Less than 12 months ago, we were thrown into disarray following a 6-0 battering away at Bolton. Another promotion push looked to be disintegrating before our eyes and a fifth campaign in the third tier was creeping ever closer. Just being in the Championship seemed like something only possible in a later life.
To be fourth in the higher division at the halfway stage in the season less than a year after one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen from a Sunderland side is nothing short of a miracle.
Yet our impressive return to the second tier is no divine intervention. It is the fruits of the labour of an exciting and hardworking squad led by a manager who continues to show just how much he knows the league. The final match of what has been one of the better years in recent history for SAFC ended with a romping win at a side seemingly destined for relegation.
Mowbray’s line-up raised a few eyebrows, but with the quick turnaround of matches changes were always coming. Eduoard Michut and Abdoullah Ba were handed a start together in midfield and, in a match which was always going to be a slog, you could see that they were going to be key.
Both of them looked cool and collected on the ball, with Ba pushing forward and Michut looking like a seasoned pro. The pair have been on the fringes of the squad and with Dan Neil and Corry Evans growing into their positions, it was easy to see why. However, they both stepped up to the mark and helped us on our way to a great three points.
To a man, subs included, Sunderland were magical at Wigan. In days gone by, after being pegged back at half time, we would have crumbled. The feeling at the break was of frustration. We played some great stuff and one lapse from our backline led to Wigan getting back into the match.
We stuck to our game plan of playing the type of football we’ve seen us play for large parts of the season. The substitutions from Mowbray did the trick and in the end it was a result which we thoroughly deserved. The third and fourth goal were both excellent for very different reasons, but are further examples of how successful we can be when we play our game.
It feels as though we’re in very good hands at the moment. The squad has never been at full strength this season, yet we end the first half of the campaign with 10 wins and a place in the top six. Who knows what 2023 may bring, but whatever does happen in the next 12 months we will move forward together as a club on the up.