Sunderland home form is atrocious, but is this squad really the second worst in Championship?

Aiden McGeady can't believe his luck after firing a shot wide.
Aiden McGeady can't believe his luck after firing a shot wide.
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In the days leading up to the QPR game I found myself as optimistic as at anytime this season and convinced the long winless run at home had to end.

Players were coming back from injury to give manager Simon Grayson the sort of problem every manager wants; a genuine selection dilemma that would strengthen the starting XI and give him plenty of attacking options from the bench.

Also, the last performance at in-form Preston was promising, there was the long-awaited return of Duncan Watmore and QPR – not one of the league’s finest – were hit by defensive injuries.

It all pointed to a Sunderland win, I even put money on us for the first time this season (even though that doesn’t usually end well) before taking my seat ready to enjoy the first home win that would kick-start this current campaign.

Then reality hit. The first 45 minutes was the same first half we have seen all season, a decent start followed by the crucial incident that would have changed the game in our favour, but Aiden McGeady couldn’t finish a gilt-edged chance after great work from Watmore.

After that it was inevitable an increasingly nervy Sunderland would concede and when they did it was the softest of set piece goals, to see us go in at the interval a goal down with everybody totally flattened.

Yes, a bit of credit is due for fighting back in the second half to force a draw because another defeat didn’t bear thinking about but yet another home game goes by without a victory and that run is simply atrocious.

McGeady was Sunderland’s top performer and his goal was quality. He doesn’t do tap-ins but I would much rather he had converted his first half chance.

That would have put Sunderland ahead for the first time at home this season and with the confidence it would have given the team and fans, an average QPR team might not have come back from that.

We will never know for certain if that would have been the case but I have been in teams in bad runs that suddenly get a break and I know how quickly it changes, a weight is lifted and it is like being in a different team.

Sunderland, though, can’t buy a break or a win right now and I don’t think it is for the lack of trying, but surely that squad of players are not the second worst in the division.

Yet the table says they are.

When Sunderland are not playing due to the international breaks, it is the games with Sunderland connections that grab my attention and that is why I watched the Wales v Republic of Ireland World Cup qualifier last week.

With Jonny Williams turning out for Wales and a host of ex-Sunderland men plus current players John O’Shea and Aiden McGeady in the Republic camp there was plenty of interest and they were certainly at the forefront of a hugely important game for both countries.

Star billing had to go to James McClean, a controversial character to many but his contribution with the winning goal was decisive.

David Meyler and Daryl Murphy also played their part with O’Shea and McGeady as back-up on the bench and the masterminds of the win were former Sunderland managers Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, who between them got their tactics spot on in a difficult away environment.

Sunderland have always had strong links with the Republic of Ireland going way back to the 60s when Charlie Hurley was their inspiration and captain, to more recent times with Niall Quinn – both Charlie and Niall are massive figures in both the histories of the Republic of Ireland and Sunderland Football Club.