As Sunderland fans if you’d have offered us the prospect of being in fourteenth position after sixteen games, and a mere six points off the playoffs, I’m sure the majority of us would’ve snapped your hand off.
Under the circumstances it’s been a solid, albeit inconsistent start for the Lads.
During the first three months of the season our two main strikers have suffered long-term injuries, and so has our marquee central defender. In addition, our head coach decided to pack up and leave, and some players are still settling in.
We must realise that for most of these players this is the highest level that they have played at, and that matching the intensity of seasoned Championship teams is hard.
Other players haven’t played at this level for a while and are also getting up to speed. Jack Clarke, Alex Pritchard, Patrick Roberts and Danny Batth have been regular starters, and their qualities are there for all to see.
If you take a look at our record - five wins, five draws and six losses - it’s not far from what we might’ve expected.
Five of our six losses have been against teams in the top seven, two of which were recently in the Premier League, and the other three featured players linked with multi-million-pound transfers in the summer – Ben Brereton Diaz, Joel Piroe and Sander Berge. Our other defeat came against Middlesbrough, who showed great intensity that night.
On the flipside, some of our victories have been excellent.
Looking at the games against Bristol City and Reading, they are tough places to go and on both occasions, we showed that we belong at this level. For the players, it’s about consistency and replicating the standard of performances that we know we can.
We have a young team, some players are new to the area and some are new to the country. The quality of these lads has been displayed during spells in games, especially against Watford, when we looked like a huge threat in the final twenty five minutes.
At the moment our injury list is lengthy and contains some notable names. Ross Stewart, Ellis Simms, Patrick Roberts, Lynden Gooch, Dan Ballard, Aji Alese and Niall Huggins are all on the treatment table, and when fit at least four of them are guaranteed to start.
I am confident that when these players are fit again we will become a force, but having said that I do think we need to manage our expectations a little bit.
A really good start to the season may have changed our thoughts on what we can possibly achieve this season, but a few losses doesn’t mean we’re doomed at all.
Let’s be honest, most of us expected survival this season or a mid-table finish at a push. It’s important that we don’t knock the players’ confidence by booing them for losing a game here and there.
Who knows what we can achieve this season, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Let’s be patient with these players, the head coach, and the project at Sunderland AFC.