Some might say Saturday’s defeat to Leeds was a reality check. I’d disagree.
I don’t think there was any harm in supporters setting themselves relatively modest end of season targets on the back of a decent start to the season.
Also, I don’t think anyone could complain about Sunderland fans enjoying a few games in which we’d been more than competitive. After the last five years of dross, the Championship has provided something different for the pallet.
We’ve seen a team that has shown effort, which has been a scarcity in recent times.
It was massively frustrating to lose that game at the weekend, but walking away from the ground I thought ‘yeah, we just got Championshipped’.
We were always going to lose games, and there’s no disgrace in losing to a well-drilled Leeds side with a very good defence.
They saw off our early threat and scored with their first shot on target. Then they just sat in, held the ball better than Sunderland, and hoped to hit us on the break.
This is something we’ve done this season in our away games and it’s yielded four points from a possible six.
For me, there was no reality check. The strengths and weaknesses that have been evident during the start of the season were there against Leeds, but this week they did a job on us.
We haven’t been clinical enough at times, we don’t have the squad depth to chop and change at the moment and the players looked tired throughout the game. I don’t think the players are unfit, but games in the Championship are a lot more open and as a result far more strenuous.
It was never going to be possible for that same group to match the levels of performance shown in the previous fortnight.
I mentioned in a column recently that if we could just find away to do a couple of deals and bring some quality in, then we could be a force to be reckoned with. I still believe that.
A player like Robert Snodgrass could be the difference for us in games like Saturday’s. Aiden McGeady will also be, but you can’t expect the same players to dig you out of the dirt on every occasion.
With Bryan Oviedo nearing a return, along with Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair due back after the international break, we already look stronger going into another heavy run of games in mid-September.
You would imagine Wahbi Khazri won’t be here, but moving him on could be the trigger for the arrivals of players like Ross McCormack and Snodgrass.
We’ll have to move quickly though because those players won’t stay on the market for long, especially towards the end of the window when the domino effect asserts itself.
We can’t afford to miss out on an opportunity to make us a top eight team, because if fans don’t see something on the pitch week in week out then the ‘novelty’ of this division will wear off very quickly indeed.