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Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship

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Editorial: How can we miss them if they don’t go away?

We’ve had a week and a half off from the Lads, and I’m starting to have withdrawal symptoms... roll on Saturday!

Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Well... it’s been a fairly dull week as far as things go in the world of Sunderland.

I suppose that’s the nature of the international break — if you’re owt like me you probably haven’t paid a single bit of attention to what’s gone on with the international footy, so it leaves your mind wandering and you find other stuff to fill your time with.

Spare time these days is in short supply and I always wonder how all these lads who seem to watch every single game and sport on TV find the time to do it — Sunderland are the only team for me. Well, apart from the big international tournaments where I pretend I give a shit about what England are up to... but apart from that, it’s all about the Lads.

And, I’ve missed them! It feels like years since we faced Birmingham and left Wayne Rooney’s glum, miserable face looking even more drab and dopey than usual as he trudged back down the tunnel to the changing room.

I said before the game that it was important we won because it meant we could go into the break feeling more comfortable about where things are at, and thank god we did that — but it’s made the last week and a bit feel more boring as a result.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

I still have to pinch myself occasionally though and remember how far we’ve come in such a short space of time. It wasn’t too long ago that I was praying for an international break to arrive just so I didn’t have to be distracted by the football — I’ve never stopped loving Sunderland, but there have been times when I’ve hated the team in equal measure.

What we’ve got now is just a total departure from what we used to accept as the norm — we no longer dread watching games and having to deal with a broken heart, because this team we’ve got now are genuinely a pleasure to watch and make being a fan bearable.

I’m no longer embarrassed to be a Sunderland fan because we’ve grown a reputation of being a young team that play good football — and that makes these little breaks feel just that little bit longer as you wait for the next opportunity to watch them play.

I know that the international footy isn’t over yet and that we’ve got some lads jetting all over the world to get back in time for the weekend, but we’re on the shorter side of that two-week wait and it’s only five days now until we play against Plymouth, and the countdown is on.

I like you have seen the rumours that Dan Ballard might have picked up a slight injury with Northern Ireland, and we've still got Chris Rigg away with England at the U17 World Cup, but these aren’t things that concern me — watching how we cope with adversity is all part of the fun now.

Northern Ireland v Finland - UEFA EURO 2024 Championship Qualifier Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

We can lose one of our best players and I just shrug my shoulders, get on with it and ask “okay, so who’s stepping up in his place?” — isn’t that a nice place to be in?

I no longer dread watching us. I no longer fear the worst when we lose a player to injury or suspension — instead, I long to see how we clear those hurdles. Against Birmingham we hoyed two young lads in for their debuts and by the end of the game they stayed afloat and played their part in the victory. Boys came off the bench, like Adil Aouchiche, and reminded Tony Mowbray that they aren’t just here to make up the numbers.

This week should be a fun one as we prepare for Plymouth, and the fact we’ve got so many players away on international duty shouldn’t phase us. We’ll just crack on and hopefully pick back up from where we left off — and if we don’t, it won’t be long before we put things right.

Bring it on! I’m counting down the seconds ‘til Saturday.


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