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Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship

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Editorial: Happy and contented - with a hint of frustration...

Four years of League One has left us happy bathing in the warmth of mid-table mediocrity in the Championship, but we can’t be blamed for a hint of frustration creeping in to proceedings...

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Another seven days in the life of Sunderland Association Football Club have come and gone, and it’s been a week where we’ve picked up one point from a possible six in two games that could have quite easily yielded maximum points.

Last Monday saw an all too familiar story on home turf this season, where we looked comfortable in a fixture having taken the lead, only for us to shoot ourselves in the foot to take away precisely nothing.

The obvious precedent was the Burnley fixture, but we could point to the visits of Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City, Preston and Blackpool where we could have come away with more.

The frustration with these games is the fact that, for the most part, we’ve played well and deserved more, especially on those occasions we’ve taken a lead.

There are also the games that cause another type of frustration - the ones where an opposition look there for the taking and you end up willing Mowbray’s Sunderland to notch it up a gear, but it doesn’t happen.

Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - MKM Stadium
Tony Mowbray (centre) after the final whistle at the MKM Stadium
Photo by Ian Hodgson/PA Images via Getty Images

Our game at Hull at the weekend for me comes into this category, and there have been plenty more this season that do, but having taken the lead despite the fact we were nowhere near our best only adds to that frustration.

With the caveat of saying that I realise we can’t be at our best every week, it appeared a no-brainer that we’d have taken maximum points without much fuss if we had been anywhere near our best on Saturday.

And this is part of why we feel that frustration - we know we’re a good side.

Back in the summer, I looked back at the last time we came up from the third tier back in 1988, which you can read here if you get a minute, and I rounded off by saying a repeat of that sounded good to me - but I also suggested this season would test our patience.

Looking at the current table, I see us sitting in 12th and I’m perfectly comfortable with that.

If you had gone on holiday to a destination that provides no access to the outside world before the season kicked off and you arrived back home and looked at the table you’d nod your head with a slight approving look on your face and probably say something like “aye, fair enough”.

If you then take into account we’ve lost a manager, in a move that didn’t involve a sacking, and our new manager had lost our entire strikeforce for the majority of his tenure, the approving nod and statement would go up a notch in terms of positivity.

Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Ross Stewart only took a few minutes to show what we’ve been missing...
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The bottom line is we’ve done well to be in the position we’re in and we should feel positive about that.

But, why do I still feel frustrated? What if we’d beat Burnley and West Brom? Well, we’d be joint 4th in the table, sitting four points off the automatic places - which results in a feeling of “what if?” around this season.

Weirdly though, I still view this as a good thing. Despite all of the issues we’ve had so far this season, like the manager change, like the injuries to key players, we can still look at the table and rue those chances that would have meant we’d be in the mix at the top. We’ve just come up, and we’re already not that far off.

Nothing in this division has impressed me so far and I think we’re as good a footballing side as anyone. We may lack the guile and experience in finishing games off and making sure we come away with something in certain scenarios, but it’s to be expected.

The fact we’re looking up the table, with only a three point gap to the top six, gives me confidence we’re on the right track and with the January transfer window just around the corner I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.

There are going to be more frustrating days this season, but after the last four years in League One, as long as we don’t get dragged into the fight at the bottom, I’m going to try and enjoy the ride in the second part of the season.

Merry Christmas to everyone from all of us at Roker Report - thank you for your support in simply reading and listening to what we do, but also supporting our fundraising for the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen, we couldn’t do this without you being as generous as you are in reaching our targets.

So thanks again, we hope you have a good one, and here’s looking ahead to 2023.


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