Why Sunderland are looking increasingly more like sharks in the pond of League One
Setting aside time to watch the Saturday football highlights is a tradition that has been lost in many Sunderland-supporting households.
We could really be spared a pitying look from Gary Lineker and a “they deserve better than this” sight from Alan Shearer following footage of a demoralising defeat to cap off the weekend.
Sunderland’s name was normally pre-fixed with words like “struggling”, “beleaguered” and the classic “bottom of the league”. That’s not forgetting a generation of supporters growing up thinking that the club was actually called Sunderland Nil.
However, now that The Lads are good for the first time in over decade, a weekly pilgrimage through the channels to Quest is part of the fabric of a Saturday evening.
As fans tuned into the 90-second highlight package there were two key phrases uttered both during and after the footage that were enough to cause overt excitement and discomfort in equal measures.
Firstly, the narrator described Sunderland’s fifth-straight victory as leaving them “ominously poised”, while in-studio pundit Ian Holloway described the Black Cats as a “juggernaut”.
The Sunderland juggernaut. Not since Roy Keane’s promotion campaign in 2007 could the words “Sunderland” and “juggernaut” ever be put in the same sentence. It is a sentiment that can leave supporters feeling a little uneasy as we have seen it all go horribly wrong in the past.
We have seen good spells dissipate and positive runs of form turn to dust; even David Moyes had a run of three wins in four.
As supporters, we are a cautious bunch. We are always constantly worried of what’s coming around the corner. Wandering out of a perceived comfortable victory at Shrewsbury there were grumblings of ‘Yeah we won but we were pretty terrible’. We always nitpick even in moments of triumph.
That’s why the tag of juggernaut - which was probably a throwaway comment on behalf of Holloway - may not feel natural. However, is this how the rest of the league perceives us? From the outside looking in, we are the big fish in a small pond and having had time to acclimatise are looking more and more like sharks.
The mistakes are being ironed out, the elusive clean sheets are now becoming a regular occurrence and when fellow challengers stumble, Sunderland take full advantage.
October demonstrated that Jack Ross is instilling a steely resolve into his side and while earlier in the campaign we needed to battle against adversity, we are now dispatching opposition with a clinical professionalism.
Both Peterborough and Portsmouth have slipped up in recent weeks as Sunderland have methodically eaten up the ground. Results have been secured in battling games against Bradford City and Doncaster Rovers while Saturday’s dismissal of Southend United shows that victories like this are now becoming routine.
It means Sunderland make the mammoth trip to Plymouth Argyle on the crest of a wave with top spot firmly in the sights.
We have not entered juggernaut territory just yet but this level of ominous momentum is what carries teams to league titles.