It doesn’t feel like the season has really started yet. It’s not the fact that Sunderland are yet to win a game, although that probably is a minor part of it. I think it’s more to do with the fact that out of our three league games, only one has been at home and only one has kicked off at 3 o’clock. We at least get to see The Lads at the Stadium of Light again when we host Everton but even then, we have to wait until Monday night. Then the following week, at Spurs, we’ll have to wait until 4.30 on Sunday. Throw an international break in between the third and fourth game and it makes your early season enthusiasm go stale fairly quickly.
Football fans are suckers for routine. Lucky garments, precise times that you leave the house before home games, the same pre match pub which you always leave at the exact same time, before going through your usual turnstile and taking your usual seat. Most of that gets knocked all out of kilter when you have to remind yourself what time your team kicks off though. On a Monday night, most won’t even get time for a pint before kick off and, with work beckoning the next day, having a one after feels bittersweet as you remember that in less 12 hours time you’ll be sitting in rush hour traffic. Or, you can be lucky like me and get to finish at 1 o’clock on Monday and not be in until 12 the next day, affording me a midweek swally.
So even though the kick off time is annoying, Monday night feels like the start of the season for me. The summer was a torrid one for Sunderland, as we were drained of our momentum from last season and, this time, it wasn’t even our own fault. David Moyes has had to deal with the fault out and he’s not done badly in the circumstances. But when things inside the club feel all over the place, from a supporters perspective at least, being messed around with different kick off times and badly placed international breaks can just add to the frustration. You just want things to get into a rhythm, not be made to wait.
After two awkward kick off times, we’ll then have two home games in a row and both are traditional kick offs. This will also be the start of a run of games which are uninterrupted by international football, eight matches to be precise. Only Arsenal at home, taking place at 12.45 on Saturday 29th October, won’t be a fan friendly start time either. During this time we’ll hopefully see new signings like Didier Ndong make their impact on team and we’ll also get players like Jan Kirchhoff and Lee Cattermole back to full fitness. So after a stuttering, jilted and momentum draining start to the season, we can finally get into that rhythm on Monday.
Moyes showed in the opening games that he can get a tune out of a limited squad so with the aforementioned Kirchhoff set to start v Everton, along with a defence boasting strength in depth – I feel rather excited about Monday night’s match. We may be shallow up front but as long as Jermain Defoe makes the cryotherapy chamber at the Academy of Light his registered address, we’ll be fine. Defoe on his own is enough for defences to worry about but Adnan Januzaj has looked more like the player that burst onto the scene under Moyes three years ago. If Januzaj keeps showing that motivation it will serve his career and our short term future very well. If Wahbi Khazri can then force his way into the gaffer’s starting eleven, our attack has a good balance as well looking troublesome. It may lack the depth that the back line does but we certainly have options that a few sides would envy.
Match day rituals and routines are important but I’ll “suffer” sometimes having to reschedule my plans if it means things can be good on the pitch. It doesn’t work that way, of course, but if TV companies keep knocking us out of our routines then let’s hope there’s plenty of positives on the pitch to keep us smiling. The summer of frustration is now over and the season starts now.