Stephen Elliott: Why it feels like there is something special happening at Sunderland this season

After a great win midweek in the cup at Blackpool I did wonder whether Lee Johnson would be tempted to continue with Aiden O’Brien in his starting lineup.

Monday, 30th August 2021, 5:08 pm

When you score a hat-trick you would expect to be in the eleven for the next game but Lee Johnson decided to go without the midweek hero on Saturday.

You would have to say it proved to be the right decision. O’Brien will have felt a bit hard done by but you can’t fault anything the manager has done this season so far. O’Brien seems like a good professional, so I’m sure he will understand and continue to keep himself right for when he is needed again.

Wycombe had got off to a brilliant start this season so Sunderland passed a big test with flying colours.

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Ross Stewart celebrates another Sunderland goal

With the way things have gone for Sunderland over the last few years you could be forgiven for thinking that this really good start to the season is going hit a snag somewhere soon but I genuinely feel there is something special happening this season. Obviously I’m going to try not to get too excited but it is difficult when you look at the league table and the way the team are performing.

I know from my own experiences when chasing promotion, that the more games you win the more the belief just filters through the squad and you look forward to each game.

Energy levels feel good and you tend not to be as tired as what you would do when you are losing games. I think we are seeing that at the moment in this Sunderland squad and they are embracing playing in front of the Stadium of Light crowd.

In Ross Stewart it seems we've not just replaced Charlie Wyke's goals, but added a striker who also brings a lot more than just that.

His first goal on Saturday was a brilliant header and his second was even better. It’s getting to a stage where you couldn’t argue against him being the most important player in the team. He just offers you so much and has been a breath of fresh air this year.

I think you have to give the manager credit for setting up the team to give Stewart the best opportunity to score goals. The fact Wyke hasn’t scored at Wigan yet tells you that he may be missing that supply line which Stewart is thriving on this year.

Dan Neil and Elliot Embleton again proved that the academy is huge in developing the future of the club.

The two of them look really comfortable now in the first team and the latter will be delighted to get his first goal at home. The fact it was an absolute stunner will give him even more confidence, not that he seems to struggle with that given the way he plays!

It’s nice to be sitting top of the pile rather than playing catch up like the team have seemed to do over the past few seasons. Long may it continue.

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