to get behind their team and cheer them on all the way, for the second successive away game and our sixth away game from eight already this season. The summer is a tough time financially for families and it cannot be underestimated just how much love the people who travel regularly away from home to back the team have for the Lads. Peterborough was an expensive day out, and the supporters making their way back to the north west this weekend for the second time in a matter of weeks deserve to see an improved, more confident performance from their team.
We cannot feel sorry for ourselves, though. We must lick our wounds and move on to the next game, motivated to succeed and get ourselves back in a position where we feel threatening again. Work hard, take our chances, reap the rewards.
That mentality has to be prevalent this weekend. Beating Accrington is something we should come to expect if we’re a team genuinely gunning for promotion, and you’d like to hope that the unnecessarily long break between games has our players chomping at the bit to put right the wrongs of our disheartening last outing.