Rowell Report: Sunderland’s poor starts are proving costly

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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IT’S no coincidence that our best result this season has come when we’ve started well and got an early goal.

We did that against Reading and went on to win the game comfortably.

When you start well your confidence really lifts and you can build on it.

But against Manchester United at the weekend, just like Norwich, West Brom and Chelsea we’ve started really slowly and found ourselves chasing the game.

Having gone behind we’ve tended to concede another while we’re chasing and in the end we’ve left ourselves with far too much to do.

At that point, strangely, maybe commendably, we don’t give up the game, we actually go on to play some football.

We were excellent against Norwich in the second-half of game that had gone, as we were against Chelsea and the same happened at Man United.

In the last half-hour at Old Trafford I thought we played some really good stuff, got a goal, had chances to get more.

And I don’t think Sir Alex Ferguson was kidding when he said that we might just have got back into it and that would have been embarrassing for United.

All that said though, we can’t afford to just turn up for the last half-hour.

The key to all this is starting the game well and I’m sure that’s what Martin O’Neill will be drumming into his players.

It’s easier said than done though.

I don’t think anyone should doubt for a second that Sunderland players themselves want to start well, they’re just finding it difficult to do so.

It’s incredibly difficult to analyse exactly why it is happening and therefore it’s difficult to put it right.

Maybe it all boils down to self-intimidation – maybe the players themselves are going out there worrying about what might go wrong, rather than what could go right.

That’s understandable at Old Trafford and maybe that explains why Sunderland only really turned up in the last half-hour when the defeat was pretty much confirmed.

One thing’s for certain, Sunderland have to come out against Southampton this weekend in the way they did against Reading last week, rather than Man United at the weekend.