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Sunderland v Tranmere Rovers - Papa John’s Trophy Final

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When I championed #DonaldOut, this was all I ever wanted for Sunderland

With Sunderland’s off-field structure taking shape, the stuff on the pitch is taking care of itself. When I campaigned for change, this was all that I ever wanted!

Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

This current Sunderland side is a far cry from anything we’ve seen at this club in years. Not in terms of overall ability - although, we do have some very good players.

It’s the team spirit, togetherness and will-to-win - that’s what impresses me most.

Lee Johnson talking about the players “looking after each other” - in years gone by you’d be surprised if enough of them gave enough of a shit to get stuck into an opposition team in the tunnel. Now, though, things are different. You get the impression that these players genuinely like one another, and genuinely like the manager.

It sounds crazy to even be commending a bunch of people for looking out for one another, but having a bond so strong that they’d go to war with one another is not something you foster overnight.

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

It comes about through hardships, experiencing the lows together, but also witnessing the highs. The core of this current squad has been in place for three years now, and they’ve seen it all. Bit by bit, they’ve chipped away at the rotten exterior - and, now, we’ve arrived at this point, whereby that wafer-thin outer layer has gone. Our soft underbelly is now as thick as a castle wall - we’re tough. We’re battle-hardened.

Absolutely everything about the club right now is just mint.

Everything.

It’s just... great, isn’t it? Everything is G-R-E-A-T.

There are many reasons for why everything is great, but plenty of them start with Lee Johnson. I listen to the players after games talking about the current situation and all of them speak honestly, and with sense. That has to be rubbing off from the manager, who does the same. Max Power was on BBC Newcastle after the game talking about the way we go about our business, and I just wanted to fist-pump the air and run into battle with him.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For the first time in forever, we’re all focused on what’s happening on the pitch. That’s because what’s happening off the pitch has been taken care of, by people who know what they’re doing. We’ve got proper people in positions of power, running the club, with CVs that match the roles bestowed upon them.

As football fans, all we want - whether we support South Shields or Southampton - is a clear and obvious plan for the direction that the club is heading. You want to have peace of mind that the people looking after YOUR football club off the pitch not only have the club’s best interests at heart, but know what the hell they are doing.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, Kristjaan Speakman, Lee Johnson, Steve Davison, Stuart English, Lewis Dickman, Stuart Harvey, James Young - this is a far cry from the days of the Eastleigh mob.

Regular readers of Roker Report might recall that I wrote repeatedly prior to Dreyfus’ arrival about the need for a proper corporate and footballing structure at the club. That was all the #DonaldOut campaign meant to me - I just wanted... this.

This reality we’re living; these new beginnings - this was all that I wanted.

In my view, if you get the structure right, the on-pitch stuff takes care of itself.

We’ve barely even scratched the surface with what this new crew of Sunderland leaders are capable of, but the early signs suggest that we’re headed in the right direction. They’ll make mistakes, and they’ll hit walls head-on along the way, but their respective backgrounds suggest that the steps the club is taking under this new Chairman are positive ones.

I feel like I’m getting my club back - and I’m sure many of you feel the same.

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