'It took its toll on us': Why Tom Flanagan believes Sunderland are better placed compared to previous League One seasons
Tom Flanagan says Sunderland’s mentality has changed since the club’s first season in League One when too many draws cost the team.
The central defender joined the Black Cats in the summer of 2018 and has been part of the club since their relegation to the third tier.
Flanagan has admitted that Sunderland’s previous attempts to win promotion still sting after missing out in the play-offs twice, while their hopes were dashed during a curtailed 2019/20 season due the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yet the Northern Ireland international is more confident about this campaign, with the side sitting second in the table with an average of over two points per game.
Sunderland may have already lost five league games this term, the same number as during the regular 2018/2019 season.
Still, the Black Cats have drawn just four of 24 League One matches, compared to 19 during their first year in the third tier.
“I think the mentality of the group and everyone around the club has changed in respect to the first season with Jack Ross,” admitted Flanagan.
“I think in the whole season we lost four games in the league but we drew a lot of games.
“We are not really drawing, yeah we have lost a few games but ultimately it’s ok to lose games, it’s going to happen we are not going to have an invincible season.
“We were joking and laughing about being in all the cups at one point and looking at European football if we had beaten Arsenal and then Chelsea and then one at Wembley.
“That is where we’re at and we’ll have a couple of losses with a team that sits in and we don’t quite break them down or a couple of injuries.”
While Sunday’s home match against Fleetwood was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the visitors’ camp, Sunderland’s have played most of their matches through the festive period.
That means some of the Black Cats’ league rivals have games in hand, yet Sunderland have been in a similar position in previous seasons, failing to take advantage.
And with no more cup games for the rest of the season, Flanagan is looking forward to a clear run in the league.
“With the cup competitions and being ahead of games with other teams, we are going to be Saturday-Saturday at some point fingers crossed,” the defender added.
“People are going to be grinding it out Saturday-Tuesday and we have done that after we reached the JPT final and ultimately it took its toll on us.
“I’ve spoken to other players at other clubs and they are like ‘we want the games on’ because everyone knows what we could have done in previous seasons, we could have got 100-plus points but we never did.
“There is a real change of mentality at the minute, the boys are in a really good place and enjoying their football.
“We want to be able to be playing at the moment, not training, and we have been able to do that at the moment.”