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Reader’s Corner: We can now watch a game wondering “Can we keep a clean sheet and score goals?”

Despite a lack of entertainment over the past two games, RR reader Gerard McAlroy has found enjoyment in Alex Neil’s management so far.

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Watching from overseas, the quality of the performances definitely influenced the money and time spent watching our live feed. The combination of early-season performances and the positive signs exuded by the club since the infamous “takeover” meant that this was the first season in this division that I was willing to pay upfront for the stream for the full season.

Interest here in our games had dwindled from something akin to a Premier League matchday for our first failed playoff attempt under Ross, to not even knowing – or dare I say caring – if we were playing with Parkinson at the helm, spearheaded by the mighty Danny Graham. I mean we all understood that we were essentially a third division team, but he seemed intent on assembling something barely suitable for a Sunday morning league. Certainly, paying for streams of those games was an occasional occurrence and never an event.

The start of this season was exciting, especially for a “happy clapper!” In one transfer window, we’d tried to rotate the entire deadwood out of the squad and sign a whole new young fresh type of player. We were even winning games without having a full squad before the season started. We started with midfielders playing as fullbacks, and we were winning.

Had we uncovered the next Pep?

Times seemed exciting for Sunderland again. New ownership, new style of play, new hope.

Sadly, like everything which is built around make-believe, the new feelings didn’t last, and we began the turn of the year nothing like the team that had strolled around passing teams off the park at the start of the season. We were giving the ball away and playing reminiscent of the final months of a Gus team.

Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
The end was nigh
Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

The club parted ways with LJ, we found out we’d been misled about ownership, and our new structure wasn’t the perfect plug n play system we were led to believe, as the club dawdled around picking a new manager/coach.

At that point, it was easy to question the wisdom of having parted with the money upfront for the season.

In steps Alex Neil, and there’s been a lot of criticism about the style of play, especially during the last two games. Or perhaps lack of style is more accurate. And so back to the original question, if I incorporate that into a decision about paying to watch the games and the level of enthusiasm for the upcoming games.

“If the last two games had been the first two of the season, would I still have paid a couple of hundred pounds upfront to watch the rest of the season?”

The answer is, yes, absolutely! For two main reasons.

Firstly, we can look forward to who will be in the starting eleven again. It used to be so predictable, now we have some of the best most exciting players in this division just coming to fitness, players like, Defoe, Clarke, Roberts, and in adding those three to Pritchy, and Stewart we have a very capable forward line, I definitely want to see more of that.

Secondly, in goal, we have found that after a run of games Patterson has become more assured and confident at this level, and the defenders seemed to be allowed to play the good old rule of “They can’t score from row Z” when that’s needed.

So once again we can watch a game with the two main things we all want to see as an achievable objective, “Can we keep a clean sheet and score goals?”

Now that doesn’t mean that I was entertained by the first 45 minutes of either game, in fact, quite the contrary, I almost nodded off during the first half against Fleetwood. The manager made substitutions that woke me and the team up. Then for the next game, the manager made the kind of changes people were calling for, he doesn’t seem to be stubborn and he tried to go with a front two. Okay, that didn’t work but his next changes did.

We always complained that we never won ugly, well now we’re doing it, and while we were throwing that long ball in there a little too much against this lesser opposition, maybe because we haven’t really played that all season, we need to be prepared to use it as a tool to mix games up going into these last few games. I mean, let’s face it, if it had worked and Stewart had knocked down four or five flicks to Defoe who then scored a ton everyone would be hailing the “boot it long” tactic as genius.

I remember the real Drogba being quite lethal from long balls.


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