So, it’s been well over a week since Sunderland last played. Have you missed it?
I know I have. I’ve had a canny weekend but without a match to talk about it’s just not the same. It’s during these times that I wholly sympathise with people who don’t like football, because whilst there’s loads of really fulfilling stuff you can get up to instead, it doesn’t quite hit the spot in the way that watching the Lads does.
Strangely too - and it feels really weird to say this - but I don’t think we’ve lost any momentum, despite losing 4-0 at home to the team who are our closest rivals in the division. The manner of the way the game played out and was refereed has totally taken the focus away from the result and even if we were to go on a bad run after the Middlesbrough result, it would be incredibly harsh to use that as a stick to beat the team with.
How often can you say that, that despite what looks like an epic defeat on paper, you’re actually pretty relaxed and able to look forward rather than back?
We’ve got to take full advantage. And I know we’ve had a few lads missing with international duty, but from what we’ve seen it looks like the rest of the squad trained well last week - and it was nice to see some returning faces out on the pitch, with Aji Alese and Dennis Cirkin joining Eliezer Mayenda out on the grass. It doesn’t look like we’ll be waiting too much longer for them to feature, which can only be seen as a massive positive.
The way that we play and the way that Tony Mowbray has the team coached means that it’s very easy to just roll on to the next game of football. That’s key, particularly given the next opponent and what this fixture means to a lot of people.
It’s not even really that it’s against an Alex Neil team (... alright, maybe it is, just a little bit) but that Stoke absolutely stuffed us last season and you’d like to think the players who were involved that day would like to exact some punishment in return, and to show their old boss why he was a complete mug for sacking them off. Neil looks like he’s clinging onto his job by a thread due to their horrific start to the season, and it would be delightful if we could be the final nail in his coffin.
So whilst the last game we played felt sore for a short while, I can’t really see a situation where we’re anything but completely motivated to put things right but also look forward rather than back.
As fans we know what our role in all of this is - just to be totally supportive and to kinda just accept that the people in charge have a vision they’re going to enact and that we really have very little influence over what goes on, so we might as well just sit back and enjoy the ride. I’ve been doing that for a little while now and I know that some folk are still trying to get their heads around what’s going on, but it makes everything so much more enjoyable. Like... after Boro my main gripe was that I felt Mowbray got it wrong by being so open in the second half, but at the same time I’ve showered him with praise when he’s done that in the past and it’s worked. It is what it is. I’m sure he’s determined to put it right at the weekend.
Full steam ahead, then!