Confidence, as we know all too well, is key when it comes to winning games in League One.
There’s no doubting that Sunderland have consistently had one of the strongest squads - year on year, on paper - in the third division since dropping to this level, but for a variety of reasons we’ve never quite been able to find the right blend required to gain promotion.
Last season our record at the Stadium of Light wasn’t great, and come the end of the season, the many draws we picked up on home soil ended up costing us.
But, with the return of fans to games, our form has been excellent this season - we’ve suffered just one loss in League One to date on Wearside, making us one of the strongest home sides in the division.
We’re unbeaten in six in the league, and having played the last three games in front of our own supporters has made a huge difference - we’re right back in the promotion mix.
Game by game, our performances have steadily improved since our brief blip late in October and early in November - understandably so, given that the collective confidence of the team is right back up near where it was at the start of the season.
Now, we’ve got to find a way of transferring that confidence to our away performances - starting with the trip to Ipswich on Saturday.
Since Paul Cook was sacked after the cup draw with Barrow, the Tractor Boys lost 2-0 away in the league at Charlton - conceding twice, and failing to get a shot on target - but then followed that up with a fantastic draw at Wigan, having come from behind.
I’m under no illusions that they’re no mugs - we only played them a month ago, and we saw then that they’ve got a good squad, littered with players who have had established careers at a higher level than the one they now find themselves in.
Whether their caretaker manager has enough about him to craft a much-needed win against a difficult side looking up the table remains to be seen, however, it’s his first league game as boss back on home soil, and that makes them a dangerous proposition.
That said... surely, it’s Ipswich that should be fearing us, especially given we are playing with such confidence, and have forward players who are bang in form?
The secret to Sunderland maintaining these good performances and results over a long period of time is to work harder than everyone else and to maintain that confidence, but also for our players to remember how talented they are.
The likes of Leon Dajaku, Nathan Broadhead and Alex Pritchard - in current form - are more dangerous than just about any other forward line in the division. Ipswich’s leaky defence won’t fancy the prospect an afternoon trying to contain that lot if they’ve watched just how good they’ve been in recent weeks - so let’s harness that.
Let’s go there and play on the front foot, passing the ball like we have done in recent weeks, taking the game to our opposition regardless of who they are.
Press the hell out of Ipswich when they do have the ball. Win our battles all over the pitch. Make sure that every second ball is a Sunderland one. Defend every ball into the box like your life depends on it.
Football is a simple game, and any team at any given time is in danger of overcomplicating it. Those players are good enough to get promoted, but the only thing standing in their way is themselves - and if we go to Ipswich and work harder than they do, and want it more than they do, we will win.
Simple. As. That.
If results go our way, a win will see us go top of the league. For me, there’s no greater motivation than that - the chance to put themselves at the top of the pile.
Let’s just hope that the Sunderland players remember this, and give it their all.