Gary Rowell: Sunderland show fight and spirit to come through week from hell

Lee Cattermole.
Lee Cattermole.
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After the week from hell, Sunderland went into the first game of the new campaign under severe pressure but they showed fight and character to come from behind and earn a point.

The Celtic humiliation and the Darron Gibson fiasco had left the club on its knees and the supporters exasperated, meaning only 90 minutes of sheer hard work and fighting spirit would satisfy Sunderland’s long-suffering fanbase.

Ha'way Back When in association with John Hogg Funeral Directors

Ha'way Back When in association with John Hogg Funeral Directors

Thankfully, the players delivered on that score and while a home draw with Derby County doesn’t mean we will run away with the title, it was an encouraging start and something to build on.

It was refreshing to see Sunderland playing a system with two strikers, with Lewis Grabban grabbing the eye and he could have easily scored a hat-trick.

Lamine Kone looked more like his old self while Lee Cattermole did what he always does and those three gave Sunderland a strong spine that they lacked last season.

However, after the previous six days, Sunderland had to put in a team performance and that they did.

Not one player looked disinterested or shirked their responsibility and it was good to see the whole team celebrating Grabban’s equaliser, a small point perhaps but significant for me as it showed unity when all we have heard about recently is division.

I know it is easy with hindsight but one critical point would be the lack of subs, especially in the last 20 minutes when surely fresh legs would have added energy to the team and who knows, might have turned one point into three.

All in all, though, if Derby are one of the better teams in the division then we were at least their equal and thankfully we seem to have moved on to a better place than a week ago.