Saturday’s 3-1 loss at home to Swansea was frustrating as it was disappointing, with some dreadful officiating helping to send the Welsh side home with all three points.
It was our first defeat in five matches in all competitions, but not one that should be overly concerning.
The loss was also a mini-landmark of sorts for Tony Mowbray. It was his twenty first league match in charge of Sunderland and during that time, we’ve been on a run that few people would’ve predicted at the start of the season.
We were all assuming that we’d have a relatively ‘normal’ few months at the start of the campaign under the head coach who led us to promotion. However, things are rarely normal or ordinary around here, are they?
When Alex Neil jumped ship and headed for Stoke, we were five games into a season that was shaping up quite nicely.
Getting the right man in to keep things going steady was imperative and when Mowbray was confirmed as Neil’s replacement, it didn’t exactly get the juices flowing, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled when he was appointed.
However, I’m glad to see that he’s largely proven me wrong.
Although not originally ecstatic with the appointment, I saw Mowbray as a manager who would keep us up. Flirting with the top half of the table wasn’t too high on my agenda, but we’ve done much more than that under the ex-Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion boss.
His twenty one league matches at the helm equate to eight wins, seven defeats and six draws, a run of results that’s seen us drop to as low as sixteenth and as high as fourth in what’s been a ridiculously tight league.
Our form is better than you might expect from a newly-promoted Championship club and we’ve certainly shown ourselves to be better at adapting to the division than Wigan and Rotherham, both of whom joined us in the promotion party.
Mowbray’s tenure so far has seen us go toe to toe with some of the best teams in the division. We’ve not looked completely off the pace for a full ninety minutes other than on one occasion - against Cardiff at home- but we’ve taken points off plenty of the teams around us.
It’s not just the results that have shown lots of promise, because some of the football we’ve played under Mowbray has been the best that any Sunderland side has played in a long time.
The obvious examples of this are during the build-up to Jack Clarke’s goal at Reading and also Alex Pritchard’s effort against Huddersfield. Yet in so many other games this season, we’ve played on the front foot and this has helped us to pick up points where other, more feeble sides would’ve fallen short.
I am loving this season, from visiting new stadiums to watching a team that’s slowly but surely coming together as an efficient unit.
Things could’ve unravelled after losing our head coach after just five games, but Mowbray has been the steady hand needed to see us through. Not just that, he’s made us a very enjoyable team to watch, and long may it continue.