The 2021-22 season is rocking and rolling and it's fair to say Sunderland have made a very decent start to the campaign.
Our record of four wins in five from all competitions is one that we would have all taken if it was offered to us in pre-season, and it’s one that is thoroughly deserved.
Coming from behind in any match feels good, but doing it on the opening day of the season against a side with three former players in their squad? That was just a beautiful way to start the season.
Our approach to the cup match at Port Vale was much the same. If we had lined up with a second-string side and gone out there may have been a few grumbles, but as it was we went and got the job done, setting up a second-round tie at Championship opposition.
The trip to MK Dons allowed for a big away following to watch the lads for the first time since we were all allowed back in grounds, and those who made the pilgrimage were not disappointed. Three 2-1 wins on the bounce, and we were flying.
The trip to the Pirelli Stadium to face Burton Albion, a side who we have rarely been able to get the best of for one reason or another, was ‘one of those games’. We managed four points off the Brewers last season but despite having 20 shots on goal and Aiden McGeady sitting an absolute sitter, we slipped to defeat.
Of course, there was frustration, but the truth is we didn’t play badly at all. The best way to bounce back from the disappointment in Staffordshire was to get back to winning ways instantly; which is exactly what this rejuvenated squad did.
The three points against AFC Wimbledon were ground out, but it was a kind of performance that under previous managers at this level, we wouldn’t have produced. Under Phil Parkinson, the game would likely have ended level and brought with it unfathomable frustration.
But this isn’t a Phil Parkinson squad, it is a Lee Johnson squad and so far in his first full season as boss, he is showing that we will be made of stronger stuff.
The creativity and goals have come from across the pitch so far. This was summed up by Carl Winchester, a central midfielder filling in at full-back scoring from outside the box on Saturday. The Northern Irishman has been one of several players to fill in out of position this season, with the steady flow of new signings this hopefully won’t go on for much longer.
It is nice to see us getting results while the squad is under construction, it can only be hoped that once we are done with the market (one more full-back and a striker) then there will be plenty more positive results to come.
It’s early days, we’re not yet into September, but the signs from our first five competitive matches this season are promising. We have a fine blend of youth and experience and, with over half a dozen new faces through the door, we’re looking well set for a good season.
And this is a hill I will happily die on.