With Sunderland 4-1 up at Wigan in our last match of the year, our huge following broke into a retention of ‘oh what fun it is to see Sunderland win away’ to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’. The fans at the DW Stadium and the many watching on TV had seen our side shake off a rusty first half display by coming out firing and putting a dreadful Latics side to the sword.
The chant might have had a festive twist on it, but it could apply to many of our away games since coming up to the Championship. For the first time in far too long, we are picking up lots of points and putting in very good performances on the road.
The thumping win at Wigan was already our sixth on the road this season, a run that has also seen us return from Bristol City, Stoke, Huddersfield, Birmingham and Reading with maximum points. Being so clinical away from home has been a huge part of our success so far this season, not least because our form at the SoL has been ropey. However, two wins in three since the World Cup is evidence of that possibly changing soon too.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to two away games this season and, thanks to being a popular TV pick this season, watched many more of our away trips. Few have ended in disappointment, with maybe our inability to get something away at Middlesbrough the most frustrating trip.
The two I was able to get to, Bristol City and Birmingham, saw us play good, attacking football and get the results we deserved. Bristol was a particularly stand-out performance given that it was our first away day back in the Championship and we played fearless, attacking football. Being sat behind the goal when Stewart nodded in that beautiful cross from Pritchard was a footballing moment I’ll treasure for a long time.
It’s exciting to watch Sunderland full stop this season, but those who ventured to away days so far this campaign have rarely returned home disappointed.
In 14 away games, six have ended in victory, four have been drawn and we’ve lost just four on the road. At present, we find ourselves on a six game unbeaten run in away matches - we were last defeated away from the SoL at Blackburn in mid-October. On this run, we’ve picked up all three points at Birmingham, Huddersfield and Wigan.
In other games, such as Blackpool on New Year’s Day, we dominated large portions of the match but were unable to grab the all-important winner.
In these 14 away matches we’ve picked up 22 points, which is the fifth best away record in the league - better than the likes of Norwich, Middlesbrough and Watford.
Winning on the road is a special feeling, and another three or four successful away matches and a continually improving home record will at least have a position cemented in mid-table.
A good extension of this current great run of away form and a spot in the top six would start to look more attainable by the day.
The pressure is off for us to get in the promotion mix for the first time in half a decade - a factor we’ve more than made the most of so far this campaign.