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Sunderland v Oxford - Sky Bet League One

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Sunderland’s run of form has caused opposition managers to change their tune

Are you getting excited yet? Sunderland’s form over the last 11 games has brought with it an interesting side effect - managers clearly now view facing Lee Johnson’s men as a much different and tougher proposition.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Karl Robinson, the least popular scouser in Sunderland (and that takes some doing, considering Kevin Nolan, the Lord of the Chicken Dance and Poundland’s answer to Nietzche - Joey Barton - also hail from Merseyside) said before the Oxford match that we would be a “free hit”.

Words - which when you consider the alleged events in the tunnel - take on a whole different meaning.

It was pretty draining being described as every team’s cup final, wasn’t it? Or about the size of our stadium? Or how about the cracker “Sunderland have a budget we can only dream of”. Andy Holt is a nice guy at Accrington, but goodness me he doesn’t half peddle that last point.

Though with an upturn in form, the narrative has changed; not just before the match but post-game too. Sadly, it’s out with the old claptrap, and in with the type of comments which would make the aforementioned Mr Robinson appear as if he had imbibed truth serum before his post-match interview, as opposed to helium.

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

We’re hearing a lot more about how opposition sides have stopped Sunderland playing football. This is an interesting viewpoint; it’s not so much about teams stopping us or canceling us, but about the fact that there is an underlying control to the play of Lee Johnson’s men.

Who, for example, when it was 1-0 to Oxford, thought “I hope it doesn’t go 2-0?”

We all know in reality this wouldn’t have happened as we had the ability to take back control. Put simply, Oxford and many other sides have to be at their limit to just compete right now, and perhaps that is why opposition managers feel they matched us and more across the 90 minutes.

Officials too have come in for a hammering. Joey Barton made that clear in his comments post-game - although the fact he has attracted more potential legal action from his comments about Tisdale and Garner show that this is a man who has totally lost the plot.

Robinson - well, I’ve mentioned him enough already, but he wasn’t happy with the way the official conducted himself. Though he might want to look at himself before criticising others. Pots and Trevor Kettles, an’ all that...

Ultimately that’s just a classic deflection technique.

Then there’s the line that the performance of the opposition would have been enough to win plenty of matches at this level. A compliment, obviously, but slightly backhanded at times as it suggests that we were lucky. Often it’s accompanied by the assertion their side controlled large parts of the game and that a point was the least they deserved.

However, this run of form does not lie. It’s worth pointing out that of the nine victories in the last 11 games, seven have been by more than one goal. This doesn’t suggest luck - it suggests a ruthless, relentless, controlled march to victory that the majority of clubs in this division cannot compete with.

As Sunderland fans, we analyse things too much. If there is one moment where we are not in control, then the anxiety rises to the surface. I don’t want to break the Roker Report omerta, but the in-game Whatsapp comments are quite illuminating at times. On one recent occasion when the scores were level, there was one comment along the lines of “Ah, here man, this is SHIT.” I’ll not name names.

Yes, of course, it’s anxiety-inducing supporting Sunderland. I had to take a walk around the garden during the Oxford stoppage time - and it’s a long time since I’ve done that. It doesn’t matter though if as fans we are neurotic, paranoid, nervous, angst-ridden husks. More so this season, our anxiety isn’t dripping onto the pitch.

Lee Johnson, his staff, and the players seem very much to be in control. They know it, the opposition knows it and over the course of the post-game comments of late, it’s shown.

Keep your pedal to the metal lads, let’s do this.

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On This Day (19 Sept 1998): Bridges, Dichio & Rae put Oxford to the sword at the SoL!