Stephen Elliott: After a superb start, can Sunderland now deal with the pressure of being the League One leaders?
Okay, I know I said a few weeks ago that I wasn’t going to get overly excited about Sunderland’s impressive start to the season.
However, after watching Sunderland excelling and picking up another three points again on Saturday I feel that excitement is now fully warranted.
I would have guessed Accrington Stanley came to the Stadium of Light on Saturday full of confidence, after themselves having had a decent start to the campaign.
But, like everyone else this season, they were sent packing with nothing to show for their efforts.
Sunderland have now had their best start to a season since 1925 and I have to admit it’s fully deserved. The most pleasing thing for me is there is a real identity now in the team.
You can tell the players are really enjoying playing with each other and there are some strong relationships developing out there.
The front line of Aiden McGeady, Ross Stewart and Lynden Gooch have looked dangerous for the majority of the season. With the skill and guile of Elliot Embleton behind them I don’t see many teams, if any, with a more potent attack in the league at the moment.
Dan Neil and Luke O’Nien are really starting to compliment each other in that central midfield area. I feel O’Nien has settled in that midfield role now after a couple of shaky games.
And with Tom Flanagan and Callum Doyle marshalling the defence there is a real solid backbone to the team. It’s a slight worry that Flanagan picked up a yellow card and will miss next weeks game. You would hope Bailey Wright can come in and do just as good a job as Flanagan has done.
Obviously it’s good to have a squad with quality in depth as it keeps players on their toes but to gain promotion you need that bit of stability in the team also.
Again, I think the manager has to be given a lot of credit for this season.
It can’t be easy keeping everyone happy in the squad, yet you look around and everyone seems to be pulling in the right direction. Even the lads that are coming on in the games look full of energy and are desperate to do well.
I feel special praise must be given to Carl Winchester too. He was Lee Johnson’s first signing when he came to the club.
The central midfielder may not have got everybody off their seats when he signed on the dotted line but he has now positioned himself into the club’s first choice right-back and a very good one at that.
He has consistently improved with each game he has played there and he is a genuine goal threat, as we saw with his winner on Saturday.
Promotion is not achieved in September but I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot better looking at teams below, rather than above.
The team has given themselves a huge opportunity, it is now down to them to see if they can cope with that pressure from being chased down.
Only time will tell but I genuinely believe they can.