The great Sir Matt Busby once said, ‘ There should be no conceit in victory and no despair in defeat.”
Although I doubt he was talking about Sunderland’s potential 2021-22 promotion push, his words are certainly applicable to our current situation.
As a fanbase we find ourselves in an awkward position where we want to believe that this time is different and this will be the season where we finally get out of this energy-sapping league, while also being deeply scarred by our prior experience of the third tier.
Our results and performances in recent weeks have naturally led to increased levels of optimism, and why not? After the past two years of largely uninspiring, drab football with an ageing squad it makes a refreshing change to see an attractive brand of football with a younger nucleus.
The flip side is when we have setbacks like we did against Fleetwood, it is difficult not to get in to the mindset of “for fuck’s sake here we go again”, when we throw away a comfortable two-goal lead in stoppage time after giving away a stupid penalty.
Under both Jack Ross and Phil Parkinson there was a feeling that rather than looking to finish teams off when we were in the ascendancy, we invited too much pressure on ourselves which ultimately resulted in us drawing far too many games.
In fairness to both Ross and Parkinson there were occasions where we blew teams away with the odd devastating 15-20-minute spell, but all too often we either struggled to break teams down or sat too deep.
Therefore, I don’t blame fans for being frustrated at Lee Johnson for bringing on a centre half in the game’s dying embers, especially when you don’t go on to claim the three points.
A good example of the up and down nature of the current mood came when a section of the away end started singing ‘Sunderland’s going up and the Mags are going down’ after Aiden McGeady had put the lads 2-0 up, but just 20 minutes later Twitter was full of disgruntled fans who felt this was ‘typical Sunderland’ and we’d struggle to get promoted playing like that.
Of course, the chant was tongue in cheek to a large extent and we’ve all (yours truly more than most) said very emotive things in the aftermath of the final whistle but it does sum up the internal struggle that we all face at times.
Regardless of the time we spend in League One, drawing or losing to the likes of Fleetwood will always leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Of course, it is all about how we respond now, after an unfortunate defeat at Burton Albion, we responded impressively with four consecutive wins in all competitions.
Over the next week or so we have three vital games coming up, at Wigan we have a great opportunity to get some valuable minutes into the legs of our fringe players and hopefully see a debut for Leon Dajaku, before two home games against Bolton and Cheltenham.
If all goes well, we could be spending the latter part of next week reflecting on our safe passage to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, and two important league wins to maintain our 100% home record.
Saturday was a timely reminder that things won’t be plain sailing and as the season goes on we need to separate our feelings about the Sunderland squads of previous seasons from the current crop of players who have made a good start to the season and as Matt Busby would say, don’t despair too much when we don’t win and not get overly carried away when we go on a good run.