Wise Men Say: Sunderland’s special derby success to savour

Sunderland players celebrate their 1-0 victory against Newcastle. Picture by FRANK REID
Sunderland players celebrate their 1-0 victory against Newcastle. Picture by FRANK REID
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THAT was special.

Speaking to Gus afterwards, he said it’d be tough to choose between a 3-0 and a win like yesterday’s.

It was an “I was there” moment that will send every Sunderland supporter into the Christmas period thinking Santa Claus came four days early; an unforgettable moment.

The derby is made for players like Adam Johnson.

He’s enjoyed himself at St James’s twice before, but his goal yesterday was the moment we all dream of as kids – score a last-minute winner in front of the Gallowgate to spark magnificent scenes up in the heavens.

Then there was Seb Larsson.

His desire, endeavour and quality shone through once more and he was the key protagonist and a fantastic battle.

He was unlucky not to get himself a goal before he hobbled off with a knock, but the Swede’s showing epitomised what this game is all about. He was awarded man of the match and rightly so.

He is slowly becoming Sunderland’s most important player.

Then there’s Steven Fletcher. The Scotland international put in one of his finest performances in a Sunderland shirt.

He held it well, battled and played a key role in Sunderland’s late winner. If his shot against the crossbar in the first half had gone in, it would have been the least he deserved. It was a classic “number nine” performance on a pitch where they’re apparently so famous.

Many would have taken the 0-0 in the 80th minute. But Sunderland need wins. If you take the game out of context then is another draw enough?

Sunderland had the chances to wrap up another 3-0 and didn’t take them.

Had Johnson not found the net, then I’d suggest Gus would be infuriated once more by his side’s profligacy. His side had the chances to win it and did. Deservedly so.

With Wickham suspended for the Boxing Day encounter with Hull, we might well see Ricky Alvarez get his chance. Poyet is desperate to get him into the side, but with the team being so solid at the moment it’s hard to do that.

Friday could be his chance. The win against Newcastle puts pressure on others to perform, and we’ll soon see if the result galvanises the squad over a busy Christmas period.

I truly believe we’re two or three players away from being a very decent Premier League side.

The foundations that Gus has put in solidify every week. Now he has to get the balance right if he is going to make changes to make us more of a threat going forward. It’s a difficult balance to get, but, as injuries and suspensions come, it might force Poyet into those potentially fruitful changes.

As it stands, Poyet is a match for many managers from a tactical perspective. Once again he has out-thought and outdone Alan Pardew and should revel in a fourth straight derby win. As Pardew went for it, Sunderland stood firm and as a result delivered the best of early Christmas presents.

Cheers lads!

* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.