David Jones: All of a sudden it’s become a lot easier for Sunderland fans to keep the faith!

David Jones
David Jones
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Make no mistake this has been a very good fortnight for Sunderland.

On the pitch, taking four points from games against Liverpool and Manchester United have turned an escape which seemed like mission impossible into something perfectly attainable.

Kone

Kone

Off it, the club has been making headlines for the right reasons: the brilliant Sensory Room at the Stadium of Light, ticket prices cut, even Beyoncé’s summer visit, while distancing themselves from an unsavoury court case by taking the only course of action sensibly open to them.

But I’d rather talk about the football.

Saturday’s defeat of Manchester United was the highlight of Sam Allardyce’s reign so far.

I had a feeling it was coming after we’d witnessed such an improvement in performances against Manchester City and Liverpool.

This has been a very good fortnight for Sunderland

David Jones

As I wrote last week, this is not the Manchester United of old, but there is still a lot of quality in their team.

To beat them fairly and squarely while registering 21 goal attempts really is cause for optimism.

To put that in context, Chelsea had only 14 goal attempts in their 5-1 demolition of Newcastle on Saturday night!

Yet Sunderland only had 38% possession against United, once again highlighting the current trend in the Premier League which tells us it’s not how long you have the ball it’s what you do with it that counts.

There is no greater example currently than Leicester City, who like Sunderland, are in the bottom three of the league when it comes to possession, and have a worse pass success rate than anyone but they’re still in the top five for shots on target per game.

Spare a thought for Everton meanwhile who enjoyed 73% possession against West Brom at Goodison but still ended up losing the match without scoring.

Incidentally, this “new look” West Ham team under Slaven Bilic average less possession and a worse pass success rate than Aston Villa this season.

But the defence which Allardyce built is still holding firm while they’re scoring more goals after investing in some top quality attacking players; it’s not rocket science.

Yet Allardyce was bombed out of Upton Park because it was always said he didn’t embrace the “West Ham” way.

It hasn’t taken him long though to discover what the Sunderland way is and long may it continue.

Against United, those in red and white shirts were aggressive from the get go, playing with a purpose and conviction that has been sadly lacking for so long.

As the game went on they could feel how the crowd responded to their energy and determination; the team and the fans found a synergy which is fundamental to our progress.

This is what Sunderland fans have been waiting for, a return to the premier passions of the Peter Reid era and briefly glimpsed again under Roy Keane.

Louis Van Gaal said after the game that his players couldn’t cope with Sunderland’s aggression, and that must have been music to the ears of our manager.

The club wasn’t wrong to at least try a different approach under Gus Poyet but the experiment of patient passing and controlling games through possession just didn’t suit our club or our fanbase.

We demand fast, aggressive, edge of your seats football that frightens teams visiting the Stadium of Light and from the evidence of Saturday, Sam’s team have already gone a long way to discovering the “Sunderland Way”.

But this hasn’t come easy to Allardyce, it’s taken some time to change the mentality of his squad and more significantly to upgrade the personnel.

The January clear-out was the most significant cull of dead wood the club has seen for years: controversial to some but absolutely necessary in the eyes of others.

Crucially, the trading strengthened Sam’s hand going into the final week of the window which allowed him to add Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri, two players it’s already impossible to imagine life without, such has been their impact on Wearside.

The spine of our team now - with Kone, Khazri, Jermain Defoe scoring goals and Yann M’Vila patrolling the midfield - now looks as good as most outside the top six.

We are still in the bottom three, still odds on for relegation and the players must realise the hard work has only just begun but all of a sudden it’s become a lot easier to keep the faith!