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Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland : Sky Bet Championship

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Sunderland have done incredibly well this season - can we go all the way?

With fifteen games left in the season we’re in a great position to challenge for the playoffs - the benefits of top flight football would be enormous.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Momentum, hope and belief are huge in football. They’re things that money can’t buy, so can Sunderland do it again and earn a second successive promotion?

At the time of writing, we’re currently fifth in the Championship table with forty eight points from thirty one games. With fifteen games to go, there’s a distinct possibility that we could eventually finish in the playoff positions.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland : Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In the previous twelve seasons, the average points total needed to make the playoffs is seventy four, and we’re currently twenty six points away from that total.

I feel this is a massive opportunity to finish in the top six and with our next four games being against Bristol City, Rotherham, Coventry City and Stoke City, it’s a good chance to pick up points against teams in the bottom half before a testing run of fixtures towards the end of the season.

When Alex Neil left in controversial circumstances to join Stoke, many fans, myself included, questioned the appointment of Tony Mowbray and there were also reservations due to his Middlesbrough connections.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Sunderland v Fulham: Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images

Credit must go to Mowbray, who’s done a great job not only with the results we’ve achieved so far, but also in managing the workload of a very young squad.

He’s got us playing a brand of possession-based football that’s likeable, easy on the eye, and admired by so many. However, more strings have also been added to our bow.

As an example, the dogged 1-1 draw at Millwall, who dominated for large parts, proved that he’s instilled a strong mentality and level of determination in this Sunderland side.

For me, just being in with a shout of the playoffs at this stage of the season is remarkable. After four years in League One, many fans would’ve been happy to finish anywhere above twenty first in the table and with a season of consolidation.

However, we’ve consistently picked up points and we have carried on the momentum gained from the playoff final victory.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Final - Wembley Stadium Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

If you look at Leicester City, they won the 2015/2016 Premier League title at odds of 5000/1 after surviving relegation the previous season.

They built on that momentum and achieved the impossible, and although the story is not comparable in this instance, it’s given football fans all across the country the hope that anything is possible.

It’s also not just the points total that has been impressive so far- it’s also been the players, because every single squad member has contributed during 2022/2023.

We’ve suffered key injuries to players throughout the season, and Ross Stewart in particular has been a big miss. However, when injuries have occurred, the players who’ve come in have done a very good job and have not looked out of place.

The fans have also played their part, too.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

We’re averaging attendances of 38,000 at the Stadium of Light which is by far the highest in the EFL and most of the Premier League. Our away following has also been exceptional, and the upshot is that Sunderland are back and the wider public have noticed.

A section of fans have questioned whether it would be beneficial or detrimental if we did get promoted again this season, and I look at it in three ways.

Firstly, the club would benefit massively from increased revenue should we return to the Premier League.

With increased TV deals and sponsorships, clubs receive an estimated £150 million just for promotion alone, and whilst a proportion of this would be spent on transfers and increased wages, it would help us moving forward.

Also, we now have people in place who actually know how to run a football club efficiently and sustainably.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Secondly, if promotion was achieved and we went straight back down the following season, it would be disappointing for the fans, but the players would’ve had a season’s worth of experience in the Premier League, which would help them in a push for another promotion bid the following year.

Finally, you can’t pick and choose when to get promoted.

We have to remember that it took Leeds United sixteen years to get back to the top flight and it took Nottingham Forest almost a quarter of a century. With that in mind, if there’s an opportunity to do it, we simply must go for it.

This club deserves to be Premier League on paper, and we will get back there one day. Personally, I believe it could happen this season but even if it doesn’t, the lads have been great so far and we should be applauding every single one of them.


Farewell, Tony, and thanks for the Sunderland memories


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