Tony Gillan: This is NOT the worst ever Sunderland team but a third season in League One doesn't bear thinking about

It might seem an odd thing to say about Sunderland losing to Shrewsbury, but it was a marked improvement on the previous three away games.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 11:54 am
Conor McLaughlin competes for the ball against Oxford United last night.

Whereas the performances at Bolton, Lincoln and Wycombe were unstintingly dreadful, Saturday at the New Meadow was, as they say, just one of those days.

Sunderland hit the woodwork three times, made other chances and forced decent saves from Shrewsbury’s goalkeeper.

Unless you’re one of those misguided souls who likes to hold court on what Sunderland “should” do to “the likes of” Shrewsbury, then you’ll have seen a few positives on Saturday and certainly an improvement on Wycombe.

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Sunderland midfielder Max Power sent a shot wide from a couple of yards out.

But it hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that they have scored just once in their last four league games – and that was a penalty. The most important aspect to Saturday was that it was another defeat.

Overall, and particularly away from home, things have not gone well this season. The change of manager is a symptom of this.

But when things aren’t going well we can always rely on certain people to make things sound even worse than they are.

To have downer on Phil Parkinson after three games isn’t merely absurd; it also smacks of preferring to be right than to see the team do well.

Incidentally, I read very little into last night’s game at Oxford. The best I can say for the League Cup these days is that it holds more interest than whatever the Checkatrade Trophy is called now.

So three games for Parkinson. The first at Wycombe was awful (although no one has unfairly accused Wycombe of football), the second at home to a limited Tranmere was good, the third was not a bad performance, but still a loss. I think that about covers it.

The bottom line is that Sunderland sit in an uninspiring eighth position and need to go on a very good run to trouble the automatic promotion places. But we can still be positive. Promotion is far from impossible.

I’m aware of the social media mob who regard any sort of positivity, or departure from constant snarling as somehow being hopelessly romantic.

There are always those who confuse realism with congenital negativity; perceiving anyone displaying the slightest optimism or being complimentary, as somehow out of step or away with the fairies.

No one is blind to the problems and optimists are worried too. The consequences of a third season in League One are something we don’t like to contemplate.

But I will say something for the current team. It is not, as I have been wrongly told on a number of occasions, “the worst Sunderland side ever.”

The club does occupy its lowest ever league placing, but that isn’t quite the same thing.

The “distinction” of the worst ever Sunderland side goes without hesitation to the class of 2017-18. They finished bottom of the Championship: with bells on.

Why were they bottom? Because they couldn’t finish any lower, that’s why.

That squad, of which only Watmore and McGeady remain today, could only dream of being eighth in League One. April 21, 2018 remains the worst day in Sunderland’s 140-year history: defeat to Burton Albion and relegation to the third tier.

So there you have it. Today’s team is not the worst ever. What a compliment.

Do you feel better now or what?