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Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Barnesy’s Blog: Jack Clarke is simply unplayable!

“There’s no question that Sunderland are a work in progress, but a work that is engrossing, enjoyable and exhilarating to watch grow,” writes BBC’s Sunderland match commentator Nick Barnes.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Nearly 4000 fans travelled to Blackburn for the Lads’ 3-1 win. Not only was it a school night, but the highways authorities in their infinite wisdom decided to close not just one major arterial road, but two, with both the A1 and the A19 in two locations shut.

I guess it’s of no consequence to some faceless bureaucrat sitting in an office to arbitrarily decide to close two major roads on a night when thousands of extra motorists are using these main roads. They’re tucked up in bed.

However, those who weren’t had spent good money to travel to watch their team and many will have faced work or school in the morning only to find the diversions and closures would delay their return home.

I think we accept when we travel to midweek away matches we are almost certain to encounter overnight works somewhere down the line but to find an uncoordinated series of works on one night takes the biscuit!

Moan over. I am now wantonly stealing someone else’s brilliant tagline: The Fluorescent Adolescents! They lit up Ewood Park, even if at one point they confused Benno to the point where he wasn’t sure if the stewards were part of the playing squad.

I have to admit I am not a fan of the white names and numbers on the fluorescent shirts. Whose idea was that?! They are impossible to read at close range let alone halfway up the grandstand! It surely wouldn’t take away the aesthetic to use dark blue for the names and numbers.

The whole point of them is to help the fans and officials, not obfuscate and confuse as Jobe and Burstow ran around imitating each other and no one knowing for sure which was which. Oops. I’m moaning again.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Right. The football. Sunderland were admittedly under the cosh early doors, but how magnificent was Dan Ballard? He was, as Benno said, a bollard. Brilliant. Hearts were in mouths following his collision with Aynsley Pears but in true stoic fashion, he ran off the knock.

Trai Hume demolished anyone in his way, and Dan Neil continues to blossom in midfield. Alex Pritchard demonstrated why losing him in January would have been a travesty and Luke O’Nien... well, was just Luke O’Nien. Everywhere.

Jack Clarke. What can be said about Jack Clarke that hasn’t already been said? He is simply unplayable. He’s adding goals to his game and he seems to run on Duracell.

Three consecutive league wins is no mean feat, especially bearing in mind that it’s the first time under Tony Mowbray that Sunderland have achieved it, and this in a season when I think most of us believed the division was going to be a lot stronger than last, and without Amad, Batth, Gooch, Simms and Stewart, albeit the latter two were absent for most of the campaign.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Tony Mowbray said afterwards he believes this is a better team than last season. It has more balance and it has goals, without the strikers thus far contributing. They will in time but the squad now affords Mowbray flexibility and depth, which was demonstrated so capably at Queens Park Rangers.

It is of course early days, but to be in the top four with goals leeching out of every pore, one has to wonder what this team may achieve when the strikers get up to speed and the injured players return.

There’s no question that Sunderland are a work in progress, but a work that is engrossing, enjoyable and exhilarating to watch grow.

Four wins on the bounce? I wouldn’t rule it out. No moans from me.


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