Sunderland have only ever played one club in a derby match – and ever will. Everybody knows which one.
Barring a cup-tie that no one wants, there will be no derby for Sunderland this season; same as last.
So the closest thing in 2017-18 is when they play Leeds United. The fixture has a certain frisson and history that none of the others will match.
It’s still a million miles off, but no other game will feel more like a derby this season, regardless of the geographical proximity of other clubs that Sunderland supporters couldn’t give a hoot about (apologies to the majority out there who really don’t need this to be explained).
Therefore Wearside was less than buoyant on Saturday night. It was a bad result and the game was very ... Championship.
Leeds were crude but effective and deserved the win. Sunderland lacked creativity, passed badly and were muscled out.
The game emphasised that, by either presence or absence, Watmore and Oviedo look pivotal to Sunderland’s fortunes. Apart from that, not much was learned.
But this column always ferrets around for positives (we enjoy a challenge). Please don’t send us a list of the negatives; we already have it.
Sunderland have their most technically limited squad in years. Yet bad though they were on Saturday, there was no shirking or sulking. That’s one step forward.
The game also reasserted that there is no great opposition in this league.
The better side on the day won. However, entitled though they were to be pleased, the reaction of the Leeds fans afterwards (and not just in the stadium) was mightily over-effusive. They just aren’t that good.
It wasn’t a “reality check.” No one connected to SAFC needs their reality checking thank you very much. Sunderland have now played four of last season’s top nine and, with mixed results, they have been much of a muchness. Not mugs. Not great either.
Hopefully that was Leeds at their best. Pray that Sunderland weren’t at theirs and that there is more finesse in the team before September. That is the most encouragement on offer.