Will the break be a good thing or bad thing for Sunderland?
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Tom Albrighton says... “The break is a good thing!”
Normally when you’re on a good run of form, breaking that run seems to be fraught with danger but does that have to be the case?
Whilst it could fairly be argued that a break could ruin momentum, it’s also worth noting the sheer amount of football played by Sunderland over a busy festive period as almost every other game has been cancelled.
Winter is hard enough and with heavy pitches, games coming thick and fast and with little rook for rotation, a rest could be the difference between Sunderland continuing their impressive vein of form or it being derailed.
After yesterday’s game, Johnson himself referenced the huge amount of physical effort asked of the players to get over the line and cap off not only a busy festive period, but a chaotic 12 months.
With the most amount of games on the board, as well as the most points, this coming break allows Sunderland the luxury to relax and return with laser-like focus, but to return knowing that when they do they have the lighter of schedules in which they can manage their output most efficiently.
As we have seen in previous seasons, a hectic end to the season hasn’t reaped any kind of reward as each time Sunderland have faded away - something which is hard to address during a busy period. For a change, it is Sunderland with the points on the board and the other team’s around us feeling the pressure.
Add in the final bonus of allowing us to hopefully get a few injured players back and into the mix with a good week or so of training and I’m sure like myself, you’d struggle to see any overriding reasons why a break would be a bad thing.
Gary Engel says... “The break is a bad thing...”
Lee Johnson seemed rather upbeat by the enforced break in proceedings following the postponement with Fleetwood.
In our current run, we have learned a few good lessons, culminating in arguably our most complete performance of the season at home to Sheff Wed.
The fans, giddy from our sudden rise up the table, appear to be looking forward to the coming availability of a few more reinforcements; either players returning from the injury list or better still, perhaps a new signing.
But that is where I’m a little cautious. We’ve already seen a few Premier League sides hit by Covid call-offs, struggle to hit the ground running upon their return to action. Manchester Utd’s poor showing against Newcastle was their first action in 16 days and even Liverpool failed to score for the first time in over 30 matches in their surprise defeat against Leicester City during the week.
Sunderland have looked like a different animal in recent weeks, far more clinical and in the last two matches they’ve appeared ruthless in the way they have killed both of those games. They have dug deep with virtually a first team that has picked itself due to availability, but great credit to them.
The issue may be once there are more first-teamers available.
As for the current buzz after those victories, there are few occasions in recent times when the fans have felt quite as buoyant as right now.
In some respects, this is the perfect time for us to play Fleetwood. Hopefully, Johnson will box cleaver and use the postponement as a chance to rest, keeping the confidence high.
But it reminds me of another time when a postponement made a major impact, not only on our season but arguably the last decade.
Back in August 2012, the whole of Sunderland was on a high, having completed the exciting signing of an England international from Man City. In our first home match of the season, we were due to play Reading, only for a waterlogged pitch to put a huge dampener on proceedings.
I have often thought how a good start to that season could have changed the complexion of Martin O’Neill’s fateful tenue. That is how big an impact one match could have.