Enjoy The Ride

Sunderland are in the middle of a bit of a blip, we have gone from conceding early, coming back and putting two or three goals past them and running out comfortable winners, to scoring first and then falling to a late equaliser. We’ve also rode our look not to drop points on a few occasions, Bradford at home with the goal that never was springs to mind. We’ve also been on the end of some extraordinary refereeing decisions, injuries to key players and fixture congestion.

Our next six games could shape our season, they all look very winnable, of course barring Luton and Pompey I would fancy us against most of the teams in this league, but looking at our run of fixtures we could put a real run together and storm our way to the top of the league. I don’t believe Luton can maintain their blistering form, I think they will dip, Portsmouth aren’t flying like they were six weeks ago. This is our chance to put a marker down.

The likely addition of Grant Leadbitter has been a welcome surprise. I’m still not sure about our midfield. I don’t think Power and Catts play well together, it’s one or the other for me. Power seems to have lost the energy and desire he showed earlier in the season, maybe the red cards and subsequent backlash from supporters has shook him a bit. Whether he needs a rocket to fly in or a spell on the bench I’m not sure, but the truth is there are 2-3 players who are just not at it at the minute. Maguire isn’t reaping the havoc he was causing early doors and while his charm and cockiness is entertaining, it is bordering on annoying when we need points on the board and he’s not cutting the mustard. Gooch also is in a slump of form, I haven’t quite worked out whether teams are doubling up on him as he’s one of our big threats or if it’s his own game that’s just not on it at the minute. The truth is the midfield needs a shake-up. Cattermole barks orders around the pitch but he is often overrun in midfield and personally it would piss me off having someone screaming at me who wasn’t doing his own job right. Leadbitter could give us that know how in the middle. McGeough is also one of our good passers and O’Nien has got a great engine so for me them three must see themselves ahead of Catts and Power.

The addition of Jimmy Dunne at the back and Denver Hume looking to be back fit fairly soon should mean our defence is sorted. We’ve looked relatively solid at the back apart from set pieces and Dunne should give us more physicality in defending corners and free kicks and hopefully add more to our attacking chances from these dead ball situations.

Up front is where we need to get sorted before the window shuts. Wyke hasn’t ripped any trees up in a Sunderland shirt, he reminds me of a poor man’s Grant Holt. I still haven’t worked out his strengths yet, he doesn’t look great in the air, he’s not a fox in the box and from what I’ve seen his hold up play and vision is fairly one dimensional. I will give him the benefit of the doubt as he still doesn’t look to be firing on all cylinders. However, we can’t wait for something that might or might not come. An investment in a striker is imperative to give us the best chance of promotion. We need goals, Maja gave us goals, and that needs to be replaced.

Onto Josh Maja, the lad has clearly got a great eye for goal, he has that knack, he can smell a chance, and with a few more years he might have added more to his game to interest Premier League teams. However, I’ve never felt the same affection for him as I have for other Sunderland strikers who have done well, if I was 19-20-year-old. Worked my way up the ranks and was braying them in week in week out I’d be diving in the crowd celebrating with my top off, maybe it’s cooler to fold your arms and jump on the spot, however I’ve rarely seen any real emotion from him. That got me thinking about players who I have had a soft spot for over the years. Borini, Defoe, Bardsley, David Connolly, Cisse, Bally and Phillips to name a few, all of them went mental at some point in their time at Sunderland, an outpouring of emotion, veins bulging from their heads, totally lost in the moment. With Maja I didn’t feel any of that, although very good at putting the ball in the back of the net, I didn’t see any determination, any fight and I just didn’t connect with him. Saying that I’d have liked him to stay as I believe he may of got himself up towards 30 goals and gave us a good chance of promotion, he could of left on a high and probably got the move of his agents dreams. All with the best wishes of Sunderland fans.

My final point I would like to make is that we are now a League 1 side, we have League 1 players and a League 1 budget. We are where we are due to the standard of our football not being good enough to compete at a higher level. So, anyone who moans when we don’t play as well as you’d like us to, when we don’t pass forward as much as you would like. Please remember that this is now our level, should we be lucky enough to be promoted, hopefully we will add to the squad to make us a successful Championship side, that won’t happen overnight. If we are fortunate enough to get to the final of the Checkatrade Trophy. Don’t feel embarrassed about wanting us to win it, why would you not want to win a final at Wembley. This is our level now, regardless of how far we have fallen, we are here because we’re not as good as the 44 teams in the two leagues above us. Simple as that, enjoy the ride, the last thing we’d want is a boring mid table season.