What League One opponents have made of Sunderland so far and why faint praise is a major compliment

Derek Adams became the latest manager to suggest he isn't overly impressed by Sunderland this season.

Monday, 5th November 2018, 11:37 am
Updated Monday, 5th November 2018, 11:43 am
Chris Maguire and Jack Ross celebrate the win at Valley Parade

The Plymouth boss caused a stir at Home Park by suggesting that the Black Cats are 'riding their luck', despite climbing into the automatic spots with a game in hand on most other teams in the league.

While Sunderland's attacking quality has won praise (particularly from bosses at Gillingham, Rochdale & Scunthorpe) their performances have not always impressed opposition bosses.

Chris Maguire and Jack Ross celebrate the win at Valley Parade

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Of course, part of it is deflection and part of it is a way of relieving the pressure from their own teams.

On occasions, it has been absolutely fair.

But the perception that Sunderland should be winning emphatically every week is one that Jack Ross has been eager to stress his squad won't be fooled by.

Here, we take a look at some of the most notable comments and highlight why Sunderland can take it is as a positive....


"My message to the team beforehand was to have a right go at them, to play at our tempo and attack them, ask them if they wanted to play at our tempo. Certainly for the first half, we did that, and for spells in the second-half too. We had enough chances to win the game, but unfortunately their quality showed in the end.

“I thought they would have a spell in the second-half, their manager got them at it in the second-half. I knew that would happen because we were too dominant in the first-half. You try to ride out those spells, take your chances to make it two, and win the game comfortably, but it did not happen.

"Credit to them because they’ve got a winning mentality and they’ve shown that so far."


Sunderland were given a major scare by Wimbledon and Ardley was right to praise his team.

The Wimbledon game is an interesting reference because the recent away wins have shown how far Sunderland have come in a short space of time.

They are tighter, giving away few chances, showing more control and are much, more tougher physically.


"We were brilliant today.

"At 11 versus 11 we were by far the better team, they couldn’t handle us.

"I thought for the first 25 minutes we were by far the better team and I think we played football in a very elegant and classy way but we didn’t take full advantage of that."


Oxford certainly started the better side but given that they played with an extra man for 70 minutes, Sunderland competed reasonably well.

Josh Maja and Lee Cattermole came close to adding a winner in what was a decent response from the Black Cats.

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"I said in the build-up that I thought we were the better side and anyone who was here today, just watch it back.

"We had the best chances, a penalty, good save by the keeper but a confusion in the build-up from our perspective.

"They're a good side, I'm not taking anything away from them. They had 15 minutes before the break and a ten minute spell at the end where our keeper has had to make a good save, we've had to put bodies on the line."


It was a tight game that Fleetwood could have won but Sunderland were more than their match, with Jack Baldwin missing a glorious opportunity late on.


"We should have won that game.

“We were in complete control of the second-half and when we equalised against 10 men I am sure even every Sunderland fan thought we would go on to win the game.

“But we’ve committed defensive suicide near the touchline to concede a second goal and it’s taken a sublime run, touch and finish from Ivan to get us the point.

"I’m disappointed though.

"They bossed the first-half and we were much better in the second-half. I reckon (Sunderland manager) Jack Ross will be the happier manager in the morning though as we played them off the park in the second half."


An unsurprisingly robust assessment from Evans.

In reality Sunderland were by the far better side, dealing well with some pressure from the visitors early in the second half.

It was a game Sunderland should have won.


"We matched them.

“I can’t really remember, other than the first three minutes, being really worried about them.

“It was disappointing to concede the way that we did.

“We changed it again. It wasn’t as though we were getting bombarded by Sunderland, we were still in it.

“We were looking to get a goal back and they hit us on the break.

“I thought that if we didn’t have three in midfield they would over run us and start controlling the game."


Sunderland laboured until some inspired substitutions from Jack Ross in the second half, but on this occasion Jon McLaughlin was barely tested.

"My message to the boys after the game was that it would be easy for me to say that’s the difference between a top team and a team trying to be a top team,” he said.

“But what I will say is I feel as though we are as good as them.

“I think the game showed that.

“The difference was that they took a chance and we didn’t.

“That is the difference sometimes in a tight game, between two teams that are trying to do the same thing which is to get out of this league,

“We make a mistake and we’re slow to react when they hit the post.

“That was disappointing.

“My honest assessment of the game is that I thought Sunderland were better than us for the first 15 minutes, we were better than them for the rest of the half, they got a goal at the right time in the second half and then we matched each other.

“I am proud of the boys tonight.

“We matched the biggest club in this league for the whole game.”


Few could quibble with McCann. Doncaster were excellent and probably the best side Sunderland have faced this season.

They have, however, gone on to lose their next two league games.


It is a sign of Sunderland's strength that they're winning tight contests and ultimately it comes down to their superior composure in the opposition box.

They also have a manager making crucial changes in games, admittedly benefiting from a strong squad.

Add to the mix a supremely impressive goalkeeper, cleverly recruited on a free transfer, and a pattern of successful results is much easier to understand.

Opposition managers may not be overly impressed but the change in culture at Sunderland this season is remarkable.

It is a positive, rather than a concern, that the squad and staff have understood the need to get the basics right and compete with teams in games.

That;s something that Ian Holloway summed up well on this week's EFL highlights show on Quest.

"They're playing for the badge," he said.

"They've got a reality about them that Jack Ross has brought.

"It's very, very impressive. They're growing together and they don't believe they're better than that division.

"What they needed was to get the crowd on board and now they're like a juggernaut, and they're going to take some stopping."

Sunderland are playing better than they are often given credit for and those performances look set to only improve as confidence, unity and momentum grows even further.