Despite Sunderland tasting defeat for the first time this season against Leeds United, now is not the time to overreact.
At about 7.20pm on Saturday evening, the final whistle blew at the Stadium of Light signalling our first defeat of the Championship season. At home. As usual. It's fair to say, Leeds were worthy winners with the Whites proving resilient and organised. Sunderland now haven't won on their own patch since beating Watford back on 17th December 2016. Patrick Van Aanholt's 49th minute winner proving the difference on that day, which almost tells its own story as the Dutch 'left back' doesn't even play for us anymore!
He left a month later to join Sam Allardyce's Crystal Palace for a lovely £14 million pounds. As a side note, that's pound sterling. Not Thai Baht or Japanese Yen but ACTUAL pounds sterling. Credit where it's due Martin Bain. We pulled Palace's pants down with that deal. And then, just as they were fumbling around trying to hide their nether regions, we pulled them down again with a 4-0 humbling at Selhurst Park. Didn't go so well after that mind.
It would be so easy for us to let that horrible sinking feeling take over after only our second home game this season. It would be easy to adopt the defeatist mindset that has plagued the club for years. But I didn't feel like that, disappointed as I was. Naturally you're never going to be happy after any defeat, but I didn't feel that frustration and anger I have done in recent memory and beyond.
Pundits, journalists and fans alike have written Sunderland off this season. Some even going as far to say that we could fall even further down the footballing pyramid and be kicking off next season in League One. There has been the expected knee jerk reaction on Twitter and Facebook with calls of 'same old Sunderland!'
I am going to be straight here. I think that is an incredibly unfair point to be making at this stage of the season. In my mind, it is not the same Sunderland I was watching last year. Nowhere near it. True, it wasn't the best performance from Sunderland and things didn't quite work so well but let's not forget, the four fixtures which welcomed us back to this level were against four teams who are experienced teams at this level. If you asked any football fans to name five or six of the best teams in the Championship at the start of the season, I am quite confident the names of Derby County, Norwich City, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United would be in their lists somewhere.
We drew two of those games and won away in the other, earning us 5 points in the process. That is a very respectable return for a team which is still a work in progress in many ways.
We were looking very leggy at the end of the game at Hillsborough and were clinging on at the end, but the players showed character and a mental toughness to see it out for a vital point. Against Leeds, it proved just a step to far. Playing the high pressing game that we do, and with the same starting eleven selected since the win against Norwich, it would be a big ask for those players to be maintaining that with the games coming so thick and fast at this level where midweek games are the norm.
Despite the fact that the game was beyond us at 2-0, the players still showed effort and a commitment to try and get back in to the game. The team look a team. There is a good spirit and a togetherness that seems to be forming at Sunderland that we perhaps haven't seen since the days of Roy Keane's days at the helm. Do you think that at 2-0 down last season the players would still be running around giving it their all? Is that the 'same old Sunderland' from last season?
Its early days but I feel Simon Grayson has laid the early foundations for something good at the Stadium of Light and with Martin Bain saying the two things he wants at Sunderland is promotion back to the Premier League and the return of smiles on faces, I think we're starting to see the shoots of recovery on the latter. Hopefully in turn, the former will follow. We all know what happens when the Stadium of Light starts rocking like we know it can.
The sleeping giant has well and truly overslept. Simon Grayson is the man with the alarm clock.