Wise Men Say: Sunderland may not need the usual miracle April if they keep this form going
In what seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago, Sunderland are starting to look nothing like a relegation-threatened side.
The current form may be fleeting, of course, but the win over Leicester further proved that this is now a team which knows what it’s doing.
David Moyes is finally starting to forge an identity in his Sunderland side and there’s genuine hope that we can put any relegation fears behind us.
All you want as a supporter is to see a team functioning, no matter what style of football they’re trying to play.
The Lads were way above just being functional on Saturday though, especially in the first half an hour.
They were dominating the ball and creating chances. If you’d have looked at both teams, you wouldn’t have thought the away side were the champions!
That may be partly down to Leicester’s inadequacies this season, but Sunderland have failed to take the game to worse sides, so to see them in such confident mood against a team in the last 16 of the Champions League was fantastic.
While there were some stand-out performances, it’s difficult to single them out, given it was such a good all-round display from Sunderland.
It was one of those games you could make a case for almost anyone to be man of the match.
Victor Anichebe made Danny Simpson look like the real Danny Simpson and not the guy who somehow managed to get a league winner’s medal last season.
Papy Djilobodji certainly proved me wrong, as I would have kept John O’Shea in the side after the club captain’s performance against Liverpool.
Jan Kirchhoff and Seb Larsson made huge impacts from the bench in the second half and don’t forget the match-winners – Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford.
Showing his usual great instinct, Defoe didn’t need to look for where the goal was, before turning Duncan Watmore’s blocked shot into the bottom corner, and Pickford produced yet another match-winning save.
The only man in the England squad with New Monkey on his iPhone had to show great restraint to not jump into the South Stand and get the rave on, such was his delight.
What an absolute boy!
With the 1973 FA Cup winners watching in the stands, it would be easy and cliched to make the Jimmy Montgomery comparison to Pickford.
He is of course nowhere near such lofty heights, but seeing David Moyes run on the pitch to congratulate his goalkeeper, as soon as the whistle went, was quite a touching moment.
“The best we’ve played all season” seems to be a phrase repeated after every game at the moment, a good indicator of the progress being made. It’s true though, the team looks like they’re growing in confidence every week now.
With players coming back to full fitness and Moyes having some good options to choose from, it’s not too crazy to suggest we can keep this run going. Sunderland don’t usually start playing like this until April, but, with performances like that every week, we might not need the traditional late rally.
*The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes