Something is building at Sunderland AFC. We feel it as we’ve felt it before. Passions are stirring again as there’s a sense this team could be on the verge of really outstanding season.
Crowds are duly growing at the Stadium of Light too. It’s no surprise as watching this team of ours is once more a pleasure and not the weary obligation it had become. It felt like a lifetime when in the weeds of it all (four years in League One we’re looking at you). Yet, the shift has been, perhaps in footballing terms at any rate, swift.
We only have to look back to a year ago as the club went through arguably its lowest point. The 6-0 defeat at the hands of Bolton, a stark reminder from whence it came. Now, here we are regularly getting recognition on a national stage for playing some of the most attractive football in the country. Yes, really.
The seeds of positive change were planted before that of course, but now they’re beginning to bear some fruit. The Jack Clarke wonder goal against Reading back in September became a totem for what this young squad is capable of producing – not just sporadically but remarkably, on a consistent basis.
As the cliché goes, if the Black Cats are a sleeping giant then perhaps it is now up on its haunches and striding forward. It’s surely crucial then, with hours remaining of the January transfer window, those responsible for recruitment provide Tony Mowbray with all the tools to push on. He has shown thus far that he can be trusted with them.
In fairness, much good work has been done behind the scenes in that respect. Kristjaan Speakman, and Stuart Harvey in particular, must take the plaudits for this since their arrival. Trust is currently being earned. You can read more on that here and here.
Yet, it’s possible to give praise to those responsible for what appears to be a burgeoning shift in fortunes, but also be frustrated when the lack of depth up front, hanging over from the summer, continues to have an impact.
Indeed, with Ross Stewart now potentially facing a second lengthy spell out of the side due to an Achilles injury, ‘You can’t legislate for bad luck’ may be the cry. But, of course common sense says you can – by surely adding squad depth up top, just like every other side in this division and beyond. There is little point in going over old ground but suffice to say it’s possible we may now pay somewhat of a price, for a second time in the same campaign, by not adding that third striker in the summer. A misstep on what is hoped the right path.
Injuries have of course plagued us since the beginning of the season and Corry Evans’ lengthy absence is another cruel blow. As such, an experienced defensive midfielder and, assuming Stewart is indeed out long term, two further strikers are a must. It won’t be easy to achieve but we can’t risk being left short. Not again.
Of course, we’re only a niggling injury away from having a headache between the sticks too. However, another more experienced goalkeeper to push Pattinson seems unlikely and an ask too far.
As fate would have it there is just about time to address the aforementioned concerns. The opportunity to put down a further marker of intent in this league is before us and Mowbray’s hands cannot be shackled until the summer. Sometimes the club, indeed any club, need to accept they have the weaker hand in transfer negotiations and (within reason) pay what is required to plug pivotal holes within the squad, especially at this stage of the window.
Thankfully, on a further positive note, there aren’t many gaps in the group. That’s testament to the club too. Yet, the few that do exist are frustrating and crucial.
However, if filled correctly by the time deadline day has passed, there’s no reason why this season can’t continue defying expectations, going from being on course for a season of consolidation to one of potentially remarkable achievement.