The international break used to be a welcome distraction for Sunderland – now it is an inconvenience

An enforced break from League One action has left Sunderland fans frustrated, explains Michael Lough
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When Sunderland were in the Premier League, I often used to look forward to the international break.

It provided a welcome relief from Sunderland losing week in week out and even if we won, it provided a great opportunity to bask in the glory of a rare victory.

In fact, winning back-to-back games was such a rarity that I preferred a longer gap between games to watch the highlights and goals a quite frankly unhealthy number of times before we inevitably suffered defeat in our next game.

However, since coming down to League One, international weekends are nothing short of an inconvenience.

It has sapped momentum and contributed to a seemingly never ending fixture pile up which leaves us playing catch up from early on in the season.

Which is why Saturday’s lack of League One action coupled with results going our way provided such a welcome departure from tradition.

For once, our impressive run of form has seen us top the League One table rather than hovering on the fringes of the automatic promotion places.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make the Wycombe game due to work, but after watching our goals on my dinner break, and hearing about our clinical attacking display; every customer I spoke to from then until the end of my shift must have thought I was competing to be the world’s most upbeat advisor.

The downside of feeling so positive about Sunderland again is the gap between the Wimbledon game and Saturday’s encounter with Accrington Stanley has felt longer than enduring an entire season without a home game.

After much pre-season scepticism, I am feeling very optimistic about our prospects going forward.

In terms of recruitment, we had an excellent end to the window. Naturally I am not expecting every player to be a roaring success but we have added an exciting blent of youth, experience and pedigree.

For the first time in a long time I can see a clear strategy in terms of the type of player we targeted and the rationale behind all of the lads we’ve brought in.

It is to Kristjaan Speakman’s credit that the plans he outlined to the Sunderland Echo in mid-August have come to fruition by the end of it.

Most impressive of all, has been our consistent approach to games. Last season we saw glimpses of this, but all too often we looked ponderous on the ball and sluggish in possession.

At the start of this one, however, we have looked to get on the front foot and the likes of Elliot Embleton, Dan Neil and Ross Stewart have all benefited from this enormously.

The trio, along with Carl Winchester at full back have felt like new signings in themselves.

The spine to our team also fills me with confidence, upon signing Hoffmann from Bayern Munich, Lee Johnson referenced his excellent distribution which was music to my ears after watching Lee Burge and Remi Matthews launching the ball as far as possible last season.

Doyle, Neil, Embleton and Stewart all represent high energy options, who are very good passers of the ball and regularly make bold choices in possession.

Obviously we can’t get carried away by our start and a dip in form would prove to be a real test for such a young squad and Lee Johnson’s ‘streaky Lee’ reputation will be a concern until he proves otherwise.

However, regardless of our starting XI we have played the same attractive, attacking brand of football.

In the cup at Blackpool we made a number of changes but ultimately came out on top and played some really good stuff against a team we suffered defeat against home and away last season.

We all know this is Sunderland and any optimism should be treated with extreme caution, but for now I can’t wait to be back at the Stadium of Light for our table-topping clash with Accrington Stanley and everyone at the club deserves credit for our excellent start to the season.

Michael Lough

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