It wouldn’t be Sunderland if they didn’t find a way to upset the form book once again.
For once, the club’s knack of producing the unexpected was a big welcome for its beleaguered fans - particularly the 5000 hardy souls in attendance.
In our WhatsApp group on Saturday morning the general mood was of how much we would be beaten by. All except Mark Egan; who correctly suggested that the Wigan game was the sort of game we sometimes win.
The team was unrecognisable from that which lost to MK Dons the previous Saturday and who snatched a late equaliser against Burton Albion in midweek.
Not so much in personnel; but in attitude.
The defence which was so ill-disciplined a week earlier, was tight and on message. Alex Neil’s vision has had a chance to sink in. The players fought for each other and never let up. Jay Matete, who was Sunderland’s one bright stop against MK, continued to impress. I’m wondering why Fleetwood ever let him go. Continue in this vein and he will become a cult favourite in no time - he’s the midfield bit of steel I was lamenting last week.
Sunderland being Sunderland, is the Wigan result the turn of the corner or a flash in the pan? In 1982, Southampton - under Lawrie McMenemy - were challenging Liverpool for the title with Kevin Keegan in the side. They came to Roker Park for a midweek March game and we despatched them 2-0. The following Saturday we hosted fellow relegation candidates, Leeds United, and we lost 1-0 to them.
That was typical Sunderland, though Alan Durban’s side did avoid the drop that year.
Another pleasing aspect to the Wigan game was the [ahem] sh*thouserly deployed by the team. Or to put it another way, the team were far more streetwise than they have been all season. Time was taken over free- and goal-kicks. The naivety had seemingly gone with the players not simply rolling over and allowing themselves to be bullied.
Hands up - who thought former players James McClean and Max Power were bound to score against us? Has Alex Neil got his message through?
Next, Sunderland head south to take on an old foe in Charlton Athletic, who are on a losing streak the like of which we would normally see the end to.
But can we repay the Addicks for their bullying win in October?
Here’s hoping, eh.