A week without a match at the end of it always peculiar. International breaks are fine because everyone is in the same boat but an FA Cup weekend, when you’ve already made a hasty exit from the tournament, leaves you feeling like a child gazing through the window onto the playground, whilst sitting in detention.
This week has been a quite a busy one where Sunderland have been concerned too. We brooded over the Bournemouth game and most of us came to the conclusion that at least we managed to take something from it after performing so poorly for large spells. If you want to try and wring the positives out of it, the main one would definitely be that we came from behind to salvage a draw. We’d obviously rather not go behind at all, of course, but it shows that there’s still a fighting spirit within the side. We’ve seen some terrible collapses in home games after conceding early on but on Saturday the players didn’t let their heads drop, a good reaction to see after falling apart at Spurs.
I’m sure that the morale in within the team got even more of a boost after Wednesday’s “secret” friendly against Newcastle as well. Sam Allardyce was correct to point out the insignificance of the game, with the main focus being to get some minutes into the legs of some of the new boys (Jan Kirchhoff and Dame N’Doye) and to keep some of the fringe players sharp. If we’d won by the odd goal it wouldn’t have had anywhere near as much coverage but, ha’way, 6-0?! That’s definitely going to get people talking. Duncan Watmore’s form may have been a little bit indifferent this past month but a hattrick against a fairly experienced Newcastle side should keep his confidence up as we go into a tough run of February fixtures.
As we go into those big games next month, we still don’t know who exactly will be making up the first team squad. After already bringing in Kirchhoff and N’Doye, Big Sam has already expressed his desire for a right back and an attacking midfielder. At the time of writing, news is just starting to come through that we’re set to sign Wahbi Khazri from Bordeaux for around £9 million. I’m not going to pretend that i’d even heard of Khazri before the rumours started buzzing around yesterday but with six goals and seven assists this season, he’s certainly worth taking a gamble on. Jermain Defoe was starved of service in our last game so, should this signing be completed, Allardyce will be looking for Khazri to take some of the burden off of Defoe. Hopefully we’ll see him holding up a scarf come 11pm on Monday.
Allardyce deserves praise for shifting some of our deadwood too. The Lamine Kone saga finally drew to a close on Wednesday which saw Sebastian Coates heading for Sporting Club de Portugal until the end of the season. A ruthless decision from Sam but encouraging nonetheless, as Coates is one of many big earners that he’s managed to shift this month, which is enabling us to look at a slightly higher caliber of player at this late stage in the window. There could be more following him out the door as well as Jordi Gomez has been told he can leave and forgotten man Adam Matthews may also head out on loan.
So in a week that saw us fans feeling slightly sullen at the start, it’s now starting to look a bit brighter. With some new signings and a couple of players coming back to fitness (Younes Kaboul and Seb Larsson) then maybe we have more to smile about than we think. I guess a week is a long time in football after all.