Well, where did that come from? After a week of doom and gloom, coupled with transfer frustration Sunderland went out and did us proud with a 1-0 victory over relegation rivals, Hull City.
In isolation a narrow 1-0 victory over a team equally as bad if not worse than us may not look that impressive, but when you consider our position it was worth its weight in gold.
Sometimes, it is easy to get bogged down by off the field matters, with 24 hour rolling news via social media and television constantly hyping the latest transfer speculation it’s almost as if some would be happy to scrap the football all together and have clubs compete for the net spend transfer trophy. Therefore it was nice to forget about all of that for 90 minutes and for once leave the Stadium of Light with a spring in my step and feeling full of pride. The purity of seeing Ethan Robson taking a post match selfie with his proud father and the look of pure joy on Asoro’s face when he scored the winner made a refreshing change.
Amidst all the recent negativity, the one source of belief has come from the gaffer. Despite inheriting a squad leaking goals, on the floor in terms of confidence and an alarming injury list, he has got on with managing the team without complaint. After a season of David Moyes’ constant moaning and talking the club down, the Welshman’s attitude has been a breath of fresh air.
Not for the first time, Coleman made bold, pro-active decisions which ultimately won us the game. At Burton Albion and during the win over Fulham it was his substitutions which won us the game, but on Saturday it was his team selection and tactics that bore fruit.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world to go with one man upfront and play McGeady and McManaman in advanced wide roles but he showed faith in youngsters Joel Asoro and Josh Maja and chose them to lead the line. His inclusion of Ethan Robson was also a bold move and it worked spectacularly.
In previous games, the injection of youth has paid off in terms of added energy and endeavour but this time the impact was slightly different. They were still energetic and pressed Hull high up the pitch, but it was the combination play and familiarity shown by the academy graduates that excited me.
After the game Chris Coleman described Asoro’s maiden goal in a Sunderland shirt as one of the best he’s seen in his time as a manager. This statement may be slightly hyperbolic but the goal was certainly impressive. We kept the ball very well, playing one and two passes before Honeyman played a lovely one-two with Maja and slotted a fine through ball for Asoro to finish like a seasoned pro. Interestingly, Maja, Asoro and Honeyman had all played together whilst coming through the ranks and their knowledge of eachother’s game was evident throughout. Maja and Asoro linked up fantastically and showed an almost telepathic understanding. Again, after half a season of enduring James Vaughan trying to impersonate a professional footballer, it was fantastic to see two young players showing enthusiasm and intelligence beyond their years. Ethan Robson also deserves a special mention for his tireless running, simple but purposeful and effective use of the ball. It was good to see him translate his under 23 form to the first team. Jake-Clarke Salter’s performance went slightly under the radar, but he showed good composure on the ball and carried out on his defensive duties in an exemplary fashion.
Although, their performances may have left a little to be desired in recent times, the manager has hailed the dressing room influence of Cattermole and O’Shea and this faith was repaid on Saturday as both gave performances befitting their experience. Cattermole in particular played with the tenacity and presence we know he is capable of and even his cynical side of the game came in handy in stoppage time as he brought down Seb Larsson to prevent a Hull City counter attack.
All too often this season we have come up against sides that have lacked quality but have won the game through being street wise and exploited our weaknesses at vital times. When I saw our starting line-up I feared a similar outcome at the weekend, but it was us who exploited Hull’s short-comings all over the pitch. The likes of Michael Dawson couldn’t cope with Asoro and Maja, Cattermole and Robson dominated the midfield for large spells and our performance more than merited the victory.
Ever since his arrival in November, Coleman has talked about wanting players at the club who want to be here. Slowly but surely he is making good on his promise by publicly denouncing those who don’t want to be here and talking up those who do. As I’ve previously mentioned, I believe that if we unite behind the manager we can create a real siege mentality on Wearside. Saturday’s performance and victory stuck two fingers up to Jack Rodwell, James Vaughan and Lewis Grabban. Of course, we still desperately need reinforcements and we can’t rely on the youngsters and the likes of Cattermole and O’Shea every week but if the Hull game is a sign of things to come we have more than half a chance of staying up. We have a free weekend to rest players, bring lads in and give vital minutes to people returning from injury in two under 23’s games between now and the trip to Birmingham. It is imperative that the weekend’s game isn’t a flash in the pan but there were plenty of reasons to be cheerful, including the man we are fortunate enough to have in the dugout. In Coleman we trust!