I’m not one to say I told you so, but at the end of my last column for Roker Report, I said that we weren’t a one-man team on the back of Ross Stewart’s injury in the warm up to the Middlesbrough match.
Then, in the next game... we go and lose Ellis Simms to a toe issue, and we’re left with no recognised strikers. In the Reading game where that injury occurred, the team didn’t half step up and put plan B into action with gusto - two sparkling goals from Patrick Roberts towards the end of the first half and that much-praised goal from Jack Clarke in the second.
Patterson - O’Nien - Evans - Gooch - Neil - Roberts - Pritchard - Neil - Clarke was the sequence, executing a training ground routine to perfection.
Then onto Watford where we twice came from behind to get a 2-2 draw, with two new scorers this season in Alese and Bennette. Where are all those critics who said that Bennette was too young and inexperienced when he arrived, and Alex Neil left?
It seems the plan from above in signing exciting, high-tempo (albeit inexperienced) youngsters is starting to pay dividends.
Tony Mowbray was recently on the “72+ Football Daily” BBC podcast, which focuses on the EFL (hence 72), and he said the Sunderland job coming up was perfect timing for him.
He wasn’t expecting it to come up as he thought Alex Neil was secure in the role, but he was enjoying being at his family home, spending time with his teenage sons. When the Sunderland job came up and the club asked to speak to him, it was the perfect fit - “I’m a 45-minute drive from the training ground,” he said.
Our positive start to the campaign has continued. In our first ten games, we’ve won four, drawn three and lost three and sit in fifth place - not bad for a team that finished fifth in League One last season.
It’s hard to say we’ve been outclassed in any of our games this season. Against Sheffield United we were playing with ten men for an hour and held our own. Sheffield celebrated the win against us as if they’d won the league, as did Middlesbrough when they beat us in a scrappy game. It could be argued that if we’ve had more time to adapt to the loss of Stewart, we may have got something out of that game. Our only other defeat was to Norwich at home when we were managerless but still took the game to the Canaries.
Mowbray’s first four games in charge have been encouraging. Two (3-0) wins, a loss and a draw; eight goals scored and only three conceded.
So now we have the international break to try to get some injured players back to fitness.
I’m looking forward to seeing us put Preston to the test on 1st October.