Chris Coleman has lifted the mood on Wearside, now he must get the best out of Sunderland duo
It shows just how far Sunderland's stock has fallen recently that a 2-0 win away at Burton Albion is celebrated with such enthusiasm.
Just 4,808 were inside the Pirelli Stadium on Saturday, a third cheering Sunderland on from the away end.
And those long-suffering fans had waited an age to celebrate three points, Sunderland winning for only the second time this season.
The first clean sheet was ticked off too, there was a renewed sense of togetherness on and off the pitch, with new boss Chris Coleman’s fist-pumping a sight to behold for the Sunderland faithful.
In tough conditions, with sleet and snow battering the players on a bitterly cold day, Sunderland showed their steel – they were resolute, dug in and took home the points.
It was a poor game by anyone’s standards, with few clear-cut chances in the first half. Sunderland upped the tempo after the break and eventually Burton folded.
It was the perfect end to Coleman’s first week in charge.
The new Sunderland boss hopes to bring the magic back to Wearside.
A key factor will be getting Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman back firing on all cylinders.
Duncan Watmore’s devastating injury blow, which will see him miss the rest of the season, has put the spotlight firmly on McGeady and McManaman to deliver in his absence.
Republic of Ireland winger McGeady has four goals to his name but hasn’t found the net in seven games and his overall performances haven’t been up to the high standards set in the early weeks.
There has been no lack of effort, but the cutting edge has been missing.
Burton was a high for Sunderland, but a really disappointing afternoon for McGeady, arguably the most naturally talented player in the squad.
He barely troubled the Brewers’ defence, bar a long-range attempt which whistled past the post.
Conditions didn’t help, but he cut a frustrated figure when he trudged off, James Vaughan replacing him with 15 minutes to go.
Coleman could have tossed a coin between McGeady and McManaman as to who gave way first, with the former West Brom midfielder joining him on the bench five minutes later.
McManaman, who looked more dangerous when switched to the left, displayed some neat touches but too often the final product was missing.
Joel Asoro came on for the Scouse winger and produced a sparkling display, Sunderland grabbing two late goals through Vaughan’s header and George Honeyman’s tap-in.
The lively Asoro provided the assist for Honeyman’s fourth goal of the season, his pace causing problems before dropping his shoulder to engineer some space and firing an unstoppable cross. Honeyman did the rest. Cue wild celebrations.
Asoro was excellent down the right, constantly running at the Burton defence.
He has twice come off the bench under Coleman, showing his worth as an impact sub. Injuries have elevated him up the pecking order but he has taken his chance.
Some will inevitably call for him to start, but Coleman will surely persevere with the more experienced McGeady and McManaman for now.
Sunderland have two real attacking assets in those two, but they need to improve after a series of below-par performances.
If he can get those two firing ahead of this weekend’s visit of Reading, then Sunderland will stand an excellent chance of finally ending that home hoodoo.