After our 2-0 victory on Sunday, I found myself watching the highlights of the game against Middlesbrough to remind myself of how good it was, and to make sure it wasn’t a dream.
While doing so, I was struck by a feeling of deja-vu.
As I watched the passes being strung together and the quality of the interplay in wide areas, it was like watching a replay of several other Sunderland games this season, which is the biggest compliment I can pay.
The quality of football we’ve often produced is night and day compared to previous years, and I haven’t enjoyed watching a Sunderland team this much since the Peter Reid era, when players like Allan Johnston were in their prime.
On Sunday, we made Middlesbrough look ordinary, despite another couple of injuries and Ross Stewart having arguably one of his most wasteful games in a red and white shirt.
At the back, the emergence of Trai Hume is a big boost and he now looks like a great option at right back. Indeed, his crunching tackles and driving runs are almost as swashbuckling as his moustache!
Before the World Cup break. I was convinced that we needed a right back, a central midfielder and another forward in the January window. However, with Hume’s recent run in the team and the fact that Luke O’Nien can also play in that position, we don’t need to rush into the market this month.
Following Monday night’s arrival of Pierre Ekwah, another young prospect to add to the club’s growing stable of talent, we really only need a backup striker for Stewart.
Following the success of our recent signings, I’m confident that Ekwah will fit straight into the squad and will provide competition and fresh legs.
There are some arguing that we need to sign an ‘instant starter’ or perhaps even two forwards, but fitness permitting, Stewart will start every week. However, if the rumours are true and we can get Ellis Simms back from Everton, that would be ideal.
I do think he has weaknesses in his game, but his goal numbers don’t lie and he can either play with Stewart or as a backup- which gives us another option without having to break the bank.
We can then take our time in the summer and fine-tune the squad for next season.
Whether we finish in the playoffs or in midtable really doesn’t matter. If it’s the former, I would relish the chance, but otherwise we can build for a sustained promotion push next season.
This weekend’s FA Cup tie at Fulham is a chance for our exciting young team to test themselves against a useful top flight side.
What’s impressed me recently is how well the players returning from injury have done- either when dropping back into their position or filling in elsewhere, and there seems to be a real desire to play and be a part of this team.
Rather than dreading them, I’m now desperate for match days to come around, which says a lot about how far we’ve come in a short period of time.
Onwards and upwards!