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It’s been a crazy week as a Sunderland fan!
From being drawn against Newcastle in the FA Cup to the departure of Tony Mowbray, which other than the timing, wasn’t a huge shock.
Our recent form has been poor and more worrying have been the lacklustre performances and our inability to change games with a plan B.
A combination of teams sitting deep, an over-reliance on Jack Clarke to open up the defence and wild substitutions that felt like a roll of the dice have contributed to us slipping out of the playoff positions.
However, this squad is more than capable of making the top six and with a tough run of games over the festive period, the club have acted decisively to try and arrest the slump.
Overall, I don’t think that you can argue against the fact that Mowbray did a great job.
Last season, injuries to key players and having to throw younger and inexperienced lads into the mix meant the best we should’ve hoped for was mid-table mediocrity.
Instead, we got fluid attacking football with goals galore, and we almost made it to the Premier League. The team now needs to develop again and tactically, we have to improve in order to break down opponents and develop more than one strategy.
With Saturday’s game against West Bromwich Albion live on Sky Sports, it reminds me of August 2006, when a clean-shaven Roy Keane sat in the stands and watched his new charges win 2-0 to lift the club from the foot of the table.
We all know what happened after that, with a rollercoaster ride to promotion and some great days at the Stadium of Light.
However, the similarities do start to fade when you look at the big picture, as our current squad sits comfortably in mid-table and within touching distance of the promotion race, so only small tweaks should be required to get them back on track.
We also have a plan in place, a solid foundation and the kind of vision for the future which has often been missing in the past.
Before the madness of last week, all of the talk was of the striker situation and speculation around Clarke’s future.
My feeling is that our strikers are either wingers or number tens, or they need time to develop. An experienced target man wouldn’t go amiss in January, but I don’t expect us to spend large sums and if a big offer comes in for Clarke, what can the club do other than hold out for the maximum price?
I expect the list of candidates have been in place for a while and that it’ll be formalities and contractual issues that need to be resolved before we unveil a new head coach, and I’d love to see someone in the stands on Saturday, if only to give both the players and crowd a lift ahead of a couple of massive games against promotion rivals.
If we can pick up four points from the next two games and put in performances like we’ve been used to seeing in recent times, it could set us up for a good run over Christmas and see us head into the FA Cup tie full of confidence.
Whatever happens, I believe the club is in good hands and with patience and our support, this team will be back in the top flight within the next two seasons.