ON THE EVE of Gus Poyet’s first full season in charge, the Sunderland boss declared a modest hope for supporters to avoid too much “suffering” this season.
Not sure that resolution has started off too well Gus...
This was an absorbing opening day encounter between two sides who will not dare to gaze towards the higher echelons of the league table until they have reached 40 points first and foremost.
But it was very much a rollover from the rollercoaster which proved to be the almost omnipresent characteristic of Sunderland last season.
A belting early opener from Lee Cattermole of all people, a glorious spurned chance to double the advantage, a controversial penalty conceded, then a soft second before a late equaliser.
There couldn’t have been a better reminder of what we’ve all been missing.
Ultimately, a draw was probably a fair result.
West Brom were the dominant side in the first half before they equalised, while Sunderland were just beginning to get on top before Saido Berahino gave the hosts the lead.
Both sides did things well, both sides did things poorly.
On the plus side, Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson were excellent in Sunderland’s midfield, while Patrick van Aanholt showed what he will bring going forwards.
The cross for Larsson from Jordi Gomez’s beautifully threaded through-ball showed the attacking dynamic in van Aanholt’s arsenal.
On the flip side of the coin, van Aanholt showed that he can be prone to the defensive lapse.
His positioning was often wayward, while the Dutch international caught napping for Berahino’s second after an impressive Craig Gardner had pounced on Vito Mannone’s parry.
As the Baggies tired from around the hour mark, Sunderland began to play towards Poyet’s vision, keeping possession well over a sustained period for the first time in the game.
However, there were evident teething problems.
Jack Rodwell was clearly nowhere near match sharp, albeit more than an hour of competitive football will have done him the world of good.
It’s no surprise given his minimal pre-season, and games overall during his two years at Manchester City, but it may well be a month or two before Sunderland fans see the real Rodwell.
Vito Mannone showed signs of nerves too after being given the nod ahead of Costel Pantilimon. Perhaps that’s what comes of having real competition breathing down his neck.
Having to use Wes Brown as a makeshift right-back wasn’t ideal either after Santiago Vergini was a late withdrawal on the eve of the game.
With Vergini’s fellow right-back Billy Jones on the sidelines too, it shows the minimal defensive options at Poyet’s disposal.
But that will be an area look to address over the next fortnight.
By the end of this set of games before the first international break too, Sunderland should look a more harmonious unit.
It’s tough to begrudge a point away from home as the way to begin proceedings.
Sunderland will get better and slicker.
That doesn’t necessarily mean things are going to be dull though...