Gary Rowell column - Sunderland are not suddenly Barcelona, but at least it’s more encouraging

Costel Pantilimon
Costel Pantilimon
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Sunderland might have only got a draw against Swansea, but what they gained was far more important than just one point.

It stopped the run of defeats, finally got our season up and running, but more importantly got the fans back onside, as they saw every Sunderland player putting a shift in and working tirelessly for each other.

The so-called ‘clear-the-air’ meeting did its job, as you could sense the determination and desire right from the start

We haven’t suddenly become Barcelona, but where the performances against Leicester and Norwich were depressingly bad, against Swansea there looked to be something to build on, with the prospect of better things to come.

The so-called ‘clear-the-air’ meeting did its job, as you could sense the determination and desire right from the start, and the players all looked fitter, sharper and hungrier.

Coming back from the huge psychological blow of conceding on the stroke of half-time was another good sign, and if the referee had given a clear penalty, we might even have ended up with all three points.

However, the turning point was Swansea hitting the inside of the post when already a goal up and if that had gone in, I doubt we’d have come back from 2-0 down. But we rode our luck and made the most of it.

New signings Yann M’Vila and Jeremain Lens caught the eye, and John O’Shea in his first game of the season brought some much-needed organisation and communication to a back four that’s had very little of either in the first two games.

I was also pleased to see Jack Rodwell being more involved and he’s now got to start playing like a £10million signing, with more dominant and consistent performances.

Overall though, my man of the match goes to the impressive Costel Pantilimon, who kept Sunderland in the game with a string of impressive saves – the best being when he clawed out Bafetimbi Gomis’ header that looked to have ‘goal’ written all over it.

We shouldn’t get too carried away by Saturday’s performance, after all we didn’t even win, but it’s a start and there were encouraging signs that the season may not be as bad as we feared after the first two games.