This week’s Durham Times column comes from Craig Clark and was first published in the newspaper this week.
Winning is fun, especially when you’re not used to it. As Sunderland supporters, we know all about losing, usually in agonising, self-destructive fashion, so watching Crystal Palace contrive to gift Jermain Defoe the winning goal on Monday made things that little bit sweeter.
For once our defensive solidity held, while a home side lacking in creativity and ideas gifted us the three points. Had it gone the other way, it would have been interesting to gauge the response of our supporters. I think I’m right in saying that most would have taken a draw at Selhurst Park, against a side that splashed the cash in the summer and whose ambition has been lauded by many in the media.
If we’d lost the game, conceded early, basically done something very Sunderland, then my feeling is that the reaction would’ve been quite hostile. Obviously, losing a game means something has gone wrong, but was there really much difference in the style of play compared with that on show in defeat to Southampton a couple of weeks before?
Southampton are a better side than Palace, no doubt about that, and whilst we were more effective going forward on Monday, we were only a silly mistake away from taking what would have been a creditable point off the Saints. That daft error by arguably our best player changed everything. Anything good about the performance was erased from memory as the display was labelled everything from “boring” to “anti-football”.
What I’m trying to say, and could have done in just two words, is winning matters. That might seem a simplistic thing to say, but it completely colours our judgement of a match. A performance goes from being heroic in victory, to depressing and awful in defeat. Sometimes, the result hinges on a single moment of madness, sloppiness or downright stupidity.
We’ve been here before of course and the collective psyche of Sunderland fans has taken a beating in recent years. Now, taking Allardyce’s tenure in isolation and with a couple of wins under his belt, we can contextualise things in a more positive light; these players can be organised, disciplined and snatch a victory.
So many games are won and lost as a result of dodgy officiating, mistakes, moments of magic and set pieces. The Premier League is all about fine margins and the best way to be on the right side of them is to be defensively robust. A solid foundation leads to a sturdy structure.
6-2 defeats like the one at Everton are likely to be an aberration. `1-0 defeats like those suffered at the hands of West Brom and Southampton won’t be uncommon. Conversely, 1-0 wins could well become more of a regular thing and if they do, there’ll be no complaints from me about the style of football, because ultimately, I just want to see us win.