Mama said there’ll be days like this. There’ll be days like this mama said. She was never quite as focussed to predict that Max Power would be sent off and Joey Barton’s Fleetwood would close us out, but these days were always in the offing.
A new team who are still probably learning each other’s names stumbled and stifled against two teams many expected us to roll over. Oxford because of their league position and Fleetwood because surely, they want to see Barton humiliated as much as we do. In those two games the old Sunderland seeped into the freshly replaced seats in small measures. Against Oxford I heard Gooch called greedy, against Fleetwood he was criticised for diving. The fact he had two men on him on both occasions and was denied time and again by the referee against Fleetwood was neither here nor there. That Donald buzz was fading a little, fading to pink perhaps. There were plenty in the stadium who still held with the fact that they were part of the journey, that they had a role to play. Others were beginning to revert.
That’s natural of course. The hype of the summer may have raised expectations. That said, is it really time for that now? When was the last time Sunderland were unbeaten in their opening seven games of the season? Yes, there have been too many draws and draws which should have been wins, but let’s not forget we have firepower on the way back. We have creativity and pace to unleash on the league in McGeady and Watmore. We have Wyke to gain full fitness. Sinclair the same. We watched that opening game against Charlton and saw something new. Passes were pinballing and finding Sunderland feet. Intent and speed. We haven’t seen that for a long time. Here we go, or so we thought. First Wimbledon, then Oxford and then Fleetwood did their homework. Pump it in, bully the fancy boys who think they’re bigger than League One, wind the crowd up. We’ll get what we came for.
So, we learn. We figure out the game plan and we steamroll it. The next three games could decide the fate of our season. By the time Burton comes around the team have little excuse for being unfamiliar with each other. There is no excuse for knowing where you should be on a set piece. There is no excuse for shying away from headers. There is no excuse for being dragged into a petty game where tit for tat is the modus operandi for the opposition. We have seen what League One has to offer and we know we have players better than it.
Those next three games are vital. We start against Burton, 17th in the league. They are familiar foe and we have a bit of an axe to grind from last season I guess. They have lost more than half of their games. This is absolutely winnable. We then move on to Rochdale. 14th in the league with a huge negative goal difference for this stage of the season. A real chance to show the SoL that this Sunderland team has the ability to put clubs to the sword. Bounce from that one into the Coventry game. A huge away following against a mid-table club with a disengaged fan base. You can easily see how we roll out of those three games not just with nine points but with some startling score lines. If we can do that we rock up at home to Peterborough with a swagger. Test us Posh.
The scenario outlined above is best case scenario of course and we all have that voice of doubt but make no mistake, these next few are pivotal. The fans have a huge part to play in that, let’s forget about typical Sunderland. Let’s believe this Sunderland will deliver.
The Crucial Three