This is my favourite time of the year; much to the irritation of the other members of my family I always emerge from the fog of Christmas bursting with energy and excitement about the 12 months ahead.
New fitness goals, a healthier lifestyle, the prospect of sunshine drawing closer, work projects or even new Christmas books to read, whatever it may be I’m annoyingly optimistic every January.
And that optimism extends to every facet of my life, which is why for the next couple of weeks at least – before reality dawns again – I am ever more hopeful for the long term prospects of Sunderland AFC.
Of course it helps that we managed to win a game, thanks to the generosity of Aston Villa (and there you were thinking we were bad), but I see only good times ahead if we adhere to a few simple resolutions:
1 – Win more matches. Obvious I know, but when you’re starting point is seven in the previous calendar year, I don’t think I’m being too greedy here.
Yes we’re off to a good start in 2016, but bear in mind that after beating Burnley in January last year, we didn’t win again until April.
2 – Continue to win the derby. If you can’t keep resolution no1 then at the very least do this; it numbs the pain of all the other results.
3 – Have a good transfer window. When did we as Sunderland fans last emerge from a transfer window thinking our club had done us proud with some brilliant business?
We need to act swiftly and decisively to improve the quality of our team.
It’s easier said than done attracting good players with good character to a struggling side, but it’s a darn site easier doing it in the opening weeks of January then exposing yourself to the panic of the final hours.
4 – Find new leaders. Following on from resolution no3, but we have relied on our creaking British core for too long.
It is still the signings of Steve Bruce propping up our team season upon season; stubborn winners like John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Lee Cattermole who refuse to be relegated.
Eventually, they will need to be replaced, ideally with British players who our fans can identify with and form the new heart of our club in a brave new world higher up the Premier League.
5 – Keep Yann M’Vila. Not everything our recruitment team has done should be rubbished; we need to be very thankful to whomever engineered the deal which brought M’Vila to Wearside.
The consistency of his performances in a poor team have been commendable. His list of admirers is growing.
6 – Allow our youngsters to blossom. While it’s a matter of great pride that our U21 team sits on top of the Premier League, I’m not sure any of us really know what it means.
The true test is measuring how many graduate to the first team picture.
We will remember 2015 for the thrilling emergence of Duncan Watmore, let us hope others in his peer group can follow his path in 2016.
7 – Find an identity. I know we can’t keep harking back to the days of Peter Reid, but we knew what to expect then: combative, fierce in the tackle, pace in the wide areas and yes at times direct to service our front two as quickly as we could.
We found a very different style under Gus Poyet even if it wasn’t always successful.
Hopefully, Sam Allardyce can stamp an identity on us as quickly as possible.
8 – Gary Rowell. Force of habit.
9 – Enjoy a period of stability. Three managers in 2015 is almost farcical: it’s nigh on impossible to progress as a football club with such short term thinking.
Sam seems like a good fit so let’s hope he’s around for the long term and doesn’t jump when the going gets tough.
10 – Kevin Phillips. See no8.
11 – Survive. Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s going to take a mighty turnaround in our fortunes to be playing Premier League football again in 2016/17.
But it remains the number one priority of our football club and all of us fans to see our team competing amongst the elite of English football.