Adam Matthews believes improving Sunderland have what it takes to string together a ‘very, very long’ run and take League One by storm - provided they cut out sloppy defensive errors.
The 26-year-old defender has also given an insight into life under ‘brilliant’ Jack Ross and admits it’s like playing for a new club after a difficult few years on Wearside.
This summer, Ross along with Stewart Donald & Co helped breathe fresh life into Sunderland following successive relegations.
And Matthews believes the new-found ‘togetherness’ within the Sunderland squad will stand them in good stead as they bid to win promotion back to the Championship.
Sunderland, without a game last Saturday due to international call-ups, slipped to fifth in League One ahead of Saturday’s trip to Shrewsbury Town.
But Matthews is confident the squad has what it takes to string a long unbeaten run together.
Sunderland have only managed one clean sheet in the league but there has been signs of defensive improvement in the battling displays, when down to ten men, against Peterborough United and Bradford City.
Matthews said: “I don’t think we’ve played our best this season yet.
“We have a lot more to give and even in the games we’ve drawn, we should have won really.
“We’ve given away a couple of sloppy goals so if we can tighten that up I’m sure we can go on a very, very long run and win loads of games.
“That’s our goal, but we’ll take it one game at a time and hopefully get a run going again.”
He added: “We signed a lot of players in the summer and basically had a whole new back four.
“It is going to take time to gel and I think, especially the last couple of games, we looked really good.
“Obviously the goals weren’t great but I think we’re starting to gel as a back unit and a team so hopefully we can keep that going.”
Ross led an overhaul of the squad with 12 new faces in and 13 leaving the Stadium of Light.
It was no easy task to gel that amount of new players together with the existing faces but 42-year-old Ross has managed to do just that.
Twelve games in, the signs are promising and Matthews is fulsome in his praise for the impact Ross has had.
“He’s been brilliant. I think we’ve got a togetherness which we haven’t had for a long time.
“We all get on, I’m not saying we didn’t get on off the field last season, but I think we’ve got a stronger bond this season.
“All the coaching staff have been brilliant and it does feel like a new club.”
On Ross’ training methods at the Academy of Light, Matthews added: “He wants us to train like we play so it’s shorter times but more intensity and I think that shows on the pitch.
“We’ve looked a lot fitter than we did last season and I think at the end of the games we always look like the team that’s going to score.
“That’s good, because if we’re not playing well we’ve always got the last twenty minutes to try and get a goal.
“We had a big overhaul of players so it’s going to take time to gel, but if you look at the start to the season, we’ve only lost one game.
“Most teams would take that.
“Obviously we would have liked a bit more than what we have, but the performances in those draws give us encouragement.
“If we can tighten it up at the back we’re always going to score goals with the players we’ve got, so hopefully we can go on a run.”