Sunderland cannot sustain their full throttle tempo for more than sixty minutes - more bodies are needed
For the third game in a row, Sunderland looked much the stronger team for the opening hour, but as we all know, they have not won any of their home games to date.
This is principally down to two factors - fatigue and a lack of options from the bench, or perhaps more fairly, a wealth of options that have been deployed from the opposition bench.
It’s a key difference between the Championship and League One.
Therefore Sunderland need to keep something in the tank for later in the game - or they will continue to get caught out. Either that, or they need to put the game to bed as early as possible.
They also need more bodies, which is hardly a revolutionary idea. The addition of Edouard Michut will hopefully remedy that - and if Jan Paul van Hecke (or similar) arrives, as well as cover on the wings, things will start to look a lot rosier.
Or maybe it’s just too hot out there - roll on the winter months. Flippant maybe, but the heat will have taken its toll.
Norwich show game management is more important than the performance
On 60 minutes, it became clear what Dean Smith’s game plan was: stay in the game and make the changes to make the difference. From that moment on, the writing was on the wall.
However up to that point Sunderland had been the better side, creating numerous good chances only to be thwarted by a combination of Tim Krul’s foot, and the body parts of various Norwich defenders.
There is no doubt that Sunderland deserved at least a point from the game - but sometimes the way in which you manage a game can be the difference.
Martin Canning had no response - the changes he should have made to a visibly tiring side were needed 15 minutes earlier. In fact, on 65 minutes I turned to my Dad and said we’ll be making our first change as we prepare to kick off. It was that obvious.
It was a pretty awful piece of decision making from the touchline, particularly because there is another game on Wednesday and Pritchard in particular needed to be protected for that.
For Dean Smith, it was superb game management; his changes completely turned the side with the addition of players who are arguably Premier League standard.
This was a totally avoidable defeat, but one Sunderland can learn from. And having said that...
Sunderland show that performance is sometimes more important than the result
It’s not often that you can say that and really believe it - but before the game there was a palpable sense of worry.
It stemmed from the concern about what effect Alex Neil’s treachery would have on a squad that had clearly bought into his style and coaching methods.
If we saw a team whose heads were visibly down, and a result to match a meek performance then there would be considerable alarm. Just what would this therefore mean for the rest of our campaign?
But we need not have worried. The attitude from every single player on the pitch today was exactly what you wanted. Numerous times Alex Pritchard tried to gee up the crowd - he wanted some of it yesterday. You would not have noticed Alex Neil was not on the touchline - because the players were superb and they did not need him. Corry Evans, Ross Stewart, Dan Neil and Luke O’Nien in particular were superb.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more pleased with this team following a defeat - they are a credit to this club. But that’s all this is, a pretty inconsequential defeat which has not added to our worries.
Alex Neil was just a small man in a big club
How could I not mention this man?
For the record, I’m counting this as one of his defeats, despite the fact his Judas backside was warming a seat at Ewood Park.
No doubt counting his 30 pieces of silver.
What we saw at the Stadium of Light shows this man is already history. The aforementioned performance of the team is one factor - but the atmosphere in the stands was electric too. It is a credit to the 37,000 that they backed the team throughout the game, and deservedly applauded them off.
To say we must get through this already feels like being behind the curve - we are already through this. We must maintain this momentum, which amazingly hasn’t been checked despite the 24 hours from hell. And this proves that Alex Neil was simply a cog - a small one at that - in our great club.
History will judge that he has made a terrible decision.
Alex - every fibre of my being hopes that you fail utterly miserably at Stoke. I wish you the worst of luck.