In the aftermath of Monday night’s 1-2 defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion, I was left feeling puzzled and miffed.
Once again, Sunderland did what’s becoming a worrying trend for us: only turning up for one half of a football match. The 1-0 lead at the break was certainly deserved, and had it not been for a strong hand from Alex Palmer, it could and should’ve been 2-0.
During the second half, too many of our players looked leggy and disinterested, and the Baggies took full advantage. They showed greater levels of energy and passion, and deservedly headed back to the West Midlands with all three points.
Other than our poor home form rearing its head again, the overriding feeling during the second half was that we simply didn’t want it as much as our opponents.
Of course this is a source of frustration, as we all want to see the eleven players wearing our club’s colours busting a gut week in and week out, but is it justification to call for Tony Mowbray's departure or to single out players for poor displays?
Personally, I’d say no.
Mowbray’s appointment back in August didn’t initially fill me with joy, but in the games since he arrived, we’ve earned some positive results through some often brilliant play and team selection.
Of course there have been games where he’s got things wrong, and you can highlight Monday night as an example.
Bringing off Ellis Simms when chasing the game, as well as making other changes far too late in the day cost us any real chance of mounting a comeback after the Baggies took the lead.
One point I’m trying to make is that it’s possible to criticise the manager without calling for him to be sacked.
There are often too many knee-jerk reactions to a defeat, and one of them is the call to get rid of the manager. After all, before Monday, we were on a run of three wins in four, so why is the narrative directly turned back to sack the boss after our first defeat in weeks?
We’re going to be okay.
The club is in the process of changing its identity and business model- one that led to overspending and hemorrhaging money simply to scrape survival in the Premier League- to one that is blooding exciting and talented young prospects who are holding their own in a tough division.
This season, promotion was never a serious aim for me, but to see us competitive and sitting just four points off the top six with one match to go before Christmas is impressive.
There will be plenty of highs and lows during the second half of the campaign, but even emulating what we’ve achieved so far will ensure we have an overall calm and collected return to the second tier.