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Barnsey’s Blog 20/21

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Barnesy’s Blog: “I’m loving it this season - the optimism I voiced last month has not dimmed!”

“This football club is back on track and it is big enough and proud enough to stand alone and carve its own niche in the football firmament”, says BBC Radio Newcastle’s SAFC match commentator, Nick Barnes.

Danny Roberts

It’s got a little noisy up the road, so it’s refreshing to reflect on some serendipity on Wearside.

There wasn’t even a great deal of noise on our home turf over Sunderland’s defeat at Portsmouth - a mere hiccup in the quiet revolution being engineered at the Academy and Stadium of Light.

Right from the start of pre-season, it was apparent something was in the offing.

The football was good and the youngsters were getting games. Then the signings started to dribble in and the preponderance of youth over experience was noticeable, peppered with some experience in Alex Pritchard and Corry Evans. Those still at the club, like Tom Flanagan and Carl Winchester, have enjoyed an excellent season to date, so much so that Winchester is back in the international fold. Can it last?

Of course it can.

This is a squad of players that can only improve. Mature like a good cheese! It should be able to absorb any injuries, which inevitably there have been in recent weeks, as the squad has proved its flexibility with its performances in both the League Cup and League Trophy when Lee Johnson has rung the changes.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How impressive was the team at Lincoln City? And that Lincoln team was by no means a weak one, and it certainly wasn’t by the time Michael Appleton had rung a few more changes. Dan Neil shone as he has done for much of the season and Ollie Younger wasn’t far behind him.

Following the Lads this season has been one of the most enjoyable for years.

The past few seasons have been full of hope and expectation but edged with nervousness, especially as we approached their denouements and of course, we all know how painful those Wembley visits were, and then of course the bitter disappointment of not being able to go to Wembley when Sunderland actually WON!

Now there seems to be a tangible sense that this could be the year.

Fans are returning to matches because they are enjoying it.

It doesn’t really matter what’s happening up the road. It’s not what Sunderland is about.

This is a football club whose heart and soul fluctuates and breathes through its fans who live for it to be successful again - not the plaything of billionaires whose ambitions are mired in obfuscation, but a cherished member of a family who has seen its favourite son go a little errant lately, but who has now seen the error of his ways and is doing everything he can to redeem himself and restore himself in his family.

Hull v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

This football club is back on track and it is big enough and proud enough to stand alone and carve its own niche in the football firmament.

I was at a reunion last weekend for the Carlisle United team of 1995 which first got to Wembley and won the Third Division Championship. Twenty-six years after those events, the camaraderie among the players was as good as it was in ’95, and to a man they all spoke of how football in the Premier League has changed and not for the better.

Derek Mountfield, a veteran of League Championships and FA Cup wins with Everton, bemoaned how football has lost its soul and he no longer goes to Goodison Park.

Sunderland, like that Carlisle United team, are showing the kinship redolent of football of old, pre-Premier League, with players who care for the club, fans who are passionate for the club and a hierarchy who just want to get it right for the fans, the lifeblood of any football club.

I’m loving it.

The optimism I voiced last month has not dimmed.

It has not been dampened by Fratton Park.


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