ON THE ROAD: Soaring Middlesbrough may have received a thrashing at the hands of Sunderland,

ON THE ROAD: Soaring Middlesbrough may have received a thrashing at the hands of Sunderland, but the bizarre result should not dim optimism on Wearside. Instead, Sunderland is set to pursue promotion, and optimism is once more rife.
Those who remained stared blankly into space. Well-meaning spouses, relatives and friends tried to comfort but there was a feeling of numbness.
Perhaps the sensible ones were those who walked out early, probably back in the sanctuary of home or the pub by now, trying to ensure the result wasn’t a total weekend-wrecker.
A few raged impotently at referee Jarred Gillett, whose decision to send off Dan Neil for dissent just before half-time had completely flipped the momentum in this Wear-Tees derby. ‘Four-nil to the referee,’ they sang.

Any local derby defeat stings and more than a few Sunderland fans will no doubt be dreading the jibes of Middlesbrough-supporting colleagues on Monday morning. But this fanbase is well accustomed to that numb sensation, the suspicion that everything is stacked against you, the feeling of being cursed.

Anybody who watched the excellent Sunderland ‘Til I Die Netflix series, which charted the club’s miserable fall from Premier League prominence to League One purgatory, could sympathise. The shoddy ownership, the freeloading players, the unfathomable defeats – it was all there.
‘Help us through our anger and our fury when our team is not performing as best it can,’ says Father Marc Lyden-Smith to his praying congregation in one scene. But when the third season of hits our screens in the coming months, it will actually reflect brimming positivity at the Stadium of Light. At last.
Saturday’s second-half collapse was an anomaly of a result because Sunderland are undoubtedly on the rise again. After Alex Neil finally got them out of League One last year, Tony Mowbray has assembled an exciting young team – the average age of Saturday’s starting line-up was 22.8 – with lofty ambitions.

Having flirted with promotion to the top flight last season, losing to Luton in the play-off semi-finals, Sunderland remain well-placed for another crack this time around.

‘This young team is playing with passion, courage and confidence,’ Fr Lyden-Smith told Mail Sport before kick-off.

‘They look like Barcelona at times. Tony will happily throw more attackers in and the fans love to see the team take the game to the opposition. There is lots of positivity. We’re looking at this team and thinking it can be great for years to come.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.