There was something reassuring about standing watching the lads limp home at Carlisle on Tuesday night.
Sunderland have played plenty of these sort of cup fixtures as a Premier League side, but going there as a side that hasn’t been losing every week gave you a bit of confidence we’d get through by hook or by crook; that we would squeeze them out by brute force.
And we did. Whether that was down to great goalkeeping, poor finishing on their part, or a sensational finish by that young lad with the funny half-American, half-Mackem accent, sometimes you power through because you’re the better team, bigger club and just find a way of making it work.
I don’t want to make that sound like it’s OK to have a massive sense of self-entitlement. There are plenty of clubs who breed that sort of fan base and I don’t think Sunderland is anywhere near the worst for it. I think I’m just happy not being the whipping boys with very little autonomy and at the bottom of the food chain.
Because this relates to our status in the league too.
We’ve made the point over and over (and over) on the pod about the Black Cats’ record at this level, particularly since Peter Reid won promotion to the Premier League in 1996. For a “yo-yo” club, Sunderland have only been back in the second tier five times since then (before this campaign). They have won it on three of those occasions and finished third the other twice.
History counts for nothing I can you cry, but it’s refreshing to know that just because we lost to Leeds last week that the sky is suddenly going to fall in. Yet.
There’s that nagging feeling lingering at the back of your mind that a couple of players may yet leave and be inadequately replaced. It is beyond frustrating that Simon Grayson is being punished for managers before him being reckless in the transfer market.
Of course the club are in a financial mess and were never going to spend the amount Newcastle did last season in order to make themselves a team of Championship Allstars able to act as flat-track bullies. I would have loved that but it was never going to happen and there’s something uplifting about getting Aiden McGeady for £250k when we’ve seen expensive flop after expensive flop fail to perform before leaving at a loss.
The main concern now is that we start selling the likes of Didier Ndong to get to what is perceived as a level playing field from a financial point of view. That could take a couple of years, only to then have to start signing players of a similar level to get us back to where we are now. That’s before a promotion campaign is realistic.
Martin Bain said we wouldn’t get “all” of the Jordan Pickford money to reinvest but I don’t think any of us thought it would be less than 10 per cent of it.
With the current squad, I think Sunderland are closer to being capable of mounting a promotion campaign than people think and even if £5m-£10m of it had been given to Grayson to spend we’d be in a decent place.
I won’t hold my breath, but here’s hoping a desperate Premier League club come in for an uninterested Whabi Khazri and some much-needed funds become available.