Way heeeey! Here we go.
Sunderland’s victory at Burton Albion on Saturday leaves them just 30 points from top. Is the gap too large to for them to surge towards automatic promotion?
Of course it is. Don’t be ridiculous. This isn’t Hollywood.
But Saturday was there to be enjoyed. In fact, in the current climate, it was as good as anyone could have realistically hoped for.
It was hardly perfect. It wasn’t a great game, the passing still left something to be desired, Aiden McGeady in particular looks out of sorts and better will be required against stronger opponents.
Still, Sunderland were the better side, they finally kept a clean sheet, Chris Coleman showed a passion with which he can hopefully infuse his squad, he made positive substitutions rather than attempt to bore his way to a stalemate (© D Moyes) and above all – they won.
Pity they couldn’t wring out something at Aston Villa in the previous game; although I suspect that most supporters would find Mr Coleman’s three points from six so far acceptable.
It was important to at least not lose at Burton. Defeat, particularly under a new manager, would more than ever leave us wondering just where the next point would be found.
Then there was the opposition to consider. It isn’t that they now sit second bottom of the league so much as the mere fact that it was Burton Albion.
Burton are in the Championship for the same reason as Sunderland: because they deserve to be. Still, the overriding thought for many was: “It’s Burton Albion.”
We shouldn’t think like this. After all, the same number of points are up for grabs against any club. But we can’t help it.
Just a glance at their Pirelli Stadium is enough to underline the potential embarrassment of losing there.
It is imperative to win at any ground where shinning up an adjacent sycamore of moderate height can present you with a free view of at least half the match.
I’m not trying to patronise. Indeed, this notion was shared by their manager after the final whistle.
Nigel Clough said: “I don’t think there’s any particular logic why we should even win a game in this league.
“Seriously. We’re Burton Albion – 4,800 supporters today. That’s just the size of the club. We were playing against a team with a stadium that holds 10 times that.”
So the predominant feeling at 5pm on Saturday for Sunderland fans was probably one of relief. That explains the animated joy on Staffordshire as well as, let’s be honest, the sheer novelty of actually winning a game.
The celebrations were not founded on any wild expectations.
If ever there was a result that was to be welcomed, but “not get carried away with,” then Burton was it. The forthcoming home game against Reading is even more important.
Sunderland have 10 points from 10 away games and are 15th in the “away league.” Not great, not terrible.
But we’ve all seen the real league and know where the real problem is, so I won’t bother to regale you with how badly a few home wins are needed. Over to Mr Coleman then.
We still struggle to see light at the end of the tunnel; but a half decent December might mean that we have at least located the tunnel.