After the euphoria of the League One playoff final began to subside, my thoughts, like those of many other fans, turned to the Championship and the season ahead.
If I had been told that after ten games, we would be fifth in the league and playing the type of football we have witnessed in recent weeks, I would’ve been overjoyed. Admittedly, Alex Neil’s sudden departure left a sour taste in the mouth, but Tony Mowbray is, in some ways, a better option as head coach.
First and foremost, he understands exactly what the club means to the fans and the fact that we simply want to see players who will put in a real effort when they cross the white line on match day. He also seems to have bought into the structure that has been put into place by Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman, which was something that Neil failed to even attempt to do.
It means we now have a squad which is packed with talented and exciting young players, and to watch Jewison Bennette scoring for Costa Rica this week was a joy to see.
Here was a Sunderland player excelling for his country and rubber stamping his place in their World Cup squad. More than that, he is being spoken about in such high terms by so many commentators, that we clearly have a potential superstar on our hands.
Abdoullah Ba looks like he wants to play, and his cameo at Vicarage Road highlighted that he has a huge amount to offer. Amad Diallo looks lively but has still to fully spark into life, and Aji Alese has been a bit of revelation in the past two games, giving Mowbray a selection dilemma when Dennis Cirkin returns to full fitness.
In addition, we have yet to see Edouard Michut in first-team action, but I cannot wait to see if the views of PSG fans are right. If they are, we have another real talent on our hands.
With Ross Stewart still a long way from fitness it has been so refreshing to see how the squad has played in recent weeks, and it was abundantly clear from the way Jay Matete played against Watford that the players are raising their game as needed.
Last season, many commentators said that we had a Championship-quality squad, and I believe they were right.
The players look far more comfortable in this league and in facing better quality opposition than they did in League One. I don’t think it is a case of simply raising their game, but also the fact that teams in the Championship give players a little more respect and are less likely to dive in. This has afforded us the space to play and the players look to be enjoying it as much as the fans.
We know that the tests will get tougher as the season progresses, but for me, survival was the first priority for this season. Ten games in, our young, skilful and exciting squad are once again allowing us to dare to dream.
It’s a good time to be a Sunderland fan, and long may it last!