Stephen Elliot: So many positives but this 'thorn in the side' and 'class above' stood out for Sunderland in Wigan win

Well what a fantastic way to lay a marker down for the rest of the season.
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Lee Johnson and his Sunderland squad seemed to embrace having the 31,000+ crowd cheering them on and the team were terrific all afternoon.

The pleasing thing was that this performance and victory came against a team in Wigan who you would imagine will be in the promotion mix once the season comes towards its close.

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I was privileged enough to spend the day and the match in the company of Sunderland AFC royalty and ‘73 cup winning hero Jim Montgomery.

Luke O'Nien in action for Sunderland against Wigan Athletic.Luke O'Nien in action for Sunderland against Wigan Athletic.
Luke O'Nien in action for Sunderland against Wigan Athletic.

While speaking with him afterwards we both agreed it was one of the best opening day performances in a long time.

Wigan may have taken the lead but I have to say the goal didn’t stop Sunderland in their quest to get on the front foot and take the game to Wigan.

Ross Stewart, who was in my opinion the top performer on the afternoon, looks like he could be a hugely important player this season.

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He may be 6ft 3in but the way he was able to get in front of the defenders and win his penalty shows he has a lot more to his game than being just a battering ram.

He was a constant thorn in the Wigan defence with his movement. His touch and hold up play was exempt and I was delighted to see him get the winner.

Lee Johnson will be rubbing his hands together after watching his strikers opening day showing.

I say Stewart was my top performer but the accolade could have gone to a number of players in red and white.

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Lynden Gooch was immense all afternoon and was millimetres away from scoring another screamer, while new signings Callum Doyle and Corry Evans both set the bar for the rest of the campaign.

I’m sure the fact that Evans was handed the armband so soon would have raised a few eyebrows but I think he showed exactly why the boss has giving him that responsibility.

He looked a class above everybody in the Wigan midfield and seemed to love being out there.

In Doyle, and I don’t want to get carried away as he is such a young boy, Sunderland looked like they have brought in a top seasoned pro.

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He has obviously been brought up well at Manchester City and on this display you would have to say we are very lucky to have him playing his football at the Stadium of Light this season.

I can’t think of anything negative about Saturday as every player put in at least a 7+ out of 10.

Elliot Embleton looks like – to quote Lee Johnson in his post match interview - ‘a different beast’ after returning from Blackpool. He looks stronger and fitter and will no doubt get better with the more games he plays.

I genuinely went away from the ground excited for the club’s prospects this campaign.

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We may see a few changes on Tuesday against Port Vale in the cup but every man who played on Saturday made it very difficult for the manager to leave them out next weekend at MK Dons.

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