There was much anticipation surrounding Sunderland’s match with Reading at the Madjeski Stadium on this day a year ago.
Alex Neil’s departure from the club with Tony Mowbray taking over was still fresh in the minds of Sunderland fans going into this game.
Mowbray’s arrival sparked conversation and anticipation in equal measure. The former West Brom and Glasgow Celtic manager was known to favour a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing style of football.
The early signs were promising with the club hammering Rotherham 3-0 in his first game in charge.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II suspended proceedings momentarily which led to nine day break between their last fixture against Middlesborugh and this game with Reading.
Our squad was littered with young starlets who were eager to make a breakthrough. Players like Jack Clarke, Patrick Roberts, Dan Neil and Anthony Patterson were only beginning to play football on a regular basis.
What unfolded over the next ninety minutes displayed the potential that this team has under a manager like Tony Mowbray who will liberate his players to express their true potential.
With Ross Stewart suffering an injury in the previous game, there seemed to be enormous reliance bestwoed on the shoulders of Ellis Simms to lead the line for the season.
We dominated the early possession but neither side created any sort of meaningful chance until Simms had an effort deflected high over the bar after some great build-up play while Reading’s Mamadou Loum had the game’s first effort on target after 34 minutes with a tame header from a corner.
The predictable and inevitable happened when our task was seemingly made harder when Simms was forced off with a foot problem - adding to our striking issues for the season.
Strangely, it seemed the beginning of something wonderful when Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke stood up to show the potential that made them some of the hottest prospects in England at one time.
Out of nothing, Roberts put us in the lead calmly curling a low left-footed effort into the bottom corner after being set free down the right wing by substitute Elliot Embleton following an attack that began on the edge of their own 18-yard box.
Within a flash, it was two - as Roberts applied a similar finish having beaten a defender as he capped off another flowing attack from inside their own half. We were fluid, smooth and cool to watch all at the same time.
In the second half, Mowbray’s men continued where they left off controlling the play and adding a third that wouldn’t have been out place in Brazil or Barcelona.
A seven-pass move which began inside their own area, and included two deft flicks, ended with Dan Neil’s’ perfectly weighted low cross finding Clarke who swept home right-footed in front of the delirious away support.
This goal felt like the moment that showed we were more than capable of holding our own in the Championship. The anxiety of how we were going to fare after losing our manager was eradicated after this performance with Tony Mowbray putting his stamp on the team.
After the match, the manager expressed his delight with the performance - particularly the build up play for our third goal.
“I think we controlled the game tonight with the ball rather than with physicality.
“I’ve talked this week about people having to step up and we have to score goals from different places, and Patrick grasped that nettle and did just that for us.
“The third goal, wow what a goal that was, a brilliant one-touch pass across the face and and intelligent, clever play from Jack.
“It was a good performance, and even despite their home record, which was unblemished this season, we believed that if everybody did the basics well we could win tonight.
The win moved the team into the playoffs again. This was only the beginning of the season but the potential of this group was starting to show.
With players like Amad Diallo only on the bench at this time, there was still plenty more to come over the course of this season from this young vibrant group of footballers.