Sunderland’s hopes of sneaking into the Championship playoffs will be decided in the main on Sunday lunchtime.
Beat West Bromwich Albion and we leapfrog the Baggies and will more than likely head to Deepdale in a fortnight backed by over 7,000 fans with a place in the top six still within our grasp.
If we’d been given this chance back in August, we would’ve accepted it without hesitation, and to be where we are having played for much of the season without a frontline striker is even more impressive.
This week’s games highlighted just how heavily the loss of Ross Stewart has been felt.
On a number of occasions, the ball dropped in the box only to see a shot fired over the bar or scuffed, chances that you think Stewart would’ve buried.
That doesn’t even factor in the different dynamic we have with a striker bullying the opposing centre backs, providing an outlet when we’re under pressure and feeding the likes of Amad, Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke.
We know the players are more than capable of taking nine points from the final three fixtures, and with it we may squeeze into the playoffs.
If we do, we’ll head into our semi final on cloud nine having put a run of results together and achieved the aim by what will be the slimmest of margins and as we know, confidence is a major factor when the season gets to its final stages.
There are three camps among the fans as we head to the Hawthorns.
There are those who feel that promotion would be ‘too early’; there are those who think we should aim as high as we can, and there are those who believe it’s been a season that’s already exceeded expectations.
I can understand all three perspectives.
If we were to achieve promotion via the playoffs, it would require a huge amount of investment in the squad in order to compete.
We’d almost certainly be able to keep the players who Tony Mowbray believes have something to offer, but it’ll need to be significantly augmented.
Those who believe that if we have a chance, we should seize it also have a point.
The Premier League relegation battle is far from over but the three teams who are relegated will drop down with Premier League squads and budgets, which will likely see them installed as clear favourites for a swift return.
We know that when things go sour and you’re relegated, they can get worse very quickly, but if we remain in the Championship, Mowbray will need to work with the board to strengthen the squad in order for the club to push on, which the fans will clearly expect.
We’ve played some wonderful football this season, we’ve got a talented and committed squad and the fans and team are closer than they’ve been for many years.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the season and I can’t wait for the next three games, and maybe even the three after that!