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Crewe Alexandra v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Another statement win on Saturday will show this year is different for Sunderland

While Charlton are at the wrong end of the table, we’ve only beaten them once since 2001. It’ll be a big test, and a win on Saturday would certainly show we mean business.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It was a sign in itself that most Sunderland fans I spoke to or read their opinions online did not panic too much after our 4-0 drubbing at Portsmouth a couple weeks ago.

In the words of Lee Johnson, the lads had built up the “credit in the bank” previous to that game. They were true words, and the players have responded in fantastic fashion.

We’re seeing something that possibly has not been seen in a Sunderland team for years. There does not seem to be an underlying fragility or vulnerability when things go against us. There is grit, determination and a whole load of quality too.

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

Saturday’s and Tuesday’s performance were completely different in styles, and in their manner. I was in London on Saturday and I have to say, it was not a convincing performance by the lads. They struggled to get going throughout, but vitally, still found a way to win. This of course was even more impressive with being down to ten men. Leaders stood up and ensured we got over the line.

The Crewe performance was a lot more comfortable. A professional performance. Barring a couple of shots from Crewe, it never appeared to be an uneasy evening. Sunderland took care of business in a collective way, with aplomb and assurance.

There is a lot to be confident about. Second in the league with two games in hand is quite a decent position to be in.

We have a goalkeeper in form, potentially the best central defensive pairing in the league and a striker who has enormous potential and who is scoring goals frequently.

It would be egregious of me not to point out players like Dan Neil and Carl Winchester who have put in some fantastic performances in the early part of the season also.

Whilst Neil has been terrific, lingering doubts over Luke O’ Nien have not dissipated for me. I am a massive fan of O’Nien’s, always have been. His doggedness, determination and dedication are all commendable qualities. He is a refreshing individual and a great role model for young fans.

That being said, I do question whether he is a central midfielder. I struggle to be convinced by his ability to control a game in midfield and whether he possesses the range of passing and high ability on the ball to open up defences. There is certainly a role for him in this team but in this position, Corry Evans is a loss.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

As is the norm in this league, as one game ends, another one is just around the corner. A struggling Charlton Athletic are up next in the Stadium of Light. The fact that they are struggling means nothing when it comes to this fixture.

Sunderland have only beaten Charlton once in 11 attempts since 2001.

The Londoners have held the proverbial Indian Sign over Sunderland for years. Heartbreak is not far away when clashes between ourselves and them are referred back to.

From this writer’s perspective, this is a massive game for the lads. Charlton will come here with no fear. They will be aware of their previous results against Sunderland and it will surely be a motivating factor. This will be seen as the perfect tonic to get their season underway.

With players like Chris Gunter, Harry Arter and Conor Washington in their squad, this is a team full of international experience along with youth. It would be expected by the end of the season, their position will be a lot further north than it currently is.

With it being the only game of the month at the Stadium of Light, this is a perfect opportunity for Lee Johnson’s men. The season has been very pleasing thus far.

A statement win would mean a lot. A statement win on Saturday for Sunderland would be a signal to the fans that they mean business.

It would be something that has not been done in years against this team.

It would show that this Sunderland team is different. It would show that this year is going to be different too.

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