We’re on the home straight.
Eight Championship games to go, relegation averted and the playoffs still a remote possibility, but the fan base is seemingly split.
Some are saying that we’ve exceeded expectations, especially compared to the two teams who came up from League One with us last season.
We finished the 2021/2022 season in fifth place, six points off Rotherham in second place, and a team who tonked us 5-1 in October 2021 and who we were relieved to draw with at the Stadium of Light during our final home game of the season.
Currently they sit in twentieth place, thirteen points behind us in the Championship table.
Wigan, who finished atop League One last season, are currently in disarray.
They’ve been deducted three points by the EFL for non-payment of wages and languish at the bottom of the Championship, eight points from safety having played a game more than those just above the dotted line. They’re one of two teams we’ve completed a league double over this season.
Oh, how nice it is not having to do the calculations of how many points we need and when we could be confirmed as safe!
However, another part of the fan base claims that we haven’t been ambitious enough.
The tantalising reality of being in the top five of the Championship when we beat Reading prompted some fans to say that we should’ve spent more money and gone for broke in order to gain a second promotion in a row.
Now that we’re assured of a mid-table finish at the least, the click baiters are dangling our most valuable players and claiming that clubs in the lower echelons of the Premier League are looking at our goalkeeper and that our former head coach has lined up our (currently injured) top goalscorer for a move to Stoke City.
Apparently talks over a new contract for Ross Stewart are at an impasse but when you read the article, it’s based on information that was being written during the transfer window.
Of course Alex Neil is interested in Stewart, and the fact that he’s our former boss and that he left us less than ideal circumstances just makes a tired old story a little spicier.
Surely Stewart’s hand in negotiations isn’t as strong as it was when he was fully fit, and is it not a bit worrying that he’s suffered two major injuries this season, limiting him to only eleven league appearances?
It also doesn’t help when former Sunderland striker Marco Gabbiadini bites and vents his spleen on BBC Radio Newcastle’s ‘Total Sport’ programme.
Some fans are always going to want the club to spend more and are getting nervous at the contract negotiations of top players, but here’s some advice: don’t take notice of what you read unless you hear it from the club, because you’ll be far less stressed, and this regime have never let go of a big player, which is a far cry from Madrox.
So how about the remaining eight games? I reckon we’ll spring a surprise.
The lack of pressure from worrying about relegation or the playoffs might allow the players to play with even more freedom than before, and wouldn’t it be as Sunderland as Sunderland gets for us to go and win away at Burnley on Friday night?
After that, our remaining games are all winnable, but just watch Huddersfield come and win at our place on April 18th!
One final point: as the ITHICS collective have migrated to the Premier Concourse for next season, because we got tired of the away fans being above us in the North Stand, a bit of an improvement home form would be appreciated.