So, the dust has settled on the first game of the season – and that most rare of breeds. The lesser spotted come-from-behind home win.
The near 31,000 of our lot in the ground and the thousands of others spread far and wide greeted Lynden Gooch’s winner with a mix of elation and relief. I hope it’s a significant moment in the history of our club, when we bottomed out and the bad times melted away - but I guess I’m not alone in getting the ‘run before you walk’ sensation just because we’ve won a home game. That’s a measure of where we all are after the last couple of years – dreaming of better times without thinking too much about whether there’s any substance behind it to back it up, forgetting the hard work needed to get there. Catalyst is an overused word but I’m hoping that glorious 96th-minute header was one. If it’s not, well, at least it’s a step in the right direction.
It’s hard to read too much into it but there were three positives for me. The obvious one is winning a game with a late goal but equally important are the fact Jack Ross wasn't shy in changing things when needed and the fact that the players didn’t hide. Chris Maguire’s delivery in the first half wasn’t good and everyone knows about his rash challenge that gave them a very well taken penner – but he continued to show urgency to do something about rectifying things. I’d like to have heard the gaffer’s half-time team talk because there was no sign of us starting the second half in second gear – a feature of following Sunderland for so long. Again, I’m not underestimating where we are and it’s only one game - but you can only beat who you’re playing. Talking of which, injury problems or not, I’m not quite sure why Lee Bowyer didn’t drag a few youngsters up to fill the bench. Even if he had no intention of playing them, what harm can the experience of being around a first team squad do? Long journey, aye, and they’d maybe not had their 'leaving London' jabs, but an opportunity wasted for me by the team-mate scrapping charver. Giving a message to the board? The wrong one, for me.
The ALS interview with Ross is a good read. His values come across well, notably respect and good communication, making me think he’s a good fit for us. It also includes the obligatory tale about Sir Alex Ferguson. That bloke. I swear, if there’s a Scottish household with a football connection, he’ll know about it and will rock up with a word or two of wisdom and an autograph. A rare breed and for all those who've raged at him, me included, a reminder he's a cracking guy, without ego.
Talking of egos, there’s no room for them in League One. For all we’d take being back in the Premier League in a shot, we’re not fish out of water being somewhere where the power of players and agents is diluted. We’ve not done too well with big shots in recent years, have we? It’s fitting that Gooch got the winner, as he’s been here for years, knows what we’re about and even got a mention in Ross’s interview. Gooch retweeting the picture of the bairns at the front of the North Stand, celebrating his winner with joy all over their little faces, was brilliant. It’s a long way from California but carry on the journey with us mate and ignore the transfer windows - you get us and we’re great for each other.
As for the support, did we expect anything else? The change and hard work of the new regime definitely put a few thousand on the gate, but it was never going to be in the teens, although the attendance did seem to be seen – and commented on – by plenty who don’t seem to know our club as well as we do. We might have been through the mill but we’re not going to change our club like an energy supplier. I’d love it if we left the badge of honour of turning up week in, week out and moaning about what’s going on with the club to them up the road. For every underdog that turns up and crumbles this season there’ll be 20 more gagging to use it to their advantage and give us a bloody nose. We’re great fans, we know that, but let’s leave the backslapping and totting up of crowds elsewhere to others with less quality control.