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Preston North End v Sunderland: Sky Bet Championship

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Sunderland were singing in the Lancashire rain - and once again we’re going Til The End

For the third straight season, Sunderland have finished in the top six of a division - and this team deserves it!

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Fortunes in football have a funny way of changing in not a lot of time.

Less than 18 months ago Sunderland got pumped 6-0 away at Bolton and Lee Johnson was sacked. Now, with our first full season back in the Championship complete, we’re just three good results away from the Premier League.

The way Sunday panned out is fitting for the way we’ve approached this season. On multiple occasions, we’ve absolutely dismantled sides always seemingly at will.

Preston were the latest to add to this list, and our quick-thinking, flowing style of football once again went to town on an opposition side.

Another ‘once again moment’ was that all three of our goals were absolutely stunning. Through either individual brilliance or slick team moves, it felt as though we were never going to drop points. The win got us over the line - thanks in a huge amount to Blackburn - and means that the season will surpass our 46th match.

Preston North End v Sunderland: Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

What we have in place at our club in 2023 is nothing short of remarkable. The group of players who pull on the shirt every week are gutsy, passionate and leave everything out on the pitch. Few people anywhere could have foreseen a season like the one we’re having, and plenty outside of the club seem to think we’ve no right to have reached the playoffs after just one year back at this level.

Then again, they don’t know what it’s like being part of this club.

Under Tony Mowbray we have a likeable manager who is leading a group of likeable and exciting footballers. Each week he’s come out with a relaxed approach which suggests he simply allows the players to go out and play. This style of coaching has released the shackles for our younger players in particular and has led to us achieving a playoff place at the first time of asking.

Millwall falling apart under the pressure to help ensure we nicked their play-off spot is a prime example of a team not being able to handle the crunch. We went to Preston under the least pressure out of all the teams in the playoff mix- purely on the basis that we never expected to be anywhere near the top six come May. it’s clear we play our football under little pressure, and this has been a key factor in our success.

Preston North End v Sunderland: Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

We’ve said time and time again this year that staying up in the division was the primary objective. We’ve been looking optimistically up the table more than nervously down for most of the campaign, and this forward momentum will be carried right the way into the playoffs.

I love this club, and I have done for two decades now. They’ve tested us to the limit in recent years, but my god it doesn’t half feel that finally, after so much shit on and off the pitch, we’re moving back in the right direction.

We’ve two tough games against Luton to come, a side we’ve drawn 1-1 against twice this season. Whatever happens between now and the end of the month, we should all be assured that the blueprint of the club is looking good- and further progress is coming.

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